Notes from Traveling in Vietnam

We absolutely loved Vietnam! In the 10 days we spent there we only scratched the surface of things to see in the north of the country.

Photo taken by hyperactive 5 year old Vietnamese child.

Photo taken by hyperactive 5 year old Vietnamese child outside of Sapa. It’s one of my favorites.

Where did we go?

1) Hanoi – A great place to start our trip. The busy streets scream “Welcome to Asia!” and waking up to delicious phở for breakfast makes the lengthy flight across the Pacific Ocean 100% worth it. Dodging the city’s 5 million motorbikes kept everything chaotic and interesting. You should eat all the street food you can get your hands on. Fresh mint, limes and green onions are included with everything. It’s delicious.

2) Halong Bay – TOURISTY but beautiful. Limestone islands rise out of aqua blue (& mildly polluted) water creating a peaceful zen feel. And you get to see it all from the deck of an old wooden boat.


As much as I generally avoid organized tours like the plague, a package tour is probably your best option to organize the ferries, boats, kayaking and lodging. We did the 3 days/ 2 nights in Halong Bay, staying the second night at Monkey Island Beach Resort which was well worth it. If you go, DO NOT stay in Cat Bat City. It is gross.


Aquamarine floating fishing villages keep the place from being a total tourist trap.

3) Sapa – My favorite place in Vietnam. The first thing you notices are the rows and rows of bright green rice paddy terraces.

Sapa-VietnamSapa is also famous the various indigenous groups that live in the area including H’mong, Black H’mong, Red Dao and others. Many of them make very intricate embroidery work which they shameless hawk in sweet high-pitched voices “You buy from meeee?!” (It’s more of a command than a question.)


Trekking is the most common way to see the countryside, but we decided it was well worth it to get on a bike. Of course it poured rain the night before which made for slippy, muddy downhill trails. We were able to get a little further off the beat and paths, catching a small glimpse of daily life and startling bored children sitting on front porches.


Since daily life generally involves water buffaloes and rice farming, three gringas on bikes always generated a sweet “HELLO!” while jumping up in the air.


What did we spend? My Budget for Vietnam

So my initial hope of $30/day didn’t quite work out too well since Vietnam is more expensive than other countries on my itinerary and honestly, I was too excited to be watching my budget closely.

  • Daily Budget: $50 Day
  • 30 Day Visa for Vietnam, Multiple Entries: $95
  • 3 Day Halong Bay Tour: $102
  • 2 Days Mountain Biking in Sapa: $90
  • Round-trip Night Train between Hanoi & Sapa: $62

Next stop Laos!

Dodging Motorbikes in Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is brilliant place to start my Southeast Asian adventure.

Pho + Pineapple = Breakfast

Pho + Pineapple = Breakfast

Hanoi is a city of narrow alley streets, 5 million motorbikes, women in rice hats, Vietnamese iced-coffee, mini plastic stools diners, telephone poles that look anaconda’s nests of wires, photocopied books, men taking bamboo bong hits of tobacco, $0.75 beer with ice cubes, little kids screaming “HELLO!”, medical face masks for air pollution, beef noodle soup, shrimp head pastries, temples dedicated to turtles & swords, Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, tailored clothing and (BREATHE)… more motorbikes.

It is everything I imagined it to be and so much more.

Scooters are overloaded with flowers, housewares, families of four and livestock. Basically anything you can imagine. If you have to transport it, it has to go piled high on a motorbike.

Crossing the street is thrilling and therefor equally terrifying. The only way to cross the raging river of bikes is to GO for it. Take the leap of faith off the curb and walk straight across while looking towards your impending success/doom. If that methods fails, flanking the giggling locals is always a good idea.
Personally, my preferred method is grabbing my friend Betsy’s hand and screaming like a little girl on her first roller-coaster ride as we run across. No one, and I mean no one, seems to notice or think this is odd (but maybe they can’t hear us over the beep-beeps of the scooter horns).

3 days here, and then it’s off to the limestone islands of Halong Bay and the rice patties of Sapa.