Family travel: 4 week itinerary in Vietnam

Finally we’ve made it to Vietnam! This place has been on our bucket list for ages; and we were finally here! I have high expectations as so many people have raved about it and extended their stays. The pictures all looked pretty awesome and so we decided to stop for 1 month. Here’s the plan for our 4 week itinerary in Vietnam:

  • Hanoi: 3 nights
  • Halong bay: 3 nights
  • Hanoi: 1 night
  • Tam coc: 4 nights
  • overnight sleeper train: 1 night
  • Phong nha: 2 nights
  • Overnight sleeper train: 1 night
  • Hoi An: 5 nights
  • Overnight sleeper train: 1 night
  • Nha Trang: 5 nights
  • Ho chi Minh city: 4 nights

Places in Vietnam to visit

Hanoi – loved this place in Vietnam purely because of the craziness and the old quarter. You can get completely lost in the alleyways around here. A number of times we ended up back where we started by accident! It’s great for exploring. But if you’re a foodie, you’ll love it even more. Lots of places to eat and drink and a number of food tours too. It had a great vibe and we loved our time here! Made all the better with another meet up with the wyld family!!

Halong bay – what an experience! The beauty and serenity of Bai tu long bay is a must do activity – but it’s not cheap!! Read here about our 3 day 2 night cruise aboard Indochina’s Dragons pearl 2!

Tam coc – known as the land version of halong bay. It’s only 2 hours by train with of Hanoi and a great place to stop. The area is known as ninh binh, but tam coc is where most people stay. There’s lots of restaurants (I mean lots) serving cheap beer and food! There are also lots of activities such as cycling, scootering, walking and boat rides. We enjoyed our 4 days here. But in the height of summer it’s definitely beneficial to have a pool as afternoons are too hot to do anything!! 

Phong nha – slightly cooler and set in the mountains. This was one of our favourite stops, mainly because it hasn’t been commercialised to death… yet! Although the speed in which the building work is going up – it won’t be long! The highlight here is to get a scooter and explore the ho chi Minh trail and to visit the caves in the area! Some are more adventurous than others! 

Hoi an – what a beautiful ancient town. But unfortunately, we didn’t enjoy it! It was too busy, too touristy, too expensive and not what we expected. The one thing I learnt about Hoi an is that there are different areas! There is the ancient town with night market), the old town and alleyways and then the beach (An bang beach).

Nha Trang – who knew?! A beach resort… in Vietnam! Except it doesn’t feel like your in Vietnam. Most people approach you and speak Russian, as this is primarily the tourists you’ll see here! It’s hot a nice beach though and there’s a great snorkeling site but I wouldn’t spend too long here. There’s a big water park & mud bath/spa, but like everything, it’s expensive.  But it’s ok as far as resorts go! 

Ho chi Minh city (otherwise known as Saigon) – you either love Hanoi or ho chi Minh… NO!!! I love both. Another fantastic city. I loved the quaint, if not a little sleazy at night, alleyways. It has a huge amount of history and visiting the war museum & cu chi tunnels was a sombre but enlightening experience.   

Possible additions to your itinerary in Vietnam

Sapa – We’d have really liked to have seen the mountains of sapa. But with it being monsoon season we were doubtful of seeing much. So we were umming and arring but we’re swayed by the cost of the train!! £400 return for 4 of us – wow! After booking halong bay, we decided to give this one a miss! 

Da Nang – a short distance from Hoi an is a city of lights! Its along the same stretch of beach as An bang beach in Hoi an. But the city isn’t overwhelming. In fact we stopped for an afternoon/evening before our night train and had a great time. It seemed cheaper than Hoi an and there was quite a few activities for kids. 

Mui ne – due to timing and jaspers birthday we were left with only 2 days in mui ne. But then we started looking at transport and things got much more complicated and meant our time would be reduced to just 1 day so we decided to give it a miss this time! But it was recommended as a nice area with sand dunes nearby for activities.

Dalat – this area is known for its beauty and waterfalls! But having visited the botanical gardens in phong nha we were disappointed to find a mere trickle of a waterfall. We are currently in the verge of the wet season, which means we are currently in dry season and (as of yet!) No signs of significant rainfall   I’ll admit, I wasn’t overly keen on the idea of a 3 hour windy bus journey for just a couple of days either! 

 

Conclusion

We decided we were going to take a slow pace with our 4 week itinerary in Vietnam.  I definitely preferred northern Vietnam.  It had the most picturesque views and the cheapest prices! There was quite a bit too do within a short area.

Most of the central areas are quite touristy and therefore much more expensive.  Although Hoi An ancient town was pretty with its lanterns!  So bareable for a couple of days, but I much preferred the beach area.

We saw more backpackers and westerners here than in any other area of Asia so far. I mean, we were one of them, but the further south we went, the less authentic it felt.

But there our were some elements I didn’t enjoy! Most of our travels through Vietnam, were by train.  I was so looking forward to it, yet I was surprised at how expensive it was when the trains weren’t that spectacular. I wasn’t impressed!! I think flights can be quite cheap for the longer journeys & stretches also bus journeys are quite reasonable. I can’t believe I’m saying this – but look for alternatives to train travel if possible.

So in essence, Vietnam didn’t blow me away. there’s some areas that I’d like to go back and explore more, hopefully in a cooler month so that we can get out and explore more.  We arrived in the summer months (June/July 2019). The monsoon rains hadn’t yet arrived but boy it was humid and very, very hot! This may have had an influence on my less than enthusiastic review.  There was more we wanted to do, but heat exhaustion prevented us.

Many locals we spoke to, told of the Chinese and Korean tourist boom in the last 2 years – and it shows! There is still a lot of building work going on now! And therefore its not just a well trodden path, it’s been fairly squished! You can still find snippets of real Vietnam though.

I suppose on the plus side, it’s easier for holiday makers who are looking for their first taste of Asia! I did enjoy aspects of the country but maybe my more nomadic expectations were a little higher.

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