• Gaurav Sharma

Vietnam 2 week itinerary – The Happy Trail

Vietnam is spectacular in every aspect, from its rich history to diverse culinary delights to breathtaking natural beauty to the ‘very-friendly’ locals, it’s not just another piece of land defined by its political geography, it’s a ‘feeling’ that’s never gonna leave you. If you’re going to Vietnam for the first time, two weeks is a good time to experience the little bit of everything across the length of the country.

Day 1 & 2 – Hanoi

Hanoi - Old Quarter

Arrive at Hanoi, take a shuttle bus to Old Quarter that should cost you only 40-50k dong (2$) while a taxi may overcharge you upto 700k dongs. The hostels will cost you as low as 5$ and most of them are right at the heart of “where everything happens”. Spend your day time visiting the museums & temples, take a walk around Hoan Kiem lake in the evening or befriend some locals over Bia Hanoi (local beer) and Bun Cha.

Day 3 & 4 – Ha Long Bay

Ha long bay sun set

Book a tour from your hostel, shouldn’t cost you more than 100$ and take a trip to the most popular destination in Vietnam. Since it’s ‘most popular’, expect herds of white tourists and scams. You can also opt for 1 day tour which essentially requires you to sit in a shuttle bus most of the times with a really funny tour guide. The 2 night, one day tour has an additional advantage of a good sunrise view and bathing with a thousand tourists on a small beach. The Kayaking experience was my favorite part of the Ha Long Bay cruise.

Day 5 & 6 – Sa Pa

Vietnam sapa - rice terrace

You know a place is well past its saturation point when you spot thin crust pizza & pasta arabbiata places in a very small village atop a rice terrace 5000 feet above the sea level. Yet, Sa Pa’s beauty will leave you awe-struck, especially if your going in August/ September when the rice fields are yellow. You can stay either in Sa Pa or in one of the villages that offer stunning morning views.  Also, I highly recommend a motorbike ride to Tram Ton Pass, Vietnam’s highest road, stop by at one of the tea-sellers, spend at least an hour to sink in the views.

Day 7 & 8  – Hue

Take a 70 minute flight to Hue from Hanoi (50-60 USD) or a 12 hour train (35-55 USD) and arrive at the old capital also known as the ‘city of ghosts’. Initially, Hue may not give you good vibes and the more you read about its history, it may haunt you forever. Visit the Imperial City, the Pagodas, the museums or take a short trip to the beach. Hue is also home to some of the best Vietnamese dishes including the legendary ‘Bun Bo Hue’.

Day 9 & 10 – Hoi An

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Hoi An – The city of lanterns. I made it to Hoi An in one crazy long ride, mostly boring & got to know I am on time for the mid-autumn lantern festival. I initially planned to stay here for a week but got out in 2 nights because of lonely planet induced Western tourism. The old town looks like an amusement park & is fun to walk around, but definitely Hoi An is not the place you will fall in love with & stay forever as they promised, decent one time affair. In the old capital Hue now. . . . #lanterns #lanternfestival #festival #hoian #vietnam #travel #snapseed #backpackingasia #ancientown #oldcity #streets #canal #boats #market #asianmarket #romance

A post shared by Gaurav Sharma (@wander.da) on Aug 18, 2016 at 9:49pm PDT

Probably the most chilled out town of the far east, Hoi An looks like it could have been a hub of Asian Renaissance. If you plan well and visit during the lanterns festival, you’d be amazed by the surreal evening visuals. But the popularity also comes with thousands of tourists and it may annoy the shit out of you if you hate flocks of tourists. Once you’re done with the boat rides, temples and street-walks, take a trip to the beach and do not miss the legendary Banh Mi at Banh Mi Phuong (or Banh Mi Queen if you like Anthony Bourdain) and Cao Lau.

And do not miss the HAI VAN PASS.

Hai Van Pass is probably going to be a highlight of your trip if you’re not doing a road-trip in North Vietnam. 56 kms from Hoi An, and just 28 kms from Da Nang, Hai Van Pass offers some spectacular views with mountains on one side and sea on the other. You can either stop by on the way from Hue or take a day trip from Hoi An which you can combine with Marble temple & a fabulous lunch at Banh Xeo Ba Duong in Da Nang.

hai van pass

Day 11-12 – Mui NeNha Trang/ Da Lat

I loved Da Lat. Mui Ne has crazy sand dunes. And you’re probably 10 years late for Nha Trang. Reaching from Hoi An to Nha Trang is the easiest where you can take a 10 hour train or you can fly straight to Da Lat or take a very long bus to Mui Ne. Out of these 3, my vote goes for Mui Ne just for the sand dunes, and of course the beach. I absolutely loved Da Lat, but if you’re already doing the mountains in the North, you must do Mui Ne for the geologically wild landscape.

Day 13-14 – Ho Chi Minh City

vietnam people

Finish off your ‘Vietnam holiday’ in style at my favorite big city in the world, Saigon. You can take a day tour to Mekong delta as well but I would want you to spend at least 2 days in Saigon. Saigon is chaotic love, a wild mix of adrenaline rush & peace, a showcase of Vietnam’s aspirations. From perennial scams to insanely amazing street food, Saigon is full of surprises. Go read one of the most popular and genuine blog posts about what to eat in Saigon, get lost in the hustle & bustle of two-wheelers on road & spend a wild night out on the Bui Vien Street.

Rough Budgets

Visa – 40 USD

Accommodation – 70-100 USD

Ha Long Bay tour – 100 USD

Bus/Train/flight Transport – 140-200 USD

Food – 5-10 USD per day – 70 – 150 USD

Local Transport – 40-50 USD

Beer – 20-30 USD

Museum/Temple entrance – 30-40 USD

Misc – 50-60 USD

Total – 550 – 750 USD

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