Spent the night at Lazy Bird Guesthouse in Incheon district before early flight to Hanoi the next day (offers transportation to and from airport on a limited schedule).
Day 1 – Hanoi
Day 2 – Hanoi
Free Hanoi bicycle tour with BC Family Tour. Included: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum, Thang Long Imperial Citadel, Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo Prison, and Water Puppet Theater. Entrance and parking fees as well as breakfast and lunch costs not included.
Day 3 – Ha Long Bay
Two-day tour hosted by BC Family Tour. Included: morning pick-up and bus transportation to Bay Chai Pier, free accommodation and meals provided onboard (pay for all drinks), tours of Hang Sung Sot Cave, Soi Sim Island, a floating pearl farm, and additional activities like squid fishing, kayaking, and karaoke. Read the site’s full itinerary here.
*They say they have free wifi onboard but there is none.
Day 4 – Ha Long Bay/Hanoi/Overnight Train to Hue
Finished Ha Long Bay cruise tour which provided bus transportation back to the hostel. We arrived at Backpackers around 5pm. Before arriving in Vietnam we booked our train tickets to Hue online here. Pick-up from the hostel to the train station was included in the ticket purchase. There were snack machines and a cart selling some food on the train, otherwise meals were not provided. We slept four in one cabin on comfortable and clean bunk beds.
Day 5 – Hue
Motorbike pick-up from Hue train station by Hue Riders. Breakfast at their family-owned restaurant before tour around Hue which included Thanh Toan Bridge, a rice museum, Tu Hieu Temple, Tu Doc Tombs, the Imperial City, and Thien Mu Pagoda overlooking Perfume River.
*If you plan on using this group for your tour around Hue you should definitely read up on the locations beforehand. Tours were basic and we were frequently left to explore on our own, which was great but I definitely wish I had done some more research.
Accommodations were at Sports Hotel in downtown Hue (very nice and very cheap if your aren’t traveling alone).
Day 6 – Hue/Hoi An
We did a motorbike tour with Le Family Riders (an excellent family-run company!) from Hue to Hoi An. They gave a bit more of an in depth experience in Hue than we’d had the previous day but we didn’t see as much. Included were a tour of: Thanh Toan Market (next to Thanh Toan Bridge), a pit stop for a swim and a beer at Elephant Springs, a seafood menagerie lunch by the water, and free time to explore Thuy Son Marble Mountain outside of Da Nang. The gem of the trip was the ride over Hai Van Pass.
We stayed at DK’s Backpacker’s Hostel in Hoi An for four nights.
Day 7 – Hoi An
On our first day in Hoi An we took a free bike tour offered by DK’s and saw the market in the Old Quarter, the bars district, and took the road to the beach which had plenty of beach-side bars to choose from.
Day 8 – Hoi An & Da Nang
We took a sunrise tour of the My Son Sanctuary and Kim Bong Carpentry Village with The Sinh Tourist, which included a very (very) light breakfast but excluded prices for entrance fees. They picked us up from our hostel but took us back to the market in the Old Quarter by boat and told us that we’d have to make our own way back, which was no biggy, just a surprise.
*There are several times of day that you can take this tour but we thought doing it at dawn was the best choice since we had the place mostly to ourselves.
We went to Cafe 43 for cheap (less than a dollar) Vietnamese craft beer and a tasty lunch. We went back more than once.
That night we did a booze tour of Da Nang on a DK’s party bus. We rode the Sun Wheel and watched the dragon bridge spit flames. DK’s offers different tours and activities directly to its patrons on different days/nights of the week. This was Saturday night.
Day 9 – Hoi An
Our first holiday from our holiday: Hungover-laid-out-on-the-beach Day. Our bikes were stolen (possibly by accident) so if you rent a bicycle make sure you lock it up.
We won a bottle of rum in the DK’s trivia pub quiz challenge. Go team “Definitely the best pub quiz team in here,” for not making a mockery of our name.
Day 10 – Siagon (Ho Chi Minh City)
Paid a shuttle to take us to Da Nang airport for our flight to HCMC. We used TNK Travel company for our tour of Cu Chi Tunnels, the busiest tour we went on during the entire trip. A bus picked us up and dropped us off at the tour company’s office downtown in District 1.
We took a taxi to our couchsurfer host out in District 7 which was pricey but I think we were scammed. Pick a reputable company with a popular logo. The next taxi we took out there was half the price.
Day 11 – HCMC/Mekong Delta
Jason Superstar picked us up in the morning for the start of our two day Mekong Delta journey. This was by far one of the best tours we went on because of Jason’s intimate knowledge of the area he grew up in. Day 1 we went to Phu Chau Pagoda, Cai Be floating market and Cai Be onland market, paddled in a sampan down Sau Ca canal, and prepared and ate a delicious meal of fried wonton and fresh-caught elephant ear fish all right there at his auntie’s house. He also makes a DVD of clips and photos from each day of the trip for each member of your group. An awesome souvenir to take home.
We staid the night at Ahn Dao Hotel in Can Tho. Because we booked through Jason Superstar’s service we paid a little above standard room price for a deluxe room with hot water, two double beds, cable and a view.
Day 12 – Mekong Delta/HCMC
Jason picked us up from the hotel at 5:30am and walked with us to the river where we boarded a boat to catch the Cai Rang Floating Market at sunrise. According to Jason, there’s a woman there who sells “the world’s best pho” that was tracked down by Master Chef UK just so they could have a taste. We had a taste… and it was the best pho I ever had. The woman is elderly and had been in the hospital the week before we came, so Jason doesn’t know how much longer he will be able to advertise her pho as part of his tour. You better hop on it if you want some. We went back to Jason’s auntie’s for a quick break and a quick goodbye before hitting the road back to HCMC.
We rented a motorbike in HCMC as soon as we got back. It took about an hour to get back to our host in District 7 because HCMC traffic is a nightmare to navigate your first time and we got lost more than once. If you want to do this, plan accordingly. The bike was $12 per day and prices were similar at businesses up and down the street in District 1. Most are willing to barter.
Day 13 – HCMC
We took the motorbike back downtown to the War Remnants Museum which we had started walking through the evening before. If you’re really interested in this landmark give yourself at least two or three hours to get through everything. We didn’t book a tour so that we could go at our own pace. Everything has English translations so it was fine. There’s a prison exhibit outside that’s easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. If they close while you’re still working your way through you can go back the next day on the same ticket. It took us three attempts before we finished the whole museum.
We spent a good amount of time wandering through the Independence Palace and from there we went past Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, the Opera House and ended up at Benh Thanh Market.
Spent the night with couchsurfer host.
Day 14 – HCMC/Hanoi
Picked up by BC Family Tour from airport. Went back to the Old Quarter before we made our culinary pilgrimage to Le Mat Snake Village. They let us hold the snake we were going to eat before we sat down to lunch. Overall, I thought it was pretty tasty after the initial shock. Here’s a link to BC’s Le Mat motorbike tour. We didn’t motorbike.
Day 15 – Hanoi/Seoul
The international section of Hanoi airport has been newly built and the staff are stiff about regulations. As a result, I had to give up my miniature Swiss Army Knife which I hadn’t thought about during the whole vacation. If they don’t catch your liquids or sharps on the way there, they will on the way back. We used VietJet for all of our flights. They don’t fly direct to Seoul from HCMC and it was cheaper to buy a domestic flight back to Hanoi and keep our roundtrip ticket to Seoul than fly a different airline to Seoul from Saigon.
Hope this was helpful to anyone looking to travel to Vietnam. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.