Get a quick view of the three distinct regions of Vietnam
Highs & Lows
Vietnamese food is fresh and delicious¡
Be prepared for rainy weather.
Vietnam is a lovely country with a variety of different foods and cultures. After the end of the war, the country itself had to reunify, and although you see evidence of the past violence, today it's a dynamic and vibrant country.
We started at the bottom of Vietnam, officially called Ho Chi Minh City but known to many as Saigon (the name was changed after the communists won the war in 1975). Although it is not the capital, it is a large metropolitan area that has been transformed over the last few years.
There, we stayed with friends, visiting places like the big market, Ben Thanh, the Notre Dame cathedral, and the war museum.
While you are there, be sure to try the most famous of all Vietnamese foods - pho. Each region will be slightly different. In the South, it tends to be more heavily flavored with star anise, cloves, and ginger. It is like Christmas in your mouth!
Hue is the capital city of the central region of Vietnam. Surprisingly, the people here have an accent super distinct from the North and the South, despite being located in the middle of the country.
We took a bus from Saigon to Hue, and rented a moped to get around the city. Because this city is not as populated as Saigon or Hanoi, we had an easy time driving around, although be ready for some crowded streets! In Hue, the most popular tourist attraction is the Imperial City. It is a complex of different buildings from Imperial times from the Nguyen dynasty, and is now preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Definitely not to be missed!
In Hue, the most famous food literally has the name of the city in it - bun bo hue. A different type of noodle soup from pho, it has stronger more distinct flavors. Be sure to give it a try while you are there.
Finally, we took an overnight bus to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. One thing to note - the buses rarely arrive when they say they will, so keep that in mind for your trips. The overnight buses were fine for one of us (the shorter one), but not built for larger folks (the taller one). You decide whether you take a bus or take a plane there.
In Hanoi, we visited Hoàn Kiếm Lake. As the legend goes, a turtle from this lake rose up to the surface to give the first prince of Vietnam a sword to fight off and defeat the Chinese. And that was how Vietnam was formed.
Again in Hanoi, we of course had the pho. Traditionally, pho in the north is not served with the typical condiments such as hoison sauce or sriracha, although most places will now serve it alongside your bowl of noodles. Another northern specialty is bun cha - grilled pork over a bowl of vermicelli served with a fresh salad.
Overall, we loved seeing the different areas of Vietnam as well as tasting the different foods.
Q & A
What would you have changed?Do more than just big cities and add more time for the smaller towns in between.
Anything go wrong during the trip?Cheap flip flops aren't the best for the rain.
Restaurant recommendations?Try all the local street food, including banh cuon
Tips you would give a friend?Pack clothes for wet and humid weather.
Packing tips?Forget the umbrella - a jacket is better
Transportation Tips?Overnight buses don’t always arrive when they say they will
Any surprises?Some local delicacies up north can be considered very uncommon.