stranger at the temple vietnam trip
Traveling

Vietnam Trip Part 1: Two Days in Hanoi with Less Than $50

Last month, on May 21–31 to be exact, me and my little sister went to Vietnam on our own. We were going from north to south, which is Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. We’ve booked our plane tickets and Airbnbs***.

Note: If you see ⭐, it’s my favorite part of the trip!

Day 1 — May 21

00.00 — At midnight, our parents drove us to the airport and left us there. We are STARVING. Ate overpriced chicken rice at the airport, then check our luggage. We each brought a cabin luggage and a backpack (which is super convenient for the whole trip).

02.00 — Finally flying to Kuala Lumpur.

04.35 — Arrived in Kuala Lumpur. We almost missed our next flight, because we thought we have to recheck our luggage. Turned out it’s not necessary, and we’re running around that massive airport to find our boarding room. Last call!

09.00 — Arrived in Hanoi!! We got our luggage, then because we’re starving (again, sorry but we’re always eating), we tried banh mi [50,000VND/2.2USD] at the airport. Not the best one. We charged our phone while eating. I tried to contact our Airbnb host and ask if it’s possible to check in early.

our first banh mi
my sister at the airport

10.00 — We’ve read that it’s best to change to a local SIM card, so we bought a SIM card at the airport. We want to make sure that we’re safe (connected to the Internet) before we explore the country. It’s definitely more expensive though! [250,000VND/11USD]

11.00 — Took a Grab to the Airbnb [256,000VND/11.28USD]. The driver couldn’t speak English, so we had to use Google Translate to communicate. (We didn’t know then, it’s REALLY hard to find Vietnamese that can speak English 😢)

12.00 — Our host told us to meet at the cafe nearby the Airbnb. We entered the cafe and waited there for half an hour before she showed up. [32,000VND/1.41USD] for iced chocolate.

⭐ 13.00 — Welcomed by the Airbnb host. She’s really nice! And the Airbnb is everything! It is the best of all Airbnbs we’ve stayed in Vietnam. If you’re curious, take a look!

reading nook at the airbnb
It has a really cute reading nook 😊
the lake near our airbnb
Below the apartment, just 2-min walk and you will arrive here!

14.00 — Settled in our room. We planned to take a nap, but we’re starving so we decided to change clothes and see what we can eat near the apartment. Thankfully, there are plenty of restaurants and cafe around. We tried to go in one of the restaurant and find this yummy dish! But there’s a hint of coriander in there, which I don’t like at all. I ended up separating the leaves from the noodles. [60,000VND/2.58USD]

rice noodles

⭐ 15.00 — Walked around the lake, people-watched. We noticed that there were lots of old men playing some kind of Chinese chess. They played in groups, occupying the bench around the lake. They’re all happy and excited. Such a laid-back lifestyle👴

15.30 — We went to a minimarket to get some bottled water and snacks for the night. Head back to the apartment. [40,000VND/1.72USD]

16.00 — I think we had a mini jetlag. We fell asleep and woke up at 7 pm.

19.00 — STARVING. We went downstairs, got a spring roll from a restaurant next door [80,000VND/3.44USD]. I struggled to tell them I wanted it without coriander, finally helped by a local young man to translate it to Vietnamese because the owner doesn’t understand English at all. Went back upstairs, opened our spring roll. There IS coriander inside. I couldn’t make myself to eat it. Sorry, spring rolls.

⭐ 20.00 — The apartment has a bookshelf filled with cool books. Some are in English, some in Vietnamese. One book that I recognize was The Little Prince but in pop-up form! SUPER CUTE, right? 😊

the little prince popup book
the little prince popup book

21.00 — Sleep! Oh, there’s one thing that I didn’t like about the Airbnb, the mattress is a little bit too hard.

Daily Total: $33.63

 

Day 2 — May 22

07.00ish — Rise and shine! I had a pretty good sleep. My sister ate the leftover spring rolls. I ate some bread we bought yesterday. Then we showered and got ready to go.

08.00 — After browsing Google Maps for popular food around, we finally decided to explore the busier part of the district. Actually we wanted to try a Singaporean restaurant, but it’s still closed, so we ended up eating in a pizza place. We had burger and pasta [210,000VND/9USD]. The food is just okay.

09.00 — Took a Grab to the city center. The tourist attractions are all within walking distance, so we decided where to go when we arrived there.
First stop, Hoàn Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple.

me at the ngoc son temple
hoan kiem lake and ngoc son temple

ngoc son temple
That’s the lake, and that’s the temple.

10.30 — This city is hot! We walked around the lake, then we entered the Ngoc Son Temple [30,000VND/1.3 USD per person]. It’s a small but pretty well-maintained building. You can take pictures, see a giant turtle specimen, and read about the local legend. Nothing too special, in my opinion.

11.30 — We exited the temple and now we’re thirsty. There’s a lady selling homemade cold drinks from her bike, but first we asked a Western tourist if it’s good or not. The tourist said it’s good, but it’s very expensive, 20,000 VND or 0.87 USD. So we went to the lady and bought 2 cups. She said it’s 10,000 VND/0.43 USD per cup.

It’s not a secret that hawkers tend to raise their price for foreign tourists. We’ve been to Bali several times, and they do it too there. But we’re Indonesians in Vietnam, we look like Vietnamese (everyone said so!), so even though we can’t speak Vietnamese, I think they sense some familiarity in our appearances.

12.00 — STARVING. We looked at Google Maps, found a popular pho place with 1,000+ reviews directly across the street. So we went there. Ordered 2 regular-sized bowls. I had to download ‘coriander’ image from Google and showed them, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to eat again. [2×40,000VND=80,000VND/3.44USD]

The pho tasted a bit bland. We like Pho 24 in our country better.

⭐ 13.00 — Took a Grab to the Vietnamese Women’s Museum. We’re so excited because we’ve never heard of a Women Museum before. These feminist girls were happy!

women museum
women museum
women museum

If you’re into museums and culture, you have to visit this museum! It’s beautiful and very well-maintained. You just have to pay [30,000VND/1.3 USD] and you get to see all 5 floors about Vietnamese women. What they wear, what they believe, what they eat, and what they do as women in Vietnam. You can learn about their wedding rituals, birth rituals, how some of their tribes are patrilineal, others matrilineal.

14.00 — Took a Grab back to the Airbnb. We showered and dressed up because we’re about to watch Lang Toi (My Village) show at the Hanoi Opera House! We have booked the tickets online before arriving in Vietnam via their website [630,000VND/27.75USD], because the seats were quickly filled up.

delisa salad bar

⭐ 15.30 — Grab once more, this time to a cafe near the opera house. It’s called Delisa, and it sells modern banh mi and salad. You will be surprised as you find it tucked in an alley, feels like entering an underground chamber. We got 2 different banh mis. [2×70,000VND=140,000VND/6.02USD]

The cafe is cute, and the banh mi is great!

⭐ 16.30 — The show is about to start, so (in a hurry) we left the cafe and walked to the opera house.

The opera house is really magnificent. It’s very European because it was the French colonial who built it.

Hanoi Opera House exterior
Hanoi Opera House

We’re welcomed by the ushers (who speak English!) and given welcome drinks.

Almost all of the audience were Western foreigners. I guess Asians are not into operas and shows?

Hanoi Opera House interior
Hanoi Opera House vietnam trip
Hanoi Opera House

The show was incredible! It’s a combination of musical and acrobatics, which we equally love 😍

19.30 — After the show, we walked to the nearest Circle K (minimarket) and bought some snacks and drinks for the train ride tomorrow. We’re going to Dong Hoi! [90,000VND/3.87USD].

20.00 — Grab home. Video-called mom and dad, then sleep!

Daily Total: $53.58

 

Stay tuned for more of our trips! I still have Dong Hoi, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh City for you 😉

***Consider registering for Airbnb with my linkYou will get $33 off of your first trip and I will get $16 credit when you booked your first trip 😉

Also feel free to ask me questions about Vietnam (or Indonesia) if you have plans to visit!

Hello! My name is Ascencia Fike. I’m a fresh graduate, a freelancer, and a blogger. I write here and on Medium.

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