VIETNAM: From Bustling South to Chilling North

Now that travel restrictions were mostly lifted around the world, I continue my quest to visit our ASEAN neighbors one at a time. I’m fascinated by the origin country of fresh-tasting noodle soup called Phở and the delicious sandwich Bánh mì, so why not visit it? I only have one way ticket booked last year bound to SGN and I just waited this year for a promo fare back to Manila. Finally, due to their New Year’s sale, I got one but on a different city. I thought of doing cross country to Cambodia like others, but due to limited vacation leaves, I thought of exiting at a different city. Hence, Hanoi departure was the perfect one, as the domestic flight between the cities is also on a promo (Thanks Traveloka🥰)! With flights in place, I breezed my way to explore this country at the eastern edge of mainland Southeast Asia.🥰 What a beautiful time to start the year with an overseas trip.🇻🇳 🥰


#Vietnam #SGN #HAN #heritage #museum #Saigon #Hanoi

February 01-04, 2022 (Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam)

1₱ = 422VND (Philippine Peso PHP to Vietnamese Dong VND)

Itinerary and Expenses (4D3N)

Airlines: Cebu Pacific and VietJet Air

₱1947 – MNL-SGN (PHP12 base fare one way) (Booked 10 Jun 2022)

₱1404.3 – SGN-HAN (VietJet Air domestic flight booked in Traveloka) (Booked 03 Jan 2023)

USD100.9≈₱5634.26 – HAN-MNL (USD1 promo base fare one way) (Booked 03 Jan 2023) + 20kg check-in baggage USD31.9 booked 23 Jan 2023)

*Prepared VaxCertPH or BOQ Yellow card but wasn’t checked in Vietnam upon arrival. Still, check updated travel requirements of destination.

Travel tax: ₱1620

For PH arrival, generate you eTravel QR code 3 days before your flight back to PH:


Prebooked via KLOOK app:

₱2354.2 – Ho Chi Minh City & Cu Chi Tunnels Full Day Tour

₱1710.7 – Hanoi Instagram Private Tour by Motorbike with Ao Dai Rental

₱1753 – Bali Private Transfer (Ubud City Center to Kuta/Airport)

Paid in cash (in Vietnamese Dong VND):

Bus#109 from SGN airport to Saigon Bus Station– 15000

Bus#17 from HAN airport to Long Biên Bus Station– 9000

Paid using Grab (in Vietnamese Dong VND):

108,000 – GrabCar from Nguyen Hue Walking Street to SGN Domestic Airport

328,000 – GrabCar from Hanoi Ecogreen Hostel to HAN International Airport

Data SIM:

250,000VND – 4G SIM Card Mobiphone bought at airport arrival Viettel


425,250 VND – Hanoi Ecogreen Hostel (2D1N)

Address : 21 P. Hàng Đồng, Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 10000, Vietnam (within Hanoi Old Quarter)

D1: MNL Departure at night

D2: SGN Arrival past midnight. Wait at airport until 6am for Ho Chi Minh City & Cu Chi Tunnels Full Day Tour. Back to SGN Domestic Airport at night for SGN-HAN flight.

D3: HAN Arrival past midnight. Wait at airport until 5am for Hanoi Instagram Private Tour by Motorbike with Ao Dai Rental. Souvenir Shopping at Old Quarter and shopping again for Hanoi Night Market.

D4: Early check-out and HAN departure (GrabCar to Nội Bài International Airport Terminal 2)


Highlights per City:

HO CHI MINH CITY (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh; Saigon/Sài Gòn) Vietnam’s largest city

– Independence Palace Dinh Độc Lập (Historical building of the Vietnam War era, with tours of government offices, war rooms & artifacts)

– Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn (1880s Catholic cathedral built with French bricks & featuring 58m-tall Romanesque bell towers)

– Sai Gon Central Post Office Bưu điện trung tâm Sài Gòn (Monumental central post office, completed in 1891, with a vaulted main hall & period finishes)

– War Remnants Museum Bảo tàng Chứng tích Chiến tranh (Memorial museum exhibiting photographs, weapons & other objects from the Vietnam & Indochina wars.)

– 277 Handicapped Handicraft (Lacquerware workshop and souvenirs)

– Cu Chi Tunnel Khu di tích lịch sử Địa đạo Củ Chi (Sprawling underground tunnel complex used by Viet Cong soldiers, plus exhibits & war memorials.)

– Ben Thanh Market Chợ Bến Thành (Well-known standby for handicrafts, souvenirs, clothing & other goods along with local eats.)

– People’s Committee Building Ủy ban nhân dân Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh (French colonial city hall built in the early 1900s, now the headquarters of the People’s Committee.)

– Ho Chi Minh Statue Tượng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh

– Nguyen Hue Music Fountain Nhạc Nước Nguyễn Huệ

– Nguyễn Huệ Pedestrian Street Đường Nguyễn Huệ (Busy promenade with frequent events)

– Bitexco Financial Tower (Iconic 68-floor skyscraper featuring an observation deck, retail shops, dining & a cineplex.)

– The Cafe Apartments (old apartment building turned into cafés, restaurants, and co-working spaces)

HANOI (Hà Nội) Vietnam’s capital city

– St Joseph Cathedral Nhà Thờ Lớn Hà Nội (late 19th-century Gothic Revival (Neo-Gothic style) church that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi.)

– Hanoi Moi Newspaper Báo Hà Nội Mới (Hanoi’s leading newspaper)

– Hoan Kiem Lake Hồ Gươm (Hoàn Kiếm) (Tranquil lake lined with reed & flower beds & home to a Confucian temple accessible by bridge.)

– Hanoi Opera House Nhà hát Lớn Hà Nội (Ornate performing arts hall opened in 1911 & staging classical music, dance & opera performances.)

– Hanoi Train Street Phố đường tàu Hà Nội (tiny narrow street surrounded by high narrow houses where the train passes a few times per day.)

– Tran Quoc Pagoda Chùa Trấn Quốc (Long-standing Buddhist temple built on a small, charming island with numerous shrines.)

– North Gate of Hanoi Citadel Cửa Bắc thành Hà Nội (Brick-arched north entrance to the former core of Hanoi, built by the 19th-century Nguyen Dynasty. A UNESCO World Heritage Site under Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long – Hanoi)

– Phan Đình Phùng Street P. Phan Đình Phùng (Tree-lined street with historic gate and church)

– Hanoi Old Quarter Night Market Chợ Đêm Phố Cổ Hà Nội (Weekend night market for bargain shopping)


1ST DAY (WEDNESDAY) MNL Departure at night

8:00 PM At NAIA terminal 3, pay first Travel Tax before checking-in for boarding pass

10:50 PM FLIGHT. Always take note that the local time in Manila is 1 hour ahead of Hồ Chí Minh. Indochina Time (ICT) Time zone in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (GMT+7).

2ND DAY (THURSDAY) SGN Arrival past midnight. Wait at airport until 6am for Bali Day Tour (12-hour Bali Private Car Rental with Driver)

12:40 AM ETA in Hồ Chí Minh. Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport Terminal 2.

Withdrew money at ATM machine at airport using BDO Debit Card. Php195.64 charge per transaction because 2M VND is the maximum you can withdraw. I withdraw another 1M to complete my 3M VND Pocket Money. Php55.90 charge for balance inquiry (approx. 1USD). Then bought 4G SIM Card Mobiphone bought at airport arrival Viettel. Wait at airport before 6am

5:45 AM Go to Bus #109 bound to city center. Orange van. Pay directly to conductor. Saigon Bus Station is the last stop. It looks like a UV in Philippines.

6:00 AM ETD 6am from SGN airport

7:00 AM BREAKFAST after arrival at Saigon Bus Station. Walk towards meeting place of Klook HCM Tour at Đ. Trần Hưng Đạo. Bought Banh Mi near our meeting point for Klook HCM Day tour

8:00 AM Start of tour where we were picked up by our tour guide at the meeting point.

8:22 AM The Independence (Reunification) Palace

09:52 AM Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon

09:58 AM Saigon Central Post Office. You may buy souvenirs here.

10:30 AM War Remnants Museum

12:00 PM LUNCH at Quán ăn ngon Sài Gòn 138. I chose the Saigon meal: Cơm tấm sườn bì chả (Broken rice served with pork chop, shredded pork skin and steamed pork loaf)

1:46 PM 277 Handicapped Handicrafts to see lacquerware workshop. Optional to buy souvenirs.

3:00 PM Cu Chi Tunnels tour. They have shooting range (own expense), souvenir shop and coffee/refreshments shop.

6:41 PM End of tour. Back to city center. Alight at Trần Hưng Đạo to walk towards Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street.

6:54 PM Ben Thanh Market (passing by)

7:02 PM Nguyen Hue Promenade with statue of Ho Chi Minh

7:16 PM City Hall then walk towards south

7:25 PM Fountain and Rex Hotel

7:32 PM Buy some snacks such as Bánh Tráng Nướng (Vietnamese Pizza)

7:38 PM Bitexco Financial Tower

7:41 PM The Cafe Apartments

7:55 PM DINNER of bought Vietnamese Pizza and Iced Coffee Cà Phê Sữa Đá

8:00 PM GrabCar from Nguyen Hue Walking Street to SGN Domestic Airport

8:39 PM VietJet Air Self Check-in and go to boarding gate. Charge gadgets and rest until flight

11:50 PM ETD in Hồ Chí Minh – Flight VJ 170

3RD DAY (FRIDAY) HAN arrival

2:00 AM ETA in Hà Nội. Nội Bài International Airport Terminal 1. Stay in airport until morning.

5:08 AM Leave for city center by Bus#17. This is a public bus that operates from the domestic terminal directly to the Long Bien Bus Terminal in the Old Quarter from 5am to 10pm. From domestic terminal, walk towards parking area. Fare: 9000₫. Pay to conductor.

6:10 AM Arrived at Long Bien Bus Station. Walk towards your hostel at Old Quarter using Google Maps or take a GrabCar. I wasn’t allowed for early check-in as 2pm is the check-in time so I left my bag at hostel’s lobby and took breakfast at Old Quarter.

6:57 AM Roam around Old Quarter. Egg Coffee at Cafe Giảng. 39 P. Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

7:43 AM BREAKFAST of Bún Chả set at Bún Chả Đắc Kim

1 P. Hàng Mành, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

8:00 AM Walk towards meeting place of Klook Hanoi Tour at P. Hang Bong. My guide let me choose the áo dài (Vietnamese national garment) that fits me, with matching nón lá (conical hat).

8:52 AM – St Joseph Cathedral Nhà Thờ Lớn Hà Nội

9:04 AM Hanoi Moi Newspaper Báo Hà Nội Mới

9:06 AM Hoan Kiem Lake Hồ Gươm (Hoàn Kiếm)

Turtle Tower (Vietnamese: Tháp Rùa / 塔𪛇), also called Tortoise Tower is a small tower in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake (Sword Lake) in central Hanoi, Vietnam. Stories of the Hoàn Kiếm turtle began in the fifteenth century with Lê Lợi, who became an emperor of Vietnam and founder of the Lê dynasty. According to legend, Lê Lợi had the sword named Heaven’s Will given to him by the Golden Turtle God, Kim Quy.
One day, not long after the war and the Chinese had accepted Vietnam’s independence, Lê Lợi was out boating on the lake. Suddenly the Golden Turtle God surfaced, prompting Lê Lợi to return Heaven’s Will and thank the divine turtle for its help. The Golden Turtle God took back the sword and disappeared into depths of the lake. Lê Lợi then renamed the lake Hoàn Kiếm Lake (or Hồ Gươm), meaning “The Lake of the Returned Sword.”
Peach blossoms (Hoa đào) are viewed as a symbol of the Lunar New Year (Tet) and also form an indispensable part of every Vietnamese family, especially in the north of Vietnam, once the country’s biggest traditional festival comes.
The red flowers are believed to hold the essence of “ngu hanh” – the five basic elements (metal, wood, water, fire, earth) that can drive away evil spirits and bring about peace and happiness to people. Red is believed by many to be the colour of prosperity.

9:27 AM Hanoi Opera House Nhà hát Lớn Hà Nội

9:46 AM Hanoi Train Street Phố đường tàu Hà Nội

10:23 AM Tran Quoc Pagoda Chùa Trấn Quốc

11:00 AM North Gate of Hanoi Citadel Cửa Bắc thành Hà Nội

11:02 AM Phan Đình Phùng Street P. Phan Đình Phùng

12:00 PM End of tour. My guide helped me buy some souvenirs before bringing me to my hostel. Super thankful ! 😊

At my hostel’s lobby, I connected to their WiFi for free and just sat on the couch until my check-in time. I’m still full at my heavy breakast of bun cha…hehe

2:00 PM Check-in and REST as I haven’t much sleep for two nights (spent at airport). Wash up before sleep. 😊 If you still have energy, you can visit other Hanoi spots within Old Quarter by just walking or food trip.

6:00 PM Walk towards Hàng Đào Street in Old Quarter for Weekend Night Market. Buy cheap souvenirs like refmagnets, garments and bags. Try to haggle if you can. In inner streets, you can buy Vietnamese coffee and other snacks.

Grocery shopping at Vinmart in Hàng Bút street to buy some snacks and most important, drinking water.

9:00 PM DINNER 1 bowl of phở tái gân (Noodle Soup with Rare Beef Steak and Tendon) across my hostel


4TH DAY (SATURDAY) Early check-out and HAN departure (using GrabCar)

4:00 AM Check-out from Hanoi Ecogreen Hostel. GrabCar from Hanoi Ecogreen Hostel to HAN international airport

5:00 AM ETA Nội Bài International Airport Terminal 2. Wait for check-in counters to open. For PH arrival, show your eTravel QR Code before getting your boarding.

You can buy more snacks and souvenirs after passing immigration with your remaining VNDs!



Some souvenirs and a little bit of shopping from Vietnam😊


1. Because of CebPac’s Promo fare last year’s Independence Sale with PHP12 base fare MNL-SGN, and HAN-MNL USD1 base fare this New Year’s Day sale, I was able to secure cheap flights to finally push Vietnam this year despite few days only. I know many go to Cambodia after Vietnam but I’ll prefer to save Cambodia trip in the future. 😊

2. Be mindful of dress code and related etiquette especially in visiting temples and palaces. I wore jogger pants and raglan in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City so no issues. In Hanoi, I anticipated wearing their garment áo dài so I wore white long-sleeved linen shirt and khaki pants. Good thing it complemented.

3. Motorbikes are king in Vietnam so if you would cross the road, make sure you’re decide to push through. No stopping in the middle of the road. Hassle-free when you’re in private car/transfer though when you’re solo, it’s all on you. You can save more when in a group to split expenses. The accommodation is actually good for 2 pax but already cheap because 2D1N is 1k pesos only! There are cheaper accommodations around but I chose in Old Quarter so I can be walks away from of eateries and shopping streets. Actually, it’s winter season in Hanoi at February (20 degree Celsius) so it’s a bit cold (and raining hard when I went there). Keep yourself warm always. Opposite of Ho Chi Minh City: very humid so I drink iced coffee…hehe Keep yourself hydrated. It’s cheaper if you buy drinking water at grocery, then just refill your tumbler. If there’s free drinking water at your hotel, just refill there. Try Vietnamese street food at local stalls like in Hanoi there are various choices. Pho (noodles) and bun cha (noodles with grilled meat) stalls are plenty and cheap. Eat like a local sitting on cute chairs and tables at sidewalks but always mind your belongings. Be careful in walking and crossing streets at Hanoi Old Quarter especially on motorbikes.

4. Shop also on Vinmart and other grocery supermarkets for some instant Vietnamese coffee and noodles. I have check-in baggage going back to PH so I shopped for some backpacks and snacks. The duffle bag I bought was used as my check-in baggage.

5. For data SIM, I just bought one at SGN arrival hall. Please install WhatsApp for communication to tour operators because that’s their preferred medium. You can also use Viber but they prefer WhatsApp.

6. DIY tours are doable in both cities SGN and HAN but this time, since I only have whole day tour for each city, I opt for guided tour on each. For SGN, the HCM tour with lunch included is the best! I learned a lot about Vietnamese history. In HAN, motorbike tour with ao dai rental to experience wearing their traditional garment. My motorbike guide in Hanoi is very informative and he accompanied me on my shopping. There are others tours available in Klook all tried and tested, like food tours and tours outside those cities like Mekong River tour (outside SGN) and Halong Bay Tour (outside HAN). That is, if you have many days to spend in Vietnam. Refer to Google Maps and Maps.Me for nearby spots to visit and restaurants. Google Translate app is very useful if you need to understand menu items in Vietnamese and speaking with natives.

7. In Hanoi, buy souvenirs when there is weekend night market. It was Friday that’s why they’re open. Else, there are shops in Old Quarter like in Hàng Buồm street and Hàng Giầy street. Goodluck in hunting! I initially allotted 200k VND per meal so the excess, I bought snacks. I spent nothing on my HCM tour as there’s lunch included in package. Just bring snacks and drinking water to save VNDs.

8. For currency, if you have USD, just exchange at Vietnam upon arrival. At SGN airport I withdrew local currency. There are ATM machines at arrival hall like BIND. Using BDO Debit Card. Php195.64 charge per transaction because 2M VND is the maximum you can withdraw. I withdrew another 1M to complete my 3M VND pocket money. Php55.90 charge for balance inquiry (approx. 1USD). Make sure before going to Vietnam, withdrawal abroad is enabled. Like in BDO Debit Card users, you can see it at Card Management.

9. I always use Grab for convenience and cashless also. There’s GrabBike in Vietnam if you’re adventurous. You can also book in KLOOK for private transfer if you’re sure on your time of departure from/to airport. In Grab, you can save more by using their promo codes. For me, Vietnam is cheaper compared to Thailand and Indonesia so maximize your VNDs. Hoping to explore other areas of Vietnam soon like the central part (Đà Nẵng, Hội An, Huế) and cities outside SGN and HAN sidetrips! Hope this itinerary helps. Enjoy your Vietnam trip!

#SharingIsCaring #livefullyinvietnam🇻🇳 #solotrip #travel2023


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