Magic of Vietnam is about the cornicle of holiday in Vietnam from 27th Feb 2024 to 14th March 2024 covering almost the entire country on a self made itinerary that ran through Hanoi, Ha Long, Ninh Binh, Da Nang, Hui An, Hue, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Ho Chi Minh and Mekong Delta and Can Tho. These Seventeen days in Vietnam wasn’t enough.

The map below shows the overnight halts (in red) and day trips (in blue)

Points to Keep in Mind

EVisa: The official website is https://evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/trang-chu-ttdt and its a fairly simple process. You get the visa within 4 days to a week after submitting the online application. IMP: Please note down the application number on submission. You will need to check the status and also download it, in case you need to do it multiple times.

SIM Card: When you land, you will find the Viettel kiosk just near the exit gate (before you go out).
You can get a data sim or voice cum data sim at around 10-12 Euro for 15 days. No paperwork. You also get in at many outlets all over the city but best to have one activated the moment you land there as you will need it to be in touch with cabs and hotels, especially if you made a self-planned trip.

Transportation and Travel in Vietnam- When traveling within Vietnam, opting for VietJet and Bamboo airlines is advisable, given their affordability. Overnight trains are also a popular choice, but it’s crucial to select the right accommodations. Avoiding six-berth coaches is recommended; instead, opt for four-berth cabins, particularly favoring lower berths for comfort.

Trains – The official website for train booking is https://dsvn.vn/

Airlines – https://www.vietjetair.com/ and https://www.bambooairways.com/

Tours to various places: It’s wise to book through local tour operators upon arrival. They typically offer rates significantly lower than online aggregators.

Payments: When it comes to payment, carrying Vietnamese Dong (VND) is essential for transactions. In restaurants and hotels, credit cards are commonly accepted. Additionally, exchanging other currencies is convenient as they are widely accepted throughout the country. There are many money exchange outlets generally co located with tour operators. There is no paperwork involved and you can exchange any currency over the counter. Therefore carry VND for your initial trip and then if you fall short, exchange it as required. Please note that hotels typically charge 3% extra if you pay by credit card. Therefore carry enough VND with you to pay on arrival. Restaurants and merchant outlets do not charge any extra amount.

Local site seeing – Exploring destinations within Hanoi, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh on foot is feasible. You can cover a significant portion of the cities’ attractions. For day trips to slightly more distant locations, you can arrange transportation through local operators. Particularly for small group 17 to 22-seater “limousines”, ensures convenience and efficiency.

Food and Water: Carrying drinking water is essential during excursions, unless preferring to purchase bottled water along the way. Tour operators too generally give a bottle of water. Food is widely available but it may be a bit of an issue for vegetarians. Hence carry accordingly.

Getting By- Downloading a reliable voice translator app on your mobile device can be invaluable for overcoming language barriers and enhancing communication throughout your travels in Vietnam.

Travel and Stay arrangements – Its a good idea to do all your hotel bookings and air bookings in advance. You can use any platform like Bookings.com, Agoda.com, Airbnb etc. Bookings.com has the option of paying at venue upon arrival, hence its preferred. Please note that (only) hotels typically charge 3% extra if you pay by credit card. Hence carry enough VND with you to pay on arrival. Restaurants and merchant outlets do not charge any extra amount.

Taxies – Downoad the Grab app on your phones. It is the best option for getting around. The other metered taxies are always doubtful as they can overcharge. Also booking local people with personalized cars is also a good option. If you need it for full day they give better offers and also double up as guides.

Street Food– Its perfectly fine to try out the huge variety of street food, particularly if you are fond of Sea Food. If you visit Da Nang then do try the fine cuisine along the My Khe beach. For Vegans however, the choice is limited but there’s plenty fruits readily available.

Shopping: There are many markets in all major cities. There are also the famous “Night Markets” on weekends in almost all major cities. The variety as well as the prices are reasonable, though some bargaining is common. Hint: the markets in Ho Chi Minh are the costliest, You get better deals in Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hoi An and even Hanoi.

 Magical Vietnam: A Journey Through Time and Culture

 The Charm of Hanoi and Ha Long

Our journey began in the bustling city of Hanoi, a city that beautifully blends tradition with modernity. The city’s rich history is evident in its well-preserved architecture and numerous pagodas. Stay at the first Quarter from where you can visit every important tourist destination by walking around.

There are also hop on hop off buses (see pictures below) that start from Hoan Kiem Lake in case you find that convenient. The cost at site is 100K VND for one hour no dismounting bus and 150K VND for 4 hour bus where you can get off and on.

Do not miss the Hoan Kiem Lake, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Defense Museum, night markets on Saturday AND of course the famous Train Street.

Visit the train street only after 7 as that gives the best and festive appearance. The train timings are at around 8 pm and 9 pm but they vary, so check from locals. Note that you can only enter this street if you visit some restaurant along side the tracks, but that’s fine and worth the experience.

Also From Hanoi, we ventured to the breathtaking Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its emerald waters and towering limestone islands. Do try and visit the lesser known Sun World Queen Cable Car. If you are not keen on amusement park rides (ad are without children) then you may prefer taking a taxi across to Linh Thong Temple and buying a one way cable car tickets from that sides to return. You can still do the Ferris wheel (it overlooks the entire bay) and some rides on the other end before taking the Cable car. It is the largest capacity car (as big as a bus) and quite interesting as it offers great views across the ocean. (See Pics below),

The Serenity of Ninh Binh and Da Nang

Next, we explored the serene landscapes of Ninh Binh, often referred to as “Ha Long Bay on land”. At Ninh Binh avoid Mua caves in case you have problems climbing but if you do go there you can get some amazing panoramic views. You must visit the Trang an Ancient temple and take a bamboo boat ride at Tam Coc bich dong. Try to go for boat rides early (and avoid weekends) else you will end up wasting hours standing in a queue. For Ninh Binh you can take a day tour from Hanoi.

Our journey continued to Da Nang, our base for day trips to the historic cities of Hue and Hoi An, and the archaeological site of My Son. Da Nang is also home to the majestic Lady Buddha statue and the sacred Kuan Yin pagoda, symbols of Vietnam’s deep-rooted Buddhist traditions. Na Dang beach is one of the best and laced with a number of restaurants offering fine dining experience in sea food. Do not miss out the walk around the Dragon Bridge and Tiger Bridge over the River Hàn with a stop over at Han Market.

The Vibrancy of Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City

Our fast trip to Dalat from the coastal city of Nha Trang was a refreshing experience. The city of Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon, was our final stop. Here, we delved into Vietnam’s recent history with visits to the Chu Chi tunnels and the Mekong Delta. Do not miss out the war remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh AND try to visit this before visiting the Chu-Chi tunnels to get a better perspective.

The Buddhist Connection

Throughout our journey, we were constantly reminded of Vietnam’s strong Buddhist connection. The numerous pagodas scattered across the country, the towering statue of Lady Buddha in Da Nang, and the reverence for Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, all speak volumes about the spiritual depth of this nation.

The Famous Cable cars

A highlight of our trip was undoubtedly the numerous cable cars and the ride at Ha Long on the world’s longest cable car over the ocean at Sun World. Also Vinpearl: a lesser known cable car at Nha Trang These unique experiences offer stunning panoramic views of the coastline and the vast ocean, a fitting end to our magical journey through Vietnam. The Bana Hills Cable car gives a beautiful view of the Valley.

In conclusion, our journey through Vietnam was a perfect blend of cultural immersion, historical exploration, and natural beauty. The courteous and helpful nature of the Vietnamese people added to the charm of this enchanting country, making our trip truly magical.

The Magic of Vietnam

Magic of Vietnam is a collection of pictures of all the places visited in this beautiful country. Every corner surprised me – from the bustling street food stalls of Hanoi to the serenity of Ha Long Bay’s emerald waters. Each day was a beautiful tapestry woven with ancient temples in Hue, vibrant markets in Hoi An, and the lush rice terraces of Sapa. But the true magic of Vietnam resided in its people. Their warm smiles and genuine hospitality made me feel welcome everywhere I went. Whether it was a shopkeeper patiently explaining the intricacies of silk lanterns or a local sharing their delicious homemade dish, the kindness of Vietnamese people left a lasting impression on me. This trip wasn’t just about ticking off tourist destinations; it was about experiencing a rich culture and connecting with its soul.

Given below are the Magic of Vietnam pictures of each place that will always be in fond memories.

HANOI (27th Feb – 29th Feb)
HA LONG (29th Feb-02 Mar)
HANOI (02 Mar)
NINH BINH (03 Mar)
DA NANG- HOI AN- MY SON (04 Mar-08 Mar)
NHA TRANG – DA LAT (08 Mar-11 Mar)
HO CHI MINH – MEKONG(11 Mar- 14 Mar)