If you visit Vietnam for the first time and have only 10 days, this post is for you. It allows you to visit many beautiful places in the country such as Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Saigon, and the Mekong Delta but still have time to be leisure and relax. Don’t be greedy to grab as many famous locations as you can. That is unrealistic because Vietnam is a unique country. You may want to take time to enjoy every corner of it little by little.
Recommend: 2 days
You may want to start at Hanoi. The 1,000-year old capital allures everyone with its culture, architecture, friendly locals, and mouth-watering dish.
Take a walking tour to explore the Old-Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake on your first day. Despite its small size, Hanoi Old Quarter is the busiest place with narrow streets, outdoor markets and dense small shops where you can buy many things from a red t-shirt with a yellow star, lacquer products, to coffee, and beautiful postcards. Enjoy a cup of Egg Coffee which is invented in 1946 to know why every visitor has to come to Giang Coffee to try and get back every day they’re in Hanoi. This is a hit of coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and egg.
Hoan Kiem Lake (Photo: Nguyen Minh Son)
A cup of egg coffee at Cafe Giang (Photo: Travel Oriented)
On the next days, you can visit the Museum of Ethnology to catch a glimpse of Vietnamese ethnic groups. Then continue to the Temple of Literature, also known as the “First University of Vietnam”. Find out the reason why Hanoi is one of the food paradises of the world by tasting some of the country’s finest dishes, such as Pho, Bun Cha, and Banh Mi Pate. If you are in Hanoi at the weekend, you can take part in traditional games, enjoy the live music as well as other cultural activities on the walking streets around Hoan Kiem Lake where the vehicles are prohibited from Friday 6pm to Sunday 12pm. Slow your pace at Binh Minh Jazz Club after 9pm with some of the best local jazz talents is a great idea to run away from the bustle of Hanoi.
To stay, Hotel de L’ Opera Hanoi and Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi are great choices to stay. From here, top attractions are within a walking distance.
A corner of Hanoi (Photo: Nguyen Minh Son)
Sunrise on the Long Bien Bridge – an iconic historical site (Photo: Nguyen Minh Son)
Recommend: 2 days
From Hanoi, it’s a 4-hour drive to Halong Bay. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the bay boasts a wide range of biodiversity and surrealistic settings which appeared in the scenes of Skull Island movie.
Book a two-day, one-night trip to discover the beautiful wonder of the world. The cruises offer a lot of outdoor activities to keep you busy. You can chill out on board with a cocktail and admire more than 2,000 towering limestone islands dotting the Gulf of Tonkin or wake up early at the first sun ray to do morning Tai Chi on board. Immersing yourself in the magic sunset of the Bay while awakening the mind and body with the exercise will bring you an unforgettable memory. At night, if bar is not your things, join the cruise members to go squid fishing. They will provide you a rob, set up a light to illuminate the water and teach you how to catch squid.
Both Indochina Sails and Bhaya Cruise are reputable cruises, combine beautiful scenery of the bay with the traditional culture of Vietnam.
Ha Long Bay – a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994
Admire sunrise on board (Photo: Bhaya Cruise)
Recommend: 2- 3 days or longer if you like
Used to be a busy trading port in the 16th century, Hoi An now is a charming town which shouldn’t miss in your Vietnam itinerary. This town is small but don’t be rushed, you would like to stay longer than you expected. So 3 days are reasonable.
Discovering the town center by a stroll might take you a whole day. The UNESCO World Heritage site preserves its ancient beauties very well. Check out the Japanese Bridge, the Chinese Temples and Trading houses, small galleries, and yellow colonial merchant houses to witness the charm by yourself. There are many nice bars to have a drink when the dark falls out.
A street of Hoi An
You will soon understand why this town is considered as one of the most romantic destinations of Vietnam when cycling through the rural scenery on the next day. Wake up early in the morning to visit the fish market on the Thu Bon river. You can see the fishermen unload and prepare their catches for sale and you can also try to row a traditional bamboo basket boat.
Another destination for your cycling is Tra Que village which is famous for its special aromatic herbs. This trip gives you another chance to get into the local life, talk to them and see them do gardening. In the afternoon, you may want to enjoy the beaches which are only a few kilometers from the center.
It would be a regret if we don’t talk about the food of Hoi An. There are plenty mouth-watering dishes to try. Cao Lau, Chicken Rice, grilled pork, Mi Quang, and Banh Mi Hoi An are some of the best, so manage your time to take a food tour when you are here. The 6-hour cooking course is a nice thing to do, too. Don’t afraid that the course lasts too long. It includes a tour of the local market to learn and buy ingredients.
To have a better experience in Hoi An, stays some nights at Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai – one of 10 best hotels for soul treatment in Vietnam. Stretched privately about 1 kilometer along the Ha My Beach, this resort is an ideal retreat for people who’re looking for relaxation.
A fisherman is catching fish in a traditional bamboo basket boat
Cao Lau – a special dish of Hoi An (Photo: S18.postimg)
Recommend: 3 days
Welcome to Saigon, the dynamic hub of Vietnam. You won’t see many cities in Southeast Asia are more exciting than it. From luxury hotels, fancy restaurants, tasty street foods, to flashy rooftop bars, Saigon has it all.
Spend a day just to discover the hottest spots of entertainments and history of the city. A visit to the War Remnants Museum is important to know more about the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War from many displaying photos, vehicles, and various weapons. The most outstanding trace left by French colonialists is the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was built in 1877. Just a few steps from it is the Central Post Office, a blend of Gothic, Renaissance and French influences. Another stop is the fantastic Ben Thanh Market, the biggest and busiest market of Saigon. You can easy to grab a delicious street food as well as pick up a wide range of souvenirs.
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, built in 1877
Excursions to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta will keep your rest days busy. While crawling the underground tunnel system gives you a sobbing glance of Viet Cong guerrillas’ life during the wars, a boat trip on the Mekong Delta is an insight into the local life. I would recommend a night on the boat so you can visit the lively floating markets of Cai Rang and Tra On when the first light of dawn wake you up in the very early morning.
Hotel Des Arts Saigon and Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel are two of best places to stay in Saigon. There are where you will be inspired by charming bedrooms, a luxury combination of great pool, gym, and open-air rooftop bars with signature cocktails.
Local life on the Mekong
Cu Chi – the famous underground tunnel system