| 5 min read
After travelling 10 days through Cambodia, we crossed the border to continue our backpacking trip in Vietnam. Our three-week itinerary led us from Can Tho in the south to Hanoi and Sapa in the North, with innumerable stops along the way. Below is an overview of the itinerary, including a map at the end.
Note: This itinerary can actually be done in the reverse direction as well, which is what we had originally planned. This schedule is part of a larger trip where we were supposed to land in Bangkok, do a lay-over to Hanoi, travel southwards in Vietnam, cross the border to Cambodia, and finally return home from Bangkok. Unfortunately, we had forgotten to book our tourist visa for Vietnam, so we were denied access to the plane for Hanoi. As we had already made it to Bangkok, we decided to reverse our entire itinerary and arrange our visa for Vietnam in Cambodia.
Can Tho (1 day)
We hopped on a boat to visit Cai Rang, the biggest floating market in the Mekong Delta. The merchants’ boats had a long bamboo pole sticking up in the air, with a sample of the items they were selling. The lady who drove our boat got us some sample of the most juicy mango I’ve ever had. From what I’d read before, I was expecting a bigger floating market, but maybe we had arrived a bit too late. We continued and drove away from the floating market to explore the Mekong Delta.
An Binh (1 day)
With a ferry we crossed the Mekong Delta and arrived shortly on the An Binh island. We dropped our stuff at our homestay and rented a bike to explore the island. At some point, we ran into a group of men who seemingly were having a party and invited us to come over for a drink. As we joined them, we realized it was actually a get-together for a funeral!
Ho Chi Minh (1 day)
In Ho Chi Minh, we joined a walking tour to explore its main sights like the Notre Dame Basilica, the Saigon Central Post Office, the Reunification Palace… We also visited the confined Cu Chi tunnels, which were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968. Given the extremely limited amount of space, these are not recommended if you’re claustrophobic.
Mui Ne (1 day)
A sudden change of scenery in Mui Ne where we waded barefoot through the Fairy stream, which is surrounded by colorful limestone. At the end, we reached its source: a small waterfall. Afterwards, we rented a motorbike to visit the White and Red Sand Dunes, another highlight in Mui Ne.
Dalat (2 days)
We hired a motorbike with a driver for the 35km journey through stunning scenery to the elephant falls. On our way back we stopped at a local coffee farm for a quick tour. On our second day in Dalat, we visited the Hang Nga Guesthouse aka Crazy house. It is an unconventional building designed and constructed by Vietnamese architect Đặng Việt Nga which brings to mind Casa Mila in Barcelona.
Hoi An (2 days)
The atmospheric town of Hoi An is characterized by mustard-colored shophouses and quiet streets which are a welcome reprieve from the chaos of the big cities. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-visit on any Vietnam Itinerary.
The streets are lined with tailors, a tradition resulting from its past as a trading port on the silk route. After comparing tailors, we picked our favorite fabrics and let them take our measurements. Two days later, we were handed our new tailor-made dresses!
While waiting for our new outfits, we took a free bike tour, visited the Hoi An Night market which was illuminated by hundreds of charming lanterns and had the best homemade banh mi at Banh Mi Phuong.
Ninh Binh (2 days)
Known as the Ha Long Bay on land, Ninh Binh boasts some impressive craggy limestone scenery. For us, it was a jumping off point to Tam Coc where scenic limestone hills are dotted amongst emerald green rice paddies. As opposed to Ha Long Bay, this area isn’t overwhelmed by tourists, which enabled us to quietly explore the limestone mountains by boat.
Hanoi (1 day)
In Hanoi, we spent one day exploring the Old Quarter, walked around Hoan Kiem Lake and did a bit of shopping. Despite being the capital city, Hanoi’s main sights can easily be explored in a day or two.
Sapa (3 days)
Situated in remote north-western Vietnam, not far from the border with China, Sapa is one of the most scenic regions to visit. Sapa Vietnam lies amidst beautiful mountains and is surrounded by brilliant green terraced rice fields. At first, we had set our mind on a three-day trek including the peak of Fansipan Mountain at an altitude of 3143 meters. Given the rainy and cloudy circumstances, we abandoned the idea and instead opted for a two-day trek through terraces rice fields and mountain villages. On our third day we hiked to the village of Cat Cat and the Love and Silver waterfalls.
Lan Ha Bay (3 days)
In order to avoid the crowds of Ha Long Bay, we travelled to a quieter alternative in Lan Ha Bay which lies a bit further south, just off the coast of Cat Ba Island. We booked a 2-night/3-day tour on a private boat with CatbaVentures. It was an amazing way to end our trip through Vietnam. Everything was taken care of for us and all we had to do was enjoy the magnificent views as we sailed through impressive limestone isles.
Due to time restrictions, we couldn't travel further north, although the Ha Giang loop in the north seems to be worth the detour.
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