Vietnam Travel Guide

Aug 04, 2022
 

Vietnam has quickly become my favorite country in South East Asia, filled with exceptional cuisine, stunning nature, and rich cultural diversity. With border restrictions finally loosening up in Japan, we took the opportunity to travel to Vietnam for 12 days this past July.

We explored historic Hanoi by foot and rickshaw, experienced the stunning beauty of Ha Long Bay on an overnight boat and on our own private island, biked through the lush green rice fields of Ninh Binh, cruised in river boats, hiked the Dragon Mountain for incredible views, fished with traditional fisherman, learned to cook delicious Vietnamese food, admired the lantern-lit city of Hoi An, haggled at the local markets, discovered the underground Cu Chi tunnels used during the Vietnam War, visited the famous Mekong Delta, explored the sites of Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), and much more. We stayed well fueled with tasty bowls of Pho, all the local favorites from Bánh mì to Bun Cha, streetside coconuts, the abundantly fresh fruits, veggies, and seafood, Vietnamese coffees, and pints of Saigon Beer.

In this post you will find:

  • Video recap of our trip, showing the details within the various accommodations and adventures (found at the top of this post)
  • Details about traveling with Intro Travel
  • Itinerary including details of accommodation, meals, must-do activities, and advice for those of you planning to visit Vietnam
  • Photos from our wonderful trip!

Photo by Ammie Ngo on Unsplash


Overview of our Itinerary 

Day 1 - Arrive in Hanoi

Day 2 - Hanoi Walking Tour & Rickshaw Exploring

Day 3 - Ha Long Bay Kayaking & Overnight Boat

Day 4 - Private Island Stay

Day 5 - Ninh Binh Homestay

Day 6 - Ninh Binh Biking, River Boat, Hiking, and Overnight Train to Hoi An

Day 7 - Explore Hoi An & Night Out

Day 8 - Hoi An Basket Boat Crab Fishing, Cooking Class 

Day 9 - Fly to Ho Chi Minh City

Day 10 - Mekong Delta, Local Activities and Mud Fishing

Day 11 - Cu Chi Tunnels Tour and Night Out in Ho Chi Minh City

Day 12 - Ho Chi Minh City Site Seeing

Vietnam Intro 12 Day - Map of Vietnam - Hanoi to Mekong Delta

Photo by Intro Travel


This trip was unique, as it was our first time traveling with a tour company. As someone who prefers to travel off the beaten path, I was hesitant about booking with a tour company. After a lot of online research, we book with Intro Travel. Not only does the company regularly win awards such as the Worldwide Tour of the Year, but they also have over 13,000 reviews with an average rating of 4.8/5. Here are some of my favorite things about traveling with Intro:

  •  Incredible Value: I believe Intro offers the best value on the market. Intro differs from the standard big tour operators, in that they are dedicated to finding the best accommodations and experiences while working with local partners, and nearly everything is included. All of our activities, accommodation, transport and 19/30 meals were included. Considering the quality of everything, planning a trip of this quality on your own would cost nearly double the price, and take much more time to plan.
  •  Low-Stress: Each day of our trip was perfectly curated, and we didn’t have to worry about any of the research or planning! For previous big trips, we’ve spent a lot of researching, planning, and booking the top destinations, accommodations, and activities. And once we arrive, it takes a lot of work to navigate the new surroundings, find authentic experiences, and figure out local transfers… all in a foreign language. It was amazing to just follow our guide, relax, and enjoy the best of each destination. Each day was a mix of unique local cultures, adventure, free time to explore, and nightlife.
  •  Local Immersion: The tour provided experiences for cultural immersion and learning through a local lens, from a cooking class to mud fishing. Most of the locations we stayed at were unique and beautiful, and a few were even local homestays. We often had local guides join us for a day, to take us off the beaten path, teaching us about cultural traditions and ways of living.
  •  Fun Friends: Traveling with a group was so much fun! Everyone was between 18-33 years old, well-traveled, and open to new experiences. Compared to the repetitive small talk that often happens with hostel-hopping, the group experience allowed us to get past the small talk and into deeper conversations and memories. Intro did a great job at planning the evening activities with a mix of chill nights playing trivia, doing karaoke, and going out to explore local nightlife and dancing. There was also enough space built into the itinerary for some solitude time. With a group of 22 travelers, I was impressed that it never felt like we were slowed down by our size. I’m glad we tried it, but in the future, I would only travel in groups with 8-16 people for a more intimate feel.
  •  Responsible Travel: Through the Small Change initiative, Intro advocates for responsible travel by protecting the environment, supporting local communities, promoting cultural exchange and education, and advocating for animal welfare and conservation. For each booking, Intro plants 10 trees, in partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects, a non-government organization that hires local villagers to plant trees in Nepal, Haiti, Indonesia & more. To help reduce single-use plastics and promote reusable alternatives, Intro offers refillable water stations at nearly all of the overnight stops and activity locations. We loved being able to use our reusable water bottles and avoid buying plastic bottles for the entire trip. Intro also conducts regular eco-audits of their trips and suppliers to ensure consistent minimal environmental impact. Intro works with local operators to deliver amazing experiences that benefit them, their families, and their communities. Intro has several initiatives that support schools, monasteries, and local charities. Intro tours only visit wildlife sanctuaries or rescue centers operating with the highest animal welfare and conservation standards possible.
  •  Endless Support: Intro went above and beyond with support at every step of the trip. Someone was always available to answer questions and provide recommendations. We had two Group Leaders, one of whom was Vietnamese, who made the trip fun and relaxed. They did a great job of being professionally responsible, without making things feel overly structured, but also making it feel like we were just hanging out with friends. Even when plans changed, our Group Leaders made everything run smoothly and always ensured we had the best experiences.

Photo of our group in Ninh Binh


Budget

Considering the quality of everything, the Intro tour saves you time, money, and stress. As mentioned above, all of our activities, accommodation, transport and 19/30 meals were included. 

The 12-day trip starts at $1349USD per person. Since this was our first trip with Intro, we received a discount code for 15% off. Definitely subscribe to their email list for discounts, just enter your email at the bottom of their home page.

We did spend extra money on some meals, drinks, and shopping. We ended up spending $700 between the two of us in addition to the cost of the tour, but this would be easy to save on with more cautious spending (e.g. my husband bought two custom suits for $300).

Flight costs will vary from where you fly from. Due to COVID restrictions affecting international flights to-and-from Japan, we had to fly through mainland Japan which ends up totaling about 8-hours of flying each way. As Japan re-opens, there should be more international flights out of Okinawa that reduce travel time by as much as 4-hours. 

Cost Breakdown for two people:

  • $2300 - Vietnam Intro 12-Day Tour ($1,147 per person)
  • $1000-1500 - Flights
  • Extras ($700 total for both of us)
    • $250 - Food & Alcohol
    • $150 - Shopping
    • $300 - Custom suits in Hoi An

$4500 total for two people over 12 days.

If you’re on a tighter budget, I think this trip is definitely possible for $2000 per person. It might require you to get creative when looking for flights; look for roundtrip flights through major airports and book local connections separately, set up Google Flight tracking alerts, and sign up for a service that scouts deals such as Dollar Flight Club. You can also save on this trip, by cutting back on shopping and drinking; skip the custom suit experience in Hoi An, research average prices for souvenirs and haggle the right price, stick to drinking beer, and even scope out sunset happy hours for cocktails.

In terms of currency, Vietnam uses the Vietnamese dong and most places are cash only. There are ATMs throughout the country, so it’s safer to just take cash out along your trip. We arrived with about $200 USD and converted that into 4.67 million Vietnamese dong. We actually got an incredible exchange rate right at the airport! Once we used that cash, we only withdrew cash from the ATM 2-3 times. Due to inflation, the denominations of currency are huge and they use paper bills only (no coins). $1 USD is roughly 23,000 VND. For example, a beer is around 35k VND, or $1.50 USD. It definitely takes some getting used to! If you plan on shopping at the markets, I recommend you do a quick search for the average cost for items and keep a note on your phone for quick reference when you’re haggling.

Currency in Vietnam – Info about Vietnamese Dong, ATMs & Money

 Photo from Swedish Nomad


Day 1 - Arrive in Hanoi

We flew from Okinawa through Fukuoka to Hanoi, which took us about 9 hours (7am JST to 2pm ICT). Once we arrived, Intro arranged a car for the 45-minute drive to our hotel in the heart of Old Quarter. Our Group Leaders, Josh and Phat, were at the hotel to greet us and get us settled at the hotel, and teach us things like never flush toilet paper in Vietnam. 

We had the afternoon to explore the capital city of Hanoi on our own! When in SE Asia, my first stop is always a fresh roadside coconut. It’s the perfect way to rehydrate after a long day of travel and cool down on a hot afternoon! For about $1.30 USD you can drink fresh coconut water, and when you’re done be sure to ask them to split the coconut open so you can enjoy the meat!

After, we wandered into the cutest cafe for lunch called, Bancông Cafe and Restaurant, and tried the Hanoi specialty called Bun Cha, a dish with seasoned pork patties served alongside rice noodles, fresh vegetables, herbs, and a flavorful dipping broth. We sat out on the patio and enjoyed our view of the chaotic traffic below.

  

From there we wandered to Train Street, where you can chill out at one of the many bars or cafes on either side of a train track. The buildings are quite close together, so when the train passes through it’s so close you can touch it! Definitely a unique experience that is a must-do in Hanoi. 

Photo by Silver Ringvee on Unsplash

 Even though we live in Okinawa, a sub-tropical island, the heat of Hanoi was intense in July! Our weather app told us the ‘feels like’ temp was up to 115F. We needed to take multiple showers a day to stay fresh. We finished off the night with dinner at Peace Lounge, rooftop lounge cocktails, and drinks at the edge of Bia Hoi Street (Beer Street) where we got to know our new travel mates.


Day 2 - Hanoi Walking Tour & Rickshaw Exploring

We started our day with breakfast and an overview of our 12-day itinerary. Next, we took a walking and rickshaw tour of the city, soaking in the hustle and bustle. The traffic rules in Vietnam are really more of a suggestion. Combine that with the insane amount of motorbikes and scooters, the roads are pure chaos. Just crossing the street is a thrilling experience! We wandered through different market districts with fruit, spices, clothes, shoes, and even balloons! After nearly a year of living in Japan, where fruits are expensive and not as abundant, I was in heaven with all of my favorite tropical fruits; rambutan, longan, mangosteen, dragonfruit, guava, soursop, breadfruit, mango, pineapple, melons, citrus fruits, and my absolute favorite, jackfruit! 

Photo by David Emrich on Unsplash

We explored streets bursting with food stalls and tiny plastic stools spilling into the streets. We stopped at a delicious restaurant for lunch. It’s great not having to research where to get the best food, plus our group leaders, Josh and Phat, always give great recommendations. After lunch, Josh introduced a fun rickshaw challenge involving hats, fruits, selfies with locals, drinking fresh beer and more. Of course, Aaron and I went full out and won! 

We ended the tour with an introduction to egg coffee, a Hanoi specialty of egg yolks, sugar, milk, and coffee, that was born out of necessity in 1946 due to milk shortages caused by the French War. The egg yolks are whipped with milk and sugar, boiled, then coffee is poured over to form an aromatic foam. It’s so thick a creamy that they gave us a spoon to eat the foam before drinking the coffee at the bottom. It reminded me of a custard-like dessert, similar to creme brûlée. Definitely a tasty afternoon pick-me-up!

 We had a few hours of free time before dinner, so Aaron and I escaped the busy streets and found a breezy rooftop bar. Bars in Vietnam are known to do great happy hour deals around sunset, so we treated ourselves to upscale cocktails at La Siesta Hotel. I highly recommend this place for an incredible view of the sun setting along the skyline, great music, and delicious drinks.

We headed out for a group dinner just across the street at Little Hanoi, where we learned how to say cheers in Vietnamese; một, hai, ba, dô! We finished off the night back at the busiest street in Hanoi, Bia Hoi Street or Ta Hien Street. It’s full of bars and street food joints overflowing onto the street and is one of the most popular destinations for nightlife in Hanoi for young locals and foreign tourists. 


Day 3 - Ha Long Bay Kayaking & Overnight Boat

From Hanoi we took a 3-hour bus to Ha Long Bay. This was my most anticipated destination of the trip! Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with about 600 square miles of emerald green waters surrounded by nearly 2,000 limestone small islands in various shapes and sizes, each topped with thick jungle vegetation, rising spectacularly from the ocean. The name Hạ Long means "descending dragon”. According to local legend, in ancient times the gods sent a family of dragons to help protect the country from invaders. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels which erupted into small islands to stop the invaders' ships.

The most popular way to explore Halong Bay is to cruise on a ‘junk boat’. Most junk boats have around 15-20 cabins, so much more intimate than a standard cruise ship. Our one-night cruise on the Oasis Bay included three delicious and fresh meals (served family style), a kayaking tour to a secret cave, an optional tour of Surprise Cave, and onboard entertainment including a DJ, three hot tubs, and a massive water trampoline. This was definitely among my favorite activities and it’s a must-do when in Vietnam! Here are one and two informative blogs to help you plan your own Ha Long Bay adventure.

Photo Credit

We arrived on our boat just after 1pm, which was followed by a fantastic lunch of fresh vegetables and seafood (we tried jellyfish for the first time). Then we had some time to explore the boat's amenities before heading off for a kayaking adventure. The rooms were nicer than expected, with comfortable beds, huge bathrooms, and stunning views out the window. It was a relatively short kayak ride, and we would have liked to have been on the water for longer than 20-30 minutes. It was fun going through this small cave and enjoying the silence of the small cove on the other side. 

After kayaking, we had fun on the water trampoline and in the hot tubs.

     They hosted a sunset “party” on the rooftop while we cruised around the bay, eating fruit and sipping cocktails. Dinner was again family-style and absolutely delicious. There was a large Vietnamese family that was having a lot of fun and invited us over for shots of rice wine. It was such a fun night!


Day 4 - Private Island Stay

It was amazing to wake up to the gorgeous views of Ha Long Bay just outside our window. This morning we took a short boat ride to Sung Sot Cave, also known as “Surprise Cave”. After climbing about 100 steps, we had one of the best views of of the bay.

Once inside the cave, we took an easy-to-follow, well-lit path through incredible stalactites and stalagmites. It’s an impressively massive cave that just seems to keep expanding as you walk through. I’ve traveled to several caves around the world, and the size and ease of access definitely make it worth a visit. 

From the caves, we headed back to the cruise ship to pack up, then onto a smaller boat for some cruising through the bay. We stopped off in a gorgeous spot for swimming and another tasty, fresh lunch on the boat.

The next few hours were a bit tedious with transfers from a boat to a bus to several other boats, but it was easy enough to just sit back, relax, and follow our guides.

Around 3pm, we arrived at our private island called Freedom Island. It was a beautiful place with ocean-front bungalows, a small beach, a short hiking trail, and a full bar and restaurant.

Hanging out on our oceanfront bungalow!

To be honest, this was the only part of the trip I would have changed. The process of getting to the island was long, I felt like we didn’t have much time to enjoy the island itself, the views from the beach were not nearly as beautiful as being in Ha Long Bay as we faced a small city on Cat Ba Island, and the beach itself was rocky with murky water. The beach had a lot of washed-up trash, that a few of us in the group picked up. After hiking and swimming, we washed up for a delicious BBQ dinner. Our hosts also built us a fire on the beach where we learned about the tradition of burning paper money as an offering to the deceased. We finished off the night with games and karaoke. It was around this point of the trip that we confirmed we were amongst the oldest, as we could usually turned in around midnight, while the younger one’s stayed out much later.


Day 5 - Ninh Binh Homestay

On this day, we traveled from our private island to Ninh Binh, which again was a long travel day that involved transfers from a small boat to a bigger boat, then a bus, a ferry, another bus, and lastly a short car ride. But the effort it took to reach our homestay in Ninh Binh was absolutely worth it. We arrived at the Ninh Binh Valley Homestay around 4pm and were extremely pleased with the adventures to come.

Ninh Binh was like a version of Ha Long Bay with the limestone mountains but situated on rivers and rice paddies instead of the ocean. We got to stay at a local homestay in traditional bamboo bungalows right by the river.

Homestay meaning, it is the home of a local family that has taken the time and resources to build a number of additional bungalows and a pool for guests. It’s a much more intimate setting than a typical hotel. Our place was amazing, the views were stunning, and it felt like we were so distant from civilization. To top it all off, the owners recently built a pool that we had a lot of fun cooling off in. We had a chill night with a home-cooked dinner and a movie, and an early sleep to the sound of rain on our bungalow roof.


Day 6 - Ninh Binh Biking, River Boat, Hiking, and Overnight Train to Hoi An

This was perhaps my favorite day of the entire trip! After a tasty breakfast, we headed out by bicycle to explore the countryside through the rice paddies.

We stopped at a cool hangout spot around Chookie’s Beer Garden and The Banana Leaf Hostel for coffee. This was my first ever experience with coconut coffee and I immediately fell in love! Coconut coffee is a blended coconut slushy made with coconut cream, sweetened condensed milk, and ice that gets topped with some Vietnamese coffee. It’s AMAZING and can be found throughout Vietnam- don't sleep on this. 

Next, we took a local rowboat through the network of rivers and three caves. The locals actually row the boat by their feet! It was a peaceful ride through the mountains and caves with an opportunity to buy a refreshment from boats at the midway point of the ride. 

After our boat ride, we had lunch in the same beer garden and chilled in the hostel pool. Then we biked to Hang Mua or Dragon Mountain. A short, but intense hike up 500 steps led us to a breathtaking viewpoint of the mountains, river, rice paddies, and countryside below. There are several side paths you can explore from the top of the viewpoint as well as the massive lotus field below. Highly recommend this stop! 

 

Finally, we returned to our homestay for a final dip in the pool, dinner, and a shower before taking the bus to the train station.

We boarded a 14-hour overnight train around 9:30 pm bound for Da Nang.


Day 7 - Explore Hoi An & Night Out

Around 12pm, we arrived in Da Nang and hopped on a 45-minute bus to Hoi An. We were checked into our hotel by 2pm and were eating top rate Bahn Mi by 3pm. Banh Mi is a French Asian hybrid sandwich made on crusty bread rolls smeared with pate, mayo, protein of choice, pickled vegetables, green onion, cilantro, fresh chilies, and a tasty sauce. If you’re in Hoi An, you must try Madam Khanh - The Banh Mi Queen for some of the best Banh Mi you’ll ever have. We loved the BBQ pork and their fresh juices! 

From there, we had time to wander through beautiful Hoi An Ancient Town, which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s known for its unique cultural fusion with well-preserved canals and architecture that is a mix of eras and styles influenced from China, France and Japan. Walking through the wooden Chinese shophouses and temples and colorful French colonial buildings is wonderful, but the most stunning part of this town is all of the lanterns! Hoi An is well known for its lantern markets and lantern festivals, but even just walking the streets you can admire thousands of lanterns hanging across the streets and along shops and restaurants.

Hoi An is also known as the tailoring capital of the world. Our guides took us to their favorite trusted tailor for those who wanted a custom suit or dress made. Aaron decided to get two custom suits made for about $150 each. Aaron would highly recommend working with Mr. XE! It was a fun experience for him and just incredible that the suits are so well made in less than 48 hours.

I instead opted for wandering the streets and outdoor markets to haggle for new dresses, skirts, and earrings. You’ll tend to see the same things at all of the shops, so be sure to know how much things should cost before you start haggling and agreeing on a price. Here is one shop that had gorgeous and unique clothes at a reasonable price! There is so much to do and see in this little area. 

In the evening, our group had a big night out planned which involved ‘shit shirts’. I’d never heard of these, but they can be found in nearly every garment shop in Hoi An. They are essentially very obnoxious Hawaiian shirts, which I actually think are quite cute! Some even come with matching shorts, pants, or bucket hats. Prices for shirts range from 50k-200k VND, or roughly $2-9 USD. In our group, we all picked names from a hat and bought each other shirts, then we wore them out to dinner and for a night out. It was hilarious to see our entire group of 24 (including leaders) wearing these shit shirts. I was so tempted to buy a bunch for our friends back in Oki, but now we will all just have another reason to visit together! 

We had dinner at Inflame, but I don’t think that’s the correct location on google maps. This may have been one of our favorite meals where we tried Cao Lầu, a flavorful dish with thicker udon-style rice noodles, sliced pork, green, bean sprouts, herbs, and a small amount of broth.

For some fun nightlife spots check out the night market, Madam Kieu's for live music, or Tiger Tiger Bar for a party.


Day 8 - Hoi An Basket Boat Crab Fishing, Cooking Class 

On this day we headed out around 10am, taking a bus to a boat that dropped us off at the coconut groves for a ride in a basket boat with local fishermen who taught us the art of crab fishing. We played a fun competition of who could catch more crabs. We won by catching 11 crabs! The overall vibe of the basket boats was so fun, they give you rice hats to wear and there is loud music playing with some locals twirling wildly in their boats.

The fisherman dropped us off at the Bay Mau Eco Cooking School where we learned about how rice is processed and used in various ways in Vietnamese cooking.

Then we learned to cook three different dishes; summer rolls (spring rolls) with peanut hoisin sauce, sizzling Vietnamese crepes with nuoc cham dipping sauce, and stir-fried beef with vegetables. They even gave us a recipe book to bring home. In comparison to the cooking class I did in Chiang Mai, Thailand, this class was much less complex with very simple recipes.

After getting back to the hotel, we took some time to chill at the pool and do a little more shopping. Again, Vietnam has some great happy hour deals! Before dinner, we took a relaxing night boat ride through old town. It was only 15-minutes long, but beautiful to see the town lit up with lanterns from the water, and we even got to send out our own lanterns on the water for a wish! Here is another great blog with Hoi An recommendations. 


Day 9 - Fly to Ho Chi Minh City

This was primarily a travel day. Before we left, I walked around and stopped at Reaching Out Teahouse, a relaxing cafe managed by a group of physically impaired Vietnamese locals as a way of earning an independent living for themselves, where patrons are meant to enjoy coffee in silence. We headed out of Hoi An around 12pm, took a 45-minute bus back to Da Nang, and flew out from Da Nang around 3pm to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon or HCMC). After a short hour-long flight, we had a 45-60 minute bus ride through the city traffic to our hotel. After checking into the hotel and freshening up, we headed out for dinner. We tried a restaurant called Soul, but wouldn’t recommend it as it was quite pricey for average quality food. In such a huge city, there are so many food options! We opted to turn in early, but our travel mates stayed out for drinks at this unique beer hall/nightclub.


Day 10 - Mekong Delta, Local Activities and Mud Fishing

On this day we traveled to the Mekong Delta, known as the “rice bowl" of Vietnam. The Mekong river cuts through six countries before branching into innumerable tributaries. We learned that the Mekong Delta is the 2nd most diverse environment in the world, second only to the Amazon River.

Photo by Anne Lin on Unsplash

After a 3-hour bus ride, we boarded a small ferry, then took a short 5-10 minute bike ride to our homestay. Sáu Vân homestay was similar to our homestay in Ninh Binh, in that it’s family-owned, surrounded by lush green beauty, and offers private bungalows, some of which are on a small lake. After arriving, we were greeted by a huge spread for a family-style lunch. So much food! Then we took a short bike ride to learn about basket weaving with dried water hyacinth. We even got to make our own bracelets.

From there we donned local clothing for a “tea party” in which we learned to make “jackfruit leaf cakes” and enjoy them with tea with fruit.

Our last activity was mud fishing for catfish using baskets. This was an adventure! I was too timid to dunk my hands into the murky water to catch a fish, but there were lots of travel mates who joined in.

People opted to shower off and relax in a hammock or their bungalow or soak in the mud lake with a make-shift mud facial. After another amazing dinner, our leader Josh hosted pub trivia for us. It was so much fun!

I would have liked to see the famous floating rivers of the Mekong Delta or spend more time learning about how locals live and work on the river. 


Day 11 - Cu Chi Tunnels Tour and Night Out in Ho Chi Minh City 

After a 3-hour bus ride, we arrived at the Cu Chi Tunnels. It’s a network of hand-dug underground tunnels that were crucial in the Vietnam War. The tunnels provided supply routes, hideouts, and living quarters for soldiers. We got to learn about the Vietnamese tactics of the war and even crawl through some of the tunnels. I think this was definitely a valuable experience but added a lot of driving time. If you’re short on time, I would suggest skipping this and instead checking out the War Remnants Museum and Tunnels Cafe in HCMC. We had about a 2-hour drive back into HCMC.

 

The Cu Chi Tunnels | Vietnam Travel Guide | Rough Guides

Photo by Rough Guides

Once back I spent a few hours doing my best haggling at Ben Thanh Market. I got almost all of my souvenirs and random extras like a new wallet, purse, and sunglasses for under $50 USD. I definitely recommend waiting to buy larger items like rice hats until this final stop.

Ben Thanh Market | Ben Thanh Market Saigon – Wendy Wei Tours

Photo by Wendy Wei Tours

In the evening we had our final farewell dinner at Secret Garden.

We finished off the night on Bùi Viện with a wild nightlife scene! Even if you’re not much of a partier, this is an epic scene worth seeing. 

Photo by Georgios Domouchtsidis on Unsplash


Day 12 - Ho Chi Minh City Sightseeing

This was the departure day for our group tour where people headed their own way, or stayed with Intro for a tour of Cambodia. We had a late flight back to Tokyo (departing at 10:45pm), so we had the entire day to explore HCMC. We followed the advice from this blog for our day of site seeing. Some notable sites we visited in order:

Photo by jet dela cruz on Unsplash

  • Sai Gon Central Post Office and Notre Dame- two quick sites to pass through
  • Book Street- a relaxed street with bookshops and cafes

  • War Remnants Museum- this was an intense educational and emotional experience about war history in Vietnam, definitely an important relic to visit

It was bittersweet to end such a fantastic trip! Vietnam is an incredible country with a rich culture, kind people, and beautiful views. But we were ready to get back home to our puppy dog and relaxed island life of Oki. We headed towards the airport with time to spare. The Priority Pass lounge was fantastic, with delicious Vietnamese food and of course, free booze.


There were several things I would have liked to have done while in Vietnam, but again this is just another reason to visit in the future!

  •  Visit Sapa for trekking and rice terraces, and learning about the hill tribe
  •  Visit Da Nang and Sun World to walk on the Golden Bridge
  •  Visit Hue and My Son Sanctuary - UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  •  Visit some of beach towns such as Nha Trang or Phu Quoc Island 
  •  Go back to the Mekong to see visit the floating markets
  •  Learn more about Vietnamese coffee
  •  Get a Vietnamese-style massage

Thank you to Aaron for always being my adventure buddy 🥳 and for always being down to go to bed early 😴. Massive thanks to our group leaders Josh and Phat, the Intro Vietnam Ops Manager Will, all of our local guides, and all 22 of our travel mates on the trip! I have to give credit for many of the photos above to our group. Thank you for the incredible memories!

If you’re considering taking a trip to Vietnam, I absolutely recommend it! And if you want to save yourself some stress in planning and navigating, I highly recommend working with Intro Travel.

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