Epic Vietnam in 14 days
Take 14 days to experience the real Vietnam by avoiding the obvious, getting off the beaten track and leveraging local knowledge.
Book an Air New Zealand one-way fare to Ho Chi Minh City, catch domestic flights within Vietnam, then continue your adventure in neighbouring Laos or Cambodia.
Days 1 to 5: Ho Chi Minh City
Air New Zealand flies non-stop to Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 24 June to 25 October. Accommodation choices are vast, but for convenience it makes sense to find a base in District 3. Then you'll be handy to the edgy charms of alley art, street food, war relics, motorbike tours and local-style live entertainment. Once you've mastered Ho Chi Minh City, it's time for a country break with a few days of biking and boating on the Mekong Delta.
Things to see and do in Ho Chi Minh City
- Take a food tour on the back of a local's motorbike and get an inside view of Ho Chi Minh City's insane traffic
- Discover District 5, the old Chinatown area of the city, to find Binh Tay Market, shabby-chic colonial architecture, temples and churches
- Immerse yourself in the street drinking scene along Pham Ngu Lao in District 3, the backpacker hub of the city
- Check out the Reunification Palace, a classic piece of retro mid-century architecture
- Visit apartment cafés - quirky eateries within retro apartment blocks that were originally built to house military personnel
- Drink cà phê trứng, which is coffee topped with a foaming mix of egg yolks, sugar and condensed milk
- Shop in Le Cong Kieu Street for antiques - some legitimate, others not so
- Visit the 3A Alternative Art Area to see Asian street art at its most provocative
- Leave the city for two or three days and explore the Mekong Delta on a boat and cycling trip, staying in homestay accommodation, eating like a local and seeing things that regular tourists never see
Days 5 to 8: Danang and Hoi An
An 80-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City, Danang is the closest airport to the miraculous Marble Mountains, the heritage town of Hoi An, hill tribes, Ho Chi Minh trails, US war bases and much more. This region saw a lot of action during the Vietnam War; it was where US troops first landed and became something of an American city for almost a decade. Today Danang is Vietnam's third-largest city and many travellers reckon it's number one for authentic adventures.
Things to see and do in Danang and Hoi An
- Motorcycle tours are a Danang speciality. They come in all flavours and sizes, so check out the itineraries and reviews before you commit
- Get to grips with the machines of war at Zone 5 Military Museum. Its outdoor display area houses authentic aircraft, tanks and weapons used during the French and American wars
- Explore the Marble Mountains, which are riddled with caves, tunnels and Buddhist shrines
- Embark on a walking tour of Danang, guided by food-obsessed locals
- Look for douc langurs (monkeys) on the Son Tra Peninsula, a rainforest that juts out into the sea
- Conquer the spectacular Hai Van Pass on a scooter - 21km of whopping coastal views
- Devote a day of your life to the pursuit of culinary skills in Hoi An. Choose an experience that involves market shopping, coconut boats and village life
- Head off into the Hoi An countryside on a self-guided mountain bike adventure, staying in village guesthouses and homestays
Days 8 to 14: Hanoi, Bai Tu Long, Lao Cai
An easy 80-minute flight from Danang, Hanoi is Asian urban chaos at its most entertaining. There's always something demanding a double take - a scooter transporting a fridge, old men playing checkers on the pavement, pet monkeys, grandmas, babies, people getting haircuts in the street, early-morning sidewalk badminton, green-uniformed policeman and squillions of ancient powerlines. When it all becomes too much, head north to Sapa or east to Bai Tu Long.
Things to see and do in Hanoi, Bai Tu Long, Lao Cai
- Check out the notorious 'Hanoi Hilton', where American Senator John McCain and his fellow pilots were imprisoned; pictures of their days here are on display
- Take a street food tour with high-school kids - they'll practice their English on you while you extract Hanoi stories from them
- Get lost in the Old Quarter, eating, drinking and shopping as you go
- Visit the Vietnamese Women's Museum, which pursues three themes - history, family and fashion
- Eat worm cakes and drink weasel poo coffee
- Feast on the food and music scene at the Hanoi Social Club, where anything can happen
- Watch a water puppet performance, where puppets dance over a liquid stage
- Pay your respects at the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and museum.
- Take a side trip to spectacular Bai Tu Long Bay, which is way less crowded and touristy than Halong Bay
- Go trekking with Hmong highlanders through the rice paddies in the Sapa area, north-west of Hanoi