The scars of the sinister war may remain but Vietnam is clearly looking forward rather than at their painful past. It has been over four decades since the Vietnam War. But today it is no more a war-trodden country. It has moved on and so has the world. Now Vietnam is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world for all kinds of travelers. And it deserves all the attention. If you too are planning to visit Vietnam and have only a week or less in hand then this itinerary by blogger Archana Singh is perfect for you.
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DAY 1 and 2: Explore Hanoi and relish its street food
Known as the Paris of Asia, Hanoi is a melting pot of the historic charm and the expansion of modern realms. Start your day by taking a full-day or half-day tour with Hanoi Kids, a student-run organisation offering free city tours in Hanoi.
You can choose destinations as per your liking: Ho Chi Minh Complex, Temple of Literature, Old Quarter, Long Bien Bridge, West lake area, Hoa Lo prison, and Museum of Ethnology and Bat Trang pottery village.
End your day by gorging on the amazing street food. And dont forget to have the worlds cheapest draft beer: Bia Hoi. Once you are done sightseeing you can indulge in some retail therapy. Vietnam is a paradise for thrift shoppers.
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Day 3 5: Go cruising, 007 style on Halong Bay
After two days of enjoying the charm of Hanoi, visit the site where James Bond said tomorrow never dies. Sailing in the calm emerald sea of Halong Bay dotted with thousands of spiky limestone pinnacles is an indescribable experience.
The sunsets are to die for. There is no better way to experience the bay but on a cruise. I recommend taking 3D2N Luxury Pelican Cruise or Imperial Classic Cruise.
The food and the services on the cruise are top notch. The route taken is not too touristy and you get to explore lot of activities like caving, kayaking, swimming, visiting the pearl farm, fishing and floating villages, taking Vietnamese cooking class among other things.
However, if you are tight on budget and time then you can opt for a 2D1N cruise. But dont take a day only trip. Thats plain waste of money.
Day 6 8: Trek through the rice fields of Sapa and enjoy its tribal hospitability:
Hikers and adventure seekers cannot afford to miss this beautiful hill station, Sapa, which lies near the Chinese border in northwestern Vietnam, known as the Tonkinese Alps. It is famous both for its unspoiled rugged scenery and for its rich cultural diversity. Trekking is an ideal way to explore its enchanting beauty. If you have time in hand then you can see Tha Bac (Silver) waterfall, Ham Rong Mountain, Rattan Bridge, Bamboo Forest and Ta Phin Cave among others.
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To reach Sapa, you can either take a five-hour private sleeper bus ride leaving at night or early morning from any of the travel agents in Hanoi or take a nine-hour overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Chai, and then 45 minutes more from Lao Chai City by bus.
After filling your lungs with fresh oxygen of mountains and stomach with Vietnamese cuisine return to Hanoi to fly back to your destination.
Travel tips to make your week in Vietnam truly awesome:
– Best time to visit: October and November or February April
– Visa: Get the approval letter beforehand to procure your Visa on arrival at the Airport
– What to pack: Cotton comfortable clothes with one light jacket and sneakers. Pack light as Vietnam is a shopping heaven. You will end up buying lot of stuff
– Where to stay: I prefer staying at old quarters. Book through websites or a reliable travel agent
– Currency: Be careful with the currency. 15000 Vietnamese Dong note looks similar to 50,000 Vietnamese Dong. Also, US dollars are accepted almost everywhere
– Shopping: Dont ask for price from hawkers until you want to buy it. Asking price is equal to buying. Bargain. Bargain. Bargain. I cannot stress enough
– Food and Drinks: Be careful with the street food. Eat at places that have huge number of guests to ensure fresh food quality. Never drink tap water. Always buy bottled water
– Etiquette: The normal way of addressing tourists is, My lady for women and Sir/Mr for men. Never raise your voice. Not everyone speaks English. Its best to learn few local language words like xin chao (hello), phai (yes), khong (no), toi muon mot ve di (I would like a tiket to)
– Transportation: Avoid taxi frauds. Use reputable cab companies like Hanoi Taxi, Taxi CP and Mai Linh Taxi. Buses and Scooter taxis are a cheaper way to explore Hanaoi. For out of station use buses and trains. Tickets are fairly easy to get
– Safety: Be careful of bikes when crossing the streets as maximum accidents are caused by motorbikes. Lately Vietnam has earned a bad reputation for travel scams. Always book through reputed agencies only. Read reviews. Never pay 100 per cent advance.
Archana Singh is a travel blogger who blogs at Travel See Write