Vietnam Trip Wrap Up

That was some trip! So glad to have had the opportunity to go and see such a lovely country! Here are some things I learned, and a few tips, should you decide to go. In no particular order:

  1. Start in Hanoi, and finish in Ho Chi Minh. Don’t get a round trip in and out of the same city; you’ll spend your last couple of days just getting back to where you started! And Hanoi is a little less busy – so you’ll get in some practice!
  2. Don’t worry about bottled water – they’ll give you plenty. Almost everywhere we stayed, there was both bottled and filtered water available. We rarely had to purchase any.
  3. Don’t drink the tap water. The Vietnamese don’t, so you shouldn’t, either.
  4. Skip the hotel breakfast. Most offer a buffet, and while some were great – you’ll have a lot more fun and experience more if you go find out what the locals do for breakfast. Don’t mistake value for price here; just because it’s included doesn’t mean you have to have it.
  5. Eat where the locals eat. There are a few spots that cater to tourists that are awesome still, but our very best meals where at spots that were tourist free. Spicier food, more adventurous, and far less expensive. Don’t be shy; walk in sit down, and point at something that looks delicious. Most vendors will steer you away from stuff that is a hugely acquired taste.
  6. Skip Nha Trang. Medium sized city, but full of pushy tourists. Sure, you can get away to the beach (about a 25km drive). But I wouldn’t go back.
  7. Cross the street by walking in a straight line, and a steady pace and don’t look nervous. There are rarely speedy drivers, and few cars. They’ll go around you. If you are nervous, wait for a local to cross and stick with them. It’s sort of like magic.
  8. Don’t book in advance – you might arrive somewhere and have to stay for a couple of nights because you booked. Sure – if arriving late in the afternoon, and you think you’ll be tired  – book a room. But just for one night. If you like it, odds are great that you can extend.
  9. Go to Sapa. It’s up north, it can be colder, but well worth the visit. Plus you can by knock off down jackets for less than $20.
  10. Haggle,haggle, haggle, haggle – especial when buying merchandise or taking a cab. Don’t ever get in a cab without asking the price.
  11. Fly. It’s a long country – about 1,000 miles. So getting from Hanoi to Denang is either an overnight train or a $40 plane ride, and the plane takes an hour. Do it.
  12. Travel in the center of the country is a bit harder – getting from Hoi An to My Lai is a car ride. And not a lot of easy to find places to stay. So you’ll want to plan a bit more carefully for the spots between Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh.
  13. You can say “Saigon”. No one cares what you call the city.
  14. Ha Long Bay is gorgeous. Spend a bit more and get a boat that lets you swim, but also shows you the sights. Otherwise, you cruise out during the day, see stuff, and then cruise home. So do your research here.
  15. If you can avoid tours that select all of your food for you, your options for eating local go up!
  16. It’s okay to talk about the war. My Lai and the War Remnants Museum are great places to visit to learn more. And the Vietnamese have moved on; not a whiff of anti-American sentiment where we were.
  17. You probably don’t need a power adapter. Most phones/tablets will auto switch to the right voltage. Check your device to make sure – but we didn’t have any trouble.
  18. Pack less. You can buy toothpaste, shampoo, sun-screen, hats, t-shirts, shoes. We each carried less than 15 pounds. That means we cleared customs on both sides in 10 minutes and never had to wait for luggage.
  19. If you are from Seattle, have a map handy. When you say “Washington” the Vietnamese folks say “Obama”.
  20. Learn a few words. Hello, please, thank you. Amazing how far that gets you when chatting with the locals.

 

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