Want to travel across Vietnam for three weeks? I remember these words from my conversation with Mayur a few months ago. I had just heard about my Australian visa being approved and I was deciding on when to book tickets to make the first entry. But here I was in January booking tickets to visit Vietnam in June.
Anthony Bourdain’s list of recommended places from the TV show No reservations was the theme of the trip.
“Want to do Cambodia as well?” There were so many place in Vietnam we had planned to cover, three weeks seemed about right amount of time to cover these places, so we decided against visiting Cambodia. We also decided that we will cover most of the journey on motor bikes.
Internet seems to have different opinions about how to go about getting a visa to Vietnam. From India, most European countries have a VFS centre one can visit to get visa, but Vietnam was not on the list. We asked around and a friend recommended that we visit vietnamvisapro.com. Fill in some basic details, pay $6 and wait to get a letter which lets you board the flight from your country to Vietnam.
I was a bit skeptical about the whole process. I have never not had a visa to the country before I left the port of origin, unless the country offered visa on arrival to Indian citizens. I remember telling my flatmates, either I am back after three weeks or in two days.
The letter from the website worked and Vietnam as it turns out has the most efficient visa process. I had my visa in 6 minutes after handing in the documents at the visa counter after arrival.
Yes!!!! We were in Vietnam. Cám ơn! Vietnam Immigration department. Xin chào Vietnam!
We landed in Hanoi and made our way to the hotel. Hanoi as it turns out is really crowded and not at all how I imagined it to be. Not having looked at pictures but relying on how the place was described by people was a blessing in disguise. Hanoi surprised me by how beautiful and well organised some things were.
A quick walk around the town on day 1 and the first stop was Bun Oc – Snail Vermicelli RiceSoup - – 36 Luong Ngoc Quyen, Hanoi . We must have been lucky to get to eat at this place on the day we landed, cause we did not see the lady at the same place the next day and on the last day of the trip.
Next day, we rented some motorbikes from the place our hotel recommended and made our way to Cát Bà Island. The fun part, not one of us checked the weather report and that was not a good thing. We got to experience heavy rains and got completely drenched. After taking shelter below a few cross over bridges, we had to decide between travelling back to Hanoi or find some rain ponchos. Four rain ponchos later, we had ourselves and the bags covered. Made it in time to not miss the ferry to take us to Cát Bà Island. Had to say bye bye to my favourite shoes.
Cat Ba was great. A touristy island with the town centre filled with people enjoying karaoke after sunset. The weather was not so kind though. With heavy rainfall the next day, we decided to get the rain ponchos back on and ride back to Hanoi.
An overnight stop over in Hanoi to enjoy Pho at a local recommenced place, we were off to Ho Chi Minh City the next day .We hit the jackpot in finding the perfect hotel. “It does not get better than this” is what we kept telling each other. If you are looking for a place to stay during your visit to Ho Chi Minh, please give Saigon Domaine Luxury Residences a try. I for sure am staying at this place, if I ever plan a trip to Saigon again.
Proof reading the above paragraphs, I already feel like this post has gotten too lengthy.
Vietnam is definitely worth a visit. A few more days in Hội An and Saigon would be great. The food is excellent and so is the coffee culture in Vietnam. People are extremely friendly.
My friend shared a lot of Anthony Bourdain quotes with me during this trip. The one I liked the most has to be.
“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”