Guest Post: Touring Vietnam and the Art of Travel
Fate has a funny way of sending me guest posts that suit my upcoming travel plans and today’s post is no different. With the Chinese winter gradually wearing at my sanity, an escape to South East Asia seems the most likely destination for my upcoming month long Spring Festival break.
Enter Kian from Travel Indochina with this inspiring piece about why Vietnam should be a feature in my, indeed any, upcoming travel itinerary. Bring on the Mekong, baby!
Touring Vietnam and the art of travel
Louis S Stevenson wrote: “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” Anyone travelling on some of Asia’s roads, flying long-haul in economy or travelling by tuk tuk after being assured by the driver it is “10 minutes away” may choose to ignore this much used travel phrase. Planning a backpacking adventure or a more customized tailor made tour of Vietnam can be an eye opener.
As with anything, researching well and choosing wisely is the best course of action. This certainly applies to touring Vietnam. Its road network is still in need of some love and the incessant beeping of horns and potholes can be the bane of any traveler It can take an age and you spend the next day or so helping your backside to recover as you make up for sleep. Here are a few transportation-based alternatives to get you started!
Commonly known as the Reunification Express, this train line is of French legacy (completed in 1936) and runs from Sapa in the north of Vietnam right down to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in the south of the country. It is not served by one train but numerous trains so departure dates, even by international standards, are decent.
Through your tour you can stop at major sites like Hue (the ancient imperial capital), Nah Trang and get connecting buses to other destinations across Vietnam. Although a more cumbersome form of transport, travelling by train offers some epic scenery such as the Hai Vanh pass between Hue and the charming town of Hoi An, which offers breathtaking elevated views of Vietnam’s famous coastline.
A one way ticket from Hanoi to Saigon will cost you around $80pp, but often less in standard class. As a general note it is not advisable to try and travel without a booking as places do quickly fill up, this is especially so during the 2 week Tet festival through January and February.
Halong Bay has witnessed some recent tragedies which has raised safety concerns and no doubt stopped some people from travelling. Don’t let media coverage scare you off. Most of the boats are perfectly safe and they offer an unforgettable experience. To be safe, book your river accommodation and touring with an established operator in Australia before you leave to ensure the
boats used are fully certified!
A 24 hour cruise starts with your departure from Halong city during the early afternoon from the city’s central pier. Once on board you’ll depart and cruise throughout the thousands of limestone karsts before dropping anchor for an evening of fresh seafood and ice cold drinks! Watch the sunset from the deck of your boat as the water shimmers over the surrounding waters. Day cruises are available but an overnight stay is always recommended.
Mekong cruising to Cambodia is going through a veritable boom! There are plenty of options that range from speedboats (around $200pp) to luxury options on-board The Jayavarman and The Jahan which will cost upward of $3,000 for 8 days!
However, if you’re looking to experience The Mekong in peace and tranquility as a day trip then opt for a short cruise on the Mekong Delta. A 2 hour drive outside of Saigon will get you to Ben Tre or a similarly small port. From here you can pick up a small boat that will take your through the listless backwaters of the delta for around $80 for the day. You can visit local coconut plantations, silk weaving houses and generally witness the day to day life of the Delta unfold. Again, always try and book these arrangements before you leave Australia.
Vietnamese Airlines is currently the only airline offering domestic routes within Vietnam. Tickets cost upward of $100 per person but they can be booked through every major booking engines from Australia. Although you see less of the passing Vietnamese countryside, travelling by plane seriously reduces travel time. You can fly from Saigon to Hue (in central Vietnam approx. 1 hour) to Hanoi in the north (2 hours) cutting out a good few days of travel. Small routes also exist and you can also fly to idyllic little islands like Phu Quoc!
About the Author
Kian is part of the digital team at Travel Indochina. He has travelled extensively throughout Asia both independently and on business. His favourite country is Laos, favourite city Phnom Penh and next on the list is Southern India or a cycling trip through Japan. He’s yet to decide!
Got any tips for getting around Vietnam? Hell, got any tips on what to do there? Share ‘em!