One Day in Ho Chi Minh City

Since we only had one day in Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon to those who are from the south), we decided to book a hotel in District 1 so that we would be closer to the sights we wanted to see. Hotels in District 1 are a little bit more expensive ($14/night for a spacious private room/private bath), but for us it was worth the extra so that we could save travel time and transportation expenses. Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, VietnamJared and I love trying street food, but we are very cautious because we know the risk we are taking. We usually only eat at street vendors if the food looks fresh, the stand looks clean, and they cook it in front of us. I always stay clear of street food that is precooked… who knows how long that dish has been sitting in the hot sun.

We found a vendor that met our expectations, so we sat down a grabbed an $0.85 lunch before heading to the Ho Chi Minh War Museum. Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I guess I didn’t really know what to expect at the war museum, but I hadn’t prepared myself for the strong anti-USA propaganda. After only a few minutes of being in the museum, I felt like claiming I was Canadian if anyone were to ask. Ho Chi Minh City War Museum Ho Chi Minh City War MuseumHo Chi Minh City War Museum Ho Chi Minh City War Museum Ho Chi Minh City War MuseumAfter the museum, we headed out on foot to explore more of the city. Our next few stops included the beautiful Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, the Saigon Central Post Office, and a walk through a neardby park.  Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The Post Office in downtown Ho Chi Minh was constructed by the French in the early 20th century, and it’s beautiful architecture has turned it into a tourist attraction.  Oficina Central de Correos, Ciudad Ho Chi Minh, VietnamWe spent the rest of the day walking around the downtown area of Saigon. It was a beautiful city, and we really wished we had more time there. Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The thick power lines in Vietnam were literally thick enough to provide you with shade while standing under them. Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, VietnamSaigon, Ho Chi Minh City, VietnamJared got to experience the life of a coconut salesman.Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, VietnamWe ate more street food for dinner and we have remained in good health since then. Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, VietnamWe hopped on a bus ($10.50) early the next morning to head to Phnom Pehn! Stay tuned to hear about our adventures in Cambodia.Bus from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh

Trekking with Susu in Sapa

After our cruise on Halong Bay, we headed back to Hanoi to catch our overnight bus to Sapa.

Some people prefer to travel with everything pre-booked, and others book everything as they go. Jared and I usually end up doing a combination of both. If we have a late night flight, and we know we are going to arrive at our destination after dark, we usually try to book in advance using Agoda. In our experience, they tend to have the best prices on private room accomodations. If we know that there is a large holiday in the country we are visiting, we try to book plane tickets or bus tickets in advance so that they don’t sell out or become overly expensive. However, Sapa is something we didn’t pre-book at all, and it worked perfectly that way.

We bought our overnight bus tickets ($30 round trip/per person) at our hotel in Hanoi just a few days before we were planning on going to Sapa. And we didn’t book anything else until we were actually in Sapa. We were unsure of this at first, but we soon realized it is completely unnecessary to book anything in advance in northern Vietnam.Overnight bus to SapaThis was our first time on an overnight bus, and both of us were impressed with how well we slept. The “beds” were not spacious, but at least they were comfortable.Overnight bus to Sapa, VietnamWhen we arrived in Sapa the next day, we were greeted by a crowd of people trying to get us to stay in their hotel, or to go trekking with them. All of them claimed they had the cheapest prices, and nicest place.Sapa, VietnamWell, low and behold, this is how we met Susu. She was so spunky that we immediately fell in love with her even though we were skeptical at first. We learned later that day that we were very lucky to have met her. She is a very popular guide because she is honest, hilarious, and good with foreigners. She speaks English and French. She is so popular that other guides try to claim to be her! This is the real Susu, memorize her face if you are going to Sapa.Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam After walking around and looking at several hotels, Susu insisted that we should come with her and she will show us a good, cheap hotel. The first hotel she brought us to was $3/night/person. But we prefer to have our own space instead of sharing a bunk room with other people. We said no to that hotel and then she brought us to another one. We liked this hotel and decided to stay. It was $8/night for a private room and bathroom, and free wifi. They also let us check in upon our arrival at 10am, and they offer motorcycle rentals for $4/day (yes, we took advantage of this!).Sapa, VietnamThe room was spacious, and it had a great view. Sapa, VietnamAfter dropping our backpacks off in our room, we headed out to explore the quaint town of Sapa. Sapa, VietnamSapa, Vietnam Sapa, VietnamOne of the things you have to get used to in Sapa is all of the women trying to sell you things, or attempting to make you “pinkie promise” that you will hire them as your guide to their village. Sapa, VietnamAnd this is where knowing Susu comes in very handy. All you have to say is “Sorry, I already promised Susu that I would go with her.” They will unhappily walk away and not bother you anymore. It works great. If the men try to hassle you into renting their motorbike? Sorry, we already rented one at our hotel. 

After rounding up a few maps of the Sapa area, we jumped on our bike and headed off to explore. We headed to the gas station to fill up ($0.62/liter)!Sapa, Vietnam Sapa, Vietnam We had a great time riding through the curvy roads up the mountain to the waterfall, and then back down and through the villages. Sapa, Vietnam Sapa, Vietnam
We bumped into these guys a few times, and when we saw them drinking coffee near a raod we were riding on, we decided to join them . Both Jared and I agree that one of the coolest aspects of traveling is the people we get to meet. Sapa, VietnamSapa, VietnamSapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, VietnamWe promised Susu that we would go trekking with her the next day. She had a few other people joining along, and it made it even better.

We woke up nice and early the next morning to grab some breakfast and coffee before trekking 8 kilometers through the mountains to Susu’s village. Sapa, VietnamWe were so thankful that the sun came out, but since we hadn’t seen much of the sun prior to this day, we completely forgot to wear sunscreen.Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam
We walked through dirt roads, and winding trails behind Susu. She was very informative about her culture, the surroundings, and any other questions. And if she didn’t know the answer, she wouldn’t bluff, she’d promptly state “I donno.” Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam
We passed some children along the road. Why they weren’t in school, and what they were doing is still a mystery.Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, VietnamThis pig’s belly was literally dragging the ground.Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam  Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam  Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam  Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam After trekking for 3.5 hours, we finally made it to Susu’s village!Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam We went inside Susu’s daughter-in-law’s home and met her family.Trekking in Sapa, VietnamTrekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam
Lunch was prepared for us and when it was finished, we dug in. We had fried tofu, stir-fried chicken, and rice. It was delicious. Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam After our meal, they brought out “happy water.”Trekking in Sapa, VietnamJared got to borrow Susu’s traditional pipe for one puff of tobacco. Sapa, Vietnam
Since our time in Sapa was limited, we didn’t stay the night with Susu’s family. Instead, we said our goodbyes, and snapped a few more pictures of Susu’s village before heading out via motorbike taxi.Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam Sapa, VietnamTrekking in Sapa, Vietnam Trekking in Sapa, VietnamTrekking in Sapa, VietnamTrekking in Sapa, Vietnam Sapa, Vietnam  Sapa, Vietnam Sapa, Vietnam
We explored the local side of Sapa the following day before catching our overnight bus back to Hanoi.Sapa, Vietnam Sapa, Vietnam Sapa, Vietnam Sapa, Vietnam
The bus on the way home was very specious, and other than getting caught in a 4-hour long traffic jam, we made it safely back in Hanoi where we were going to catch a flight down to Ho Chi Minh City. Sapa, VietnamStay tuned to hear about our time in Ho Chi Minh!

A Rainy Day in Halong Bay

Halong Bay… I’m sure you guys have all seen pictures of Vietnam’s famous “dragon descending bay.” The bay is filled with nearly 2 thousands islands and cliffs that emerge from the water.

Since this is a must-see sight in northern Vietnam, we couldn’t miss out. We bought a “two day, one night” cruise package (which actually only ends up being less than 24 hours on the boat) to Halong Bay. We didn’t know if such a short time in the bay was going to be worth the trip, but it was. Also, we were glad we didn’t book it any longer because the weather ended up being gloomy the whole week.

Despite the rain and mist, we ended up having a great time.

After a 4.5 hour bus ride from Hanoi, we made it to the bay.Halong Bay in the Rain Halong Bay in the RainThe bay was filled with hundreds of little ships waiting to take their passengers to the famous dragon descending cliffs.Halong Bay in the RainHalong Bay in the RainWe boarded a life boat that took us to our little ship.Halong Bay in the Rain

The ship was rather old, but that just added to the experience!Halong Bay in the Rain Halong Bay in the RainWe loved having windows that opened to the sea… If the weather had been bright and sunny, I’m sure we both would have jumped out our windows for a little swim every now and then. Halong Bay in the RainAfter traveling in our ship for about an hour, we were surrounded by the beautiful cliffs. Halong Bay in the RainThese little brightly colored houses are homes to the sea villagers. Can you imagine living on the water like this?Halong Bay in the RainHalong Bay in the RainHalong Bay in the RainOur fist stop on the cruise was exploring some of the caves of Halong Bay. Halong Bay Cave Halong Bay Cave Halong Bay Cave Halong Bay CaveHalong Bay CaveHalong Bay in the RainThe view from the exit of the cave was breath taking. Our guide told us that on a clear day, you can see the mainland. Halong Bay in the Rain Halong Bay in the Rain Halong Bay in the Rain

Next on the itinerary was a stop at one of the islands. Activities on this island include swimming and hiking. Since it was pretty chilly out, most people chose the latter activity. Halong Bay in the RainAlong the hike to the top of the island, there were some cute monkeys in a cage. Halong Bay Monkey Halong Bay in the RainThe hike was short, but rather treacherous due to the steep and muddy trail. Halong Bay in the RainAs we were resting in our room before dinner, we saw a woman in a boat waiting outside our window. My first thought was to close the curtains, but Jared was rather excited about buying from a boat-vendor through our cabin window. Besides, how many times can you say you’ve done that?Halong Bay in the Rain

Bye bye lady, thank you for the cheap snacks! Halong Bay in the RainThat evening, we joined in a small Vietnamese cooking class where we learned how to make fried spring rolls.Halong Bay in the Rain Halong Bay in the Rain Halong Bay in the RainThe dinner was very good. I was especially impressed by the carved carrot flowers.Carrot Flowers Halong Bay in the Rain

Jared got to try his hand at squid fishing that evening!Halong Bay in the Rain

The next day we packed our bags and headed back to Hanoi to catch our night-bus to Sapa. Stay tuned for our next post about the trekking we did through the beautiful rice terraces of Sapa. Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam

The Beautiful City of Hanoi

Vietnam… Where do I begin when describing this beautiful country? We really didn’t know what to expect from Vietnam, and maybe that’s why we loved it so much. At this point, our travels in Asia only consisted of Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and China. And Vietnam was vastly different from any other Asian country we had visited.

Since we had a late night flight into Hanoi, stayed at the AVI Transit Hotel, located just 3 kilometers outside of the airport. However, since we were so close to the airport, non of the taxis wanted to give us a ride. They kept passing us up for the bigger dollar people who were traveling further than us. Feeling quite frustrated, we left the airport on foot. We hadn’t made it but a couple feet down the main road when a taxi driver pulled over and gladly gave us a lift to our hotel.

Big Trip 615For those of you wondering what a $10 hotel room (private bath) looks like, here you go. And keep in mind that we stayed in similar places all through Vietnam for even less than that. Hanoi, VietnamThe next day we headed out of our hotel to the main road to catch a local bus. Hanoi, VietnamIt wasn’t long before our bus pulled up. We hopped on board, and after paying a whooping 15 cents each, we were on our way to Hanoi.

We headed to the Old Quarter because that’s where our hotel was located. After dropping our bags off, we headed out to explore town. The city was absolutely beautiful!Hanoi, VietnamAfter walking around for awhile, Jared decided to go Vietnamese on me with his hair. Hanoi, Vietnam I really ended up liking the result. After a haircut, face massage, and bead trim, it came to a total of $3.00.Hanoi, VietnamAfterwards, we headed back out to see some more of this quaint, but busy old city.Hanoi, Vietnam Hanoi, VietnamHanoi, VietnamHanoi, Vietnam Hanoi, Vietnam Hanoi, VietnamBird and snake wine, anyone?Hanoi, Vietnam, Snake and Bird WineI had read online that a specialty dessert in Hanoi was egg coffee. After asking around that evening, we found a small Vietnamese coffee shop that sold this so-called dessert in a cupHanoi, VietnamIt was very good. And it definitely made me want to try more local desserts while traveling! The best way to describe it is a delicious coffee topped with a liquid custard. If you want the recipe, Jodi from Legal Nomads posted one on here blog. I haven’t tried her recipe yet, but it looks good!Vietnamese Egg CoffeeHanoi, VietnamThe next day, we hopped on a bus and headed to the beautiful Halong Bay! Although the weather was misty the whole week, it didn’t keep us from having fun. Stay tuned to see our photos of the gorgeous “descending dragon” bay of Vietnam!Halong Bay on a Rainy Day