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Vietnam (2022)



Adventuring to Vietnam? Wow - you’re in for a trip of a lifetime! Whether you’re seeking culture, cuisine, high mountains, famous Halong Bay, beach days or crazy streets of the main cities Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh, you’re able to experience it all in just a matter of weeks or on a month visit!


Below is insight into my 1 month journey in Vietnam including my route, travel tips, favorite places to eat (for all the plant-based foodies) and survival hacks to make your landing & experience in a new culture seem smooth & easy!


My Quest For Zest...

Getting There

Book your flight

Sort your visa

Pre-Trip Essentials

Arriving to the Airport

My Route

Hanoi

SaPa

Ha Giang Loop

Hanoi

Halong Bay

Danang

Hoi An

Dalat

Ho Chi Minh

Can Tho Floating Markets


Make sure to check out my VIETNAMESE COOKBOOK, 'Quest For Zest: Vietnam', inspired by my epic adventure and the traditional cuisine (coming December 2022)!


Find trip highlights and day to day explorations on my instagram page: @root_to_rise_


 

GETTING THERE

Book your flight - haha quite a self explanatory step 1! I like to use Skyscanner for affordable options and easily comparable rates. Flying in and out of the big cities - Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh - will help reduce international flight costs.


I flew into Hanoi. From the airport it’s about an $18-20 shared van ride, 45 minutes, into the city. Your can find transport at the airport. Most hotels or hostels also have the option for paid airport pick up when booking and arranging your stay.


Sort your visa - A week before departure you need to apply online for an e-visa! Fill out the form here, pay a fee of $25, and wait patiently 3-4 days for your approval. Once you get the email, print the attached document to carry with you through the airport.


 

PRE-TRIP ESSENTIALS

  1. Download an offline map for the areas you’ll be visiting. I like maps.me.

  2. Download a currency conversion app - I like Currency Converter Calculator, but check out a list of recommended apps here.

  3. Get the app Grab or Gojek. These cheap taxi alternatives are reliable, quick, available so many places, and you can choose motor bike or car options for getting you around the cities.


 

ARRIVING TO THE AIRPORT

Make your life easy & when you land, before leaving the airport...

  1. Find an ATM and get some quick cash. Use your pre-downloaded cash converter app to find out how much to withdraw.

  2. Get a SIM card! You can also find them in the city but it’ll save you some stress to go ahead and get it there. You’ll also have access to internet when making the journey to your hotel which is always reassuring when arriving into a new place.


 

MY ROUTE...


HANOI

The capital of Vietnam and the big city of the north. It’s packed full of culture, chaotic city streets, unique food finds, tours of many kinds, museums, varying architecture & plenty of things to keep you busy and your days filled.


WHERE TO STAY

There are many hotels and hostels throughout the city - you can easily find one to meet your unique needs and budget on booking.com! I enjoyed staying in the old quarter for its prime location to main attractions and the local feel of the area.



I stayed at Hanoi Pho Hotel. It’s not a social atmosphere for meeting other backpackers, but with intentions for the trip being the creation of my upcoming cookbook, a cheap private room was what I was looking for and I was satisfied with my stay. A room with windows over looking the city was preferable!


If you are looking for a more backpacker or hostel vibe - there are plenty of options in the old quarter!


WHAT TO DO

Cooking class (Rosie’s Kitchen)

Train Street

Explore the old quarters

Tran Quoc Pagoda

Vietnam Military Museum (1 - 2 hours)


WHERE TO EAT - VEGAN OPTIONS (Search on google maps)

Nem Núóng Nha Trang Quê Hoa - local place, good fresh spring rolls (ask vegan & no fish sauce)

Bánh cuôn gia truyên - traditional rice dumplings (vegan option)

Veggie Castle - vegan buffet

Thien Tra Dao Artisan Tea & Vegan food - nice vegan options & tea

Chay food - nice menu of vegan food

Vegan Banh Mi - small local place, nice family, good vegan sandwiches

Chay An Lac - vegan buffet

Smoothies & Juices - smoothies... and juices... nice avocado, mango & coconut shake

Lá Studio - smoothies, toasts

Vegan noodles - pho Chay, small local place with just spring rolls and pho Cai Mam 1 or Cai Mam 2 - vegan options

V-Cuisine - vegan options


On the street look out for: sugar cane juice, Vietnamese donuts, dessert shops for local fruit & jelly in coconut milk, durian...



 

SAPA



One of the most beautiful and alive small cities I’ve visited, this mountaintop paradise is filled with epic view points, things to do, great food finds, waterfalls, rice terraces & more.

GETTING THERE

Arrange a bus through your accomodation or book it yourself on bookaway.com. It’s a 7 hour scenic ride. Be prepared for minimal bathroom stops. When you arrive at the drop off point there will be taxis waiting to take you to where you’re staying.

WHERE TO STAY

There are plenty of options to stay in the city or you can arrange a homestay a bit outside the city in more local communities. Check online at booking.com to find accommodation for your budget and preferences.


I stayed two nights at a home stay - Khen Mong Nature Home- situated about 30 - 40 minutes on the motor bike outside the city. If you’re comfortable driving a bike I highly recommend renting one in SaPa to enjoy the epic views and freedom of exploring at your own pace! I was the only guest at the homestay, which offered a relaxed change of pace. Although the woman and her children didn’t speak English, google translate worked wonders for communication. The room was clean, she helped arrange a motor bike for me, and she would prepare breakfast and dinner for me upon request. Staying outside the city and in the rice fields was beautiful for a few nights.


I then moved into the city for two nights - staying at May Nui homestay. The private room was affordable, clean and cozy. The location was central, perfect for daily explorations. The staff was super friendly and helpful, speaking very good English. I was able to have my laundry done, arrange a motor bike & get details of things to do in the area.

WHAT TO DO

Love waterfall

Silver waterfall

Photo opportunities: Swing SaPa (30 min - 1 hour max.)

Rent a motor bike and cruise to some view points

Fansipan (I didn’t do due to weather)

Trekking in the ride fields (Ethos Tours)



WHERE TO EAT - VEGAN OPTIONS (Search on google maps)

Visit the local market near the bus station, also vending food stalls in the evenings

Good Morning Vietnam - amazing vegan Vietnamese pancake, banh xeo

Good Morning View Restaurant - coconut coffee, tofu dishes, curries, can do vegan options

Ladybird Restaurant & Hotel Cafe - vegan pho and options

Moment Romantic Restaurant - vegan options



 

HA GIANG LOOP



An adventure of a lifetime - on this 3-5 day motor bike loop you’ll be driving through mountain villages rich in traditional culture and stunning views of epic landscapes. I did the loop solo - without a tour or guide - for a trip of full freedom and instilling trust in myself. Most people go with a tour group which can be arranged in Hanoi, SaPa, or Ha Giang through any agency or your accommodation. With a tour you’ll have guides leading the excursions, arranging your food and stops along the way, basically making your trip stress free. You have the option in group trips to drive yourself or ride on the back of a bike with a local driver. Regardless of how you set out on the loop, you’re bound for a magical experience.


GETTING THERE

I arrived from SaPa on a 7hr bus ride late afternoon to my accommodation - LiLa Inn. Arrange a bus through your accomodation or book it yourself on bookaway.com.


From LiLa Inn I was able to arrange my bike for the loop (can get semi automatic or automatic bike) and learn about different destinations along the route.



It’s essential to download an offline map (maps.me) for the loop journey!


Make sure to have with you before setting out: bathing suit, sunscreen, rain poncho, chapstick (for when your lips burn), & a long sleeve driving shirt.


DAY 1: Ha Giang to Yen Minh

Make a stop at Heaven’s Gate for great views and a snack.


Lung Khuy Cave - around an 1 -2 hour detour including the drive, hike and tour of the cave. It’s pretty epic. I was the only one there when I went through, which was a bit spooky, but a great experience!


Arriving to Yen Minh - Ha Anh Homestay is beautiful, nice rooms, balcony view, great food, and a very welcoming family!



DAY 2: Yen Minh to Dong Van

Enjoy the route through cultural villages and beautiful mountain scapes.


On the scenic drive take a stop at the Lung Cu Flag Tower for nice views. Then you can make your way to the northern most view point (at the Chinese border). There's a shady pavilion offering great views and the perfect snack/rest spot so best to pack some fruits or treats.


There are many places to stay and eat in Dong Van. Enjoy exploring the area and the center square.



DAY 3: Dong Van to Meo Vac

The famous sky path - a narrow drive on the mountain side. It offers epic views and an adrenaline rush. There is a tall hill of rocks, many local kids climbing on it, with a perfectly placed rock overhang for photos… if you dare…



Continue on the sky path to make your way to a view point but the path gets quite narrow. I turned around after this view point to make my way back to the main road. There are some walking paths you can explore here.



Back to the main road - continue driving to the Ma Pi Leng Pass - great views of the mountains and river below.



As you continue driving you can make your way on a detour down to the river for a 1 hour boat ride. It’s pretty neat to get a different perspective on the canyon and to slow down the pace of the trip for a little bit. The drive down to the river is a bit narrow and bumpy, so only go if you feel comfortable, otherwise there are drivers that will drop you down by the river.


For a high intensity morning - by the time I arrived in Meo Vac I was ready to call it a day. I arrived by early afternoon. Most people continue driving to Du Gai. There was not much in Meo Vac, I found it quite challenging to find a place to eat and I stayed just at a random hotel, there wasn't much to do there... However, the journey to Du Gai from Meo Vac is quite bumpy in some segments and its also a longer drive. There is a part where the locals had the road blocked and steared me in a different direction than my map. As my map didn’t have this new route, I had to trust the direction of people I passed, as the way was not marked and there were a few critical points to make a right or left turn. Along this route there was also a section of rock that had fallen and blocked the road - everyone wanting to pass had to wait an hour and a half until the way was cleared. But what could you do... be patient, trust and enjoy the adventure...


DAY 4: Meo Vac to Nam Dam

Once arriving in Du Gai there are more options for accommodation and food. There is also a lovely waterfall to swim in. I stopped here for lunch and a young man of the family decided to show me to the waterfall. It was a 25 minute drive, quite bumpy and rocky, but worth if for the mid-day swim! There were many local kids there jumping off the rocks and cooling off on the hot day. I was happy to break up my days journey with this bit of nature connection.


Continuing on, I drove to Nam Dam - a small ethnic village. You won’t find much there. You stay in basic homestays. The family will cook an amazing dinner for you (one of the best meals in Vietnam!), with around 8 dishes all prepared fresh (and most of the food is veg!)! There are also herbal baths in the village that are a must do! It’s so restoring and relaxing after days on the road and in the heat. Sit back in the tub with an epic view to soak in all the magic of the adventure.




DAY 5: Nam Dam to Ha Giang (bus 4pm to Hanoi)

Staying in Nam Dam leaves an easy last day. Take your time for another visit to the herbal baths in the morning and then enjoy a breakfast at Heaven’s Gate (same as day 1). From there it’s a 2 -3 hour drive back to Ha Giang. You’ll arrive with plenty of time to grab lunch before the 4pm bus back to Hanoi (book in advance!). I was very grateful for LiLa Inn to store my bags while I was on the Loop and let me shower after I returned before the bus journey!


 

HALONG BAY



GETTING THERE

There are many tour packages offered from Hanoi, including arranging transport and your boat cruise. However, I just booked my own limousine van (2 hour ride), on book away.com, to Halong Bay and decided to book a boat cruise from there.



WHERE TO STAY

I stayed at Traveler’s Comfort Hotel, a basic private room for a cheap price. The staff is super kind and helpful. I was able to get all the information to choose a cruise right for my budget and trip desires. They helped me book the boat and arrange a flight and transport to the airport for after the cruise. It was quick and easy and left me feeling good about my upcoming journey. They also allow baggage storage if you don’t want to take all your things with you on the boat.


If you want to explore the city before the tour, they can also help arrange motor bikes.


Planning my trip this way seemed a lot cheaper than the package deals I saw online.



WHAT TO DO

Pick a boat cruise! I went with a one-night, five-star boat cruise for 4.5 million VND. That's around $200 which seemed reasonable for a wonder of the world. I wanted to ensure a top quality experience since I don't do many tours and this is an experience I was eager to have for a long time! Otherwise there are cheaper options on three-star cruises that have said to be lovely (yet sometimes crowded with other tourists).





 

DANANG


GETTING THERE

There are many ways to reach the costal city of Danang from the north - flight, bus, train... There are flights from Halong Bay (Cat Bi International Airport) for about $60 and flights from Hanoi. The bus or train ride from Halong is 16+ hours... To decide which route is best for you weigh time, price and peace of mind.


The Danang airport is very central, so most likely you won't pay more than $10 to reach your hotel by taxi.



WHERE TO STAY

Check booking.com for a wide range of accommodation options. The city is FULL of hotels - nice hotels for fairly cheap, including breakfast buffets, roof top pools...


I stayed at Queen's Finger Hotel. The location is perfect, walking distance to many vegan cafes, close to the beach, laundry service around the block... The room was nice and comfortable. The staff super friendly and could help arrange a motor bike. There is a large breakfast buffet, not so many vegan options but free tea and fruits! Anyway the smoothies bowls down the street were my preference! I decided to stay here for several nights and do a day trip to Hoi An because it's a short drive on the motor bike and it was nice to have a personal room, feel grounded for a few nights, and enjoy the comforts of Danang.




WHAT TO DO

Explore all the vegan cafes :)

Cooking Class - Jolie's Cooking Class

Sunset at rooftop pool

Day trip to Hoi An (see below)

Walk on the beach

Dragon Bridge

The Golden Hand Bridge - Sun Ba Na Hills Amusement Park

Marble Cave / Lady Buddha




WHERE TO EAT - VEGAN OPTIONS (Search on google maps)

Roots Plant-Based Cafe - Nori bowl, snickers bar, coconut cake, toasts, hummus...

Chickpea Eatery - Banh Xeo, Bao Buns, fruit juice

Khong Vegan Kitchen - amazing avocado sushi, BBQ jackfruit taco, fruit juice

Rainbow Poké - smoothie bowls

Ivegan Danang- Ivegan smoothie bowl, Hawaiian BBQ pizza

Bao An Macrobiotic - soups

Kurumi Healthy Vegan Desserts - mushroom stroganoff, desserts, bowls

Loving Vegan

Quan Chay Huu Duyen (vegan restaurant)

Danang Vegetarian Bistro 2

Quan Chay Dieu Hoa (vegetarian restaurant)



 

HOI AN



GETTING THERE

If you're staying in Danang, you can easily find transport to Hoi An. The cheapest option with the most freedom for exploration is to rent a motor bike for the day. It's a 30 minute drive from Danang to Hoi An. On the way you can stop at Marble Mountain for buddhist relics, cave temples and city views.


Otherwise you can find transport on Grab, book a taxi from the airport or arrange through your accommodation.


Hoi An is full of tourists and the shops and markets are quite intense with hassling you to buy things. One day visiting Hoi An to view the architecture and a quick stroll through the market was plenty for me.



WHAT TO DO

Marble Mountain

Central Market

Cooking class (Rosie's Cooking Class)

Boat ride on the canal

Lantern making class (Trip Advisor)



WHERE TO EAT

ROM Vegetarian Bistro - Vietnamese pancake pizza (vegan)

Thom's Sourdough Bakery - vegan sourdough sandwich

The Fisherman Vegan Restaurant & cafe

Minh Hien Vegetarian Restaurant

Ba Dam Vegetarian Restaurant




 

DALAT



GETTING THERE

Coming from the north, Danang, there are two options to arrive to Dalat - flight or bus - unless you're driving motor bike cross country. I choose to fly - the quickest option. Local flights are not so expensive. Book with Vietjet and get an automatically included 23kg checked bag. The bus is a 16 hour journey, but of course the cheapest option.


Once you're in Dalat, if you are comfortable driving a motor bike in city traffic, you can rent a bike for cheap to explore the city. It's chaotic, but manageable. Otherwise, Grab taxi's are a great option for getting around.


I stayed at An Nam Condotel - rooms have a small kitchenette. The staff didn't speak much English, it was not a social atmosphere to meet other backpackers. The location was nice though and the rooms comfortable.


Arriving to Dalat it was rainy and cold - not my vibe haha. It was a neat city and the waterfalls lovely (hour drive to get there) but I didn't feel it was a 'must see' city. I personally would have preferred staying more days in Danang.



WHAT TO DO

Elephant Falls / Lady Buddha

Pongour FallscNight Market

Central Night Market



WHERE TO EAT

Vegan House

An Cafe




 

HO CHI MINH


GETTING THERE

Depending on where you are arriving from, there are many flights to Ho Chi Minh as well as buses. The bus from Dalat is a 7hour ride on a sleeper bus. I opted to take the bus, which was a comfortable journey, dropping you right in the heart of the tourist center - making it an easy walk to the hostel. However, there are also many taxis and Grab bike/cars in the city.



WHERE TO STAY

City Backpackers Hostel is a great, central location. They offer private and dorm accommodation. The rooms are clean and spacious with AC. The reception area is a hang out for backpackers to meet one another. The staff is super friendly and can help arrange tours or things to do during your visit.



WHAT TO DO

War Remnants Museum (2 -3 hours)

Cu Chi Tunnels Tour (half day)

Can Tho Floating Market Tour (2 day, 1 night)

Ben Thanh Market

Cooking Class / Street Food Tour




WHERE TO EAT

SEN Vegan Restaurant - sweet and sour soup, pho, spring rolls, etc.

Zeroism Vegan Cafe - waffles, sandwiches, bowls, cinnamon rolls, smoothies, etc.

Kashew Cheese Deli - vegan cheese boards, sandwiches, pasta, etc.

Organix Kitchen Saigon

Hum Vegetarian Cafe

Shamballa Vegetarian




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