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My Vietnam Travel Itinerary: Done The Best and Seen The Worst

My Vietnam Travel Itinerary: Done The Best and Seen The Worst

Old Oct 15th, 2023, 09:51 PM
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My Vietnam Travel Itinerary: Done The Best and Seen The Worst

My first time to Vietnam after years living in the US. Spending 3 weeks here, I would like to share some info of my Vietnam travel itinerary, which included good and bad memories. I am not good at arranging things in the topic, so I will try to make it chronologically for you folks to understand easily.

*Disclaimer:
- I am quite new to the travel forum, so I am not sure if I can attach links in the topic or it is banned, but I think I should. Some of the places are wrong or easy to be mistaken when searching them on Google, so I’d better put the link of each place here so that you can define them (please moderators, if any content is not following the rules, you can ask me to adjust it instead of deleting, as this trip report took me quite long to write)
- All of the photos are taken by myself, please do not copy or download without permission

So, I will start quickly with this, as an experienced traveler, it is funny that I have never visited my hometown again (I left since 5 or 6… and lived in Michigan since then) for many reasons. That’s why the trip made me exciting. Unfortunately I only had 3 weeks here so I tried to arrange a good plan to make it worth everyday. Starting with with planning, I used these for planning my trip:

Travel tips of Fodor’s for overall planning
Vietnam government’s official travel website for reaching cities details
This Vietnam travel itinerary guide that I found helpful on Google
TripAdvisor and Google Maps for checking reviews of each place for my plan

After a month planning, I decided to stick to the southern part of Vietnam, with this itinerary:
Ho Chi Minh City: 3 days
Ta Nang Phan Dung trekking: 2 days
Mekong Delta: 1 days
Vung Tau: 4 days
Phu Quoc: 3 days
Phan Thiet – Mui Ne: 3 days
Dak Lak: 4 days

1. Ho Chi Minh City

I can say the city traffic was crazy, but it was understandable since it is the biggest city in Vietnam. Arrived at the airport at late night, there were a lot of taxi drivers waiting outside but no thanks. I’ve read a lot of scams at the airport in Tan Son Nhat, you just need to ignore them and use Grab – a transprotation app to move to hotel, mine is in D1, at about 300,000 VND ~ 14-15 USD I think.

Staying at the Intercontinental Hotel, great service and location (though I don’t travel around by myself a lot LOL): https://maps.app.goo.gl/L1V5RCBDaip6jEaL7 But I agree with most of the travel guides out there: you should choose a hotel in District 1. If you do things on your own, it will be easy. Or if you book tours, they will pick you up in D1 for free.

There was not much time in HCMC, so I decided to take some tours:

- The food tour: Highly recommended, one of the best to explore both HCMC and its food so far

- City tour: I did 2 of this: one to some popular places (at first I was going to do this myself but nah, better to get someone to explain things to me) and one to some local hidden places

- Cu Chi Tunnel: the tour itself was great with the Rice Paper Village thing, but the tunnel was just ok to me, not much interesting (maybe because of some propagandas)

I booked from a package of AN Tours Vietnam, found this tour operator from their Vietnam travel guide blogs and decided to go with them after searching for TripAdvisor and Google reviews (they are ranked quite high, and I was lucky, those reviews were true LOL). You can have a look here:

https://antoursvietnam.com/



2. Ta Nang Phan Dung

My friend recommended this as we are in the trekking group. “One of the most beautiful trail of Vietnam” he said. Following a contact he gave me, Tommy, a local guide helped me to join a group tour to this area.

My warning: If you have physical or health problems, you should not take part in this as the trekking was quite long. I even lost some weight when back from the trip.

We started from HCMC (picked up by a bus at night) and arrived at the starting point in the morning. Local Vietnamese Pho was served for breakfast. Around 6-7 AM we start our trip to an ethic house, meeting a lady there to hear their life stories.

My time with the ethnic lady in Ta Nang - Phan Dung

From this point, if you have anything to do online, do it! A few more kilometers walking start to fade all of my phone connection, which is really great as you can emerge yourself into the natural life without anything bothering. Gosh, if you have enough time in Vietnam, just do this! The scenaries were just so beautiful and authentic that no words or photos could describe. But yah, here are some photos for you guys:


Ta Nang - Phan Dung beauty

The mountain bike

One more special things people here offered: the mountain bike – a type of modified bike used to move between mountains. If you have guts (money won’t be a problem as a trip on this one was cheap: 2-3 USD), you should try this once in your life. But trust me, if you dare to do this, prepare yourself! Our tour ends after 2D1N, returning back to HCMC. I still miss that night when we were camping on the top of a hill in nowhere…


Our camp at night

3. Mekong Delta

Hmm, what should I say, I was visiting the place for the floating market. I was going to book a tour to Cai Be (it was close to HCMC) with the tour operator that I used for other tours in HCMC, but they did not have the tour and even recommended me not to do it. I should have listened. Booked a tour from another operator and the floating market there was just… disappointing. Don’t trust images on Google! They were too outdated and the “floating market” there turned out to be just a few boats staying at one place. Our tour guide said due to the development of transportation, locals here no longer used boats to travel, leading to the downfall of the market. Well, it was not their fault but information on the internet should be updated about this!

4. Vung Tau

Well, let verify this, there is not much to do for 4 days in Vung Tau. I was visiting the place that long as I had to attend a wedding. But there were something that I got from the trip here:

- It is great to wander around the beach, really relaxing. But just wandering, don’t come to close to the beach as it will be quite dirty

- Seafood restaurants here were fresh and great, but remember to check the price before you order anything

- Though this one is famous for the beach, I found myself more enjoy the mountain nearby. Try a walk in Nui Lon and Nui Nho mountain, you will love it

I stayed at Premier Pearl Hotel, really liked this one for its room and services. The window was a little bit dirty though.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/fN7iHGMdbrvTBzEQ6

5. Phu Quoc

Read some reviews on Google, a lot of them said the beaches here were full of trash. My real experience: it depends… I was quite active in the island trying to do as many as I could. The beaches in the southern islands were… quite touristy – which came with trash unfortunately. Do the northern or eastern areas, I enjoy the crystal clear water there a lot! Here were some more activites I’ve done and loved:

- Enjoying sunset on the beach (I did it on the top of 360 degree bar of Intercontinental Phu Quoc day 1, and a beach bar on day 2)

- Do the night market, the food here was cheap and delicious!

- Snorkeling or fishing were must-do, better do both if you have time. But for snorkeling, I would recommend not touching any corals. Saw some guys touching them a lot in my trip. That would be fun for your photos, but may destroy the ecosystem there.

- Seafood, seafood and seafood. Much cheaper and much better than the ones I tried in Vung Tau. The best local food there must be “goi ca trich”, not sure how they translated this to English, but it was kind of fish sasimi salad with coconut and fried shallots

"Goi ca trich" - the food I really loved in Phu Quoc

My snorkeling


6. Phan Thiet – Mui Ne

Back to Vung Tau from some days in Phu Quoc. I had a lot of beaches towns in this trip, but still had to do this as my friends from the wedding invited. Not sure which travel agency they did use, but it was… quite a nightmare for me, especially when it came to accomodation.

We were on a big bus traveling from Vung Tau to Mui Ne, and check-in our resort after 2 hours driving. Lunch was served here. The resort was claiming itself to be 4 stars, and here was the lunch they served us:

THE IMAGE MAY BE DISTURBING, SORRY IF IT WAS SO!
Spoiler
 

My nightmare in the daytime of Mui ne
Spoiler
 

I am not sure if you guys have seen a real nightmare in daytime, right in your trip, but this one… Well, as long as the food was out on the table, thousands of flies came in. We tried our best to get rid of them but there was no way to do that. Left the place going back to our room with an empty stomach!

The room was as bad. A 4 stars resort with rooms that were the same as a 2 USD/ night motel that you could find anywhere in a horror movie. Their “private pool” was dirty with a lot of leaves inside. Shower did not work and it took me half an hour just for bathing! I have traveled for many years, to many countries and places. If a place took a worst position of all, it must be this one!

The name of the resort was TTC, there were a lot of them with same name so I will put a google maps link here so you folks can avoid it at all cost:

https://maps.app.goo.gl/vhVUf8sx1FT2TRT99

Luckily, besides the resort, our other activities were quite good. Mui Ne was famous for its sand hills (our guide said it was the Saharah Desert of Vietnam). Tried riding a ATV motorbike though the sands it was one of the greatest experience ever.


My ATV ride

7. Dak Lak

Leaving my group of friends, I was heading for Dak Lak. A lot of them recommended me to visit Dalat – a famous place called “Paris of Vietnam” but from my research it was a little bit touristy. So Dak Lak was quite closer and my final destination in Vietnam.

If you are not concern with budget, I would recommend taking a flight from HCMC to Dak Lak. My flight only took 45 mins and the airport was quite… clear (I guess not so many people were visiting the place then). Checked-in at Sojo Hotel (https://maps.app.goo.gl/HToT256aMRLa1gRg9).

The city was famous for its ethnic culture. It was quite fit for my travel style. I was not looking for touristy stuffs. Unseen, off-the-beaten-path sounds much better to me in any trips. My afternoon started with a meal from an ethnic restaurant (Cu Blu’k ??? – I could not find it on google maps, just remembered I catched the place when wandering around the Coffee Village of Buon Ma Thuot City). Food here were strange but delicious: beef with ants salt (it would be really weird at the beginning, but delicous when you were used to it), bitter fruit salad (which turned out to be not that bitter), and some more that I could not list their name in English. Some photos:


Bitter fruit salad

Beef with ant salt

My second day began with the Museum of Coffee World. Ticket was 150,000 VND (~7 USD) and the experience was quite… ok. Not the one that I was expecting. If the museum had more activities or workshop, then it would be ok. Here you would find some exhibitions of coffee history, tools,… and free coffee. The only stand-out stuff was the taste of coffee. Tried their number 08 in the menu and it was the best (even better than the ones I tried in HCMC).

Visit Buon Lak (Lak village), a quiet areas not visited by many tourists. I loved the place for its authenticity, ethnic houses which you could not find in many places. However, the sad truth, they still used elephant for riding (though I heard Dak Lak had elimited this already?). Could not say that I was not seeing sadness in those elephants’ eyes, trapped in a small place like that.


Elephants in Buon LaK (taken by Canon 750D)

I spent my last day visiting Dray Nur waterfall. It was quite far from the city center, but worth the experience. This must be one of the most beautiful waterfall in my trips. Unique and authentic.

The place also gave me one of the best experience so far as a traveler and a photographer: a once in a lifetime moment – when the ethnic children jumped in the waterfall area. Surely I would not be able to catch these moments anywhere anywhen I wanted. Here are some photos (please do not copy without my permission). Taken by Canon 750D.


Ethnic kids jumping off a cliff

Landing down

Kabooom!

8. Back to HCMC, returning to the US

My 3 weeks ended with the best and the worst experiences. Besides the nightmare in Mui Ne, I would say my time here was not enough for all of the beautiful things in Vietnam. I will travel again, next time will be the north of the country. What do you think of my trip? Please leave a comment below! I will see you guys soon in the next trip report!
tvsalphaaov is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2023, 05:44 PM
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Love the photos of your hike. It does indeed look like a very special experience. I noticed on Google Maps that the outfitter has an office in HCM City, so it's easy to find them.

I am not much of a beach person, and it looks like I would not be missing much by avoiding those areas you describe. Also, I suspect what you say about the Floating Market is true based upon what I've seen on ye olde internet.

Thanks so much for the TR!
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Old Oct 16th, 2023, 08:32 PM
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Originally Posted by shelemm
Love the photos of your hike. It does indeed look like a very special experience. I noticed on Google Maps that the outfitter has an office in HCM City, so it's easy to find them.

I am not much of a beach person, and it looks like I would not be missing much by avoiding those areas you describe. Also, I suspect what you say about the Floating Market is true based upon what I've seen on ye olde internet.

Thanks so much for the TR!
There was almost nothing to see in floating market Cai Be. My tour guide told me if I want better floating market then I should've gone to Can Tho - with Cai Ragh (?) floating market, which would take 3-4 hours driving from HCMC instead.
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Old Oct 17th, 2023, 06:00 AM
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Yes, I've always wondered about how much time I should devote to the effort of seeing a floating market in the south. Have not made the trip to VN....yet. Many years ago I went to one in Hong Kong and it was an astonishing experience.
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Old Oct 17th, 2023, 03:43 PM
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OH my! That certainly was a daytime nightmare 😩

Loved your (other) photos
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Old Oct 17th, 2023, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
OH my! That certainly was a daytime nightmare 😩

Loved your (other) photos
Thanks. When I was asking for replacing the food cover with those black flies the staff was like "wait a few mins and they would get away"... Never expected that quality or behavior from a 4* resort.
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Old Oct 19th, 2023, 01:05 AM
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For visiting the floating market, Cai Rang in Can Tho is better than Cai Be in My Tho (TG).
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Old Oct 31st, 2023, 01:27 AM
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Originally Posted by DinHo
For visiting the floating market, Cai Rang in Can Tho is better than Cai Be in My Tho (TG).
I will, but maybe in the next trips I am planning the next Vietnam trip to be in the north only.
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