Round Vietnam - From South to North in 30 days

of Michael Gimm Holdensen
28 minutes reading time

Table of contents

Vietnam is a country we highly recommend travelling to if you're a bit adventurous and not too squeamish. It's a country with a rich and diverse culture, insanely beautiful nature and exciting food experiences. But be prepared for a major culture shock! And be prepared for Vietnamese food fatigue at some point. In 30 days, you can easily get enough of spring rolls, Pho and Bahn Mi. Luckily, there are other options if you're on a budget.

In the big cities of Vietnam, it's full steam ahead, with chaotic traffic from the endless number of scooters travelling in and out of each other. In fact, there are more scooters in Vietnam than people, which is very evident in the big cities.

Pedestrian crossings don't work like in Denmark (no one holds back) and traffic lights and pavements are certainly not protected either... In both (all) directions!

Scooter kaos i Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

Scooter chaos in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

If you have to cross the road, you have to glide with the traffic like everyone else. Once the worst fear of death has subsided, crossing a busy road where from the first step you think you and your family are going to be run over, you'll realise that it actually works.

Where Denmark works by everyone obeying red/green signals and fixed rules for traffic flow, traffic in Vietnam is more like a million ants travelling from one place to another, crossing in and out of each other along the way. There is a lot of honking, but not where people get angry with each other. You honk to signal "here I come".

We didn't actually see anyone get hurt or scratch their vehicles. The fact that no cars were scratched was special, considering we had just come from Spain, where ALL cars were scratched.

In addition to the big cities of Ho Chi Minh and Ha Noi in Vietnam, which in terms of population are the size of Denmark, there are also smaller and very charming cities such as Hoi An. In addition, there are beautiful nature areas in the north around Sapa and Ha Giang, where you get out into the countryside and experience something completely different.

Museum om Vietnam krigen

Ho Chi Minh War Museum (Saigon)

Vietnam has an exciting history that can be seen in the architecture and culture of today. In recent times, the United States and the Vietnam War in particular have left a clear negative mark, but the time under French influence can also be seen in many places.

The Vietnamese are very friendly and welcoming and especially as a blonde, you get a lot of attention. Sometimes even TOO much. In short, Vietnam has a little bit of everything for everyone. Whether you want to go shopping for stylish and affordable tailor-made clothes, shoes and leather goods, go on an adventure in the mountains on a scooter or motorbike or challenge yourself and your nerves in the big cities.

We definitely had a great trip with ups and downs, which you can read more about below and at the end of the post I've added how our "itinerary" turned out and what we would change if we could do it all over again.

Vietnam rejseforberedelser

Preparing for your trip from home

There are a number of things you can prepare at home.

1. Apply for a visa via the official site. There are many providers if you google, but this is the official and cheapest. For us it took less than a week to get the visa and it is valid for 30 days (2023).

2. We have used a number of apps and sites that have helped us a lot. You'll find them here:

  • Grab - Indispensable for booking a taxi or even food delivery. Taxis are cheaper with Grab than official taxis and you don't have to pay with cash (it costs to withdraw money).
  • Booking.com for overnight stays.
  • Airasia.com for airline tickets. Works like Momondo. Either on the app or website. We used it to find the best/cheapest tickets and then went straight to the provider. Often it's vietjetair.com or bambooairways.com.
  • Look and Tripadvisor for booking tours. Many hotels also offer tours and we used a hotel once. But on Klook you can see what other people say before you buy.
  • Wanderlog. An absolutely fantastic (free) app where you can gather all your planning, bookings, flights and much more. We bought the pro version but the free one is also great.
  • Whatsapp. Everyone uses this one.
  • The page Baolau.com for booking train tickets. Works great and the fee for using it is something like $5. You can book train tickets directly with Vietnam Railways, but you'll need a Vietnamese credit card or show up at a station.
  • SkypeIf you need to call a regular phone number in the UK where they don't necessarily use Whatsapp or any of the other apps. You can just top up with 30 kr. and there's plenty for your calls.

3. Mosquito spray and sunscreen. WAIT to buy it until you arrive. The Danish mosquito spray is not strong enough and it's all a bit cheaper here.

4. if you're travelling with a backpack, I would recommend using some divider bags like we have. That way you don't have to take all your clothes out every time you need to find something. We bought these on amazon and they've been really good and durable.

5. Buy a data SIM card with free data via Klook and pick it up at the airport when you land. If you have WhatsApp or Messenger installed, you can both call and text via it.

6. Vaccination. Get it in place from home well in advance and especially remember Dukoral (stomach vaccine) if you are travelling for a longer period of time. It's expensive but you minimise the risk of an upset stomach. Dukoral was sold out in Spain when we were travelling, so we had to deal with some stomach problems the first week. However, it was nothing catastrophic.

Malaga til Vietnam

From Malaga to Ho Chi Minh

We said goodbye to Benalmadena in Spain and flew with Turkish Airways via Istanbul to Ho Chi Ming - or Saigon as the city was called until 1975.

The flight took 4h 20min from Malaga to Istanbul. Then a 3.5 hour wait at Istanbul airport, before flying the last 10 hours to Ho Chi Ming.

The trip went beyond expectations and the kids got some sleep and watched films in the extensive entertainment universe that was available in every seat on the plane.

Ho Chi Minh i Vietnam

Statue of the North Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh, which Saigon changed its name to after the Vietnam War.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Ho Chi Minh City is a gigantic city in southern Vietnam with a population of around 9 million people and a bustling (chaotic) atmosphere. The city was formerly known as Saigon, but was renamed in honour of Vietnam's former communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, after his death in 1969. If you're a bit of a film nerd, the name Saigon probably sounds familiar from various American films about the Vietnam War.

One of the most remarkable things about Ho Chi Minh City is the sheer amount of scooters that fill the streets and contribute to the crazy traffic. You can actually buy t-shirts with the motto "I survived Ho Chi Minh traffic", so the Vietnamese know it themselves.

The city has a number of attractions, including the War Museum, which provides an insight into the Vietnam War and the atrocities the Americans inflicted on the population to prevent the spread of communism. In particular, the Agent Orange toxin they sprayed over large areas of land contributes to the fact that children are still being born with defects reminiscent of victims of nuclear accidents to this day.

For those who don't remember history, the war didn't go well for the US and Vietnam became communist and remains so today.

Cu Chi tunnels i Vietnam

Cu Chi Tunnels

A popular excursion from Ho Chi Minh is a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, where you can explore the underground tunnels that the Viet Cong used for hiding, transport and communication during the Vietnam War. It was quite fascinating to see how there has been almost an entire city of sophisticated tunnels underground in a huge area stretching from Saigon to Cambodia. A distance of around 250 kilometres.

After experiencing it, I also understand better why so many Americans during the Vietnam War came home with PTSD and other mental disorders. They must have been in constant fear during their patrols, from the most vicious booby traps to Vietcong soldiers suddenly coming out of a hole and shooting. Add to that malaria and other exciting things from the jungle, and it can give most hardy men nightmares.

We booked a trip via Klook with speedboat on Saigon river to the tunnels. By speedboat, you arrive about an hour before the buses, so we had the exhibition area to ourselves, along with our guide.

Bitexco Financial Tower

Bitexco Financial Tower in the centre. The platform offers a great 360-degree view of the city.

Other sights in Ho Chi Minh

The Bitexco Financial Tower is a popular lookout point where you get a great view of the city. You can also find many shopping centres in Ho Chi Minh City, where you can buy everything from local handicrafts to genuine goods and knock-offs of international brands. Whether they are cheaper than Denmark, I don't know, as it's been a few years since we've shopped in Denmark at the time of writing.

The Opera House and Saigon Central post office are also beautiful buildings worth walking past.

The city has a long history of French influence and traces of the French colonial era can still be seen in the city's architecture and cuisine. Including the national sandwich Bahn Mi, which is inspired by the French baguette.

We were here for 4 days in April and it was plenty for us. It was hot, humid and noisy. All days we had 37-39 degrees, but (thankfully) we didn't see the sun.

There are many tours that start and end in Ho Chi Minh City. They are easy to book via Klook, Tripadvisor, or at the hotel you're staying at and are also offered at many locations around the city.

Can Tho madmarked

Mekong trip just after sunrise to experience the food market.

Can Tho food market on the Mekong River

After Ho Chi Minh, we travelled with limousine taxias it is so nicely called, to Can Tho. It wasn't very expensive and it's MUCH more comfortable than travelling by bus. Get help from your hotel to call them and book if you can't do it yourself.

Can Tho is a city in southern Vietnam and the largest city in the Mekong Delta. The city is known for its lively food market on the river, where locals trade fruit and vegetables, meat and much more. 

Our guide Mariah (great guide) on Mekong River cruise told us that many Vietnamese people grow their produce at home in a small garden and sell it at the market, where they can buy goods from other traders in return. A kind of barter economy like in the (good) old days in Denmark. But also a necessity as the average salary is around $200 per month according to her.

Can Tho madmarked på Mekong delta

Unfortunately, the Mekong River is also known for its huge waste problem, which we saw with our own eyes. The locals don't care about the environment, as things like survival and finances to send their children to school are their main concerns. Our girls couldn't believe there was so much rubbish everywhere.

Despite the waste problem, the river is still an important part of life for many of the locals, who use it mainly for transport and food trade. There's not much fish left.

The older generation still bathes in the river and also does the dishes and laundry.

Octopus apple slices... something...

Can Thos Night Market is a popular place for tourists and locals alike to gather to enjoy street food, entertainment and shopping. Especially on Saturdays, the street is alive with fun and festivities, and the market is a great opportunity to experience the local culture and taste traditional Vietnamese dishes... if you dare.

Among other things, we ventured into something that can best be described as apple slices with octopus. But also a vegetarian dish called Morning Glory (with garlic). The latter was quite delicious.

Whether it was the time of year, Vietnamese hospitality or just because we're beautiful, I don't know. But we felt a bit like a tourist attraction for the locals in town. People were looking and waving all the time.
When we crossed the road, people on scooters looked at us as if we were celebrities. Carla in particular, with her blonde hair, got a lot of stares. At first it was a bit funny.

Phu Quoc kabelbane

The cable car from Phu Quoc to a neighbouring island that's practically one big water park.

Charter trip on Phu Quoc

After a week of hiking in the hustle and bustle, noise and constant 37-40 degrees, we needed a beach holiday. So we headed to the island of Phu Quoc near Long Beach on the east side, where we stayed for the first 4 days.

Located in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of Cambodia and Vietnam, Phu Quoc is home to everything from backpackers to luxury travellers, as well as some Vietnamese tourists.

It should have been 7 nights in the same place, but the beach we stayed a few steps away from, which we thought was a paradise beach - was horrible! Never have I seen SO much rubbish on a beach before.

The lesson learnt was that public beaches are not well kept. We also heard from our guide Mariah on the Mekong tour that the Vietnamese don't care much about the environment and just throw all the rubbish into the river. That was very evident here.

At the hotel where we were, I asked to cancel the stay and they happily agreed to cancel the last 3 nights. We had a chat about the beaches and she told me that until April it is generally best on the east side of the island and then on the west side. But it probably depends on whether the beach is public or private, I guess.

fængsel fra Vietnam krigen

Coconut prison on Phu Quoc. Here the Vietcong (North Vietnamese) were imprisoned and tortured.

Experiences and tours on the island

There's plenty to do on Phu Quoc and it's easy to book boat trips, rent a scooter or chauffeur-driven car.

We booked a big new Toyota 7-seater car with a driver for a full day for 800,000 Dong (approx. 230 DKK). He drove us around the south island where we saw a few different things. The main attraction for us was Sao Beach. But there is also a prison from the Vietnam War and a pearl farm that were interesting to see.

On the north side of the island there are also a number of things to see, including the very peculiar Vin Wonders. A city on the island that is a replica of Venice, with Vietnamese gondoliers and much more! Vin Wonders (and Sunworld) can be found in several places in Vietnam. Whether you like what they do is a matter of taste. More on that later.

Hoi An - Lanternernes by

Hi An.

Hoi An, City of Lanterns

After a week's beach holiday on Phu Quoc, we took a flight to Da Nang and a taxi from there to Hoi An. Another UNESCO destination.

We had heard great things about Hoi An and decided to make it our base for the next 3 nights.

Hoi An has an old town that is very charming, where the big theme is lanterns. It's beautiful and cosy. Hoi An also has a lovely beach area that is so good that we could have easily spent several days here at the expense of Phu Quoc. As far as I know, it is public, but it was still really nicely cleared. There were even great waves so we could body surf, just like we did in Spain. At the end of the day, however, it got a bit crowded...

Hoi An strand

Hoi An beach. It was a national holiday on this day and everyone was flocking to the beach. Normally it's not that crowded.

Customised suits and handmade leather shoes and bags

Hoi An is also known for its many shops offering customised clothing, shoes, bags and more in fine materials. These are family businesses that have often been in the business for generations. Our impression was that they were quite skilled.

We hadn't really planned to buy clothes, but ended up with a few dresses for the girls, a couple of suits for me in beautiful cashmere wool and a couple of beautiful leather bags. All handmade and customised within 24-48 hours. Pretty impressive.

The price of a suit is about the same across the city, with a suit like mine in cashmere wool costing $150 for 3 pieces. Jacket, trousers and waistcoat. I ditched the vest in favour of an extra pair of trousers for each set.

Hoi An Homestay

Hoi An Homestay.

We stayed at Hoi An Dat Cam Homestay which we were really happy about. Our host referred us to a family shop (they help each other out) and I was a bit sceptical at first. After all, there were hundreds of tailors in town, so choosing the first one is not my style!

But the experience with Cloth Shop 52, was really good! They were nice and helpful all the way through. And the result was really good.

We ended up sending everything to Denmark, where they also helped with that part. All in all, a really good experience.

Ba Na Hills Sunworld

Ba Na Hills - another SunWorld experience.

Day trip to "fake Europe" - Ba Na Hills in Da Nang

In Hoi An, we bought a day trip to another SunWorld park in Vietnam. This time we travelled by cable car up into the mountains just outside Da Nang. We had been sold on the very special bridge they have built up there, but were not prepared for what awaited us.

On Phu Quoc, we also came across two areas where they tried to recreate European cities, including Venice. But up here in the mountains, they have built castles and churches in the best French style and tried to give them a bit of patina. Very strange!

It was so crazy to experience that we couldn't quite decide how we felt about the experience. After all, we had travelled to Vietnam to experience Asian culture. Not to see a copy of Europe, as you not can just copy.

Coconut boat i Hoi An

Cruise in a coconut boat.

Vietnamese cooking with Carla's crabs

Another trip from Hoi An went past the market and a trip out sailing in some small round bamboo boats. The trip in the boats was cosy and the old slightly funny ladies of +60 who sailed the boats gave it full throttle. With "Gang nam style" and "picture" "picture" while the wildest disco music was playing from the road.

The tour of the market with the guide was very informative. She told us how meat and fish were out all day and that she always shopped VERY early when everything was fresh. On the tour we saw a lady chopping fish into smaller pieces while 500 blowflies were desperately trying to get on them...

Imagine a fishmonger in Denmark where the fish is on a table - WITHOUT ice - at 35-40 degrees centigrade. Not so delicious...

What we later learnt was that the meat in such a market is most expensive in the morning and cheapest in the afternoon... My next thought was to be a vegetarian in Vietnam or at least avoid the cheapest restaurants altogether.

We drove on to a family restaurant and cooked a number of dishes, all of which were pretty good. One of them was with the crabs we caught while sailing in the bamboo boats, where Emma also caught one. Carla almost did too.

By train from Da Nang to Hue.

From Da Nang to Hue by train

From Hoi An we travelled on to Da Nang where we boarded the train to Hue. The train journey from Da Nang to Hue is a particularly beautiful journey. To get tickets, they can be booked directly at dsvn.vn if you have a Vietnamese credit card or can find a station where you can pay them. However, if you book on their site, they will only last for half a day if you don't pay immediately.

I booked with Baolau.com instead, which works a bit like Momondo in Denmark. Here we added about 20 DKK to the total price of all our tickets and in return we could pay with Visa/Mastercard. We could also choose our seats. You have to choose the right side of the window if you are travelling from south to north.

We booked the train journey about a week before we were due to travel on it. Although April is not the peak season, many people travel by train and there were few seats available.

The train experience itself was nothing special and although there was partial air conditioning on board, it was quite hot. The views along the way were nice though. But remember to sit on the right side of the train if you're travelling from Da Nang to Hue. There's not much to see on the left side. Book your trip with Baolau.com.

We had just one day in Hue before travelling on to Hanoi by plane. From here we started our road trip around northern Vietnam.

Ban Gioc vandfald

Ban Gioc waterfall. The image here is only a small part of the area.

Sapa and Ha Giang loop and a trip to China with private driver

How much does it cost to rent a big new Toyota 7-seater SUV for 8 days in Denmark - WITH a driver? In Vietnam, we rented a car including driver and all expenses for him and the car for DKK 6,000 for 8 days. Add to this the cost of accommodation, but the places we stayed cost an average of DKK 250 per night including breakfast for all 5 of us.

Ha Giang Loop med bil

Ha Giang Loop lookout point.

You can easily make it much cheaper by renting a scooter or motorbike. And if the weather is good, it's undoubtedly an even more enjoyable trip. However, our car journey was really good and we stopped at all the right places along the way. Some of the days it was raining, so it was definitely more fun in the car than on a scooter, and the whole trip was based on the Ha Giang Loop. You drive around the wildest nature with rice fields shaped like stairs down the mountain slopes, candyfloss-like mountains you won't find in Europe and small villages where time stands still.

Ha Giang Loop is a trip in itself, but we chose to add Sa Pa at the beginning of the trip and Ban Gioc Waterfall at the Chinese border at the end.

Cat Cat village

Cat Cat Village

Everything on the trip was really beautiful and a great experience, but if you're a bit pressed for time and don't want to hike, I would probably avoid Sa Pa town and Ban Gioc waterfall. Especially if your goal is to experience nature. Both Sa Pa and Ban Gioc waterfall are quite far away from the Ha Giang loop.

Also be aware that the entire trip is in the mountains, with roads that twist and turn quite a bit. For us, it became a bit of a challenge, especially in the back seat.

Cat Cat village, on the other hand, is not to be missed. It's a pretty unique experience, with people still living as they always have. The only difference is that they are now a tourist attraction and charge money to let people in.

Hoan Kiem Lake i Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi.

Ha Noi

Ha Noi was the starting point before the Ha Giang Loop and again after the trip. It's another big city on par with Ho Chi Minh, but with a slightly less chaotic feel to it. Perhaps also a bit more green in the areas around the city and there were a number of lakes around. The most visited lake in the old town along the shops and restaurants is called Hoan Kiem Lake Park. Here there is a small temple in the centre.

In addition to being the capital, Ha Noi is also the starting point for many day trips or overnight trips to the surrounding areas. Some of the most popular are Nimh Binh, Halong Bay, Sa Pa and Ha Giang Loop.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay

Halong Bay

We had just enough room in our diary for one more day trip, which turned into a Boat trip on Halong Bay. The trip started with pick-up at the hotel in the morning and drop-off at the hotel late that evening. You can also take the tour with up to several nights on various 3-5 star boats. For us, however, a single day trip, which we booked through our hotel, was just right for us.

We arrived at the boat at noon and were away for 6 hours. The trip started with a menu with way too much, but very delicious food. Then relaxing on the boat outdoors while enjoying the beautiful view of the water and the candyfloss-like mountains rising majestically out of the water everywhere.

Halong Bay i Kajak

Kayak tour around Halong Bay.

When we arrived at an area with caves, we took a trip in 2-3 person kayaks around the area, which was pretty cool. The rest of the trip was swimming on the boat and its 2 water slides, Vietnamese cooking, dessert and return to the harbour at around 18:00.

The boat had glass windows all around, so even when we were indoors, we had a fantastic view of the many beautiful mountains in the area that are added to UNESCO's list multiple times.

It's definitely a trip you shouldn't miss when visiting Vietnam and there are many options for either day trips or up to several nights. It's a matter of taste what's enough, but for us, one full day was perfect!

Is Vietnam worth visiting?

There are pluses and minuses to Vietnam and I would say it's not a destination for everyone. There is a big difference between travelling young or old, with children or without children. Likewise, whether you stay in a few places in nice hotels and go on excursions, or like us, travelling with a backpack from south to north, where we stayed in 15 different places in 30 days.

Here are our immediate cool experiences and challenges in and with Vietnam.

The cool thing

  1. Experience a new culture and people who are markedly different from yourself.
  2. Food and drink. Great to try a lot of new things.
  3. A whole wild nature in Northern Vietnam. This is where we really felt it was cool and authentic. Indescribably beautiful and a journey back in time.
  4. Really cheap to travel, eat and sleep, go on excursions, etc.
  5. A cultural experience that will make you appreciate Europe even more when you return!

Challenges

  1. Food and drink. After a week of Pho (soup) for breakfast, Bahn Mi (baguette with vegetables and meat) for lunch and various spring rolls and rice, noodles for dinner, even I needed something different. It's actually the first time in 2 years that I needed something to eat other than what you eat in the country you're in. In the cities it's easy enough to find alternatives, but when you get a little further away, it can be difficult.
  2. The children generally had a hard time with food, even though they are less picky eaters than average.
  3. It's unbearably hot and humid. It's especially bad in the big cities.
  4. The Vietnamese were quite pushy in the tourist areas and especially our little 4-year-old Carla had to put up with a lot. "Picture", "Picture" ALL the time. Some went over and held her, touched her hair, etc. Ok with some of the girls/ladies, but when the men also started, it became too much.
  5. Constant noise from the many scooters - especially in cities.
  6. Hygiene. From the rubbish in the rivers and on the streets, to the foul odour from the fuel used in all the roadside food stalls. This combined with a trip to various food markets where meat and fish are left out in the open all day, unrefrigerated, at 35-40 degrees centigrade.

Well... there were a few more minuses than pluses. This is not to say that Vietnam was a bad experience. It certainly wasn't! But I think you have to be prepared for a culture shock. Likewise, don't be squeamish or overly picky. Start with a holidays to Albania before backpacking through Vietnam with the kids. For us, this was a much easier trip. It could also be done in your own or hired car. You don't dare do that in Vietnam.

Nice-to-know about Vietnam

The above was our trip around, from south to north Vietnam. Many people also travel from North to South, but I would say that the most beautiful experiences on the trip were in the North of Vietnam. Below I have gathered a few things about what we learnt on the trip.

Prices and money in Vietnam

  • The currency is called Dong and 100,000 Dong was equivalent to around 30 DKK in May 2023.
  • We found that the price level was somewhat different in the individual cities. Ho Chi Ming in particular was more expensive than cities like Hoi An and Hue.
  • Accommodation prices for the five of us were typically between 100-400 DKK per night including breakfast.
  • When we ate out, it was typically 100-200 kr, but some places were a bit more expensive.
  • Iced coffee or tea typically cost £10 and soft drinks and beer between £5 and £10 at bars, cafes, etc. Vietnamese coffee is VERY strong!
  • Taxi driving is extremely cheap and we mainly used Grab. Often you will be assaulted by various drivers who want to drive you. But check the price of Grab first and consider if the price is right. They often try to make you pay double the price. Grab was therefore "safer" in our opinion. In addition, we could also pay by card. It costs to withdraw cash from the machines. Approx. 4%.
  • Shopping for well-known brands in shopping centres didn't seem to be cheaper than in Europe. On the other hand, you can buy all kinds of copies in different qualities for next to no money. For example, a T-shirt for 50 DKK.
  • Anywhere that doesn't have a price tag on it, you MUST remember to haggle. Just be ready to leave, if you don't get your way, they'll call you back. Everything from bike taxis to clothes.

Vietnamesisk påklædning

Fun facts about Vietnam

One of the things you can't help but notice is how the Vietnamese dress. While those of us from the northern hemisphere run around in next to nothing and are still drenched in sweat because the thermometer reads 35-42 degrees, the Vietnamese dress differently.

The most common attire is long trousers, sweater/jacket, hat, mask - and sunglasses if the mask and hat do not cover enough of the face.

I asked several people during the trip and the reason for dressing up is not because they are cold. The mask is also not worn primarily because of contamination (or Covid). The main reason is that they want to have fair skin. As fair as possible.

One guide we met told us that her mum would scold her if she got too much sun on her arms.

There are even different treatments you can buy to brighten your skin. Everything from cosmetic treatments to something you drink. Kind of the opposite of us who want to be a little tanned.

Edible bird nests

Several times along the way, we came across houses with small holes in the walls outdoors. They are used for a certain type of bird that builds nests in a very light-coloured rice noodle-like material.

The nest is then removed, sterilised and turned into something edible in one way or another. The Chinese are particularly keen to buy them, paying up to several thousand dollars for a nest. It is said to help pregnant women, the elderly, the sick, etc.

Vietnam itinerary 30 days - day by day

Day 1 (Saigon) - We landed at 16.55 in Ho Chi Minh and took a Grab from the airport to the hotel. (Booked via the Grab app).

Day 2 (Saigon) - Shopping day in a few of the many major centres.

Day 3 (Saigon) - Vietnam war museum, Opera House, Bitexco Financial Tower, etc.

Day 4 (Saigon) - Cu Chi tunnel tour. Transport by speedboat via the Saigon River.

Day 5 (Saigon / Can Tho) - Transfer from Ho Chi Ming to Can Tho. Night market in the evening.

Day 6 (Can Tho) - Mekong Delta food market, rice noodle production and more

Day 7 (Can Tho / Phu Quoc) - Fly to Phu Quoc

Day 8 (Phu Quoc)

Day 9 (Phu Quoc) - Around the South Island with your own driver.

Day 10 (Phu Quoc) - A trip with Cable car to Sun World water park etc.

Day 11 (Phu Quoc)

Day 12 (Phu Quoc)

Day 13 (Phu Quoc)

Day 14 (Phu Quoc / Hoi An) - Fly from Phu Quoc to Da Nang and take a taxi to Hoi An.

Day 15 (Hoi An) - Shop for bags and clothes and learn how to cook Vietnamese food.

Day 16 (Hoi An) - Tour to "Fake Europe" in Da Nang.

Day 17 (Hoi An / Hue) - Hoi An to Da Nang and by train to Hue.

Day 18 (Hue / Ha Noi) - Fly to Ha Noi from Hue

Day 19 (Ha Noi) - Water puppets show and bicycle taxi around the streets of Ha Noi.

Day 20 (Ha Noi / Sa Pa) - Ha Noi to Sa Pa by driver - The start of our Ha Giang Loop tour.

Day 21 (Ha Giang Loop) - Sa Pa, Cat cat village - Fansipan Peak mountain. We skipped the cable car ride as we had already been with two others from the same company.

Day 22 (Ha Giang Loop) - 6-hour drive to Ha Giang City.

Day 23 (Ha Giang Loop) - Ha Giang City - Bac Sum Pass - Quan Ba heaven gate - Fairy bosom mountains - Lung Khuy Cave - Lung Tam Village - Duong Thuong Village - Duong Ho Village - Lung Ho Village - Du Gia Waterfalls - Du Gia Village.

Day 24 (Ha Giang Loop) - Mau Due - Tham Ma pass - Mong King's palace - Lung Cu flagpole - Dong Van old town - Ma Pi Leng pass - Meo Vac town.

Day 25 (Ha Giang Loop) - Nho Que River (Boat trip) - Bao Lac - Khau Coc Cha pass - Cao Bang city.

Day 26 (Ha Giang Loop) - Cao Bang City - Ban Gioc Waterfalls - Nguom Ngao Cave - Phuc Sen Village - Ha Noi.
The plan was to spend 1 more day on the trip, but as it was Liva's birthday the next day, we agreed to drive the 8 hours it took back to Ha Noi. Then we could celebrate her all the next day.

Day 27 (Ha Noi) - Liva's birthday, with massages, new nails and good food during the day.

Day 28 (Ha Noi) - Ha Long Bay.

Day 29 (Ha Noi) - Relaxation.

Day 30 (Ha Noi / Chiang Mai) - Ha Noi to Chiang Mai in Thailand by air.

Vietnam round trip - The optimal itinerary

If we were "just" going to Vietnam and returning to Denmark, we would have prioritised a little differently. We would probably have skipped Phu Quoc altogether and instead stayed a little longer in Hoi An. Here we would have filled up a suitcase with tailor-made clothes, bags, shoes, etc. and managed our beach holiday here.

We had shortened our 8-day road trip (which turned into 7) to 4 and thus completely skipped Sa Pa town and Ban Gioc waterfall. Both are worth a visit, but you probably need to go on a hiking trip in the Sa Pa area to really experience the nature. The waterfall is beautiful but no more beautiful than what we have experienced in places like Albania, Croatia and Greece.

Vietnam - April to May 2023

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4 comments

Kirsten Christensen 23 May 2023 - 12:14

Fantastically interesting reading and incredible what you have experienced because you have openly and curiously taken the challenges and solved them! Nice "home" you have chosen...Vinding is a great place.

Reply
Michael Gimm Holdensen 23 May 2023 - 13:05

Thank you Kirsten 🙂

Reply
Mónica 23 March 2024 - 16:22

Muchas gracias por tu relato. Vamos para Vietnam la semana próxima y tus comentarios nos ayudan a armar nuestro itinerario!

Reply
Michael Gimm Holdensen 24 March 2024 - 05:19

Me alegro mucho de que le haya servido de ayuda.
Buen viaje.

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