NEW! 10 Days in VIETNAM: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh, Hue | Full Travel Vlog & Guide
Vietnam. It’s a country, not a war. And what a country it is. (Epic music!) Earlier last year, we spent 10 unforgettable days in this beautiful part of the world. 10 days of mouth watering cuisine, epic countryside, a town full of lanterns, historic tombs of past Emperor’s, beaches, custom fitted dresses and beaches. In this video, we’ll be taking you through our time here, along with places we would recommend, trips that are worth checking out, and how to make sure you return in one piece.
If you’re new here, then welcome. We make travel movies from around the world, hoping you might just find your next holiday inspiration. This is Suitcase Monkey spending 10 full days in Vietnam. (Gentle Music) We arrived early morning into Hanoi. Its location provides the perfect starting point to travel the country north to south.
Hanoi is Vietnams capital and second largest city, where we would be spending our first 2 days. Still suffering jet lag, we stuffed our mouths with Pho, then started to explore its buzzing streets. (Upbeat, positive music) Right in the middle of the city, is this Notre Dam inspired church. St Joseph’s Cathedral was one of the first structures built by the French and is a reminder of the hostile takeover in the 1850s. This would be the first of many time capsules we’d see on our trip. We actually returned to this spot for our second evening, which allowed us to sample some of Hanoi’s famous coffee culture scene.
Hanoi certainly lends itself to a walking city, that is, if you can avoid being run over by a million motorbikes or in one instance, a train. This Instagram wonder sees homes, bars and cafes packed along either side of a single train track. Even though this street has become a little cliche to visit, it’s a really unique experience and the friendly service from our mother and daughter hosts was both attentive and fun. The trains only run a handful of times each day so consult a timetable if you want to see a train pass through here first hand.
(Train Honks!) (Dark Piano music with beat) As night settled into the city, we mostly stayed around the Old Quarter and enjoyed our first of many Vietnamese massages on this trip. But it was this street that we returned to on both nights, not just for its vibrancy, but the sheer quantity of great smelling street food restaurants. On our first night we rediscovered the magic of sitting in a chair made for 6 six year olds and our second night, 5 doors down, we loved this mini BBQ right on our table. By this point, we’d relaxed well Vietnams city life - beer, coffee, massages and feasts. So we thought it was now about time to also relax into its nature. (Gentle Piano music) 100 miles east of Hanoi, is Ha Long Bay. Spread over 600 square miles, this massive area forms
a fabulous seascape of limestone pillars pushing out of the waters. Mostly uninhabited, these 1,600 islands and islets, as they’re known, can be traced back 500 million years and are themselves the main attraction. So of course what follows is the very human thing to do and name these rocks after their obvious appearance. So be on the look out for the Fighting Cocks, the Frog and of course...
...the chopstick. The most popular way to enjoy Ha Long Bay is to spend a night here on one of its many boats. For the most part, they all offer a similar experience but the crew we had were really welcoming. For the next 24 hours we were looked after incredibly well, with all food included. The boat itself was rather grand in scale whilst still feeling intimate
but it was the view from our room that was the most peaceful. (Loud Intercom playing - "Would you please gather at the reception..." Well, peaceful until it was time to disembark. (Gentle Piano music plays) After sanitising our hands with acid water, we boarded ship for a spring roll cooking class, which actually went surprisingly well. Then the real chefs followed up by offered
this excellent serving. The next morning, the early wake up meant only one thing: A group Thai Chi class to limber us all up, as our boat moved towards its final destination. Although Ha Long Bay is most uninhabited, 4 fishing villages make up the majority of its total population. For generations, around 1600 people called this part of Vietnam, home with signs of humans doing so dating back 18,000 years.
(Gentle Guitar plays) Living off the land and water, the inhabitants built schools, shops, homes, and apparently even its own police force, creating a beautiful self contained society. In recent years, due to a government directive, most inhabitants of these villages have moved to the mainland, citing better education for the young and environmental protection for this UNESCO World Heritage site. Still, the fishing villages here are very real, with tourism now being their main source of income. But travelling through this floating community is a breathtaking experience. (Guitar picking music continues) Once on land, we drove back to Hanoi Airport where we took a brief 1 hour domestic flight to Hoi An. Now, in a move that’s very unlike me, I’d done next to no research for this part of the trip so upon checking in, had no idea what was waiting for us just around the corner. After a spot of unpacking, we wondered into central Hoi An and were blown
away with what we saw. Over the next 3 nights, this would become my favourite place in all our time here and somewhere you should definitely be adding to your list. (Music builds with drums and positive intensity) Once an important trading route for Chinese and Japanese merchants, Hoi An is fed by the Thu Bon River. Despite its Old Town bursting with restaurants, markets and street food, it still feels surprisingly laid back, thanks in part to its partial ban on motorbikes. But despite its growing popularity, it still maintains some of its authenticity and traditions. Influenced by those 16th Century Japanese traders, coloured lanterns would be placed outside homes, in exchange for good luck. This has now become the calling card for Hoi
An, where glowing lanterns and flickering candles are placed on the river, with a wish of happiness, luck and love. (Final build of music until calms) Situated along such a busy trading route, it’s no surprise that Hoi An built an industry around silks, suits and Ssss Dresses. A staggering 400 tailors fit into this tiny town, each offering a personalised outfit, unique to your design choices and style. And that’s
why we found ourselves on Chong Hung Dao, THE street for a one of a kind outfit. The process was pretty simple: First, choose styles you like from literally thousands of photos. Maybe you like the waist of this, the length of that, the neckline of the other. Stick all of that together and you have your complete design. Now as I’m sure you can imagine, this was all incredibly exciting for your narrator. Second, chose your cloth. This is
where we were levelled up and whisked away to the fabrics room where there is obviously lots of talk about. And it was at this point that I questioned all decisions that had led me to this moment. Fabrics, fabrics, fabrics, fabrics. Although brief, I did for a second question that maybe, just maybe I myself wasn’t bringing my full sexy A game. Ha, but that was of course, just a fleeting moment.
It was as quick as the next morning where Chiaki returned for a final fitting and we picked it up, all finished, a day later. Probably the most iconic landmark in Hoi An is the Japanese Bridge. Indeed, if you ever look at the back of a 20,000 Dong note, you’ll see it for yourself. Built in the 15th Century, it was constructed by those same Japanese merchants who settled here, seeking quick access to the Chinese communities across the water. The bridge represents Namazu, a giant underground catfish which was said to cause earthquakes and was therefore tied down at both ends. Unable to move, Namazu could no longer cause the ground beneath it to shake. (Upbeat music) After some more aimless meandering, we wandered into this cafe and it was time to taste another Vietnamese staple. The Egg Coffee or Cà Phê Trung is a bitter coffee, blended with the
sweetness of egg yolk, condensed milk and sugar. This necessity came about with milk being in short supply during French colonisation. You can still actually visit the place where the original egg coffee was invented in Hanoi.
Let’s just say we filmed this a few times and this was the most positive reaction I had. It’s a really bitter coffee, albeit with a dense creamy layer on top. But, I’m just a low life single shot Latte guy, so what do I know? (Upbeat music continues) (Music drains away, stops suddenly) (Upbeat music continues) Another walk, and more signature dishes, this time with great success. The Cao Lau is Hoi An’s definitive dish, and is only available here since it’s cooked with water from local wells. With barbecued pork slices sitting in fat udon type noodles, greens, and a pork based gravy, this really hit the spot. We also tried a dish known as White Rose, named
to reflect the appearance of its pork wrapped up in light flattened dumplings. Both essential dishes to taste. For dinner, I have to highlight this restaurant here, since it was my absolute favourite in all of Vietnam. These pork steamed buns were incredible with a delightful lingering aftertaste. I also ordered the Bahn Mi which translates primarily to baked goods, so often referring to a sandwich or baguette. The plate did have bread but it was more of a side dish to this
succulent juicy chicken, dripping in sauce. If you’re ever in Hoi An, I would 100% recommend you check this place out, especially when this epic 3 course meal coming out to a total of £15. (Sounds of cars) Our last day in Hoi An was a relaxed one. Renting bikes from our hotel, we took a 30 minute cycle to the local beach and lounged around with some cocktails. Later that evening, we thought we’d end our time in Hoi An, returning to the place where we first fell for it. Albeit this time, we travelled the same path as they would have
done 500 years ago. (Sentimental piano music) 3 hours north of Hoi An, lies the important city of Hue, Vietnams old imperial capital. Since the 1800s, it’s had an illustrious history, primarily for being the home to the last of its Emperors. Situated close to the border that divided north and south Vietnam,
Hue saw much combat during the Vietnam War or American War as it’s called here. Indeed, the Battle of Hue, in 1968 became one of the longest and bloodiest of its time. Now the city is a lively one with a busy nightlife, restaurants and cafes, all sitting very comfortable amongst its historical roots which have not been forgotten. Those roots are on no better display, than the Imperial City. This whole citadel, complete with its vast landscape, palace grounds, and gateways took 27 years to complete, and is one of the largest architectural complexes in all of Vietnam. On approach, the walls
of this massive fortress are striking. The insides tell stories of those who both lived and died here, with only 10 major buildings remaining, out of the original 160. Hue is surrounded by 7 royal tombs, all elaborate resting places for the Nguyen Dynasty, ruling from 1802 to 1945. There are countless tours that visit these tombs, with 2 of the most
popular being Ming Manh and Khai Dinh . Minh Mang was the second monarch of the Nguyen Dynesty and was generally a well liked Emperor due to his policies expanding and stabilising Vietnam. Covering 15 hectares, it’s easy to spend an hour here as the tomb and grounds still stand in great condition. A short drive away is the tomb of Khai Dinh. This is a much smaller tomb, possibly reflecting that he was largely an unpopular Emperor at the time. Reigning during French rule, he
was generally perceived as a puppet, with little actual power. Kie Dinh was the countries second to last Emperor ever, with his successor ultimately abdicating, thus ending the Vietnamese monarchy in 1945. Unlike Hoi An, Hue felt much more lived in by its locals. When we weren’t peeking into its history we were seeking out its hospitality. We rediscovered a Vietnamese coffee that didn’t involve a chicken, and stuffed our mouths with some great food here. The hotel we were
staying in actually had its own spa which as you can see here, we enjoyed thoroughly. These 2 days flew by and we were already packing for our final domestic flight which would take us to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnams most populated and forward looking city. (Slow hopeful piano music) Especially after the relatively laid back Hoi An and Hue, Ho Chi Minh City was a bit of a shock to the system. As we had been sinking south, the temperature had been climbing. Now hovering at 30 degrees, this was double what we had in Hanoi. Previously known as
Saigon, the city was officially renamed after the Vietnamese revolutionary and politician, Ho Chi Minh. One thing we finally did get to witness here in all its glory, is what it really means to cross a road, with over 7 million motorbikes in this city alone. So… Inspired by the locals we semi confidently, put our lives into the hands, of the oncoming traffic. (Fast drum music plays) Not deterred, many a road here would be crossed and conquered as we strolled around the city.
(Upbeat electronic music) After getting some high quality drone shots, dusk began to settle on the city, with the neon signs energising the streets. It was here where the uniqueness of Ho Chi Minh really became apparent. Walking into the main promenade that leads up to City Hall was one of THE moments in this trip, and where the City truly comes alive.
(Electronic music builds) Before arriving in Vietnam, I’d asked our followers if you had any dining suggestions for the trip. In response, we’d been informed of the lovely sounding Secret Garden Restaurant. We liked what we saw on Google Maps and thought we’d give it a go. Upon arrival to this rather inauspicious entrance, this was either a genuinely secret restaurant or we were about to die! (Scary, intense, dramatic music playing) To everyones surprise there WAS actually a secret garden on the rooftop and we were sat down, near the coffee machine. We were soon served up yet another lovely feast, and again, with a bunch of courses falling under £15.
Just hours before our flight, on our very last morning, we visited the War Remnants Museum. This is an incredibly powerful and palpable experience, telling stories of war from those who experienced it in Vietnam. This museum is not for the faint of heart and most of the horrific photos of death would not be appropriate on this video, but I can tell you they have left a lasting impression. It presents the very human side of war and its prolonged effects. For example, one room chronicles the use of napalm within Vietnam, and then in the next, you meet real life humans in the flesh who are still affected by it.
This is an unfiltered reminder of the atrocities of war and something that shouldn’t be forgotten. I opened this video sharing a T shirt slogan I’d seen in Hoi An. To be honest, it was only when we later got to Hue and now this museum that I actually started to think about this side of things. I can only speak from the limited perspective of a tourist, but
I realised that during our 10 days, I’d felt safer here than any other country we’d visited. There was a feeling of peace. Vietnam in general certainly seems like a country that hasn’t forgotten its past, but is clearly one that has already moved forward and will continue to do so, especially for what it offers to travellers. I first visited Vietnam in 2009 and even since then, I noticed a massive difference in infrastructure and preparation for the future. It just might take me a little while to get used to an egg in my coffee.
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