Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh - A 15 Day Tour

It was around in December, right before Christmas when I got a message from my cousin Chad that him and his wife Ivy wanted to meet me somewhere in the world. After a few back-n-forth messages we decided that we'd meet in Vietnam. A few more messages with Ivy and we carved out a travel itinerary that started in the northern capital of Hanoi and ended in the southern city of Ho Chi Minh. The two cities were over a thousand miles away and we had 15 days to do it. It was an aggressive timeline for any time of year, but Chad and Ivy's arrival date coincide with Tet, which made our schedule all the more challenging. Here's a 15 day account of our whirlwind tour of Vietnam. 

Day 1, 2 - Hanoi

My cousin Chad and his wife Ivy. This picture was actually taken at the end of our trip, but it's a great intro photo. 

My cousin Chad and his wife Ivy. This picture was actually taken at the end of our trip, but it's a great intro photo. 

After a 20+ hour flight from Chicago and completely deleting a day of their life from the time change, they arrived just in time for the Tet celebration. 

After a 20+ hour flight from Chicago and completely deleting a day of their life from the time change, they arrived just in time for the Tet celebration. 

After a little recon, we sniffed out a western style hotel that was playing Super Bowl 50. At 7:30 in the morning we were in Hanoi, Vietnam enjoying eggs benedict, bloody Marys, and watching Payton Manning's last game.  

After a little recon, we sniffed out a western style hotel that was playing Super Bowl 50. At 7:30 in the morning we were in Hanoi, Vietnam enjoying eggs benedict, bloody Marys, and watching Payton Manning's last game.  

Hanoi barber. 

Hanoi barber. 

Hot pot, cheap plastic seats, Bia Sigon, and good company. Ahhh... Vietnam. 

Hot pot, cheap plastic seats, Bia Sigon, and good company. Ahhh... Vietnam. 

Day 3 - Ha Long Bay Crusie

HLB selfie. 

HLB selfie. 

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site. With its limestone towers shooting up out of the South China sea, you can see why. 

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site. With its limestone towers shooting up out of the South China sea, you can see why. 

Day 4 - Back to Hanoi

There maybe more Cafés in Hanoi than in Paris.  The coffee in Vietnam is some of my favorite. It's slightly sweet and chocolatey. You can get it many different ways, but usually iced, either black ( cà phê phin ) or with sweetened condensed milk ( Cà phê sữa da ).    Quick fact: Vietnam is the worlds second leading exporter of coffee. 

There maybe more Cafés in Hanoi than in Paris.  The coffee in Vietnam is some of my favorite. It's slightly sweet and chocolatey. You can get it many different ways, but usually iced, either black (cà phê phin) or with sweetened condensed milk (Cà phê sữa da).  

Quick fact: Vietnam is the worlds second leading exporter of coffee. 

Bia Hoi. It's fresh, it's local, and probably the cheapest beer in the world. I think one 12oz glass cost around 13,00 dong (60 cents USD). 

Bia Hoi. It's fresh, it's local, and probably the cheapest beer in the world. I think one 12oz glass cost around 13,00 dong (60 cents USD). 

Just another day in Hanoi. Everyone in Vietnam seems to be an entrepreneur. 

Just another day in Hanoi. Everyone in Vietnam seems to be an entrepreneur. 

Day 5 - Overnight Train to Hué

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Day 6 - Hué

Pictured above is of the Citadel. It's surrounded by a moat and this giant brick wall. It was the imperial city of the Nguyen Dynasty where emperors use to rule the region.  It use to be the capital city of Vietnam until they moved it to Hanoi in 1945. 

Pictured above is of the Citadel. It's surrounded by a moat and this giant brick wall. It was the imperial city of the Nguyen Dynasty where emperors use to rule the region.  It use to be the capital city of Vietnam until they moved it to Hanoi in 1945. 

Tu Duc Tomb. It was constructed in 1864-1867 and served as the second imperial city. It's such a peaceful place where you can't help but to reflect on the past. 

Tu Duc Tomb. It was constructed in 1864-1867 and served as the second imperial city. It's such a peaceful place where you can't help but to reflect on the past. 

Hué is known for having some of the best food in Vietnam. No, this is not pho, it's bun rieu (noodles with tomato broth and crab). 

Hué is known for having some of the best food in Vietnam. No, this is not pho, it's bun rieu (noodles with tomato broth and crab). 

Hué street food. Meat on a stick anyone?

Hué street food. Meat on a stick anyone?

Hué was one of the major battle grounds of the Tet Offensive. It was a series of surprise attacks launched by the North Vietnamese with the cloak of the Tet holiday. Pictured above is small portion of a ceiling mural from a bar in Hué.. 

Hué was one of the major battle grounds of the Tet Offensive. It was a series of surprise attacks launched by the North Vietnamese with the cloak of the Tet holiday. Pictured above is small portion of a ceiling mural from a bar in Hué.. 

Day 7- Overnight Train to Nah Trang   

Being in Vietnam a week before and on the day of Tet was a unique experience. The energy level of the country is hard to explain. However, after the actual day of celebration everything shuts down and everyone travels home to visit their families. I would not recommend planing a trip to Vietnam after the day of Tet. Trains will be packed and stores will be shut down for up to a week after the holiday. 

Being in Vietnam a week before and on the day of Tet was a unique experience. The energy level of the country is hard to explain. However, after the actual day of celebration everything shuts down and everyone travels home to visit their families. I would not recommend planing a trip to Vietnam after the day of Tet. Trains will be packed and stores will be shut down for up to a week after the holiday. 

Day 8, 9, 10 - Nah Trang

The beach! Nah Trang is know for it's beaches and cheap diving. We dedicated a full day here. 

The beach! Nah Trang is know for it's beaches and cheap diving. We dedicated a full day here. 

Po Nagar hindu temple. 

Po Nagar hindu temple. 

Nah Trang, also known as little Russia. 90% of the tourist, and bartenders, here seem to be Russian. Pictured above is Chad's Russian doppelganger.  

Nah Trang, also known as little Russia. 90% of the tourist, and bartenders, here seem to be Russian. Pictured above is Chad's Russian doppelganger.  

Nah Trang charcoal salesman.  

Nah Trang charcoal salesman.  

Small fishing neighborhood within Nah Trang. 

Small fishing neighborhood within Nah Trang. 

Day 11, 12, 13 - Mũi Né

Our little motorcycle gang. We took a full day and toured the coast of Mūi Né.  If you live in Vietnam, or are traveling there, riding a motorbike is a must. There's a population of 90 million and 37 million registered motorbikes. 

Sorry for the sound quality in the video. The wind was brutal on the dunes. I'm still picking granules of sand out of my cameras. 

Poz-Gambill Motorcycle Club. 

Poz-Gambill Motorcycle Club. 

Small fishermen boats, South China Sea. 

Small fishermen boats, South China Sea. 

Tourists trying to get the perfect "jumping" shot with the sunset. 

Tourists trying to get the perfect "jumping" shot with the sunset. 

Chad and Ivy taking in the views. 

Chad and Ivy taking in the views. 

Day 14, 15 - Ho Chi Minh

Chad and I at the War Remnants Museum. It's one of the most difficult museums to walk through. It's hard to image that the Vietnam war happened in a country we are now enjoying to travel through. 

Chad and I at the War Remnants Museum. It's one of the most difficult museums to walk through. It's hard to image that the Vietnam war happened in a country we are now enjoying to travel through. 

The largest post office I've ever been to. 

The largest post office I've ever been to. 

The Lunch Lady. Another Bourdain recommendation in the north of Ho Chi Minh. 

The Lunch Lady. Another Bourdain recommendation in the north of Ho Chi Minh. 

Ivy getting her tourist pic on. 

Ivy getting her tourist pic on. 

Hotel Majestic. An old French colonial style hotel on the Sigon River. 

Hotel Majestic. An old French colonial style hotel on the Sigon River. 

A parting shot. You guys made a huge effort to join me! Thanks for the company in Vietnam. 

A parting shot. You guys made a huge effort to join me! Thanks for the company in Vietnam.