Traveling in your own home country is a special feeling – it’s your home, yet it’s… not. My parents moved to Sweden when I was only a baby, and ever since then I’ve identified myself as a Swedish girl. Occasionally, me and my family traveled home to the north of Vietnam and stayed with our relatives for one month. But it wasn’t until last year, in December 2017, that I finally got to discover the country where my parents are from – where my roots are from! I got to spend 3 magical weeks traveling alone in Vietnam and I discovered so many things that would never have been possible if I didn’t do this trip by myself.
First things first: I wanted to stay in Vietnam for longer than 15 days, which meant that I needed to apply for an E-visa, something that is quite new for Vietnam. As a Swedish citizen I could apply for the E-visa which allowed me to stay in the country for 30 days. The visa applies for citizens of 46 programs throughout the world and is quite inexpensive. But there is another option as well; visa on arrival at the International Airport of Vietnam. This requires applicants to get a visa approval letter (which needs to be approved by the Immigration of Vietnam) through a travel company in Vietnam. When everything is done and approved – you just go pick up the visa on arrival at the destination airport. Easy and smooth!
When I got my E-visa, it was time for me to take the leap and discover Vietnam. I started in Hai Phong, where my relatives are from. The city is close to Hanoi (over 2 hours with a bus) yet tourists have not yet discovered it. Many people decides to skip it and head straight to Halong Bay – another place I recommend. But what makes Hai Phong so unique is that it has managed to retain its charm and there’s an authentic Vietnamese feeling in the city – this is how Vietnam is without tourism. Although the city isn’t bustling like Hanoi, it is still worth visiting if you wanna get to know a different side of Vietnam.
After some days, it was time for me to venture out again and start my journey in Hanoi – the city that literally never sleeps. You’ve probably heard it before, but crossing the streets in Hanoi can be one of the most terrifying things to do. But once you get used to it, it starts to feel like a sport. I’ve visited Hanoi before, but I never really saw it for what it really is – an incredible and amazing city! A tip for anyone who likes quirky, instagrammable cafés: go to “Unicorn Café” where they serve cakes in rainbow colors, lattes and where you can dress up as a unicorn and take as many pictures as you want.
After Hanoi, I flew to Da Nang and went straight to the highly beloved Hoi An. I didn’t really know what to expect, besides the fact that everyone loves this place. And it wasn’t difficult to see why – Hoi An is an incredibly beautiful place, filled with life, good vibes and delicious cuisine. If you love Vietnamese food just as much as I do, Hoi An will not disappoint you. I decided to stay for more than 4 days (which was my initial thought) because I couldn’t resist going to the tailors and have them make me some tailor made dresses – highly recommend anyone doing this when visiting Hoi An. It’s an attraction itself! What I noticed is that many Vietnamese people spoke English to me, which I thought was strange. As a native speaker in Vietnamese, I could easily understand and get around. No one believed me when I told them I’m Vietnamese! I felt like I was at home, yet I was still seen as a tourist in a country that I had never lived in.
After spending some relaxing days in Hoi An, I went to Mui Ne to spend some days by the beach. Public transportation is easy in Vietnam and surprisingly comfortable. You can even lay down and sleep if you’d like on the buses. Mui Ne to me was a tourist resort and it didn’t represent the Vietnam that I wanted to see, so I quickly went to my last destination; Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. It was there when I strangely enough felt more accepted. The people were always kind, always curious and never doubted me when I told them I’m from Vietnam. I went to the Cu Chi tunnels, which was very powerful. I visited museums about the Vietnamese War, I wandered around in the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City and I ate a lot. A lot.
The city is always full of life so you will never be bored. Actually, it is quite impossible to be bored in Vietnam. As my traveling days in Vietnam ended, I reflected back on my trip. Traveling around in your own home country is eye opening and something I’d recommend for anyone that has migrated to a new country. It makes you appreciate your family, the Vietnamese culture and it makes you feel more connected than ever to your roots. I know that this is not the last time I visit Vietnam. There is still too much to do and see, so much to discover and so many delicious things to eat. Thank you Vietnam for this trip – it was unforgettable!