Vietnam? Why not!
Here in this article, I jammed all the necessary info for you, dear Millennial out there, so you can read it before you decide it’s high time you went to Vietnam.
Hanoi is a typical SE Asia. And I say this not because I’m being a lame tourist, but because it’s true. Hanoi (capital of Vietnam) is generally regarded as the city of politics and culture. On the contrary, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is regarded as the center for economics. Hanoi is rather crowded in the central area where a lot of tourists can be spotted walking around and being tourists, but if you move a bit outside of Hanoi, you’ll see literally nothing but trees and unexplored lands. In the central area, I was able to see lots of tourists most of whom seemed older than 40 and were movings in packs. Also, many, many backpackers.
Favorite touristy spots in Hanoi were: Opera House, Hoàn Kiếm Lake, and its surroundings. Old City was….how should I put it…very chaotic, I guess?
A very famous tourist spot that made me feel very heavy was the Hoa Lo Prison.
West Lake is also very beautiful especially in the evening, but its perks can be enjoyed only by the people who stayed in the Intercontinental Hotel that stands on the lake.
In the central area around Hoàn Kiếm Lake, you can also buy a ticket to a Water Puppetry Theatre. You may not understand what they are saying, but I assure you, you will enjoy the show wholeheartedly because of the music and the uniqueness of water puppetry. (Not something that you would see in a daily life unless you live in Hanoi) Water Puppetry is very popular, so I suggest going to the ticket booth in the morning to get tickets for the afternoon show.
A small comment on touring around the Old City. I’m going to be very honest, but I wasn’t a big fan of it. First the dirtiness. Yes, I understand you can’t expect SE Asia to be completely clean, but yet, it was disastrously dirty, dusty, smelly and noisy. Then, this applied to the whole trip actually, but it’s so dangerous to walk around there because cars and motorcycles were trying to kill us literally every second. Traffic rules are practically non-existent there so you have to be vigilant not to get killed. My neck actually hurt from all the turning left/right moves so as not to get killed by the vehicles.
Now, one good rural place that I was fond of was Bát Tràng porcelain village. I could see how the porcelain products were made and all the pots and dishes and vases were very beautiful. If you are interested in those kinds of traditional crafts, I highly suggest checking those out. Silk embroidery is another famous craft. I didn’t have time to check out how it’s made but was able to see some products and they were absolutely amazing. (Authentic silk embroidery can be very expensive)
Saigon a.k.a Ho Chi Minh City was a totally different world compared to Hanoi. It’s modernized, it’s clean (more or less), it’s less chaotic and more organized in the sense of infrastructure. You could virtually find anything there, from McDonalds to H&M, Starbucks, nightclubs and bars, skyscrapers…etc.
Various places in the city were still being constructed, giving me an impression of the potential growth of the city. The buildings were also very beautiful because of the French colonial influence. The number of motorcycles I saw was nearly the same as in Hanoi, but overall the scenery was more like that of a developed city.
My recommended tourist spots in Saigon are: Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, The War Remnants Museum (warning: really depressing but I will not allow you to miss it), Opera House (for the sake of its beauty), Bitexco Financial Tower Observatory, and Saigon Central Post Office (majestic!). As for the souvenirs, the best place to buy things is the supermarket located inside Lucky Plaza. Since it’s a legitimate supermarket, no one is going to rip you off and everything could be purchased here so you don’t have to look for separate magazines to buy souvenirs.
— Overall on Vietnam —
Non-Existent Traffic Rules May Kill You
I’m not exaggerating on this. Traffic rules in Vietnam are the same as non-existent. Everyone crosses the road wherever they feel like it, jaywalking is so common no one even cares. The only thing Vietnamese people follow is the traffic light. Even that, the last seconds of the traffic light are ignored and they start off while the light is still red. Also, they seem obliged to obey the traffic police officers, so try crossing the road where you know you see an officer standing on the road. They don’t care that you are walking on the pedestrian street, they would ride their motorbikes on the pedestrian sidewalk and honk you from behind as saying you should move. So my advice is, do not ignore the traffic light, always watch your way, check left and right before crossing and never ever jaywalk.
Ripping You Off Because You Are a Helpless Tourist
I don’t know how to comment on this, but they will try to rip you off in taxis. Soliciting is a constant phenomenon in Vietnam, so even while walking on the streets minding your own business, they will approach you for whatever reasons.
Prices on street-shops are usually 3-5 times higher than in authentic shops, so beware. I was lazy, so I bought all the souvenirs at the supermarket.
I actually thought I won’t have much language problems, but apparently not. My hopes were wrong. Taxi drivers do not speak English, street vendors do not speak English, hotel staff speaks a little English with an accent.
Do Not Go to:
Places where there are no tourists. This applies to every place in every country, but where there are no tourists, there will be no help. If you’re a more hesitant type, don’t risk. If you get lost at a place where only locals hang out, can’t speak English with your phone dead, you’ll be busted. Tourists give themselves away very easily. Living in Tokyo, I can distinguish tourists and locals very easily because of their mannerisms. Especially in places like Vietnam, where locals are mostly Vietnamese, if you are from a different country, you will stand out in the crowd. Tourists move in groups, usually are staring at everything they see, walk with cameras and with big bags and luggage. Don’t lose sight of tourists and keep your phone alive while sightseeing.
Be Careful of Dengue Fever
The best way to prevent from getting it is to protect yourself with a bug repellent spray. Although Dengue Fever would rarely become fatal, it is best to return to your home country safe and sound and healthy. I won’t tell you that you have to cover yourself from head to toe (that’s impossible due to the hot weather) but you can reduce the odds of being bitten by mosquitoes by exposing bare skin as little as possible and using good bug repellent (DEET Type). There is a recently released Dengue Fever vaccination but it is not easily available, so do not depend on getting it to prevent getting the illness.
Service/ Prices/ Safety
Service was okay. Street vendors, convenience stores did not provide good service and I did not expect them to. Hotels and restaurants located in the central area have more or less good service. I haven’t been out much in the evening by myself so I can’t say for sure, but dangerous places give off that suspicious vibe.
Prices are cheap so you don’t have to bring much money. $500 for 4 nights would be way more than enough (I was able to go to a massage, buy tons of souvenirs and order in-room dining service in a 5-star hotel. Just saying!)
Best Time to Go/ Souvenirs
Coffee, local tea, porcelain products, embroidery products, chocolates, coconut oil, soap are the best souvenirs. Vietnam is actually the 3rd most coffee producing country in the world next to Columbia and Brazil. I was able to buy a very fragrant, delicious coffee with a sweet aroma in it. Lotus teas are also good souvenirs, but they have a slight smell that is unique to the lotus, which you may not like. Lotus chocolate is also famous, so it’s a good option for a sweet tooth. Coconut oils can be purchased at a ridiculously cheap price.
Best time to travel is November as it’s an off season for travelers and most places are not extremely crowded.
Có một ngày tốt, Millennials.