My first full month of travel has come to an end.
From my starting point of Hanoi, I really haven’t moved too far this October. I’m currently located just 100km south of the capital in a small place called Tam Coc. I’m sticking around here for a few days now to explore the area – known as “Halong Bay on land”, before riding south really begins. By the end of November, I hope to be by a beach in central Vietnam (my fingers are crossed for good weather).
What did I get up to?
Where I’ve been: Vietnam (Hanoi, Sapa, Cat Ba Island)
Things got off to a slow start while I waited for a package from home (I recommend not ordering vital parts to a holiday a week before departure). This meant that my first 3 weeks were spent in and around Hanoi, with a week spent in Sapa to escape the heat.
Given I’d originally not intended on spending much time in Hanoi, it was surprising to enjoy the city as much as I did. A lot of people don’t seem to love Hanoi, but spending so much time there allowed me to get a real feeling for the place. I think it’s a little like Melbourne – you need to live there to really appreciate all it has to offer.
It took me a while to get used to the humidity when I first arrived, which is how I ended up in Sapa for a week. This is another place I hadn’t intended on going to; I thought it would be too tourist centred for me to enjoy. In the end, the beauty of the place and the fun homestay trek I did made it worth the trip. The cooler temperature was just the escape I needed too!
Then finally, after three weeks, my package was in Hanoi, and after quite a difficult time of getting it, I prepared myself to start the ride across Vietnam. There was no better way to begin the trip than by riding out to Cat Ba Island.
It took me two days to get there, and then another 10 before I could finally bring myself to leave – I loved it there! Like Sapa, Cat Ba Town is super touristy, but I settled myself just outside of town and spent my days with the most amazing view and the sand between my feet.
To round out the month, I spent the last two days heading back inland towards Tam Coc for a few more adventures.
Highlight: Cat Ba Island was my favourite destination for the month, but I’m finding it hard to decide on a single highlight from my time there! Kayaking around Lan Ha Bay was definitely up there, but I was also just happy to sit and enjoy the place.
Lowlight: This definitely has to be the package fiasco! As it turned out, my parcel actually arrived in Hanoi about a week after me, but it was held at the facility near the airport. Once I’d finally worked out what was happening, I ended up spending the better part of a day making my way out there, locating the post facility and then getting super upset and frustrated when I was asked to pay 1.7m VND (which I got reduced to 440k VND). On top of that, I was worried they weren’t going to let me take my package since you can’t “import old clothes” into Vietnam.
How did the budget go?
I set myself a pretty tight budget for this trip (about $1k AUD a month), and ended up coming in just slightly over.
Total Spend: 16,312,500 VND ($1,049 AUD)
Biggest Splurge: Overnight cruise on Lan Ha Bay (2,800,000 VND)
It would have been very easy to spend less than this, however I chose not to be too frugal with my money this month as I settled into Vietnam life. On top of that, trips to the very touristy Sapa and Cat Ba Island upped expenses a little with a lot of places charging more because of their location.
Here’s the breakdown on where my money went:
Overall, food was my largest expense only because I was able to continue eating a lot of western meals. I opted to do this knowing I’d be spending plenty of time in small rural towns in the next few months – there’s only so much chicken pho a girl can eat!
Accommodation was obviously another big one, but ranged widely. I went from dorm rooms in Cat Ba where I paid just 50k VND up to a private room in a hotel one night that was 250k VND.
Tours was another big one for me. While I generally prefer to do my own thing, I did go on a Homestay Trek and ventured out on an overnight cruise on Lan Ha Bay – both of which required me to get a guide.
Where to now?
I’ll be spending the next few days chilling out around Tam Coc and exploring the nearby cave systems, which should be a heap of fun.
Assuming the weather clears up (it’s insanely windy outside and it’s actually kind of freezing – who knew it could get so cold in Vietnam?), I’ll keep going with the riding over the next few weeks, making my way into the mountains then south along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Assuming I survive the hills, I’ll stop by the Phong Nha National Park for a bit before rolling into Hue. From there, it’s coastal routes south to see the month out by the beach.
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