Vietnam by train

With its fascinating history, vibrant cities, stunning views and delicious food, Vietnam is a traveller’s dream from top to bottom (or bottom to top in my case). I had a 30 day visa and intended to use every moment possible to explore this incredible county. To get around I pretty much exclusively used Vietnam’s brilliant trains, which was a fantastic way to see the country. Check the video below for a two minute overview or read on for my thoughts on the places I saw.

Ho Chi Minh City

Bikes, beer and pho. Many don’t like this part of the country but I thought it was the perfect place to start and I really enjoyed my days there. Motorbikes dominate the city but the food is good, along with the beers and it’s a great launchpad to explore places like he Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi Tunnels. Read more.

Nah Trang

Avoid this concrete jungle, it’s a hole. The worst place for food during the entire eight months I spent off work. I threw beer at the situation and jumped on the next train as soon as I could.

Quy Nhon

I had been warned that Vietnam isn’t a really county of beaches, especially compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, so it was a very pleasant surprise to find this stunner about half an hour away from Quy Nhon. Even my taxi bike driver didn’t know it’s location but driving along the cliffs overlooking the blue seas below was incredible and a really pick me up after the dirt of Nah Trang. There were hardly any foreign tourists in the town as well and the pho was sublime. Top marks.

Hoi An

Ahh, Hoi An. What a beauty. One of my favourite places that I visited in Asia. It’s ancient core still incredibly well preserved with a range of architectural influences. The centre of the town is car free and is packed with cafes, restaurants and craft shops. When dusk falls the lanterns light up through the streets and the canal has hundreds of small boats with candles released which look even prettier after a few of the 12p beers on offer nearby. Just down the road is a decent beach too. I spent five nights here and could have stayed another five, easily. I also had a suit tailored for me and shipped back to the UK which felt very decadent. Check out Hill Station Restaurant for some delicious food and chilled ambience, the perfect place to edit the many photos you’ll have taken around Hoi An.

My very friendly tailors

Hue

I stopped off at the Imperial City, which has one of the biggest Vietnam flags I’ve ever seen(!), but with only 24 hours here I didn’t get a chance to explore too much. The Citadel is a truly impressive, and well kept, series of buildings though with a huge amount of history at every turn and is well worth a visit.

Ninh Binh

Strictly I stayed just down the road in Tam Coc, which was a truly brilliant decision, but this is the biggest nearby town which everyone seems to know. Tam Coc isn’t much in itself but consists of a boating lake, which connects to some stunning rivers that flow underneath the limestone mountains, and is the perfect place to explore the top of these mountains as well. The boating was excellent with my guide using their feet to row us onwards and the views from the top of the mountains were incredible too. Well worth the 500 steps and 20 litres of sweat.

Halong Bay

The limestone rocks surrounded by turquoise waters is one of the most famous images of Vietnam and it is stunning. I had a two day trip with my mate, Luke (check out his excellent blog), and it was a lot of fun. Kayaking, cooking, beer drinking, swimming and chilling. An excellent way to showcase my GoPro lifestyle. The only downside is that there are so many boats taking tourists around and this had let to the water being a little bit grimey, which is obviously a shame. I’d certainly consider it a ‘must-see’ though.

Sa Pa

This stunning town, high up in the mountains of northern Vietnam, is the perfect place to base yourself whilst you do hikes through the paddy fields in the valleys below. Whilst I was there the rain was incessant but I still managed to explore and have a guided walk led someone from the Sapa Sisters, a social enterprise that employs women from the local villages to be guides. The cable car to the top of the mountain was superb and I assume the views are equally good from the summit but thick fog meant I could barely see more than five feet in front of me. Don’t be put off by the overnight train to get there, the town it’s surroundings are a gem.

Hanoi

The capital of Vietnam and my last stop in this fantastic country. In just a couple of days I packed in plenty; a food tour, botanical gardens, train street, visiting the lake with the crashed B52 bomber, too much bia hoi, a meeting with the Blue Dragons charity and put the world to rights at a street corner bar with an Australian guy. The city is busy but not on the same level as HCMC and I avoided the backpacker places as much as I could. I was lucky to have Luke to show me around a bit too and it was the perfect place to finish my Vietnam adventure.

So there we have it, 30 days in Vietnam. As you can probably tell I absolutely loved the place and doing the length of the country by train was brilliant. Having the opportunity to read I will, without doubt, be back in this country at some point.