We did experience the beautiful Ha Long Bay in 2016, however, we were called back after just 1 1/2 day due to thunderstorms. So we always wanted to come back.
Ha Long Bay is the biggest tourist attraction in Vietnam and more than 10 million people visited this bay last year alone. It is the most popular destination for a reason, and it is absolutely unique and stunning. That being said, we were so disappointed to visit this year. There was so much garbage everywhere. It was heartbreaking to see. And it was impossible to ignore, which “killed” the beauty of the trip for us, unfortunately. We don’t know why it is being cleaned up, after all the bay is UNESCO protected.
We were on a different cruise than last time, and it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t too good either. We still would recommend the Indochina Junk cruise any day. We had two cabins right next to each other and this time we also got to have a day at the biggest island in the bay, Cat Ba. Agnes and I, we bicycled across (baby Ellen, Bjoern and Dagmar went by electrical car), drank snake wine, had a fish spa and, on the way back to the cruise ship, was able to find a nice clean spot in the bay to go for a swim.
Until there is found a way to deal with all the tourists and boats and garbage, it’s probably not a good idea to go. But I would say a stay at Cat Ba (so many hotels has been build on the island now), would be nice for a couple of night to enjoy the view of the bay. The bay is still beautiful and to sail through the thousands of lime stones. (If you don’t have or see the garbage) is really an amazing experience.
Be mindful of the season, the locates of the bay has four seasons, and three of those has “tricky weather” for cruises. The first time we went, thunderstorms were coming and now the second time we couldn’t see anything the first 1 1/2 because of heavy fog…
The Saigon Fushion Original is a 5 star hotel on top of of the Saigon Centre. It is located in District 1, just next to the Ben Thanh Market, The Opera House and the Cathedral, which makes it super convenient.
We had a 2 bedroom suite on the 22nd floor, and it was perfect for our family, with a small kitchenette and also a living room next to the 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. The mini-bar was free, but the best part was the pantry (there was one for each floor), where snacks, fruit and fresh coffee was available 24/7. The breakfast, served on the 26th floor, was so good and there was also a pool, a gymnastik and an amazing view of the city.
In the basement of the Saigon Centre is a large foodhall by Takashimaya, so lots of Japanese and Korean options as well as Vietnamse street food, a supermarket and much more. We had so many meals here to be honest.
The girls didn’t want to leave this place, ’cause as they said “it has everything”. Baby Ellen had a cold and a high feber, so we had to run by a doctor, but she was fine, and luckily the suites was so spacious that it didn’t feel too bad staying in with her. Value for money here was top dollar. We would love to come back here any time.
ps. The Saigon Fushion Original has a sister hotel called The Saigon Suites that we went to first upon arrival to Ho Chi Minh, as we thought it was the hotel we booked. The Saigon Suites is also a very nice hotel, and for the record, we wouldn’t have minded staying here either…
The Saigon River Resort is a very special place. I have wanted to come here ever since we were in Ho Chi Minh back in 2016. As I hadn’t been in Ho Chi Minh before, I did a “safe” choice, and chose a hotel in District 1. But this small piece of paradise is just a 20-minute boat ride up the River and so worth that small trip. It feels like you arrived for a jungle stay, but really you are just around the corner from the hutle and buste of the city centre.
This resort is also owned by An Lam as the resort we stayed at in Ninh van Bay, so locally owned and as with the Ninh van Bay resort, it is build from local materials and the food is either from their own organic garden or locally sourced.
We stayed here for 3 nights and just relaxed by the pool or hung out at the restaurant or by the pier (one day we even did a little fishing). We could easily have taken the boat to town, as it went several times a day complimentary. However, we had already had some days int he city centre, and we just wanted to have some quiet days before going back home. The resort is just 30 minutes from the airport, so that is also very convenient.
Everywhere it was so lush and green, with lots of shade and a little brise (which was not the case in the city centre). The spa was a dream and the rooms/villas were very large. We couldn’t have imagined a better way to end our 1 month long stay in Vietnam.
If you every go to Ho Chi Minh a stay at the River Resort comes with the absolut highest recommandation, as a perfect place to get rid of jetlag, get a unique experience or just wind down (like we did) before going back home/further on your vacation.
Ho Chi Minh city, formerly known as Saigon, is the capital of South Vietnam. It is also the largest city in the country with more than 9 million people living here. It is super busy, and during rush hours the 7,3 million scooters are very visible in the streets.
The strangest thing here is (as in Hanoi and other cities in Vietnam) that to cross the street, you have to just “trust the system” and walk over, even though it doesn’t seem as the scooters or cars are holding back for you – but they actually will stop (or drive around you) as you cross. It is something that seems nerve wrecking every single time, especially crossing the street with children.
Ho Chi Minh feels both like a Metropolitan city, but it also has a very “old Vietnam feel” at the same time, as it is skyskrabers next to street vendors in a mix.
As we have been here before, we didn’t “tourist” too much around, but hung out and tried to escape some of that very hot weather (40 degrees). The last time we were here, we went to the War Remnant Museum, the Museum of Modern art, The Reunification Palace and Cu Chi Tunnels (I wrote about this in earlier blog posts ;-)).
So this time we spend time at the Ben Thanh Market, had lots of street food, hung out in some of the best mails (for the air con benefits) and also went by the flower market an early morning.
We really wanted to see the floating river flower market, however, it is unfortunately only during the Lunar New Year season it can be experienced (December-January).
Ninh van Bay is located just outside the coastline of Nha Trang. Nha Trang is known as the “Saint Tropez” of Vietnam due to a prominent line of hotels and restaurants and for its pristine beaches. We came back for this special bay to stay at the secluded little paradise An Lam Retreats. We had five days in one of their beachfront villas, and it everything we could have dreamed of. The villa was huge with direct private beach access and its own private pool. Celebrities and royalties have been known to stay at this Hidden gem, and it is totally understandable as An Lam is a very private and tranquil haven. It is completely isolated from any other resort or city on a small peninsula with access only from the seaside.
The food is either served at the Sen restaurant, which is located in the beautiful main building (looking like a lotus flower) or served as room service at your convenience. The food is home grown or locally sources. The luxury resort is locally owned (which is actually rare), and the just 37 villas are eco-friendly made. There is no reception or concierge service, “just” your private butler (ours was the kind mr. Bao). Oh, and there is also no Keys, which is at first is a bit Strange, as you are use to lock the front door when you leave your house, however, we didn’t feel unsafe at any time during our stay.
There is a public pool from where kayaking is available, and just in front of the pool is a small plateau out in the water, that you can easily swim out to, which we did with the girls. We also spend some afternoons in the board game area playing chess and having margharitas. Behind the villas are the areas for the gardens, the yoga pavillon, the spa and the gymnastik, not to mention the local spring of fresh water, that is the source of all drinking water at the resort. The small fresh water spring “trail” makes for a really nice hike, and you can also have a barbecue further up