Saigon was renamed for Ho Chi Minh (the revolutionary that fought the French, then later the Americans) after the South fell. It’s still called both depending who you talk to. Based on experiences we heard from others while traveling south, we decided to make our stop in Saigon pretty short. We booked two nights at a hostel in the tourist district. When we arrived, we had lunch on the main tourist street. We ate at Bun Cha 145 to have the pork and noodle dish we had been chasing down for a few days.
Getting to Hoi An
We flew Vietjet, a budget airline, from Hanoi to Da Nang airport. We were pretty skeptical of flying cheap in Asia ($49 each), but we ended up with an exit row and had a pretty comfortable flight. We went to the arrivals section to meet our private driver that our hostel in Hanoi had arranged for us. Things turned south when our driver was nowhere to be found. We waited for a few minutes but it was now 10:15 at night. We were frantically connecting to WIFI and trying to Skype call our hostel. Between their broken English and the fact that we did not have a cell phone they could call us back on, we were getting pretty frustrated. We spent over an hour trying to find out what happened to our car. We even bought a SIM card for our phones so we could be called back. To know avail, at around 11:30 we gave up and got a taxi to our hostel. We were stressed, but we've learned to live with the bumps in the road after six weeks of traveling. Our groggy hostel worker let us into our room when we got into Hoi An. It was a large, modern room and we had a pool, all for about $18 a night.
After a couple days in Hanoi we booked a two-night excursion to the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay. It’s a four hour drive from Hanoi if you are lucky... The roads our crowded and the lane markings are simply suggestions, so we put faith in our driver and tried not to pay attention to the traffic. At the marina, there were hundreds of boats. We boarded ours, The Imperial Legend, and set sail during lunch. The lunch was served family style and they kept bringing plate after plate out. It was delicious but way too much food! Since it was family style seating we also got to meet a lot of other travelers on the boat. We got some great advice for the rest of our trip and enjoyed hearing about other people's adventures. We cruised for about two hours to a kayaking cove. The weather was chilly and overcast, but not raining so we sat on the top deck of the boat to enjoy the scenery. Ha Long Bay means “Descending Dragon” and it was easy to see what the bay was named that. The estimated 2000 limestone islands look like dragons swimming. It was beautiful to see, and slightly eerie with the overcast. There were tons of boats cruising the islands in the bay, but the kayaking cove only had one or two other boats. We enjoyed being able to kayak right up to the rocks and see the erosion of the limestone. We didn't see anyone rock climbing, but the islands looked like a perfect spot for it! After kayaking we jumped into the bay for a swim even though it was cold out.
Chris & Taylor
Read our travel blog as we visit three continents in 2017.