Friday, 11 March 2016

The Backpacking Route: Vietnam

Whether you're going North to South or South to North, here's the main backpacking route that tends to be done and the places that you won't want to miss out on.

Being a very popular backpacking destination, the North-South stretch of Vietnam is lined with fellow tourists - many of which are following the exact same route as one another. This also means that you'll find yourself constantly bumping into the same people and sharing a drink or 2 with them along the way. The good thing about Vietnam is that it is so accessible and the transport around the country really is amazing. It's ridiculous just how easy it is to book a bus to the next place, not to mention how cheap it is. We entered Vietnam through Laos and stayed for just over 3 weeks, so here is the North-South route guideline to follow:

1. Hanoi - Vietnams capital is a great place to start the adventure. You'll get to experience the craziness of the cities mopeds, the busy lined streets and the most amazing street food (make sure you sneak into a cafe selling 'egg coffee'). It is also filled with backpackers so you'll meet plenty of friendly faces to spend your evenings with.

2. Halong Bay - Unfortunately the weather in the North of Vietnam was terrible whilst we were there, so sadly we had to skip Halong Bay. Gutted! But it is definitely the place to visit in the North. It can be accessed pretty easily through organised bus journeys from Hanoi, and you can spend the next 24 hours admiring the amazing views and kayaking around the caves. So make sure you have your cameras and GoPro's charged and at the ready.

3. Sapa - If you fancy a trip into the tribal mountains then Sapa is the place for you. Again, this is somewhere we skipped as the temperatures here were waaaay too cold at the time, but if you're one for the slightly cooler climates then head on over. It's supposed to be beautiful.

4. Hue - You don't need long here, but is a great little pit stop on the trip down South. You can visit the historic sights and learn a lot about the war in this city. We did a day trip on a coach to different land marks across the surrounding areas (including war museums, tunnels and shelters) and really enjoyed it. It is often overlooked by backpackers but I'd add it onto the tick list if I was you.

5. Hoi An - Ahhh Hoi An, possibly one of my favourite places I've visited in Vietnam. I can't rave about this ancient city enough, it really is incredible. It is so so beautiful and pretty, and is famous for it's shops and tailors where you can get (cheap) hand-made suits and clothing made there and then. Cobbled streets, amazing food, and the prettiest boat-lined river. What more could you ask for?

6. Nha Trang - Although very pretty, I think this is my least favourite place I've visited, purely for the fact that it is simply just a beach town. But if you're looking for just a few days on a beach and not much to do other than eat out at night, then I guess this is the place for you.

7. Da Lat - Another personal favourite. Famous amongst backpackers for 'canyoning' down waterfalls, it attracts thousands of people a year. Just make sure you go with the professional company if you choose to do this. If not, you can spend your couple of days there wandering around the city renting pedalo's, visiting temples and riding across the mountains on cable cars. Oh, and the views are incredible!

8. Mui Ne - Paradise. If you go to Mui Ne you'll be bombarded with tips by fellow backpackers to stay at the backpacker village in tents on the beach. Yes, experience this, but I urge you to stay at 'Mui Ne Budget Hills Hotel'. We stayed here for 5 days and it was like being at the most relaxing resort ever. Hidden up in the hills, you'll spend your days relaxing by one of the many marble pools overlooking the ocean and palm trees below. You can also watch the beautiful 6am sunrise over the famous white sand dunes. I loved it so much I even did a blog post on it here: Five Days In Paradise!

9. Ho Chi Minh City - The place to end your trip through Vietnam with a bang! Also known as Saigon, it's popular for its nightlife, food and markets. The city boasts so much culture surrounding the war, as well as many excursions such as the Cù Chi Tunnels and Mekong-Delta River. If you have an extra bit of money, a moped tour around the city is also a must-do. I did this and got to see so much of the city I wouldn't of managed to see otherwise, so I would definitely recommend it if you are able to. There isn't much about this city you don't end up loving.

There's so many other places in-land to visit, but these seem to be the most visited amongst all the backpackers I met along the way. Vietnam truly is such an amazing country and I've had nothing but the best time here - I'm sad to leave! But of course, if you're going from South-North, then just visit the places in the opposite order.

Just make sure you don't leave without trying the countries traditional dishes and experiencing the crazy nightlife in Ho Chi Minh. I promise you - you'll have the time of your life.

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