Traveling 3 weeks Relaxed in Vietnam

Traveling to Vietnam
Saigon International Airport, Vietnam


In the past weeks you have (might) been following my footsteps while traveling 3 weeks Relaxed in Vietnam. My journey in Vietnam started in Hanoi and ended in Hoi Chi Min City. And I did visit all the highlight of Vietnam like Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Hue, the famous tunnels from the Vietnam War, the Mekong Delta and finally Saigon. In hindsight the distance traveling from Hanoi to Saigon is huge and sometimes I did get the feeling that I was just traveling to get to Saigon. While it should be about the journey, not the distance travelled. So I would advice to just visit North or South Vietnam and travel more intensive in that area. Or take the train or airplane and skip a big part from going from North to South.

The Route

Route from Hanoi to Phan Thiet in Google Maps

I started in Hanoi and travelled via Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, Dong Hoi, Hue, Hoi An, Qui Nhon, Nha Thrang, Phan Thiet to Saigon. See Route Hanoi 2 Phan Thiet on Google Maps. From Phan Thiet I travelled to Saigon and made the next day a day-trip to the famous Cu Chi tunnels and the Holy Temple of the Cao Dai religion. See Route from Phan Thiet to Saigon and day-trip. The next day I made a 2 days / 1 night trip to Ban Tre & Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. See Route Saigon 2 Ban Tre & Can Tho.

That looks like a wonderful route to travel over land, but be aware that traveling over land in Vietnam takes much more time as you might think. Even without stops a distance of 200km could take you 5 hours! And without side-trips going from Hanoi to Saigon is already 1729km!! So my personal recommendation would be to travel both the north & south intensive but do not travel all the way over land. Take the train or fly a part of it. Or take at least 2 months to explore the all route from north to south.

Route from Phan Thiet to Saigon and day-trip
Route from Saigon to Ban Tre & Can Tho

Road & Traffic wise

I am used to weird traffic in Thailand but traffic in Vietnam is of a total different level. I will try to explain. First of all most of the highways are not that good & safe. Secondly the highways are used by all people, that includes 1000's of scooters, trucks, busses, people walking, etc. Thirdly the Vietnamese people are not very defensive or friendly drivers when on the road. The way of handeling traffic is very different as you might be used to. You would say the traffic is as weird and dangerous as in Thailand? Well yes but different and I would say even more dangerous (Vietnam is very high on the ranks of the most deadly road accidents worldwide).

Lets give you an example. We are driving on the left lane with in front of us a truck and behind us a car. Then a another big bus is passing us on the right side while loudly blowing his horn. That while at the same moment there are scooters driving on the total right side of the road. So this passing bus is at full speed overtaking us (left of him) and the scooters (on the right of him). On both sides is just about 50cm space for errors. Situations like this also happend when we were on the right lane waiting for traffic light at a big intersection. Another bus or truck is just blasting pass us while blowing his horn. Like "Out of the way, I am not stopping!".

The weird thing is after driving about 2000km in Vietnam I did actually only saw 2 small scooter accidents and 1 time a total burnt out bus. And I saw only about 3 times a close-encounter when someone else was overtaking us. Still I would not like to ride my motorbike in Vietnam. Actually I saw only in Saigon big motorbikes. None at all along the way traveling from Hanoi to Saigon.

Hotel & Restaurant wise

OK here I am comparing to hotels & restaurants in Thailand. Wow what a difference! Service of staff was so much better and professional. In all of the 12 hotels I stayed in while traveling 3 weeks in Vietnam all the staff was friendly and service minded. And prepared for their job. Many hotels in Thailand could learn here something.

Lets give you an example. I arrived at my hotel in Hanoi very late in the evening. When I am walking in the lobby I am greeted by the Front Office Manager, the bell boy takes my bag "Mr. XXX ?". He was expecting me and did know my name. Of course there was a reason .... they had a room problem as some guests did not check-out due to an accident. This was clearly explained to me and he asked me if I could stay for 1 night in the hotel next door? No problem, my bag was brought to my room in the other hotel where I had an ungraded room. But as I had not been eating dinner yet I asked for a restaurant. The FO manager, on his way home, brought me to a nearby restaurant. Breakfast the next day was served in my own hotel and on request they picked up my luggage from the hotel next door to my new room.

OK I did never stay in cheap guesthouses but also not in 5 star hotels, but the service was always like a 5 star hotel. And this same service was in most restaurants. And the the quality of hotels in relation to the price .... I was truly amazed about the very good hotels (good rooms, good location, good breakfast) in compare to the costs of the hotels. I think in Thailand would have to pay double to get that quality and service.

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