After we visited Hanoi and Ha Long Bay we had a taster for Vietnam that we weren’t finished with. We were keen to go back and couldn’t wait until next year. We got lucky, again, and found some budget flights to suit our next holiday dates.
We didn’t really have a plan of what we wanted to do or see so we’re going with an open mind, something that will really benefit you when travelling in Asia.
So we set out for Taoyuan airport, little did we know we would’t be getting on our flight that night. Call us travel rookies… we made a mistake. Since we had only visited Vietnam about 22 days before, we could’t go back without a visa. Having British passports, we were issued a free 30-day landing visa the first time, but it was only for single-entry. So, our second entry within 30-days required a new visa. AirAsia wouldn’t allow us to check in to our flight and we had a mini-breakdown in the airport.
What do you do in this situation? You’ve bought a flight, about to miss it right before your eyes, and booked accommodation which is going to charge you the deposit. Hollie called her mum to gather some information, how do we get an emergency visa? Its possible, except the 1-hour visa can only be issued during office hours, it was about 10pm. We concluded that we weren’t going anywhere that night so headed home, feeling extremely stressed and disappointed.
We purchased emergency visas online and last-minute cheap flights for the same time the next night. The flights were about £70 each and the visa £50. A bargain considering our situation. We spent the next day waiting for our visa approval letters to come thought and sat in 7-11 trying to print the documents. We were worried the visa wasn’t going to be legitimate but it all worked out smoothly. All we had to do was hand over the letter to customs and pay another $25 fee. And we have a fancy visa taking up a page in our passports to show for it.
We arrived in HCM only 24 hours later than planned and our hostel didn’t even charge us for the first night. Saying that, this hostel was very nice, clean, comfortable and quiet. I was really central but still far enough away from the nightlife. The nightlife in Ho Chi Minh is pretty crazy. There’s plenty of cheap or up-scale bars to choose from. The food was diverse too. The was a great mixture of traditional Vietnamese stalls mixed with foreign restaurants and bistros too. And coffee shops, of course.
We would say there was quite a lack of rich Asian culture here. Since it was so influenced by the French, there are many beautiful buildings but it somehow feels lost amongst the busy city. It probably wasn’t as busy as Hanoi, but still many-a scooters to raise your anxiety levels. Top tip – just carry on walking, don’t stop, they will slow down and even if they skim you, you will make it.
We saw the main tourist sights across two days (Củ Chi tunnels, War Museum, Notre-Dame, Quoc Tu Pagoda, Mekong River) and were keen to get out of the city. So we booked a sleeper bus at a local hostel’s tour desk for about £10 and left early the next morning to Mũi Né, a coastal tourism town about 5 hours drive. We arrived at our hostel at 1:00pm and got on the next group tour to explore the area that afternoon, since we were going back to HCM the next day.
This was definitely our favourite day. We started off at the Fairy Stream, took a walk up the red path surrounded on one side by sand dunes, and the other by tropical trees. We visited a fishing village with the traditional round basket boats. Then the White Sand dunes, took a quad ride to see some awesome views, and sat on the Red Dunes watching families sledging.
When we returned our hostel was becoming lively with back-packers and drinking games and we ended our night at a nearby beach-front club. The next day was spent in the pool and enjoying the sun. We can’t recommend this hostel enough, its definitely one of the best we’ve stayed at.
We really enjoyed our trip, it was a perfect mixture of touring, drinking and relaxing and would definitely recommend visiting Mũi Né if you’re at that end of Vietnam. It’s worth making the trip from HCM too. We’re still not done with Vietnam yet and can’t wait to explore Hội An.
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Hollie & Patrick