A lot of folks have expressed curiosity about my Vietnam trip, so here are a few highlights/tips for anyone planning a similar visit:
We traveled from the south to the north of the country, and were happy to have done so. (Other tourists we encountered did the reverse and expressed regret about it.) The south is hotter and a bit more chaotic, so it was nice to start there and slowly decelerate as the trip progressed.
We visited Saigon, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Sapa over 17 days. It was an aggressive but doable itinerary, with lots of little domestic hopper flights. If we had more time, I would’ve added Ninh Binh, Danang, and Angkor Wat (in Cambodia).
Don’t go in early June! The heat and humidity were almost unbearable, even for someone who loves hot weather.
While you can find hostels for $20/night, you can stay in beautiful hotels for $50-60/night, which was well worth it.
Half day tours were our favorite – they provide some structure and information, but still leave you with enough time to explore on your own.
We had no issues using tap water at mid-range hotels for brushing teeth. Bottled water for drinking is ubiquitous and very cheap (~ 50 cents for 1 liter).
We avoided using motorbikes and were glad to have done so – we witnessed multiple collisions even by experienced local drivers.
We ran into a grand total of 1 other American tourist the whole time – which was refreshing! We enjoyed conversations with locals and lots of other travelers from elsewhere in the world.
There is over 1,000 years of history to learn about at many key sites in Vietnam. It’s heaven for a history buff, especially if your formal, academic history education omitted…all of Asia (as mine did).
Overall – every moment was a cacophony of sounds, smells, sights, and flavors. It’s intense and beautiful and I would absolutely recommend adding it to your travel bucket list!