Vietnam, oh Vietnam. A land of history and culture, high on my list of sights. In my summer holidays I finally hiked in Southeast Asia and the first place I visited was of course Vietnam.
The Vietnamese area is so long and sprawling that it takes too long to get from north to south. In my experience, it can take up to a month. The first time I visited Vietnam, I did it partly alone and sometimes accompanied by Mexican friends. I visited the north and the south and made sure not to waste much time despite my backpacker budget. Here’s what I did with this wonderful week of my life.
Day 1: First impressions of Vietnam
My flight came from South Korea (where I lived) in Vietnam. We flew to Cat Bi Airport (NPH) in Hai Phong, Vietnam. It is neither the main airport nor the closest to the capital, but it is a great economic option if you come from Korea, Thailand or other parts of Vietnam. It is 2 hours by train from Ha Noi, the Vietnamese capital. Personally, I chose this option because it was the only flight to Vietnam that arrived in the morning. I had planned to rest on the train after spending the night at the Korean ICN airport.
Take a walk in Ha Noi
Arriving in Ha Noi, after getting lost in the busy streets of Old Quater, I sat down to have breakfast in one of the many cafes in the area. For $ 3, I had a delicious breakfast consisting of baguette and a shot to try in Vietnam. The coffee machines kindly allowed me to leave my backpack when I explored Ha Noi.
One of the most popular attractions was the Water Puppet Show, a curious Vietnamese tradition with live music at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. In total it took 50 minutes and 4 USD. Once this is over, visitors can walk around Hoan Ki Lake? M, a large and beautiful lake with several interesting sights. My favorite was the Ngoc Son Temple, the most visited temple in Hanoi. It is located on a small island connected to the lake by an elegant, Vietnamese-style, scarlet bridge. The temple is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao, who defeated the Mongols in the 13th century. La To, patron of doctors; and the scholar Van Xuong.
After having dinner at Lotteria, one of my favorite Asian hamburger restaurants, I picked up my backpack and waited for the night train that would take me to my next destination: Sa Pa.
Day 2: Sa Pa – Y Linh Ho – Lao Chai – Ta Van
This is the second night in a row not to sleep in a bed, but no matter what it takes to explore Vietnam – especially Sa Pa. The train arrived at Lao Chai Station at 5am, from where you can take a bus to the city of Sa Pa in 3 hours. This is the main problem of Vietnam. The routes are very long and there are not many ways to move from one place to another.
After a fruity breakfast, hike from Sa Pa to Muong Hoa Valley, which is worth every step to get there. The view of the Hoang Lien Mountains is great. Take a walk through the northern rice terraces of this beautiful land to the Muong Ha River, where you can swim to a suspension bridge that will take you to the village of Za.
Vietnam, I love you, and it’s only the second day.
Day 3: Sa Pa – cat cat
On the third day, I woke up to have a coffee and watch the sunrise in this mountainous and magical place. After a shower and breakfast, you will cross the bamboo forests to the town of Cat Cat. After a meal on the river, visit the foot of Fansipan Mountain, the highest mountain in the Indo-Chinese region. Again, I was surprised by nature. Back in Sa Pa, I took a shower and collected my things before returning to Ha Noi night train.
Day 4: Ha Long Bay
After another night without bed, I arrived early for breakfast in Ha Noi: Delicious Pho – the typical Vietnamese soup that is delicious! At 10 am I took the bus to Ha Long Bay, one of the 7 wonders of nature. Four hours later, I went on a cruise with Tuan Chau to sample typical Vietnamese seafood and rice dishes. Later, I was able to enjoy Ha Long Bay and kayaking and swimming in the various caves (Hang Sung Sot is the largest) and the caves. The water here is green and refreshing in the heat of over 30 degrees of a Vietnamese summer. Overnight is a great option, especially if your trip, like mine, serves photographic purposes.
Day 5: Ha Noi
After breakfast and a walk in the caves, I returned to Ha Noi, where I arrived at my hostel (Hanoi City Rocks) for about 15 hours. After a nap and a cool shower, I went to march? Ng Xuân, where I bought traditional clothes and ornaments, then a pizza for dinner, because yes. I needed a pizza for my plan to eat pizza in every country I visited. There was free beer in my hostel for one hour a night, and if there is a place where the beer is tasty, it’s Vietnam. Tiger beer is a must to drink it once in your life.
Day 6: Ha Noi by scooter
On the sixth day, my Mexican friends arrived in Ha Noi and encouraged me to rent a scooter for $ 10 (the price of one day). One thing you notice right away in Vietnam is the excessive number of scooters entering Vietnamese roads – there are more scooters than cars. So we visited places like the Literature Temple and H? Mausoleum of Chí Minh in the north of Ha Noi. We ate near Tay Lake (bigger than Hoan Ki? M Lake) and then visited the Tran Quoc Pagoda. Then we went back to our hostel to get a free tiger beer, the best beer in Asia.
Day 7: Last day in Ha Noi
The last day we spent in Ha Noi, the capital of Vietnam. After breakfast in a small local restaurant we rented scooters again to visit two interesting and inspiring museums in this wonderful country: the Hoa Ló Prison and the Vietnamese Women’s Museum. After talking a bit about the impression of these two museums, we visited the Long Bien Bridge. This bridge, designed by Eiffel, crosses the Red River. As a strategic point, he was bombed during the war.
Before I went to the airport and said goodbye to my friends, I decided to ride a scooter through the old neighborhood to buy souvenirs and my last Vietnamese sandwich in Ha Noi.
Bai International Airport is less than an hour from the city center. Take a bus that will pick you up for 2 USD at the terminal of your choice. In my case the national terminal – my adventure in Vietnam is not over yet.