Vietnam 7 Days 6 Nights Itinerary – Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi MinhVietnam 7 Days 6 Nights Itinerary – Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi MinhVietnam 7 Days 6 Nights Itinerary – Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi MinhHhBVietnam, which is formally known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is a country of beautiful natural landscape. Covering an area of 331210 square kilometers, Vietnam is shaped like letter “s”.
Vietnam is hilly and heavily forested, mountains account for 40% of the country’s land area and tropical forests cover around 42%. This makes traveling around this country a bit of a challenge, but it is definitely doable. Let me show you how I travelled from the North to South of Vietnam in 7 days.
Day 1: Arriving and Settling in Hanoi
After a short 3.5 hours of flight from Singapore, I have landed in Noi Bai International Airport. I bought a tourist SIM card and ate a meal of Popeyes (it was the only food available).
There are various way to get from Noi Bai International Airport to Hanoi Centre, which is more commonly known as Hanoi Old Quater. You can take a private shuttle bus, a taxi or the public bus. I decided to take the public bus because it is cheap and it gives me a chance to experience Hanoi’s public transportation.
The stand for the 86 public bus is just to the left side of the main exit of Noi Bai International Airport. The bus comes every 15-30 minutes and it costs just 30000VDN (~USD$1.28/S$1.78 at time of writing).
The bus stops at many locations in Hanoi Old Quarter. I alighted at Nguyen Trung Truc bus stop in Ba Dinh because it is the nearest to where I am staying. A short walk away, I have arrived at the backpacker area, the area around Ta Hien Street and Luong Ngoc Quyen. This area comes alive at night, the pubs and restaurants are swarming with people.
The roads all look pretty similar to me and there are no visible street signs to tell me what street I am at. With the help of Google Map, I arrived at Hanoi Family Homestay only to be told that the double room that I booked has a leaky toilet. Hanoi Family Homestay is run by Huong (you can call her Perfume), her husband and her two children, Phuong Anh (Anna) and Duc Anh (Monkey). They were already looking for someone to fix it, but it will not be ready so soon.
They offered me a room in their sister hotel just around the corner and the landlady’s husband brought me to the other “hotel” on his motorcycle.
It is really “homestay” kind of room with a queen-sized bed, writing table, wardrobe, refrigerator and chairs. The room comes with an attached bathroom which is reasonably clean. After a long day on the plane, bus and motorcycle, all I wanted was a nice shower and a good rest.
Day 2: Exploring Hanoi Old Quarter
I accepted the landlady Huong (Perfume)’s invitation to have breakfast at their homestay the night before. Breakfast is a simple meal of chicken pho, a glass of milk tea and two fat bananas. After breakfast, Huong (Perfume)’s friend brought me the bicycle that I requested the night before which cost me around 15000VDN (~USD$0.60/S$0.89).
I soon realized that riding a bicycle is definitely not an advisable way of sightseeing in Hanoi. There are pathed pedestrian paths but these pavements are very uneven, my buttocks are numb after just half an hour of riding the bicycle. There are many small streets where there are no pavements and I had to ride on the side the road. To say that I “jump of my skin” every 5 minutes is not an exaggeration. Every single car or motorcycle that zoomed pass me had to honk at me, even if I am no way in their way. It’s almost as if the Vietnamese honk as a form of saying “hello”’or “good morning”. This is not your normal honking which goes “bi bi”, it is more like a long shriek “biiiiiiiiiiiiiii” that lasts way over a minute. The first time I heard this, I thought there was a road traffic accident, or I had accidentally killed someone without knowing.
In the end, I gave up and chained the bicycle at the side of the road and walked to the various attractions. I visited the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Museum and Temple of Literature.
I had lunch at Banh Cuon Gia Truyen, a popular restaurant that serves authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
I spent the afternoon at Dong Xuan Market and Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword).
My girlfriend missed the flight the day before (the one she was supposed to take with me) so she took another flight which arrived in Hanoi today. Huong cooked a simple yet delicious dinner for us, after which we strolled and took in the sights of nighttime Hanoi Old Quarter.
Day 3 & 4: Halong Bay Cruise
A trip to Vietnam is not complete without a visit to Halong Bay, the UNESCO World Heritage in Vietnam. We planned to have a 2 days 1 night Halong Bay cruise, but all the different cruises offered online made me very confused. I actually booked our Halong Bay cruise at Sinhcafe Travel Booking Office after a day of sightseeing the day before.
We were told to wait at the lobby at 8am and our guide came to pick us up. Before we boarded the minivan, my girlfriend and I each bought something for breakfast. The 4-hour ride to Tuan Chau International Marine passed by quickly as our guide entertained us with various tidbits of information. We boarded the Golden Star cruise and had our first meal on board the vessel.
In the afternoon, we were brought to Hang Sung Sot (Caves of Surprises) and climbed Ti Top Island. The view is amazing at the top and we even got to watch the sunset. We learned how to make Vietnamese spring rolls and had a delicious dinner before retiring to our cabins for the night.
We started the second day of our 2 day 1 night cruise with a visit to Pearl Farm and we even got to do a bit of kayaking. We lazed on the top deck till lunch and the cruise headed back to Tuan Chau International Marine.
We were very well-fed throughout the 2 days 1 night and we did get to visit quite a few of Halong Bay’s famous sights. We got acquainted with the two Korean uncles who sat on the same table during meals. My girlfriend and I both agree that this cruise is well worth the money.
It was almost evening by the time we got back to the city. We each had a bowl of beef pho from a roadside stall before heading to Hanoi Railway Station. I pre-booked our soft-berth train ticket on Seat61 and we successfully boarded the train to Da Nang.
The train is pretty clean and there is even a toilet and a wash-up area. The beds are a little hard but come with clean sheets. I was amazed that a light-sleeper like me could sleep with the rumbling of the train, but I did. Lesson learnt: ear plugs are essential for sleeping on overnight trains. I will detail the train ride from Hanoi to Da Nang in another post.
Day 5: Journey to Hoi An and Hoi An Ancient Town
I woke up very early the next morning, hoping to watch sunrise on the train, but the sky was cloudy and it was raining heavily. However, thanks to the rain, we got to see magnificent waves as the train ran along the South China Sea. We had breakfast of steamed corn and chicken porridge which we purchased from pushcarts.
We arrived at Da Nang at around 12pm. There are a few ways to get from Da Nang to Hoi An. You can take private car, taxi, motorbike or bus from Da Nang to Hoi An. Private car and taxi is too expensive and unadventurous for us, and we have the neither the license nor the skill to ride motorbikes. That leaves us with only the bus. After walking around in vain and getting lost for a while, we finally found the Dung Xe Buyt bus stop that goes from Da Nang to Hoi An. It was a wild and cheap (20000VDN ~USD$0.86/SGD$1.186 at time of writing) ride on the bus, which terminated at Hoi An Old Station.
We took a cab to our pre-booked Landmark Hostel and checked-in.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the Hoi An Ancient Town that won an award for outstanding preservation from the UNESCO Committee for the Asia-Pacific. We had dinner at one of the riverside restaurant and we got to see Hoi An’s famous lanterns.
Day 6: Hoi An Ancient Town and Ho Chi Minh
After having a simple breakfast at Landmark Hostel, we went back to Hoi An Ancient Town. We were determined to buy a set of ao dai each as souvenirs but we realized that ao dai is too expensive so we just tried it on and took some photographs. We visited the Japanese Covered Bridge before we headed back to the hostel to pack our bags.
Our pre-booked taxi arrived and drove us to Da Nang International Airport where we boarded our flight to Ho Chi Minh.
Upon arriving at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, we took bus 152 outside the airport to New World (20000 VDN ~USD$0.86/S$1.186). The bus ride took around an hour and we walked another 15 minutes to reach our hostel, The Like Hostel.
After checking-in and putting down our bags, we went to the Den Long restaurant recommended by the hostel staff for dinner. The ambience of the restaurant is nice, but the food is only mediocre and a little overpriced.
After dinner, we strolled to the night market outside Ben Thanh Market. It is huge but there is nothing much to buy, the products repeats every few stalls. On our way back, we stumbled upon Banh Mi Huynh Hoa which sells the best banh mi I have ever tasted.
Day 7: Ho Chi Minh and Flying Home
I woke up before dawn and managed to record a time-lapse video of the sunrise from the rooftop (you can watch the video here). After a delicious buffet-style breakfast, my girlfriend and I explored Ben Thanh Market where we bought snacks and souvenirs for family and friends. We took photographs of the handsome-looking Ho Chi Minh City Hall and Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica.
We sent postcards to ourselves and friends from Saigon Central Post Office.
My girlfriend and I spent quite a few hours exploring Ho Chi Minh City Museum (previously known as Gia Long Palace) and Reunification Palace. We had lunch at a roadside cafe called Ngân Thao and we took a taxi back to our hostel.
The helpful hostel staff advised us to use Uber to get to the airport and so we did. We made a trip to Banh Mi Huynh Hoa to pack banh mi for our flight and boarded the Uber which took us to Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
This traveling schedule is manageable, but it can be a little hectic and tiring. It will give you a glimpse of 3 of Vietnam’s most popular cities. I even got to try almost all of Vietnam’s transportation modes: bicycle, motorcycle, train, bus, airplane and even boat. If you have the luxury of time, I strongly encourage you to spend more time to enjoy everything these 3 cities has to offer. I travelled from the North to the South, Hanoi – Hoi An – Ho Chi Minh, but you can always go the other way.