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Posted on Feb 28, 2013

You Ask: What Should I Do In My Two Week Vietnam Vacation? The Nomadic Family World Travel Blog

You Ask: What Should I Do In My Two Week Vietnam Vacation? The Nomadic Family World Travel Blog

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Vietnam is a wild and crazy world perfect for vacation travel. It’s also very, very long meaning if you really want to see all there is to see, you’ll end up spending way too much time on buses, trains, or, if you can splurge, in flights. As you know, friends, we’re not on a two week vacations to Vietnam from America mentality, even when we have a very limited of time. In our one month in Thailand, we spent 19 days in Kanchanaburi. In our one month in Vietnam, we spent 21 days in DaLat.

Why? Cuz we don’t like that gotta-go-travel-hysteria-rush-travel that leaves you exhausted when you’re done. We’re passed feeling the urge to see this waterfall or that mountain. And though we do see and love it, we’d rather go slowly, settle down, feel what it means to become a citizen/community member, and get to know people deeply, not shallowly. So, my advise on what to do for your fourteen days in Vietnam can only be based on the three places I’ve been.

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Saigon

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You have not been to Vietnam, if you have not tried to cross the street in Saigon (aka: Ho Chi Min City). I was terrified because it literally goes against everything you’d think is the safe and logical way to interact with on-coming traffic. To cross the street in Saigon (Kobi’s kick-ass video), you just decide and cross. If you conglomerate with others intending to cross as well, power to the mass blob in motion, but if you are not so lucky, place you hand out and walk.

You can look left and right though there isn’t much of a point to it. The traffic flows, weaves in some intricate pattern that you must have been passed down from generation to generation to understand. As soon as your foot leaves the curb, you become that pattern and flow according. There are unspoken rules that God-help me I don’t get, but Kobi always repeated one main principle:

Whatever you do, do not stop.

 

The Parks of Saigon

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I thought they were stalkers or trying to sell me something. No. Every park visit is decorated with sweet Vietnamese students hungry to practice their English on tourists.

We loved the parks and all those adorable Vietnamese exercising in the hundreds. As if it were some Communist doctrine that all good members in standing will engage in physical activity daily from this time to this time, and they all follow. They play shuckle ball or whatever that feathered weighted thing is called that they kick back and forth to each other with seamless contorted ease.

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Even the one guided tour we did in Saigon included several cool spots to this palace and that market, all surrounded with pampered parks. We went with Canary Travel and had the best time! We also know that our dear friend Barbara Adams and her husband run a very cool Saigon Street Eats Food Tour company which is ranked like fourth in TripAdvisor. So, check her out! She’s adorable.

Nothing else amazing we personally did in Saigon. I think one tour and walking the streets and parks will fill you up nicely. This is my First Glimpse of Saigon video.

DaLat

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Wow. That’s about all I can say without excessive babbling. DaLat (sigh) is a lovely little city with the feel of a small town way up in the mountains in Southern Vietnam. Surprisingly, and totally not showing in her thighs, DaLat carries a population ofย  135,000. DaLat was used by the French as an exotic Rest and Relaxation Resort town for their tired soldiers and government officials. You can see the Europeaness of DaLat in the architecture, the delish corner bakeries, and that crisp, cool mountain climate. As one who has sweat non-stop for the last 9 months, being cold has been a miraculous respite for the body and reviving rejuvenation for the soul.

What To Do In DaLat

To prevent me from writing a novel, I’ll put these in bullet points. There is so much we loved in our three week citizenship at DaLatians.

1. Take a Bull Rider Tour

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Yes, I said Bull Rider, not Easy Rider. The first is a small core of amazingly, high-quality brothers, the latter is a huge club of hundreds of a slightly less selective club membership. We LOVED Bull Riders. And yes, we, The Nomadic Family, did a tour. We rarely do, but both in Saigon and DaLat, because we were there for relatively short bursts of time, we wanted to see the good stuff fast.

I do wish to say that our day with the Bull Riders was my personal favorite day in our nine months in SouthEast Asia. They were that amazing. They were. And if you tell our dear friend Hinh that The Nomadic Family sent you, I promise you, they’ll give you the same high-quality, loving attention they gave us. L-O-V-E them!

2. Rent Motorbikes

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After you do your Bull Rider Adventure, rent a bike and ride anywhere– Crazy House, the flower garden, the surrounding mountains hold endless wonders. We rented bikes three times and each time had THE BEST time. Any travel agency will suggest cool things to do. Bikes should be around $5 a day.

3. Eat Our Amazing Lunch Deal and Dessert Spot

We died and went to heaven for $2 a person. Ready?

  • Rice
  • Your choice of fish in to-die-for tomato sauce, chicken, pork or beef
  • Cooked veggies
  • Salad
  • Small soup

for $1.50. I know! But this isn’t your bowl of Ramen Chicken Noodle Soup. This is heaven not in a box!

Ask for food by doing the “eat” sign in the market and they’ll point you to the second floor in the back of the market. It’s a bit of a maze, but after all the cloth, you’ll find it.

And then, heaven….

Look for this sign.

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And this adorable woman:

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(She can direct you to the amazing food booth, two booths down from her.)

You will experience for 10000 dong (fifty cents) either avocado pudding, coconut ice cream with toppings, or fresh strawberry shake. All three are home-made by this angel, and are beyond words.

[Note: At this point, we had spent 7 months in Cambodia and were delighted to eat avocados and strawberries again. She magically made heaven from both.]

We visited here again, and again, and again, always blown away by how remarkably fresh and tantalizingly delicious each bite and lick were. Again, if you go the avocado pudding/strawberry shake/coconut ice cream lady, let her know that Gabi and Kobi from Israel, with the three little kids say “hi!” She was a definite highlight for us.

We also explored the lake a lot, the market, the night market, and the streets in general. We loved those soybean hot drinks, the second-hand clothing (25 cents), and just wearing knitted hat, gloves, and jacket everywhere. I easily imagined us living in DaLat for a long, long time.

NaTrang

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We came to NaTrang for one reason and one reason alone. And like every place we’ve been in the last 24 months, we found a dozen other reasons to fall in love. We came for the Vin Pearl Water Park and it was definitely worth it! We were a bit challenged in the beginning as every ride but a dinky, stupid Dumbo ride was for people over a 1.3 or 1.5 meters which conveniently excluded our dare devil Solai from everything.

[Hi there! Photos got waterlogged and not sure we can get them back, so, google it for pics, ok?]

After we got through that, we loved the 4D 15 minute movie theaters, the huge free arcade and bumper cars, which I for the record did not like, but that’s another day. (Explain to me, slowly, why someone would voluntarily engage in any many violent head-on collisions intentionally?) We had a blast in the water park and spent hours splashing, sliding, and screaming. All five of us.

Do not try to smuggle food into the park.They totally check. Kobi did manage to get two Oreo rolls in through his pockets and we begged the lady to let us bring in one bottle of water. Food was reasonably priced and OK for your junk food variety. The caramelized popcorn in the arcade was cheap, so good, and highly addictive.

Besides that, we loved walking the promenade along the beach, falling in love with the old lady next door to our hostel (pictured below) , and eating God’s-gift-to-mankind cook-it-yourself BBQ here.

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We ate there 3 times and God, this post is all about food, did you notice that? Well we all know I’m only here for the food. Right. So, where were we? Yes, amazing food to die for for almost nothing. We majorly pigged out, in that finger-lickin ill-mannered but-loved-every-minute-of-it way for $8.50!

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We ate :

  • huge plate of white rice (fried rice costs more)
  • two huge salads
  • two servings of chicken skewers
  • a very impressively-sized veggie platter.

“Each?” you ask.

“No, total! All five of us ate till we literally could not anymore and the grand total of our meal was $8.50!”ย 

So, look for this sign, or ask a taxi driver who’ll surely know how to take you to this smoke-filled cool eating experience.

That’s it really. It’s not just really tasty food served to you, it’s the entire process of your cooking your own raw ingredients on that personal fire pit in the center of your table. And, unless you enjoy your lips and insides burning for hours, I’d suggest you ask for ‘no spicy’ and get you the hot stuff on the side.

Again, if you’re looking for whirlwind check-vee saw-it-all travel, which does honestly make sense when you only have two weeks off, then what I have to say here won’t be that super helpful. I do think any Vietnam vacation could not possibly be complete without visiting these three spots. I do, but then again, it’s based on my sample size of three. ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoy Vietnam.

Been to Vietnam? Did the crazy bus/train/plane rides and saw the North and fell in love? Think we’re crazy to have one month in a country and spend so much time chillin? Well, we do pride ourselves in doing things differently, and well, slow allows us to create routine, saves us money, and keeps us sane. But enough about us, tell me what you think about Vietnam, about what you feel after seeing and reading this post, about the food, mostly about the food.

Going to read the kids this really awesome part of Andy Andrew’s The Traveler’s Gift where David Ponder meets Christopher Colombus. Really life-changing book for both Kobi and I and the book club we started around it so many years back in Israel. The kids are waiting for me. Good night.

Comments

comments

24 Comments

  1. We did the one month to get from Hanoi to Saigon and over the border into Cambodia, thing. But, we didn’t go to Dalat. Next time we will! We actually didn’t find it too much of a rush, but we didn’t have the kids then. Vietnam was certainly very easy to get around and the food was fabulous, it’s one of our favourite countries.

    • i loved vietnam. we all did. you MUST visit DaLat love. It did our soul more good than I can describe. Magical, cool, crisp soul-hugging energy.

  2. Want to motorbike around Vietnam SO BADLY. One day

    • Hello George, I’ll be doing that in early 2014, going from southern VN to Hanoi. I think it’ll be fun.

      It’d be great to find a backpacking buddy to go with!

  3. We LOVED Vietnam! Completely agree with the crossing the street advice–the drivers will adjust to your pace. If you stop, you mess up the rhythm! :0

    • omg so scary though. right? “ok kids, don’t look! just walk!” god, my heart beat each time. Kobi started crossing the street back and forth, back and forth just for the adrenaline rush. thanks for commenting larissa.

    • Jessie, YOu. Would. Die. food heaven indeed. The bbq, the avocado pudding, the strawberry shake, that $1.50 meal with the fish with the sauce. omg. OMG. we could die and go to heaven together love. we could. we could.

  4. Great story. I’ve never really considered Vietnam but it sounds wonderful. Especially, DaLat.

    • Penny, thank you so much for the commenting dear. I never thought of it so much either, but then DaLat happened, and, as you can tell, I couldn’t be happier. thank you.

  5. Sounds like so much fun, and absolutely enriching for you and your family.

    • Jennifer, it was, it is. Thank you for commenting. Love it to death. Vietnam, and especially DaLat was awesome.

  6. All I kept thinking was, FOOD. EAT MORE FOOD. KEEP STUFFING MY FACE. For real, that’s my biggest pull to Asia, and you kept your kids well fed and with happy tummies!

    • cat dear. soooo much food here. and at such unreal prices like the ones we found, you know you’re gonna stuff your face. thanks for the comment cat.

  7. Your kids look like they’re having a great time in these photos.

  8. Gabi, thanks so much for this. We’re thinking about spending the winter in Asia, and we haven’t made it to Vietnam yet. Very helpful!

    • micki. say hi to the avocado/coconut/strawberry lady and the bull riders of dalat. we love you. i’m so glad it was helpful. sooo glad. mwah.

  9. You really had a wonderful time in Vietnam. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • you are so very welcome dear nguyen. we loved it! will be back! we adored dalat!!!!! thank you dear.

  10. Nice photos. Thanks for sharing your experience in my country. Love to hear more…

    • we adore your country. Vietnam was amazing. We’ll be sharing much more. ๐Ÿ™‚ gabi

  11. We just decided to add a month in Vietnam as part of our 5 month journey. Glad I stumbled upon you and this particular blog. We will have our nearly 3 year old with us, so traveling slow is a must for our sanity. We will hit Vietnam mid-late March. Definitely have to check out Dalat. Thanks again!

    • hi shea. i’m so happy for you guys. how fun with the 3 year old. oh, i’m jealous. we love dalat to no end! let us know how your plans fall into order. and yes, i’m so glad you stumbled upon us. if/when you open a blog, let me know and i’d be honored to shout it out. gabi

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