Vietnam is such a diverse country with diverse history as you move north to south, and as a result, deciding on an itinerary can be overwhelming. We didn't plan that much ahead of time and just went with the flow, and ended up in four destinations in Vietnam over a span of two weeks.
One thing we are certain of is we wish we stayed in Vietnam longer! There is so much to see and we feel we barely scratched the surface.
Here is what our two-week itinerary in Vietnam ended up looking like:
Hanoi - 3 nights
We felt this was a perfect amount of time in the large city of Hanoi. I prefered Hanoi to Saigon, though keep in mind it gets relatively cold in the winter months. Hanoi is a 24 hour city, with 24 hour traffic, and so many scooters! We had fun trying the world's cheapest beer (11 cents a pint!!), wandering around Tran Quoc Pagoda, exploring the surprisingly high amount of vegan restaurants, walking through the Friday Night Market, watching early morning aerobics at at Hoan Kiem Lake, and (almost) getting hit by the hundreds of thousands of scooters that weave through traffic.
The Friday Night Market in Hanoi
Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi
Quite possibly the world's largest public massage train: Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
Enjoying the world's cheapest beer - bia hoi for 12 cents a pint!!
Hue - 2 nights
I have mixed feelings about Hue. On one hand, it is a quaint city with an abundance of history...on the other - I found there isn't all that much to do other than tour the Old City. I believe the two nights we spent in Hue was enough. If you're rushing through Vietnam, or want to see other parts of this beautiful country, one full day in Hue is sufficient. There were some good vegan restaurants (vegan Bun Bo Hue!!!) in Hue, bought some high-quality fake North Face jackets, had too many hot pot dinners, squeezed three people on a motorcycle taxi to see Thien Mu Temple, and walked through the Imperial City.
A photo taken from inside the Citadel
A rainy day inside Hue's Imperial City
Hoi An - 4 nights
Wow. Words cannot describe how I felt about Hoi An. It is an incredible town. Indeed, it is overrun with tourists - but there is something about the charm of Hoi An I cannot get out of my head. The old town is filled with red lanters hanging from beautiful yellow buildings. In the old town, no cars are allowed, therefore it is extremely pedestrian friendly. The town is perfect to bike through, go on free bike tours, buy a custom-tailored suit, shop at the local market, and learn how rice paper is made. I highly recommend a visit to Hoi An during your time in Vietnam!
The beautiful canals and yellow buildings of Hoi An
Banana and sweet potato cake -- street food in Hoi An
Getting tailor-made suits in Hoi An
Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon - 3 nights
Our experience in Saigon was interesting. We spent three nights here, but did not fully experience the city like we did other destinations as we couchsurfed about a 25 minute drive outside of the city. That being said, our limited time in the centre was enjoyed. If you're into crowds and high prices - the Benh Than Market is for you. We walked through the Pham Ngu Lao backpacker district and had some good meals. We walked an hour an a half to a cat cafe (worth it!!), consumed a life's worth of vehicle exhaust while riding on motorcycle taxis, and sat in awe watching one of the busiest intersections in Asia.
Victoria at Ailu Cat Cafe in Saigon
Welcome to Saigon - so many motorcycles!
Mekong Delta Tour - 1 night
Prior to moving on to Phnom Penh, we opted to take an inexpensive, two-day, one-night tour of the Mekong Delta. Though some parts were super touristy and unnecessary, we enjoyed the tour and would recommend you do one too! For $25 USD all in, we bussed to My Tho, visited a coconut candy farm, stopped for lunch at an island, went to a bee farm, tried a shot of banana wine, went on an awesome river boat cruise through narrow waterways, headed to Can Tho for the night market and stayed overnight, checked out a floating market and were bombarded by vendors on other boats, learned (again) how rice paper was made, sampled some amazing steamed rice and coconut cakes, and went to an awesome fruit farm. It was a busy two days!
A jackfruit tree near Can Tho on our Mekong Delta tour
A calming ride through the narrow waterways of the Mekong Delta