With borders open once again, now is the time to get out of Singapore for a break.
Specifically, either Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) or Hanoi in Vietnam, if you are looking for say, a four-day long trip over a weekend.
Why these two cities in particular?
If it is a holiday where your aim is to disengage from work, these two cities have plenty of options for you with their nightlife, historical sites, markets for cheap shopping and good food.
Looking to party and unwind? You can check out Bui Vien street in Saigon or Bia Hoi Junction within Hanoi’s Old quarter, with their various bars, clubs and restaurants.
For those of you who are seeking some historical immersion, there are sites such as the Cu Chi Tunnels in Saigon, and the President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum or Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi to satiate your needs.
As for people looking to go on a shopping spree, Ben Thanh market in Saigon and the wider Old Quarter in Hanoi could be the locations right up your alley.
On top of that, a new Vietnamese carrier, Bamboo Airways, is now flying between Singapore and both cities.
The airline operates five flights a week from Saigon, and will increase this frequency to daily flights beginning Jan. 1, 2023, as well as two flights a week from Hanoi.
Bamboo Airways’ namesake is inspired by the iconic Vietnamese tree to reflect hospitality, bravery and resilience.
Thus far, awards the airline has won include Changi Airport’s New Airlines Award, the Best Cabin Crew in Asia and the Most Improved Airline in Asia at the PAX Award 2022, and Asia’s Leading Regional Airline at the World Travel Award 2020.
At this point, if you are interested in checking out either of these cities but can’t overcome the inertia of planning, fret not, we’ve got you covered with an itinerary for each city.
Four-day trip to Saigon
Day 1: Stroll down Saigon’s most iconic street
So you have just touched down and are looking forward to taking it easy on your first day.
You can consider taking a slow walk down Nguyen Hue Walking Street, a beautiful boulevard that runs from the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Building to the Saigon river.
It is also a great spot for cafe hopping given the number of cafes located along the street, as well as No. 42 Nguyen Hue.
Located on the bustling street, this building is renowned as the coffee apartment with the sheer number of cafes and restaurants packed within it, from top to bottom.
Afterwards, you can shop and dine at the nearby Saigon Garden Shopping Mall, a unique mall, adorned with plenty of green plants and trees, which overlooks the boulevard.
Day 2: Ramping up your Vietnam adventure
Ready to fully immerse yourself in Vietnam’s history? You can start the day by heading to the Independence Palace to explore the end of the Vietnam War, and the reunification of the country.
Afterwards, you can book a tour to head out to the Cu Chi tunnels, by either taxi or bus, located in the Cu Chi district about 70km away from Saigon.
Here, you will have the opportunity to explore a vast underground tunnel network established by the Vietnamese during their fight against the French for independence.
These tunnels were then expanded during the Vietnam War, serving as an underground base of sorts for the Communist guerillas.
Apart from the tunnels, you can also see the various relics of the Vietnam War, such as the bombs and tanks utilised by the Americans, along with the traps set by the Vietnamese.
Upon your return to Saigon, you can head to Bui Vien Street in the evening to unwind with beer and local Vietnamese cuisine at one of the restaurants there, or perhaps check out one of the clubs to have a night to remember.
Day 3: Winding down with some cultural appreciation
If you still feel like you have not had your fill of Vietnamese culture, you can check out the Ao Dai Museum.
This beautiful museum is situated in the middle of a landscape that lovingly recreates rural Vietnam, while its displays are focused on traditional Vietnamese life.
Day 4: Getting your fill of Vietnamese cuisine
No trip to Vietnam is complete without enjoying the range of food that Vietnamese cuisine has to offer and there is perhaps no better place to experience this than Cai Rang floating market, located about 160 km southwest of Saigon.
Accessible by bus or private car from Saigon, the market, which is located on the Mekong Delta, features many stalls selling different kinds of Vietnamese dishes.
On top of that, you will also have the opportunity to enjoy a unique dining experience, given that the stalls are located on boats traversing the water.
Once you have had your fill, you can return to Saigon to go shopping at Ben Thanh market which features a wide variety of stalls selling fruits, snacks, clothes and even cosmetics.
The stalls also differ from day to night, so this place is pretty much a shopping junkie’s dream.
Most importantly however – don’t forget to bargain for cheaper prices.
Definitely a perfect note to end your trip.
Four-day trip to Hanoi
Day 1: Soaking in Vietnam’s history
If you touched down in Hanoi instead, there’s no better way to kick off your trip than immediately immersing yourself in the country’s history.
For a completely different aspect of the country’s history beyond the 20th century, you can head over to Quoc Tu Giam, also known as the Temple of Literature.
First built in 1070 as homage to Confucius, this is also Vietnam’s first university.
The tranquil atmosphere of the temple makes it the perfect place to relax your mind.
Afterwards, you can head over to Ho Guom (Sword Lake).
Here, the lake effectively serves as an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city and a great place to enjoy fresh air.
When you feel refreshed, you can check out the President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
This mausoleum is a place of reverence for visitors to honour arguably the most consequential leader of Vietnam’s modern history.
If you’re lucky, you may also be able to witness the mausoleum’s changing of the guard, carried out in extremely precise movement and formation.
Not a bad way to spend your first day in Hanoi
Day 2: Sightseeing Sapa
If you are feeling adventurous, you can head out of Hanoi to Lao Cai, near the border with China, to experience rural life in Vietnam in the mountains.
This location is accessible by train from Hanoi – in fact, the best is to book an overnight train to Lao Cai, so that you can start your hike in the morning.
Once there, you can take a private car or bus onwards to Sapa to begin your trek to the villages in this beautiful region.
Here are some of the sights you can expect to see while trekking to Sapa.
You should also look at booking one of the many homestays you can find in Sapa given that this is a place you cannot fully explore in one day.
Day 3: Sapa - Fansipan mountain
Another sight you should really consider while in Sapa is Fansipan mountain.
At a height of 3,143 metres, it is the highest point in Vietnam, with a chance of snow during the winter season.
You can either ride a cable car up to the summit or hike up the mountain, if you are feeling adventurous, where you can enjoy a gorgeous view.
Once you have finished your hike, you can return to Hanoi via the night train.
Day 4: Enjoying local cuisine in Hanoi’s old quarter
As your final stop in the city, why not head to Hanoi’s old quarter?
Here, you can go shopping for silk, try out a variety of local cuisine, and have a beer at a bar, among many more things you can do throughout the day.
For food, there are restaurants within the old quarter serving food such as Cha Ca La Vong (grilled turmeric fish), and Bun Cha (grilled pork and rice noodles).
As an added bonus, Hanoi’s train street, with its various cafes, is located right next to the old quarter – perfect for your Instagram fix.
Tempted to get a short break in Vietnam? Check out the flights by Bamboo Airways now.
This sponsored article made the author start looking up flights to Vietnam.
Left photo by David Emrich via Unsplash, right photo via Hanoi Transport Service With Driver/Facebook