Continued from Part 1
6. Overnight trains
I had read some horror stories regarding the overnight trains; a quick internet search and you'll find them too, but both of the journeys we made were nothing but pleasant. Yeah, the train was a little bumpy and for a 'sleeper' train the sleeping was minimal, but the most important thing I found was that we felt safe. We were lucky with who we were sharing our 4 bed cabin with and made a couple of new friends for the journey. You never know who you will end up sharing with, so if you are worried about this, you can always book out a 4 berth cabin to yourself - it won't cost a fortune.
The bedding we had was clean and satisfactory, however, it would be advisable to pick up a silk sleeping bag which can be found cheaply in many stores across the country. This way, if the linen you receive isn't up to scratch you don't have to use it.
The toilets lock from the inside AND the outside. There is a lock on the outside to stop the door from swinging open when it is vacant, however, as one girl we met discovered, you can get locked in. Her banging on the door and shouting was finally heard after half an hour. This was not the most enjoyable part of the journey for her. If you don't have someone to watch the door while you use the bathroom, then try and go before 12pm - while there are still many people up and about, and then wait again until 5am when again there are many people awake who can rescue you.
The trains can get cold as cabins are air conditioned - which is great, but it can leave you feeling pretty chilly. We managed to acquire some blankets, and were incredibly thankful for them. If you don't have blankets, just make sure you have layers.
7. Just because it's Off Peak season, doesn't mean you shouldn't go
Yeah the weather is at the hottest - 40 degrees on our most scorching day, but we survived it. Yes it can rain - we got caught in one storm and saw the fallen trees another one caused, but the weather never stopped us doing anything we wanted to do. We retreated to our hotel for the hottest part of each day, or found a museum or another attraction that offered much needed air-conditioning.
Ha Long Bay had only a fraction of boats that it would have during peak season, and the picturesque views of Sa Pa weren't ruined by groups of tourists posing with the dreaded selfie stick. Due to the lack of tourists, it meant that when we stayed in hotels that had a pool, we pretty much had the pool to ourselves. And the private beach really was a private beach.
8. Stay in a nice hotel
I don't usually stay in 4* hotels, I'm more of a hostel, or more recently Airbnb type; both of these options are great when you are travelling alone and want to meet new people, plus they are budget friendly. However, as I was enjoying this holiday with a friend, we realised that we could stay in very nice hotels for what we would pay for a bed in a dormitory in certain cities (I'm looking at you London, Paris and New York!). Our final hotel was one of pure luxury, the breakfast alone featuring profiteroles and panna cotta was worth the £25 each. Our rooftop pool had views overlooking Hanoi, and we just melted into the comfiest beds that evening for the best night's sleep of the trip.
9. People will want to talk to you
The Vietnamese are friendly, and they aren't all trying to sell you something. They want to practice their English, they want to know where you've come from, and quite often we found, they will want to have their photograph taken with you too. It was very surreal, and as someone who usually declines their picture taking, I felt somewhat uncomfortable with the whole situation. Declining however, was not an option. Our guide later explained to us that as we are tall, pale (hello factor 50), and look generally 'unusual' the Vietnamese find us fascinating, and want to take a photograph to show their friends. They then joke with their friends that they visited Europe - another thing about the Vietnamese, they have a great sense of humour!
10. Go to Vietnam
If it's been on your list for a while then put it straight to the top, if Vietnam hasn't even occurred to you as a holiday destination, why not? As our holiday neared the end, we were sat around the pool drinking Happy Hour Cocktails (Happy Hour which lasted from 12pm-11pm), taking advantage of the free WiFi while checking out flights and hotel deals to see when we could return!