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Friday, 1 August 2014

This is Saigon! Our 13-days Travel Itinerary in Vietnam (Part 1)

Hello all! Over the past two years, friends and colleagues have asked questions related to my travels to Vietnam, as in what to see and what to do in Vietnam, which I wanted to share here.  

And yes, we both (myself and Kah Boon) traveled to Vietnam, back in 2012, and it's a  country full of cultural expression. Our trip to Vietnam was quite an adventure. Entering this country was relatively hassle-free! Our journey started in Ho Chi Minh City in the southern part to the northern part of Vietnam, and lasted for nearly two weeks. There are so many things to shop, to eat, to snap and of course also to experience the epic massive traffic in Vietnam.

Our trip lasted for 13 days, 12 nights in Vietnam and here’s what we did for our entire journey (from 10 September 2012 – 22 September 2012), focusing on the best places to see in Vietnam based on our tight budget:  <Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) – Hanoi – Sapa – Halong Bay - Hanoi> 
Hello Saigon! Nice to meet you and eat you! 

Busy vendor in the street
Busy vendor in the street
Day 1: 10 September 2012 
Depart from Penang – Kuala Lumpur (KLIA) – Ho Chi Minh Son Nhut (Terminal 2) 

Day 2: 11 September 2012 
HO CHI MINH (SAIGON) – Free & Easy

Day 3: 12 September 2012
HO CHI MINH (SAIGON) – Free & Easy

Day 4: 13 September 2012 
HO CHI MINH (SAIGON) –Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee (Ho Chi Minh City Hall) - Ben Thanh Market – Saigon Square - War Remnants Museums – Saigon Opera House 

Day 5: 14 September 2012
HO CHI MINH (SAIGON) – Chu Chi Tunnel - Reunification Palace - Notre Dame Cathedral – Old Saigon Post Office - Free & Easy 

Day 6: 15 September 2012
HO CHI MINH (SAIGON)/ HANOI - Took 0810 hr flight via Jetstar Pacific from Ho Chi Minh City Tan Son Nhat Airport to Noi Bai Airport (Domestic Terminal) – Old Quarter - Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword)  – Took night train to Sapa approx. 9-10 hrs (4-person cabin with bed)

Day 7: 16 September 2012 
SAPA - Y Linh Ho – Lao Cai – Ta Van
Arrived Lao Cai at 6.00 a.m. and proceeded to Sapa by bus - Trekking (approx. 6km of walking down to the South East of Sapa along the side of Muong Hoa valley to Y Linh Ho Village of the Black H’mong – Trekking (approx. 2km to Lao Chai Village), through terraced rice fields to Ta Van village of the Dzay minority people – Sapa Market

Day 8: 17 September 2012 
SAPA - Cat Cat - Sin Chai – Lao Cai-Hekou (Vietnam-China Border)
A walk down to the South-West of Sapa (approx. 4 km) to visit Cat Cat village of the Black H’mong – Followed by a visit to waterfall and hydroelectric power station constructed by the French - Sin Chai (approx. 6 km) to a village located at the foot of Fansipan Mountain, “the Roof of Vietnam and Indo-China” -  Lao Cai – Hekou (Vietnam-China Border) – Took 8.00p.m. train back to Hanoi

Day 9: 18 September 2012
HANOI / HALONG BAY (via Superior Dragon Cruise)
Hotel pick-up at 5.00a.m. –  Halong Bay (3hrs journey to Halong Harbor) – Board  Superior Dragon Cruise around 12.00p.m. and enjoy the breathtaking view around the bay – Visit to: Sung Sot Cave - Titop Mountain / Area and  Luon Cave Area - Kayak / Swim in the bay’s emerald waters - Vietnamese dinner plus night entertainment on the boat – Overnight on Superior Dragon Cruise (Halong Bay) 

Day 10: 19 September 2012
Leisure time on Superior Dragon Cruise (Halong Bay) – Sail along the bay – Stop by Gia Luan Pier on Cat Ba Island - Halong Harbor – Hanoi (3hrs journey to Hanoi Old Quarter) – Hanoi Guest House – Free & Easy

Day 11: 20 September 2012
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - Ho Chi Minh Museum - Hanoi Royal Citadel - Hang Gai Street (Street of Hemp) - Temple of Literature - Perfumed Pagoda 

Day 12: 21 September 2012
One Pillar Pagoda - Tam Coc - Thang Long Water Puppet Show  

Day 13: 22 September 2012 
Depart from Hanoi , Noi Bai Airport (International Terminal) via MH 753 –Kuala Lumpur – Penang

OK, let’s start with the massive traffic in Vietnam. The traffic in Ho Chi Minh City was quite an experience. Anyone who sets foot into HCM will certainly agree that the city is hugely populated and jam-packed with not just people but also with sardine-style motorcycles and scooters. We were both quite happy to explore the city by foot, look at how the locals work, stuck in traffics and eat phó all day long.
It's not easy to cross the road in Vietnam
The scariest thing you've ever seen in Saigon
The scariest thing you've ever seen in Saigon
Some famous landmarks in Saigon are the: (i) Ho Chi Minh City Hall and (ii) the Opera House which was built in a French colonial style. Unfortunately, the City Hall was not opened to the public or for tourists and thus, we only managed to take a few shots outside the building.Standing strong and powerful in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City, (iii) the Reunification Palace, formerly known as Independence Palace was the residence and workplace of the President of the former South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This government building is a prominent symbol of the country's political history.

Interior at the Reunification Palace
At the Reunification Palace with Uncle Ho
The Notre Dame Cathedral located at the center of Ho Chi Minh City
The gorgeous Notre Dame Cathedral
In front of the Opera House
A statue of Ho Chi Minh in front of Ho Chi Minh City Hall
The War Remnants Museum is another spot not to be missed and one of my favorite visits in Ho Chi Minh City. The museum is a gray warehouse of a building, with a courtyard filled with re-appropriated American tanks, helicopters and fighter planes and depressing stuff of course – photos of war scenes, photos of people with disabilities due to Agent Orange used during the war, people being thrown out of helicopters, American soldiers posing with dead Vietnamese soldiers etc. It was really heartbreaking to walk around the museum but I think it is useful to educate people the importance of universal harmonious values and the devastating effect/impact of human suffering because of the Vietnam War. Overall, it was a heartrending and infuriating visit for me but at the same time, I managed to grasp some info related to Vietnam War.  
"Forgive them, for they know not what they do."
"Forgive them, for they know not what they do."
A very impactful place but at the same time educational as well for both of us
The War Remnants Museum tells the story of the "American" (Vietnamese) War from the other side
On the 5th  day of our trip, we headed to Chu Chi Tunnels, which is another tourist attraction located outside of Ho Chi Minh City. Throughout the Vietnam-American War, the Viet Cong (North Vietnamese fighters) built an enormous network of tunnels that were used as meeting points, hiding places, supply routes and more.
Chu Chi Tunnels - most popular tourist attraction
Talking about shopping, the popular spots in Ho Chi Minh City are definitely: (i) the famous Ben Thanh Market. You can find almost everything there, but then, bargaining is required. As usual, we did our last minute shopping in Ben Thanh Market where we bought a few packets of Trung Nguyen G7 instant coffee products. And of course, (ii) Saigon Square which is another popular air-conditioned market in Ho Chi Minh City that sells clothes.   
Some Vietnamese cuisine
Air Itinerary Details: 
(i)Malaysia Airlines: Penang - Kuala Lumpur (KLIA) – Ho Chi Minh Son Nhut (Terminal 2)/ Hanoi Noibai - Kuala Lumpur (KLIA) - Penang

(ii) Jetstar Pacific: Ho Chi Minh City Tan Son Nhat Airport (Domestic Terminal) - Ha Noi - Noi Bai Airport (Domestic Terminal) 

(i) Lan Lan Hotel (Ho Chi Minh City) 
73 -75 Thu Khoa Huan st, Ward Ben Thanh, District 1
Telephone: +84.838236789
Fax: +84.838273838 
Website: http://www.lanlanhotel.com.vn/ 

(ii) Hanoi Guest House (Hanoi) 
85 Ma May Street - Hoan Kiem - Hanoi - Vietnam
Tel/Fax : + 844 3 9352571 - 3  9352572
Email    : booking@hanoiguesthouse.com (Ms Huyen) 
Website : http://www.hanoiguesthouse.com 
(**We booked our accommodations via e-mails before we departed on our journey and booked our trips to Sapa and Halong Bay from the Guesthouse in Hanoi) 

(iii) Fansipan View Hotel (Sapa) 
Victoria hotel alley, Xuan Vien Street, Sapa town, Lao Cai, Vietnam 
Tel:   (+84-203) 873 579 . Fax: (+84-203) 873 466 
Hotline:   (+84) 913 524 535 
Website: www.fansipanview.com   

Local Transportation:  
(i)Ho Chi Minh City – Hanoi via Jetstar Pacific 
How to get there:  Took domestic flight from Ho Chi Minh City Tan Son Nhat Airport - Domestic Terminal via Jetstar Pacific to Hanoi - Noi Bai Airport - Domestic Terminal
Duration: 2 hour 10 minutes 
Departure Ho Chi Minh - Hanoi: 15 September 2012 -  6:00 a.m. -  8:10 a.m. via 
BL790 (Jetstar Pacific)
Fares total: 74.87USD/for 1 way/person inclusive of tax/fee/charge
Click here for e-booking: http://www.jetstar.com/vn/en/home 

(ii)Hanoi – Halong Bay via Superior Dragon Cruise
How to get there:  Hotel pick-up at 5.00a.m. (approx. 3hrs journey to Halong Harbor),
board Superior Dragon Cruise at 12.00p.m.
Duration: 3hrs journey by bus from Hanoi Old Quarter
Package / Fares: 73USD per pax for 2days/1night (all meals provided, on board
entertainment, tour guide fees paid)
Room type: Double bedroom with attached bathroom  
For more details: http://halongdragoncruise.com/Main.aspx?MNU=1298&Style=1  

"One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things" 
- Henry Miller
Welcome to Small World! This blog is not a travel agency, but rather a personal site which allows me to share my past travel experiences in a straightforward and far-reaching way. I often made great use of other peoples travel blogs and sites every time I plan for my travel itinerary as they often contained most updated information and invaluable resources from their past travel experiences.  I hope that you will find every piece of information & images contained within my blog handy and useful. Thank you very much for reading my post(s) and feel free to leave a comment/testimonial or click "Like/Share" if you love reading them all. xoxo The writer is a passionate traveler who enjoys speaking to young keen travelers about the freedom to get cultured and to taste the fullness of life. Feel free to contact the writer if you need any travel advice, guidance or tips or if you have any burning questions with regards to your upcoming trip(s)/ journey 
Be inspired but more importantly be inspiring -   


  1. Nice blog, saigon is my favourite city after living here for 2 years group travel packages to Vietnam

  2. Wonderful Information shared by you, i love all the pictures and the way you explain each and every thing. Keep it up, share a lot more information about Saigon Travel in future also to help a new traveler.

  3. Ho Chi Minh City is place excellent for tourism. But if you have much time left. I recommend visiting the Mekong Delta, this is a rustic area, a lot of things to explore as floating market, traditional village.

  4. Great blog, an exciting Saigon trip, enjoy many street foods.

  5. Hi Chengy and Camel. What an interesting blog you've got there. I lived in Saigon for 2 years before I moved to Hanoi. And Saigon has always been my favorite. It is dynamic and busy city yet very charming and full of fun and energy. Thank you for sharing!