As usual, Jason and I fulfilled our bi-annual 2 week travel sesh in April/May. Our choice this time: Vietnam and Beijing! Jason has wanted to go back to Vietnam since his solo trip to Ho Chi Minh a couple years ago and we thought we’d tack on China as well for 72 hours (since we were cheapos that didn’t want to buy a travel visa). Sum of the trip: we will DEFINITELY be going back to Vietnam. We tend to get bored if we stay in one destination for too long but 1.5 weeks in Vietnam was not enough at all! So far, fav places I have travelled are: #1 Turkey, #2 Vietnam – so it’s clearly pretty up there on my recommended places to go!
Here’s some pics and highlights of things we did (and ate!) during our 2 week travels.
Our Vietnam adventure was apparently the opposite from what most tourists do – we started from the South and worked our way up North. If you’re a wimp like me and struggle through 35+ degree C heat, I recommend this option since the further up North you go, the cooler it gets! I cannot explain how beautiful this country is, how kind the people were, and how DELISH (and affordable) the food was – oh how I miss the bun cha from there.. If you love to travel and are looking for an affordable destination, GO TO VIETNAM!!
- Ho Chi Minh. This was our first stop. We spent a couple days there trying to get used to the heat (I was melting the whole time..) and taking it pretty easy. Highlight: Taking a cooking class. We booked it through our hostel at TownHouse 23 and learned so much about the spices and techniques of the South Vietnamese food. Of note, you’ll notice significant differences in food styles and flavours when you travel throughout Vietnam! With our extra time, we also checked out the Cu Chi tunnels (and learned so much about the history of the war and how the Vietnamese lived in the insanely tight tunnels) and opted for the motorboat ride back to the main city.
- Hoi An. We took a flight over to Danang and a taxi to Hoi An for a day. I personally found Hoi An a bit too touristy for my liking but if you’re looking for some custom made clothes/shoes and days on the beach, it’ll be your go to. I really struggled with the heat there but taking bike rides around town made it a pleasant experience!
- Travelling from Hoi An to Hue. A RD friend of mine highly encouraged doing a scooter/motorbike tour from Hoi An to Hue – this was Jason’s highlight of the trip! I hopped onto the back of our guide’s motorbike while Jason took a scooter on his own. Despite the pretty icky weather half way into the tour, this trek was so much fun. It included exploring Marble Mountain, passing through Danang, Hai Van Pass (that’s where the rain started), a huge seafood lunch, learning about the old fishing village, and swimming at Elephant Springs.
- Hue. We didn’t have a ton of time to explore Hue so we booked a day long tour. Tip: Make sure you book a tour with less than 20 people – we decided to book one with 50+ to save a few bucks and it was not worth the savings. Lots of history and things to learn in this city.
- Hanoi. We flew over to Hanoi and stayed in Hanoi Old Town. The tight streets and hustle/bustle in this area was pretty amazing to watch and perfect if you love to stroll streets, pick up random knick knacks and purchase yummy food from the ladies selling local noms on the sidewalks. We booked a tour to cruise through Halong Bay – it was a 2 day, 1 night cruise along the water. Definitely a must if you’re in Vietnam BUT these longer tours may be ending in 2020. The 3+hour bus ride to Halong bay was tiring but cruising on the water and relaxing on the boat for two days was so relaxing (and much needed with our hectic schedule). One thing you MUST eat in Hanoi – BUN CHA! We went to a couple places (including the restaurant Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama hit up in the past year). I really wish I learned how to make this noodle dish since I can’t seem to find any restaurants here in Vancouver that serve it.. From Hanoi, we flew over to Beijing!
We were not in China for long at all since we opted to stay for 72 hours to avoid paying for a travel visa. Canada is one of the countries allowed into China for 72 hour visa-free transits. Jason found this article from CNN that organized what to do for that short 3 days and we really didn’t tackle much of it – with the mix of heat, my claustrophobia and becoming overwhelmed by the ++number of people always surrounding me and the on and off food poisoning I got during those few days, we were pretty slow moving.
- Spent a bit of extra cash to splurge on some Peking duck.
- Spent a full day trekking out to Mutianyu Great Wall. We did this on our own without booking a tour and we really enjoyed it. We were able to spend as much (and as little) time as we wanted on the wall and took advantage of the touristy option of tobogganing down to the bottom of the wall on our way back to the bus!
- Explored the Forbidden City! Unfortunately we lost a lot of our photos from the end of our trip in Beijing but i still had this one!
Tl;dr: GO TO VIETNAM! It’s becoming a more popular destination to check out so do it sooner rather than later. We will likely be doing another travel stint in November so if you have any must-travel places to recommend, please let me know in the comments!