22 April 2016

What's in My Bag: 2 Weeks in Vietnam Edition

Today I'm heading off on my next adventure: a two-week trip to Vietnam, which I've been planning for the past six months. I have never visited Southeast Asia before and I initially toyed with the idea of spending a few days in Cambodia too but I've decided to save that for another trip to try to pack in as many of Vietnam's sights, sounds, smells and flavours as I can. It is, of course, impossible to 'do' Vietnam — or very many countries, for that matter —in just two weeks, but I hope that the small selection of towns and cities I am visiting will at least give me a taste of what the country has to offer.

I have quite a tight layover en route and I had hoped to carry my suitcase onto the plane. For Christmas, I got a new carry-on case — the Rimowa Salsa Air Cabin Multiwheel (in purple, of course) — which I'm really happy with (it worked great for my trip to Portland and Washington earlier this year). It is lightweight but sturdy, four double-wheels for superior steering and zippered mesh panels that keep your belongings in place in both of the case's compartments. It was challenging to pack all my toiletries, including suncream and mozzie repellent, into a single clear pouch but I managed it.

Then I discovered that the airline I'm flying restricts carry-on baggage by weight as well as size, and with a laptop and a camera, even I couldn't manage the tiny 7 kg limit. Instead, I'm carrying on my trusty large teal Lonchamp Le Pliage, including a few essentials just in case my case doesn't make the connection. I also packed away the bag's smaller sisters: the small tote in purple and the small handbag in pink. At home, I'm rarely without a leather handbag, but for travel, Lonchamp's Le Pliage bags are ideal: they are lightweight, sturdy, colourful and packable.

The weather is going to be hot and should be mainly sunny while I'm in Vietnam, but the country's climate varies a fair bit from Ho Chi Minh City in the south to Hanoi in the north. The former is likely to be extremely hot and the latter, hopefully, slightly cooler. The rainy season hasn't yet started but I've packed a mac and a brolly just in case. My technology, plane essentials and toiletries and makeup haven't changed much since this what's in my bag post, although I'll also be bringing my waterproof camera, my MacBook Air and my trusty Lonely Planet: Vietnam. Here are the clothes I packed (L–R, top row first):

  • Uniqlo fedora (I bought it last year but this one is similar)
  • Four dresses: three patterned and one plain purple 
  • Three pairs of shorts and a pair of leggings
  • Gym kit, bikini and swimming costume — it will probably be too hot to run, but I'll do my best. There should definitely be several swimming opportunities though. I've also packed my turquoise Hamamas towel (not pictured)
  • Tops: three tees, four vest tops (all pink/purple or blue)
  • Two cardis,  a long-sleeved plaid shirt and the hoodie I'll wear on the plane (not pictured)
  • Leather belt
  • Undies
  • Two lightweight scarves: one pink, one purple
  • Mac (hopefully, I won't need it)
  • Three pairs of shoes: purple Havaianas, emerald Nike Frees and black Banana Republic ballet flats.
I'm planning to do laundry once so the above should last me for at least a week. I'm also hoping to do a bit of shopping in Hoi An — and perhaps even to get a couple of my favourite dresses copied.

As well as plenty of sight-seeing, exploring and eating, I'm also looking forward to exploring Vietnam's coffee scene. I've identified a few third-wave coffee shops in HCMC, but if you have any suggestions for Hue, Hanoi or Hoi An, please let me know in the comments.

I was quite happy with my packing overall: I wore almost everything and with one mid-trip laundry session, I had just the right amount of clothing. I didn't need either my umbrella or my mac as it didn't rain during my trip, although as HCMC's first downpour of the season happened only a week after I left Vietnam, I'm glad I packed them just in case. I would, however, have left behind one scarf, one of my cardigans and my long-sleeved shirt behind; I only needed sleeves on the plane journeys. I also would have brought a skirt or another dress instead of my longer pair of jean shorts, which I only wore on travelling days. I also overestimated the amount of mozzie repellent I needed — one 50 ml maximum strength roll-on would have been more than enough — and underestimated the number of hotels that would provide conditioner.


  1. consider a non-leather belt. Leather tends to get mouldy in SE Asia. Also, how are you handling the visa? Doing it at the airport was chaotic in my experience.

    1. Thanks for the tip. It's only a little belt and cheap so I'm not too worried. UK citizens currently don't need a visa for stays of up to 15 days, which is great.