The distance from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi is super long. We had about three weeks to travel the distance which was a generous amount of time – we’d met some (crazy) travellers who had done it in just one. This meant we had time for plenty of stopovers on our way north. First, we decided to check out the beautiful city of Dalat, located in the Southern Highlands of the country.
Due to its location in the mountains, Dalat is known for having a cooler climate which we were really looking forward to. But actually it wasn’t quite as cold as we’d hoped and we unfortunately got rather sunburnt on our first day. We only stayed in the city for one full day, but we managed to pack a lot in.
Our first stop was Dalat’s Crazy House, which has got to be one of the most bizarre tourist attractions I’ve ever come across. For some reason, the daughter of a previous president studied architecture in Russia and decided to build a completely wacky and nonsensical house here in Dalat. Imagine Alice in Wonderland meets Lord of the Rings and you might get an idea of what the place looked like. It was fantastically strange and over the top, with staircases and walkways winding round, up and over rooftops and ponds and balconies and cubby holes. It was super weird and almost entirely pointless.
We also checked out the Dalat Flower Gardens, where beautifully landscaped flowerbeds and topiaries offered a welcome respite from the traffic clogged streets so common in Vietnam. On our walk around the city we also came across produce markets, a radio mast shaped like the Eiffel Tower and of course Xuan Huong lake. Some delicious pizza and an awesome bakery meant we overall had a really pleasant visit! After our two nights in Dalat, we left for our next destination Nha Trang.
Vietnam’s odd shape means it has thousands of kilometres of coastline so it would have been a shame to miss out on it! Nha Trang is the most popular beach destination in the country and very popular with backpackers (and Russian tourists). The main draw for us was the opportunity to go snorkeling around the beautiful islandsin Nha Trang Bay, which was pretty much all we achieved whilst here. It was one of the first opportunities we’d had to snorkel since the Philippines!
We paid $25 each for half a day of snorkeling and had an awesome time. We saw incredible fish of every colour – ranging from grey to neon pink – as well as jellyfish, eels, sea urchins and a lot of brightly coloured coral. The environment was so stunning as well so we were thrilled with how the trip went.
The next day we caught our first overnight train of our entire Asian journey. Our destination was Hoi An, which is located near the middle of the country. Nha Trang to Hoi An is a looong way. Too long for a bus. So we opted for a sleeper train which was a pretty interesting experience. Because Jake and I booked our tickets last minute, we were shoved up at the top of a compartment containing two 3-tier bunk beds. Two of the beds were being shared between a woman with three children and her mother, making for quite a full house! However we slept pretty soundly and arrived at our destination quite well rested. I definitely recommend overnight trains in Vietnam!