Must See Destinations in Vietnam (Part I): Ho Chi Minh City & Hue

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As the count down begins for the next big adventure, I’m starting to reflect more and more from my past travels. There are a number of highlights I’ve experienced in the past few years, but one I haven’t had the chance to write about was Vietnam.

My best friend and I decided to avoid the cold Melbourne winter last August to spend two weeks in the tropical, warm and vibrant country of Vietnam.

Although our experience was one full of rich and diverse moments, I’ve decided to write about a handful of highlight locations and handy tips to remember if you’re planning on heading to this wonderfully exotic country on your next adventure.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

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HCMC was our first introduction to Vietnam and from the moment we stepped off the plane into the warm, humid air our senses were tingling with the buzz and mayhem of this vibrant city.

The drive through the city at night time was loud, bright and electrifying. People buzzed by our taxi on scooters while beeping methodically through the winding sea of traffic.

Lonely Planet had advised we base ourselves in the tourist mecca of Bui Vien Street. This street is a great place to go for a night out with some entertaining people watching – however please note that the people you’re watching consists of usually noisy drunk backpackers and street hawkers.

We enjoyed our stay here but understood that this part of the city was definitely more for tourists rather than the locals. Our time was mostly spent relaxing by our hotel pool and defrosting from the Melbourne weather. Oh, we also started to indulge in some delicious Vietnamese food and my addiction for Vietnamese coffee (black coffee with condensed milk) began.

Travel Tips:

  • US dollars are mostly accepted in this part of the City, however if you venture out of this area slightly, you’ll find better value for your money with less of the tourist crowd.
  • Eat a meal at the Royal Saigon Restaurant. This food is fresh, delicious and the dishes are so full of authentic flavors. On a hot day (which is everyday, let’s face it) nothing is better than a mango smoothie and if you’re feeling a little naughty, make sure to add a cheeky shot of white rum.
  • Don’t spend the majority of your Vietnamese experience in Bui Vien Street, get out and experience the richness and true culture of Vietnam.

Hue

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After the hustle and bustle we experienced in Ho Chi Minh City, Hue was a breath of fresh air (literally).

Hue is a beautiful, tranquil city that follows a calm, winding Perfume River, which is overlooked by the lush green peaks of the Laos boarder. Hue has an excellent ancient imperial history with many incredible historical locations to visit, such as the Imperial Citadel and numerous temples and pagodas.

We decided to book a day tour, which took us via boat down the Perfume River where we passed several traditional fishing boats, homes and the odd buffalo grazing on the shoreline. Due to the hot weather, we found a number of children splashing in the shallow banks of the rivers to cool down.

Although this tour gave us great insight into the culture and history, we did find ourselves tiring by the end of the trip as we made our way via bus (with no air-conditioning) to several historical sights in the blazing heat.

Click on the images to view in large scale

By night, the temperature became more bearable as we made our way to a series of bars and wandered around the open shops and storefronts that were selling beautiful hand made pants, dresses and shorts, all in similar colours and prints.

After a couple of cocktails, we ended up meeting two Australian guys who were working at the DMZ bar who offered to take us on a motorbike trip to a series of ‘off the beaten track’ adventures including an ancient bear and elephant fighting pit (no longer in use of course) which still had ancient carvings and claw marks on the stone walls.

We reluctantly had to leave the next morning, after just a short few days in this lovely part of Vietnam where we felt at home and welcomed by the locals and expats alike. Our experience in Hue was one of pure bliss!

Travel Tips:

  • Hue, is pronounced ‘Hway’. We realized we were saying it wrong when we kept telling local Vietnamese people in HCMC that our next stop was Hue (think, Hugh Jackman) and we were surprised when they said they’d never heard of this mystical “Hugh” place before.
  • If you go on a tour to see the historical parts of this city, don’t take a full day tour in the middle of summer – it’s too hot to enjoy. Best to break it up!

Stay tuned for part 2 of the Vietnam Adventure blog post, which focus on the exotic landscapes and fun activities as we made our way north!

Have you been to Vietnam? I’d love to hear your experiences or any places I should visit next time!

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