Xin Chao, everyone!
It’s November already, and the next thing you know you’ll get yourself busy picking presents for your beloved ones while serenading Christmas songs. Two years ago, this time of the year I was busy preparing myself for the trip that I had been waiting for my whole life: a 2-week trip to Vietnam.
In case you didn’t know, back in my flying day when I was based in Saudi Arabia, I was so tired of people trying to get friendly with me when it comes to nationality so I had to pretend that I was Vietnamese just to avoid the small talks. And for exactly the same reason, I just had to go there so I did. 😀
Fast forward to today, I heard VietJet Air will start their CGK-SGN route starting this December so besides the fact that I really want to go back there, I also want to share my two cents for those of you who are planning to go to Vietnam yet you don’t know what to do.
1. Get yourself a Nguyen friend.
As I mentioned here, there is an inside joke about Vietnam being Nguyen land for maybe 40% of Vietnamese people have Nguyen as their last name. Like, everybody knows at least a Nguyen.
Okay, maybe not everybody because I barely had any Vietnamese friend when I came to Vietnam two years ago.
Clearly, I didn’t know any Nguyen back then so veni, vidi, vici… I came, I saw, I conquered a Nguyen as a friend. Even friends, in plural. 😛So, half of the people in the picture have Nguyen as a part of their name. And did you know? Nguyen isn’t pronounced like you think it is, and even though they told me how to pronounce it, I can’t even remember how to do it now that I think about it? *useless statement 😛
I mean, you’re gonna meet a lot of Nguyen in the land of Uncle Ho so don’t worry!
Wait, now that I mentioned it, even Ho Chi Minh’s real name actually has Nguyen, because he was born as Nguyen Sinh Cung. Are you mad? Now we all know a Nguyen. 😉
2. Enjoy Ca Phe Sua Da!
There’s this not-so-fun fact behind Vietnamese coffee in Indonesia. Why? Because there was a big case of murder involving cyanide-poisoned Vietnamese coffee at some high-end cafe in Jakarta.
So the victim killed in the incident, Mirna, was the one who recommended the cafe as according to her, Vietnamese iced coffee in the cafe was freaking delicious.
With all my respect to the late Mirna, I tried their Vietnamese iced coffee in the cafe and it wasn’t even close as good as the one in Vietnam. In fact, I’ve never tried any good Vietnamese iced coffee here in Indonesia. 🙁
I’m not so much of a coffee drinker, but I agree that drinking Vietnamese iced coffee, or ca phe sua da, is like a custom for people in Vietnam. And their iced coffee is darn addictive! 😀Here’s a picture of me and the owner of Le Cafe in Hue, a city in Central Vietnam. This guy was so excited when he found out that I’m from Bandung. So excited that he started searching ‘kecapi suling’ on Youtube and played the video when I was here. Imagine meeting someone accidentally and he tried so hard to make you feel like home! 😉
I was talking to the guy that I went out with in Ho Chi Minh City, and we both agree that you can never enjoy iced coffee as much as when you’re in Vietnam.
3. Pretend like a jetsetter through Halong Bay cruise.
Well, for those of you who got into my blog after some research about traveling in Vietnam, I know this is not the only post that would recommend you for Halong Bay cruise. In fact, maybe my blog is a millionth page that recommends you to do this.
So, the cons of doing Halong Bay cruise is that you can either get the best or the worst kind of experience. First of all, it’s gonna be so touristy. And second of all, some boat has bad condition so you may find it disappointing.
Lucky for me, because I got an excellent experience on doing Halong Bay cruise for 2 days and 1 night. It was a bit pricey compared to other expenses, but for me it was all worth the experience! 😉Annam Junk, the boat where I stayed in for 2 days and 1 night during my Halong Bay Cruise.
Personally, I think 2 days and 1 night tour is the best option you can take for Halong Bay. In 2 days, most of the itineraries offered by travel agent are quite similar. It covered Surprising Cave, Ti Top Island, cooking class as well as canoeing. 😀
And although I chose the more pricey one for this one, you actually have a lot of options to experience Halong Bay on budget.
4. Trekking in Sa Pa with a Group of Black Hmong Ladies.
If you’re up for a little bit of adventure, then I would recommend you a trekking tour in Sa Pa.
As you know, I’m not much of a hiker or anything like that because I barely have any clothes or shoes that are appropriate to wear in the slippery areas, let alone trekking. But then I forced myself to try something new in order to find out more about the culture in the village in Sa Pa, including the life of Black Hmong in general.
Hmong is an indigenous people in Asia. Those who are currently resided in some parts of Sa Pa in the Northern Vietnam, they immigrated from China approximately 300 years ago with their trademark costume as they are famous for making cloth from hemp and dying it a deep indigo blue.Me and Lily, a Black Hmong lady who was my personal guide during my trekking tour.
The fun fact is that around Sa Pa, you will probably see more Black Hmong women than the men. It’s real, to the point you start thinking whether this is a ladies’ country. 😉
For the trekking tour itself, you will find two options: the private and group tour. The last time, I joined in the group tour as I was traveling solo and the price was so expensive
for my pocket to have myself a private tour.
However, even in the group tour, you’d get this ‘illegal’ private guide who’s a Black Hmong lady that helped you throughout the journey.
The thing is that the route was a hard one and you really could use some help from these ladies, so you got no choice to pay them more. So in total, you would pay almost the same as the price for a private tour.
So for this, I would suggest you to just choose the private tour at once. Otherwise, if you’re probably more into the off-beaten path, you can also find the similar experience in Ha Giang. Are you into some adventure? Check out this Ha Giang Extreme Motorbike Loop! 🙂
5. Feel the joy of lantern in the ancient city of Hoi An.
Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so don’t be too surprised if you may find it a bit way too touristy. Why did I tell you this? Because that’s what I felt when I arrived in Hoi An.
Visiting Hoi An was actually out of my original plan, but after I met Zooey and Melisa, I seriously considered Hoi An after Hue to the point that I actually dropped myself to Hoi An the next day. 🙂The town is full of light at night. As well as crowded with people. It’s bittersweet. Hmm.
However, the good thing about this town is that it’s a bicycle-friendly town so you can actually get anywhere by bike. I rented a bike during my stay there and it was fun, unless it was raining! 🙁
And also, you can find a lot of high-quality tailor in Hoi An as far as I know. And their rate is so affordable that I know some of my friends actually tailored their wedding dress in Hoi An.
6. Teaching English in Vietnam.
When I was in Vietnam, I met so many people who teach English as a second language in Vietnam. To name a few, there was this guy called Sean that I accidentally met in this art gallery somewhere in Sa Pa. Also, there was Stephanie who’s recently moved to Edinburgh to study her master’s degree.
I met Stephanie and her friend, Melinda during the trekking tour in Sa Pa. She taught English in Hanoi for around a year, while Melinda was studying in Incheon.
After I spoke to Stephanie, I just found out that the demand for English teacher there is quite high!Stephanie, me and Melinda.
As I’m so sure you’ll love Vietnam and you’d probably like the idea of staying there for quite some time, I think teaching English in Vietnam can be a great option to start with. You can experience living like a local as well as earning money out of it! 🙂
The requirement is quite simple, and the demand is high so why not trying your luck for this? If you’re interested to learn more about teaching English in Vietnam, you can also check more details here.
7. For those of you history junkie, just know that museum-hopping in Vietnam is a thing!
I mean, we all have to question your life in general if you haven’t heard anything about Vietnam War.
Long story short, Vietnam War is probably one of the reasons that attract tourists to visit Vietnam. So many things happened during the war, so many lives lost and so many lessons learned for the world.
What’s a better way to learn what happened if not through museum visit?Some statistics throughout Vietnam War, taken from one of the frames displayed in War Remnants Museum.
My advice would be, well… If possible, avoid going alone when you’re planning to visit War Remnants Museum.
Because I was the first visitor entering the museum area after their lunch break at 1PM, and the next thing I knew, I was alone and screaming so loud because I was so shocked seeing some random statue in the victims of war area. :/
Also, after seeing some pictures about Agent Orange, I was so upset to the point I had to go to the toilet just to cry myself out. No one deserves something like this. Not Vietnamese, not anyone. 🙁When I became a man, I put away children things.
Apart from museum-hopping, you can also join in DMZ tour like this.
8. Take a short course with a chance to travel when you’re free from the course.
The idea of this was taken from Aaron, the guy that I went out with in Saigon.
So he was taking German class in Saigon for a few reasons: (1) The course was cheaper compared to Goethe Institut in other countries. (2) It’s an intensive course so despite the tight schedule, he can always use the weekend to explore more about the countries. (3) He wants to fulfill his journey in Asia before he’s heading out to Europe for his master’s degree.
And the idea was actually brilliant! 🙂Learn for your life!
I think you can get 3 things all at once by taking a short course in the country. Not only that you’ll gain the skill throughout the course, but you’ll also get a chance to know more about the culture as well as explore the country. 🙂
9. A Road Trip from the North to the South!
Yes, I would totally recommend the road trip from the North Vietnam to the South, especially in this time of the year!
I arrived in Hanoi on Christmas Eve 2 years ago and left from Ho Chi Minh City on the 10th of January. You know what I got from this road trip? Not only that I could feel the difference between the ‘communist’ and ‘capitalist’ part of the country, but also the weather transition. 😀
This time of the year, the northern part of Vietnam is approaching winter, while the southern area like Ho Chi Minh City is still as humid as it can be. I mean, when else can you feel winter and summer just a few days apart?
I mean, you can join some tour activities from Tam Coc Mua Cave Tour to Chu Chi Tunnels. Aren’t they great?!The photo I took from my bus around Nha Trang, when I was on the way to Ho Chi Minh City from Hoi An.
And for exactly the same reason, I suppose you need to double up the clothes you pack. Why? Because for this trip, I actually packed various kind of clothes from hotpants to my winter coat. It’s worth the checked-in baggage though! 😛
So, ready to explore the Nguyen land? I miss this country and Vietnamese iced coffee so much that I might consider taking the TEFL course after I finish my therapy session.
Okay, I think that’s enough for now… Stay safe and cheerio! 😉