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Unplugged Ninja in Vietnam

by Mary Nhin 19 Jun 2024 1 comment

When my sister-in-laws told me they were going back home after 46 years to visit their childhood home, I jumped at the chance to go back to the country I have family ties to. I didn't know what to expect, but I knew I needed to do this trip for my soul, my husband, and son. I have some big goals this year to achieve my mission of reaching 100 million children worldwide, so much needed rest and relaxation was in order.

We flew into Da Nang first. Da Nang is beautiful beach town with a village feel and city feels. There was a lot to do including Ba Na Hills (Vietnamese amusement park), $15 one hour massages, custom tailored clothing, coconut boat rides, hikes, and Hoi An (my favorite).

In Hoi An, which is only 30 minutes away, I got to take a beautiful boat lantern ride, and have a professional photo shoot ($32) done. I would say you definitely need at least 3-4 nights in Da Nang. We stayed at Altara Suites which was on My Khe beach ($52/night).

Unfortunately, my husband fell ill with a high fever and bad cough on day 5. This made him miss most of the events in the next location. We opted out of the optional but recommended shots for Vietnam. I do remember seeing a bug bite he got on day 3-4 on his arm that grew bigger. Even though I spent almost every minute with him in close proximity, I never got sick. My mom says when I was young, I was sick often which made me immune as an adult.

Around this same time, I also found out that I lost two of my ponytail holders I brought with me. This made my morning workouts really tough and I had to be become an adaptable ninja and use a disposable toothbrush as a hair pick. Even though we found rubber bands, none of the stores carried cushioned ponytail holders.

From Da Nang, we traveled north to Ninh Binh. If I had to go back to Vietnam, Ninh Binh would be included on my must do list. It has a countryside feel with so much to do and experience. Biking in the countryside was my favorite, followed closely by Mua Cave viewpoint. The hike is a tough one, but the view at the top is worth every step. Lotus lake and the rice fields are amazing. We spent three nights here which was perfect. Staying at the Hidden Charm resort was $72/night and came with free breakfast and bikes.

Next, we went to Ha Long Bay. This is the area where my husband grew up until he was six when he migrated to the U.S. When we arrived to his old home, we found it was torn down, but the lychee tree was still standing and it still had fruit! of course, we tried it and it was so sweet like a welcoming home gift! 

For the next day in Ha Long Bay, we tried a cruise but wanted to stay away from the tourists so we chose Cat Ba Ventures in Cat Ba Island. Our tour guide, Hang, was funny and educational. He led us into a jellyfish lagoon where we kayaked amongst beautiful and friendly jellyfish. It was like a dream. The water here is a spring-like clear emerald color. We enjoyed the seafood in Ha Long Bay, but as others have said, it is heavily developed. Two nights at Muong Thanh hotel was good here for us ($54/night).

My favorite part of Vietnam was our next destination, Sapa. I didn't know what to expect in Sapa as there were mixed reviews. We chose to stay at Topas Ecolodge and we were not disappointed. With its personally developed tours, trails, and focus on sustainability and giving back to the locals, we relaxed in the resort like we hadn't been able to before on our trip in Vietnam. I didn't think Ninh Binh's beauty could be beat, but boy were we in for a surprise with the terraced rice fields in Sapa. I can't describe the landscape here. No words can do it justice. You just have to see and experience it yourself.

We did two tours and since we went in the beginning of rainy season, there were some areas which we nicknamed Slime Adventure. I almost slipped on very steep trails three times. My husband, Kang, did slip once and gave himself a small cut on his arm. If you do decide to trek, I recommend good trekking shoes and hiking or walking sticks.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed the adventures trekking through the rice fields and mountains, meeting locals and learning about the culture. The views were undeniably breathtaking and the air quality was amazing. We initially booked two nights, but added an additional night. Since we went in the rainy season, the prices were a bargain at $221/night. I finished my stay at Topas with their Signature Spa package which included a Chocolate body scrub, one hour massage, hydrating facial, and Red Dao herbal bath ($100).

Our last stop was in Hanoi. We spent four nights at Hanoian hotel which was too much ($54/night). I would say no more than 2 nights. My favorite spots were the train street and the incense farm. Don't get scammed at train street where, depending on where you enter, locals will try to make you buy a drink before entering to view and experience the train going by. Walk until you find the right intersection where most people enter, not the ends of the train tracks. 

All in all, Vietnam was beautiful and so affordable. We're talking about 80% to 85% off of what things usually are in the U.S. We spent $2200/per person for round trip tickets and $600 per person for food, shopping, tours, and Grab (Uber) for 20 days. It was such a memorable trip and I'm so happy Kang was able to visit his old childhood home.

I feel like a part of me is whole now that I've experienced both north and south Vietnam. It was such a memorable trip and I’m returning to the States a very Passionate Ninja and ready to get back to work! Who knows, maybe I'll write a Ninjas Go to Vietnam one day!


Vietnam E-visa: It takes up to two weeks to get your visa. Vietnam’s government takes visas very seriously. I got my passport number wrong and was held up at the airport for an extra two hours upon arrival, paying an extra $300.

Topas Ecolodge

Hidden Charm Resort

Muong Thanh Hotel

Altara Suites

Hanoian Central Hotel and Spa

Klook and TripAdvisor for tours

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1 comment

20 Jun 2024 Amy Le

Beautiful, Sis! This itinerary is wonderful and makes me miss VN so much!

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