It takes a special kind of passion to fully appreciate Vietnam in all it’s glory.
The crowd. Heat. Noise. Traffic. (God! The Bikes!).
The amazing people. Glorious food. Impeccable fashion. All of this in addition to the natural beauty and perhaps some of the best coffee in the world.
After you’re tired of shopping and haggling with local vendors, getting inspired and enthralled by the countless stories about the culture, wandering about the millions of labyrinthine bylanes (and if you aren’t knocked down by a two-wheeler in the process), you realise what a big part food plays in the lives of the people here.
Vietnam believes that there’s nothing that can’t be solved with a big bowl of steaming, hot Pho.
As I munched my way through this gorgeous country, I wouldn’t say they’re too wrong either.
Ho Chi Minh City
Begin your trip on a high with HCMC.
The city is all lights and chaos coupled with splendid architecture and a serious love for shopping. Valentinos for 2000 bucks anyone? (Copies, ofcourse!)
HCMC is where you’d want to get your party on with the most trendy rooftop bars in the country.
It’s also home to some ‘really wakes you up’ coffee.
Start your day with a hot cup of coffee at L’Usine. This cute café is located in the middle of all the hustle and bustle and has intense drip coffee on offer. If you are a coffee novice (Like I was), their iced coffee can be enjoyed with delicious apple pie too.
It’s a bit pricey but it’s perfect for a long, relaxed cuppa to energise yourself. (Psst… Or if you’re nursing a hangover)
Another great spot is Café Runam for their creamy, mellow Egg Coffee. It’s subtle and delicious.
It helps that the café is postcard-pretty and they have amazing cheesecakes as well!
For something more substantial, try Hoa Tuc. Their Shrimp Pancakes are gorgeous and their Daiquiris, fresh and delicious.
They also cater to vegetarians and vegans. So if you’re not a carniw(h)ore, you know where to go.
What not to miss? –> Shop till you drop at Saigon Square, Take a trip to Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta for a taste of Vietnamese history
Our second stop at Vietnam was the beautiful preserved town of Hoi An. Stuck in a time warp of sorts, you really can’t help but fall in love with the charm of the place.
Grab a cup of smooth black coffee at Hoi An Roastery before your journey begins.
Hoi An is best known for custom made suits and shoes. The most gorgeous leather shoes can be made specially for you for a small price and can be delivered to your hotel the next day. I dare you to stop yourself from getting atleast one!
After walking about like a bunch of nomads, we finally stopped for a quick Banh Mi fix at Madam Kanh. Rightly called ‘Banh Mi Queen’, she was like a magician creating something spectacular out of seemingly nothing.
Once you’re done getting pretty handmade notebooks and jaw-dropping paintings at practically throw-away prices, get some herbal tea to rejuvenate yourself from one of the street stalls.
What not to miss –> The Water Puppet show, custom-made shoes
If you are a beach bum like yours truly, Danang provides the perfect escape.
Relax all day on the pristine beaches with the only worry being whether the tide would get too close to your chair.
If you’re too tired with all the ‘doing nothing’, head over to Draft Beer for your beer and fried food fix. Get their surprisingly light fried noodles with their Saigon Beer for a happy, happy meal.
Walk a little further away from the beach and reach Cloud Garden for some caffeinated elixir. With a wide range of shakes and smoothies and an ambience that makes it difficult to leave, it’s the perfect spot for your evening coffee.
What not to miss –> Trip to Ba Na Hills for the spectacular view from the cable car
Our last destination was Hanoi. This capital city is home to some of the most splendid french architecture and mind-blowing street food.
Almost as if it’s kept itself hidden from the outside world, Hanoi offers you an old-school experience like no other.
First stop, Cong Cafe for their unbelievable Iced Coconut Coffee. It’s milky, icy, coconutty goodness in a cup. Whatever you do, do NOT miss this!
Next up is a Banh Mi from Banh Mi 25. It’s the best kind of wholesome, quick and hearty meal you can get. Take the sandwich to go and enjoy it by the Hoan Kiem Lake whilst watching the surreal sunset.
As you walk around Old Quarter and take in all the sounds and smells, do not forget to make a stop at Hanoi Social Club. Situated in a tiny, nondescript lane, the place is all heart and deliciousness. It won’t serve you classic Vietnamese food, but it does offer wholesome and delicious meals. Their Coconut Curry is something I’d want on every rainy night and their Falafel and Avocado Sandwich is the perfect quick hunger fix. Special mention to their on point iced coffee.
What not to miss? –> Kayaking at Halong Bay
To say that Vietnam is beautiful is an understatement.
Sure you’ll have hiccups along the way. To survive here you’ll need to know the intricate art of bargaining and the language barrier exists almost everywhere. No, not everybody’s ‘out to get you’ and no, it’s ‘not all about the war’. It’s so much more.
My trip couldn’t cover nearly enough of what Vietnam has to offer. It’s humbling and overwhelming to see so much warmth and love from people here expecting nothing!
Thank You Vietnam. Till we meet again….