Tag Archives: Vietnam

The Discovery Caves Tour in Phong Nha

I had read that the caves in Phong Nha were a must see when traveling through the mountainous region in Vietnam. I asked our hotel what tours they recommended to see the different cave networks and they recommended a tour through Discovery Tours. Discovery Tours had a tour package that would take us to the Botanical Gardens, Paradise Cave, and the Dark Cave. It included hotel pickup, entrance fees, an english speaking guide, lunch at the Dark Cave Restaurant, zip-lining, kayaking, and a mud bath in Dark Cave. To top that off, at the end of the tour you receive a free complimentary cocktail. The tour cost Lisa and  I 2,781,000d ($122 USD) for the whole package. Discovery Tours would pick us up from our hotel at 7:30 and return us to our hotel at 16:00 making the tour roughly six hours long.

Check out our YouTube post on our Discovery Caves Tour Here.

What To Bring

-A swimsuit
-Change of Clothes
-A towel
-Waterproof Camera with floatation attachment (Our tour guide informed us that we wouldn’t be allowed to bring our camera into the dark cave unless it had those two features).
-Comfortable Hiking Shoes

The Botanical Gardens

The tour van picked us up from our hotel around 7:30, just late enough that we could still catch breakfast. After rounding up the other tour guests from their respected hotels, we headed north to our first destination; the Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Gardens offered us a glimpse of the wild life that inhabited Phong Nha. They had a monkey enclosure that provided refuge for local monkeys and protected them from poachers. We were allowed to feed the monkeys fruits that were offered at the general store. Lisa had saved a banana from breakfast and gave it to the eagerly awaiting monkeys. They were stoked for their treat! After viewing the monkey inclosure, our guide took us through a nature trail that cut through  deeper into the forest. On the trail, we encountered wooden bridges, streams, and tons of lush vegetation. Watch your step though! Due to the streams and vegetation it was easy to lose your footing or trip on a root. The trail ended at a scenic point that overlooked a beautiful waterfall cascading into the forest below. The whole tour lasted maybe twenty minutes total, making it short and sweet.

Paradise Cave

Stalagmite in Paradise Cave
Checking out a massive stalagmite in Paradise Cave.

Paradise Cave Pass

Our pass to enter the Paradise Cave.

The next stop on the tour was the Paradise Cave, one of the longest caves in the world. The cave from start to finish is a total of 31.4 kilometers, but the tour only  allowed access to the first kilometer from the entrance of the cave. The stairs leading up to the entrance of the cave was a journey and a half. It took about fifteen minutes for Lisa and I to scale the stairs to get to the front entrance of the cave.. We were allowed one hour and fifteen minutes to explore the cave, which our guide told us was more than enough time to walk the entire length and back. Entering the cave, we descended down a wooden walkway to the floor of the cave which is lined with lights illuminating the vast cavern. The sight was truly one to behold! Enormous stalagmites rose from the cavern that looked other worldly. The only thing to match the size of the stalagmites were the daunting stalactites that converged down from the cave ceiling. What caught my eyes though were the shallow pools surrounding some of the stalagmites that were so calm they acted like mirrors on the cave floor. It took Lisa and I about forty five minutes to walk through the entire cavern, and that included us stopping and taking pictures.

Dark Cave

The Dark Cave was our third and final stop of the tour. The shuttle dropped us off in front of the Dark Cave restaurant, where we had our complimentary lunch that was included in the tour. There our tour group was divided into two tables; one dedicated for vegetarians. Servers placed one large serving tray on each table that had enough food to serve 6+ people! The tray included fried pork, grilled chicken, BBQ pork ribs, long white noodles, an array of fruits and vegetables, noodles, white rice and sticky rice. Between the six of us at our table, there was still a ton of food left over.

Lunch at Dark Cave
The food they served us at the Dark Cave restaurant was simply amazing.

After lunch, we had the option of either kayaking to the cave entrance or zipline to it. I opted to zipline, because why not? Lisa and I changed into our swimsuits and put our bags back on the van. Once everyone was changed into swimsuit attire, our tour guide then took us to an area where we signed health wavers and got fitted with life vests, helmets, and zipline girdles. There we also had an option to buy a little foam floatation device for 10,000d that we could attach to our waterproof cameras ( they wouldn’t allow us to take our cameras in without one). Once we were all geared up we walked over to a tower by the Dark Cave Restaurant where we would take the zipline to the Dark Cave Entrance. The zipline is 400 meters long and 20 meters at its highest and, according to our guide, is the longest zipline in all of Vietnam. This was my very first zipline ever so I was nervous as hell walking up to it. When my turn came to strap in I took a deep breath, lifted my feet, and held on for dear life. The view was l breathtaking (literally and figuratively) as I zipped down over the river. Coming to a sudden stop at the bottom, I joined Lisa and the rest of the tour group.

Zip line at Dark Cave
I had such an amazing experience zip lining to the Dark Cave!

There was a wooden walkway just like the one we saw at Paradise Cave that we followed into the Dark Cave. We were instructed to turn on our headlamps and walk cautiously on the walkway. The water from the river had made the walkway so slippery that I was surprised that I didn’t eat it at certain points. The walkway ended just inside the mouth of the cave and we had to wade through water which ranged from knee to ankle deep. About 20 meters into the cave we were solely reliant on the light from our headlamps to see. Eventually we made our way to the back of the cave where we were lead by our guide through a narrow crevice on the cave wall. Be careful when walking through the crevice for there are rocks that protrude sharply from the ground. I learned the hard way when I stubbed my toe on one while I was taking a video. The crevice opened up into a small cavern that was filled with mud (this is the mud bath advertised in the tour). The mud isn’t thick like you would think and makes you very buoyant to the point where you can just lay on your back and float. We returned to the main cavern where our tour guide enticed us to slide down a slope into the water of the cave. I should’ve learned not to do that when I witnessed Lisa going down first and almost flew off the slope. It was fun, but left a bruise or two on my butt. In the water we washed off all the excess mud and dirt from the mud bath and headed to the mouth of the cave.

Dark Cave
Finding fun in the depths of Dark Cave.

When we exited the cave we were given kayaks to take back to the landing by the Dark Cave Restaurant. Our guide said we could swim back if we wanted to, but after the long day we opted for the kayak. At the landing most of us just hung out and swam in the river. They also had a small zipline that tour guests can use to jump into the river.  Once everyone had their fill of the river we went back to the restaurant to have our complimentary cocktail. Lisa and I talked with the other guests about the tour while we sipped on our rum and cokes. Definitely a great way to end a long day of exploring caves. When the rum bottles ran dry, we loaded up into our tour van and headed back into town.

The whole experience was amazing and I would definitely do it again. It was fun feeding the monkeys at the Botanical Garden and we learned a lot about the wildlife in Phong Nha from our tour guide. The breaktaking views of the cavern in Paradise Cave left us in awe as we snapped off picture after picture. The Dark Cave was definitely the highlight of the tour with the zipline, kayaking, and the plunge into the depths of the cave itself.

For more travel tips of Vietnam, check out my other posts Things to Know Before Traveling to Vietnam, How to Apply for a Vietnam VISA

How to Apply for a Vietnam Visa

Before Your Flight

Passport
The Passport. The Traveler’s key to the world.

U.S. citizens traveling to Vietnam by air can apply for a Visa on arrival (VOA) with the acceptance of an approval letter. What’s an approval letter? An approval letter is a legitimate document issued from Vietnam Immigration that grants Visa applicants the ability to pick up their Visa on arrival at any of the international airports in Vietnam. The price for the approval letter starts at $8 and up depending on what site you use. Once approved, you will be sent the approval letter via email in 3 to 5 business days. The accepted approval letter includes your name as well as the name of 7 of applicants (Vietnam processes 8 applicants at a given time). When I bought my airline tickets I was actually given a promotional deal that included a free approval letter, so I recommend buying your flight ticket before applying for the approval letter.

When You Arrive in Vietnam

The coast of Vietnam.
Vietnam has 3,260 kilometers of beautiful coastline.

Once you land at any of the international airports you are directed to the Immigration Office where you will finish applying for your Visa. There you will fill out your Visa application form and wait in line to submit your forms. You will need your passport, passport photo, approval letter, and $25.00 USD for the stamp fee. Once you submit all that to the immigration official at the counter you can take a seat and wait for your name to be called. When your name is called you can pick up your passport that has your Vietnam Visa in it and be on your way!

Before Applying for Visa on Arrival Make Sure You Have:

  • A Passport with 6 months validity
  • A Passport picture 2x2in (you can take your passport at the Immigration Office at the airport for about 5.00 USD)
  • 25.00 USD to pay for the Visa Stamp Fee
  • A printed copy of your Approval Letter

Check out my post Things to Know Before Traveling to Vietnam for more travel tips of Vietnam!

Things to Know Before Traveling to Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the most sought after destinations in South East Asia by backpackers across the world. Here are a few tips and tricks for those thinking about making the journey to this beautiful country.

Lady Buddha in Danang, Vietnam.
The towering statue of Lady Buddha is one of the many sights to see in Danang, Vietnam.

Most Places Accept U.S. Currency

Most if not all places in Vietnam accept USD($)as a form of payment, but to get the most out of your money it’s best to use Vietnamese Dong.

Majority of Places will Charge 3% More if You Use Your Credit Card

Hotels, restaurants, and even some tour agencies will allow you to use your card, but will charge you 2-3% extra. As convenient as it can be to just charge things on you card, it’s still best to use cash to save the most money.

Look for Accommodations that include Breakfast

Breakfast in Vietnam

Booking a room that includes free breakfast can help save you tons of money. Plus, aren’t the best things free?

Arrange to Have Your Hotel Send a Car to Pick You Up

When arriving to a new city either by plane, bus, or train you will be bombarded by taxi drivers looking to rip off tired travelers. To avoid scams its safer to have your hotel arrange a car to pick you up.

Tipping is not Expected Except Near Tourist Spots

Night Market in Hoi An.
Walking the streets of Hoi An.

In general, most Vietnamese restaurants don’t expect you to tip. Due to the influx of tourism in the recent years, restaurants in and near popular tourist destinations have become more accepting of tip. An acceptable tip for good service is about 5-10%.

Bargain!

Bargaining down prices at street markets is widely acceptable and, if done right, can get the item down 50% of the asking price! A good technique to use is the “walk away”. Simply by saying that the item is too expensive and walking away from the merchant will usually cause the merchant to drop the price considerably. Even tours and accomodations can be talked down in price.  One exception to bargaining is never to bargain over the price of food. That’s just rude.

Take Overnight Trains and Sleeper Buses

Sleeper bus from Hanoi to Sapa.
I got some sleep on the overnight bus in Hanoi.

A great way to save money traveling through Vietnam is to take the overnight trains and sleeper buses. Like killing two birds with one stone, an overnight train or a sleeper bus takes care of both travel and lodging for the day. Be sure to stock up on snacks before getting on a sleeper bus because you never when the bus is going to stop and for how long. Also be conscious about your water intake during a bus ride; some sleeper buses do not contain bathrooms.

Download the Google Translate App

A shout out to Google for creating the amazing Google Translate app! This app has helped me out many times in my travels in Vietnam when it came to overcoming the language barrier. The app is completely free and will come in handy when trying to communicate to hotel staff, taxis, and merchants.

For a detailed list of Travel Apps check out our post Recommended Apps for Travel

Ten Awesome Things to do in Hoi An

 

We loved the rustic colors displayed on some of the buildings throughout Hoi An.

Hoi An was one of the most enchanting cities we were able to visit during our travels in Vietnam. From the pastel-colored buildings, delicious food, and rooftop cafes. It’s hard for one not to fall in love with Hoi An. If you find yourself in this beautiful city on the coast here’s a few things I recommend you try to enrich your stay.

The Cheapest of Beer

First things first, you have arrived in the land of incredibly cheap beer! I know other cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi boast about their cheap beer, but only in Hoi An can you find it everywhere! Some restaurants sell it as low as 3,000d ($0.13 USD)! The beer is brewed fresh from the restaurant you’re buying it from, which is why it is so cheap. I know what you’re thinking, because of the price it must be poor quality right? WRONG! I had a fresh beer at the Fish and Chips restaurant that was 3,000d and that was one of the most refreshing beers I had in Vietnam! Not saying that there are some out there that do taste like what you would imagine a beer under 0.50 cents would taste like. I had one beer near the night market that gave me a headache within a few sips, but that was the one out of 5 different restaurants that I sampled.

3,000d beer!

Get Something Tailored

You want to get a suit tailored just to your liking? Hoi An is the place to do it! With a plethora of tailors throughout the city you can find one that suits your needs (see what I did there?). Just making my way old town I biked by at least half a dozen tailors displaying their work in front of their shops. And by cheap, I mean custom three piece suit around $50 bucks kind of cheap. The shops are able to make a suit or dress for you in just a few days time making it very convenient for those spending only a small time in Hoi An.

Hoi An Tailor
One of the many tailors we passed in Hoi An.

Stay at a Homestay

If you’re planning on spending some time in Hoi An I highly recommend that you stay in one of the many homestays available in the town. Why a homestay? For one, most if not all of the homestays offer free bike rentals which is an awesome way to explore the town for no money. Two, the families at the homestays are incredibly friendly and will offer advice on what to do and see in Hoi An. The homestay Lisa and I stayed at, The Strawberry Garden Homestay, offered free bike rentals and free breakfast every morning. Our host, Ruby, helped us with any questions we had and even helped us arrange a private car to take us to Da Nang. Click  Here to read a detailed post about our stay at the Strawberry Garden Homestay.

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Get a Custom Stamp Made

Do you wish to immortalize your face in the form of a stamp? Well I got some good news for you! There is a shop in Hoi An that will do just that! For just 300,000d($13.21 USD) you can get a custom stamp made of any picture. Located at 48B Bach Dang St. Hoi An, the lovely lady at Kha Dau Nghe Thuat shop will make you a customized stamp that she hand makes herself! Perfect for stamping all those postcards you still need to mail out! It takes about day to make and will last a lifetime.

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Check out the Japanese Covered Bridge

Built in the late 1700’s, the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge is a sight to see for anyone visiting Hoi An. The Japanese Bridge is a reminder of how culturally diverse Hoi An was in the past and arguably still is. You can purchase the Hoi An Tourist ticket at the price of 120,000d to cross the bridge and see the temple at the other side. The Hoi An Tourist ticket allows you access to other historical buildings and landmarks in Hoi An. The Japanese Bridge can get pretty crowded so I recommend seeing it as early in the day as possible to avoid the crowds.

The Japanese Covered Bridge in Hoi An.

Shopping at the Night Market

If you love shopping as much as Lisa does, then Hoi An is your land of milk and honey. Hoi An has dozens upon dozens of shops sporting anything from homemade lanterns to custom leather boots. There is a night market located across the river from Old Town where you can find a whole bunch of goodies like paper pop-up cards, Vietnamese rice picking hats, and oriental fans. At the night market you can find the shops that sell the handmade lanterns that Hoi An is renown for. Even if you don’t buy one, they make for an amazing picture, just be sure to take it while the merchant is making a sale otherwise they might get annoyed. The night market also has a bunch of food carts so you can fill your appetite while you shop till you drop.

A little rain can’t shut down this market.

Watch the Lanterns in the River

One of the most dazzling sights to see in Hoi An are the lanterns floating down the Thu Bon River. For a small fee, you can purchase a floating lantern from the dozens of merchants near the boats by the river. I enjoyed watching the lanterns from the bridges that stretched across the river. There’s something very mystical about watching them float on by past the sampans to their destination unknown.

Lights in the river at night.

Take a Cooking Class

Want to learn a new recipe to impress your friends back home? Try taking a cooking class at one of the restaurants in Hoi An. Learn how to make Cau Lau, a traditional noodle dish that is local to Hoi An and is a dish you can’t skip out on. Made with pork, noodles, and vegetables that traditionally can only be found in Hoi An.

Get Leather Made

For every tailor in Hoi An there’s a leather shop to match it. Leather is everywhere in Hoi An! You can get anything from wallets, purses, satchels to jackets, shoes, and even backpacks! Just make sure the shop you’re buying from is selling you “true” leather. Some shops sell a product si-mi-li which they try and pass as leather, but its not. The price for the leather goods is incredibly cheap for what they are. I almost bought myself a pair of custom oxfords for 1,300,000d (that’s $57.82 USD!) just because of the price! The turnaround time is unreal as well with most things taking only a few hours to a day to make.

 

Our Stay at the Hoa Phong Hotel

Hoa Phong Hotel

Our stay in Phong Nha National Park was nothing less than amazing thanks to the wonderful staff at the Hoa Phong Hotel. Lisa and I had planned to go to Phong Nha to see everything the beautiful national park had to offer and after searching Agoda.com for a while we found the lovely Hoa Phong Hotel. The Hoa Phong Hotel rested beneath limestone mountains that surround Phong Nha and 200m from the Song Con River. We had emailed the hotel prior to ask for a pickup at the Dong Hoi Railway Station as well as a room with a double bed with a mountain view. Being surrounded by beautiful limestone mountains we thought why not be able to view them from our room? The Hoa Phong Hotel was quick to respond to us and were delighted to adhere to our requests (seriously it took less than 5 minutes to get a reply from them!).

Mountain view from our window.

We booked three nights for a total of 885,600d ($39 USD) which included a room with a double bed overlooking a behemoth limestone mountain. Free breakfast and coffee was included in our stay which was available from 7:00-10:00 every morning. The hotel also offered guided tours to the many caves that are found in Phong Nha. We decided to do the Discovery Cave Tour which took us to the Botanical Gardens, Paradise Cave, and the Dark Cave. The hotel gave us ample information about the tour and told us their favorite things about it.

On our last day, the Hoa Phong Hotel helped us find a bus that would take us back to the Dong Hoi Railway Station and even offered to let us keep the room for free until our bus arrived (which was not until 17:00 that evening). The Hoa Phong went above and beyond to make sure Lisa and I had the best experience possible in Phong Nha. I’m definitely going to stay here again next time I find myself in Phong Nha.

Strawberry Garden Homestay

Lisa and I planned to stay in Hoi An for a total of four days and three nights, enough time to relax and enjoy everything the beach city has to offer. What made our stay in Hoi An beyond spectacular was the wonderful Strawberry Garden Homestay and the loving family who took care of us.

Lovely wooden table outside the homestay.

Upon arriving at the Strawberry Garden Homestay, which is located just one kilometer outside of Old Town, we were greeted by our host Ruby. Ruby welcomed us into the homestay, offering us home made tea and delectable local rice snacks. While we sat down and enjoyed the lovely treats in front of us, Ruby told us of all the and tours that her homestay offers as well as what is located nearby. The Strawberry Garden Homestay offers bikes for guests to take to explore the city free of charge. There is also an option for renting a motorbike for 140,000 Dong a day. Free breakfast every morning of your stay which includes a meal plus a drink. All homemade of course. If need be, they offer a laundry service for a nominal fee per kilo.

This dog was so awesome!

One of our biggest joys was playing with their incredibly friendly dog, who was always excited to see us every time we returned to the homestay. The way he crosses his paws when he lays down was almost to cute too handle. Everyday, Ruby would ask us how we were doing and if there was anything she could do to help make our stay better. Ruby made the Strawberry Garden Homestay feel like home for both my wife and I. We even debated staying another few nights due to how wonderful our stay there was! If you ever find yourself in Hoi An, do yourself a favor and spend your stay at the Strawberry Garden Homestay.

Train Travel in Vietnam

Train in Vietnam
First train ride in Vietnam.

Taking the train in Vietnam was an amazing experience that I was fortunate to have. I had read through other blogs that taking a train allows you see the more rural parts of Vietnam that are far from the main cities. Having never taking a train before, I was intrigued by the notion and wanted to experience it for myself.
Lisa and I decided to to book the SE10 train going from Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang as our first trip. The trip would take 7 ½ hours to complete and would take us through the rural parts of Vietnam. To get the most out of the experience we chose to take the day train so we could appreciate all the the views as we passed by. We brought two backpacks with us which we stored in the overhead storage compartments above our seats. Throughout the trip, the train would occasionally stop at other stations to pick up fellow backpackers and daily commuters on their way to work.

Where to Buy Tickets

There are a few different ways to purchase a train ticket. You can go to the local train station and purchase a physical ticket there. Go online to sites like Baolau.com, Vietnam-Railway.com, or 12go.asiaand purchase a digital ticket that you can download or print. Or you can purchase train tickets through your hostel, homestay, or hotel. Sometimes you can get a deal with your accommodation where they will arrange a car to drop you off or pick you up from the train station.

We chose Baolau.com to purchase our tickets to Nha Trang from Ho Chi Minh city. We purchased soft seats that cost 189,000VND ($8.32USD) + 10,000VND ($0.44USD) service fee. When we purchased tickets through Baolau.com we were first sent an email receipt of the tickets then had to wait a few minutes to an hour for the actual ticket to be emailed to us. Through Baolau.com we were able to download a PDF file of the train ticket onto our phones which was convenient.

Before boarding our train we took screenshots of our tickets just in case the PDF wouldn’t load and ended up using that to board the train with no problem at all. We met some other travelers who were panicking because they didn’t know if they needed a printed ticket or not, rest assured the screenshot of the ticket is more than enough.
Keep in mind that if you are unsure about something don’t hesitate to ask any employee at the train station. Through our experience the train staff are very helpful and will approach you to see if you’re ok or if you have any questions.

Overhead storage compartments.

Types of Seats

When purchasing train tickets you are given the option of what kind of seat you want. They range from hard seats, soft seats, four person berths and six person berths.
The hard seats are the cheapest option, but the least comfortable. They are wooden benches similar to the ones you would find outside of a train station.
The soft seat is a vinyl-covered seat and is one of the more comfortable of the seating options on the train.
A four-person berth is a room with two bunk beds adjacent to one another. These are used primarily for night travel and are more costly than the soft seat and hard seat option.
The six-person berth is a room with two three-person bunk beds that are adjacent to one another. The six-person berth is cheaper than the four-person berth however you are now dealing with six people sharing the same amount of space that the four-person berth would be sharing.

4 person berth sleeper cabin.

Benefits of Taking a Train

  • Amazing views of the countryside.
  • Inexpensive option for long travel.
  • By taking an overnight train you can eliminate having to find an additional accommodation for the night.
Awesome view of Vietnam’s coast from the train.

Exploring Phong Nha

 

Rice fields Phong Nha.
Rice fields in Phong Nha.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its beautiful caves including the largest cave in the world, Hang Son Doong. Take a trip to Paradise Cave that’s over 31 kilometers long or explore the cavernous depths of the Dark Cave. Take a motorbike out and explore the breathtaking landscape filled with towering karsts, lush rice fields, and mesmerizing sunsets. Here is a list of things that are a must do while visiting Phong Nha.

The Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens offers guests a glimpse of the wildlife that inhabit Phong Nha. There is a monkey enclosure that provides refuge for local monkeys and offers protection from poachers. You can purchase fruit from the general store there to feed the monkeys. A nature trail to the right of the monkey inclosure takes you through the forest to a beautiful waterfall that cascades down the mountain.

Paradise Cave

At the length of over 31 kilometers, Paradise Cave is one of the longest caves in the world. Most tours only allow you to view the first kilometer of the cave which is still a pretty big distance. Descend into the depths of the cave and you can see just how vast its caverns really are thanks to the well-lit wooden walkway. Enormous stalagmites rise from the floor of the cave that look otherworldly. The only thing to match the size of the stalagmites were the daunting stalactites that converged down from the cave ceiling.

Paradise Cave
Inside Paradise Cave.

Dark Cave

For those seeking an adventure go check out the Dark Cave by the Chay River. The Dark Cave can only be viewed through tours which include a 400 meter zipline from the wildlife observation to the caves entrance. For those who don’t want to zipline, kayaks are available for use to get to the cave entrance. Headlamps and other gear are provided to help guests traverse the pitch black cave. A cavern inside the cave is filled with rich mineral mud that guests are allowed to take a dip in. Afterwards jump into the river to wash off and enjoy another zipline that takes you from the landing near the Dark Cave Restaurant into the river. A trip to the Dark Cave is a must for outdoor enthusiasts!
Check out our post about the Discovery Caves Tour to read about our first hand account of seeing the Botanical Gardens, Paradise Cave, and the Dark Cave!

The Duck Stop

The Duck Stop is must-see for anyone traveling to Phong Nha who wants to enjoy a cold beer and feed some friendly ducks. Located just 15 minutes by bike from the main road on Phong Nha, visitors can feed the ducks, have a delicious pancake meal, and ride a water buffalo named Donald Trump. The farmer who runs the Duck Stop is eager to show visitors a good time and will give a tour of the farm.

Duckstop
Biking through the mud to the Duck Stop

The Pub with Cold Beer

The Pub with Cold Beer
The Pub with Cold Beer.

If you take a ride to the Duck Stop then you’re bound to ride past the Pub with Cold Beer. As the name suggests, this stop has chilled beer to cool you down from the heat of Phong Nha. Not to be confused by two other stops with the same name, this pub has tables, bathrooms, and a view overlooking a small river. You can stay the night at the Pub with Cold Beer as it is also a homestay.

 

5 Things to Check Out in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh is an energetic city in southern Vietnam that is a must stop for any traveler. As our first destination in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh was a lot to take in all at once. Here is a list of things that we did during our stay that really made the trip for us.  Check out our post on our YouTube channel here to watch how our days in Ho Chi Minh transpired.

1. War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum

A trip to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh is a must for anyone who wants to know more about the American war in Vietnam. Once called the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes, the War Remnants Museum offers an in depth look at one of the most controversial wars in history. Displayed inside the museum are hundreds of photos from over 133 war photographers including the legendary Tim Page. Ak-47s, grenade launchers, and other weapons used during the war are showcased throughout the museum. Just outside of the museum visitors can view tanks, fighter jets, and artillery weapons used by American and North Vietnamese militaries. The museum is open between the hours of 7:30am-12:00pm and 1:30pm-5:00pm with the admission price of 15,000d. For more information visit http://warremnantsmuseum.com/

Ballistic Shells
Ballistic shells used during the Vietnam War.

2. Notre Dame Cathedral

With 40 meter high towers tipped with iron spires, red brick walls stained-glass windows, the Notre Dame Cathedral is truly a sight to behold. Built between 1877 and 1883, the cathedral has been a place for prayer for worship for those living in Ho Chi Minh City. Visitors to the cathedral are offered information from English-speaking staff from the hours of 9:00am-11:00am Monday through Saturday. Fun fact for those who love photography: across the street to the left of the cathedral there is a woman who sells bird feed for visitors to feed the local pigeons. The pigeons are friendly and will get very close to visitors feeding them. When timed right, you can get the most epic shot of the birds scattering away from the street and arching over the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

3. Central Post Office

Located just to the right of the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office showcases beautiful French architecture from a time long ago. Built between 1886 and 1891, this still operational post office displays historic maps of Vietnam on its massive interior walls as well as a large mosaic of Ho Chi Minh just at the end of the its grand hall. Although some credit the design to the great Gustave Eiffel, it was actually designed another French architect Marie-Alfred Foulhoux. The Central Post Office is the perfect place to pick up and mail out that postcard to family and friends back home.

 

Central Post Office.
Central Post Office.

4. Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels
Lisa inside the Cu Chi Tunnels

My trip to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels was one of favorite activities near Ho Chi Minh City. Located about 45 minutes outside of Ho Chi Minh, the Cu Chi Tunnels is a series of underground tunnels that were once used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. A tour to the tunnels offers a look into the lives of the Viet Cong fighting during the war. Visitors are offered demonstrations of booby traps, hand-made weaponry, and structural secrets of the tunnels used by the Viet Cong. There is even an option to shoot an AK-47 or a M1-Carbine at a shooting range located near the tunnels(costs $25 for one clip of ammo). Last, but not least, visitors actually get a chance to descend into the real Cu Chi Tunnels and crawl through the narrow passages that extend up to 60 meters!

Cu Chi Tunnels
Paul crawling through Cu Chi Tunnels.

5. The Ben Thanh Street Food Market

For a foodie like me, street food is life. So when I heard that there was a market solely dedicated to street food I jumped on that like white on rice. The Ben Thanh Street Food Market has dozens of food stalls serving the best viet-noms(see what I did there?) in Ho Chi Minh. Spring rolls, Banh Mi sandwiches, and a plethora of fried noodle dishes to name a few things you can find there. Thirsty? They have local beers on tap for those who want to cool off from the city heat. Music is played over the speakers throughout the market giving out a chill relaxed vibe. To top that all off, free Wifi is available throughout the entire market so there’s no need to worry about that Instragram pic of your spring rolls not loading up.

Ben Thanh Food Market
Street art at Ben Thanh Food Market.