6 Weeks of Road Trip Across Vietnam
Vietnam is a long-shaped country with varied climate and landscape that differ greatly from North to South. Whether it is high mountain, jungle, desert, ocean, the country has it all to offer. Taking a road trip across Vietnam has been my dream trip for ages, but I only got the chance to realize it late last year (Nov-Dec 2017), when I finally had a career break to be free for a long holiday. Read the rest of this entry »
Vietnam’s Beautiful Northern Beaches on Quan Lan Island
*Disclaimer: This is a super belated post from my beach trip to Quan Lan Island in Vietnam 4 months ago in July. For the mean time, I am shivering in London’s gloomy rainy grey winter dreaming of our beautiful tropical beaches.
Vietnam has beautiful beaches, that is not to deny. If even Brazilian people would say so then there is nothing to doubt about! Alright.. I mean my Brazilian friends. But still, with more than 3,000 km of coastline and a tropical weather we do have many gorgeous beaches across the country. (See my previous posts of Southern island Phu Quoc and Central Ha Tinh province’s Thien Cam beach)
Compared with the South and most of the Central part of Vietnam where it is hot all year around, the North of Vietnam has a cold winter and the beaches are only crowded in the summer. Besides the famed Ha Long Bay there are many other beautiful islands in the nearby Bai Tu Long Bay in which Quan Lan is one of the two most popular, together with Co To.
However, for a tourist attraction, Quan Lan is quite under-developed. There are 3 main beaches in the island: the most serviced (i.e touristy) one is Minh Chau, the most populous is Quan Lan (also the main town) and the almost-deserted one is Son Hao. Read the rest of this entry »
“The West is best. Or is it?”
(Tiếng Việt phía dưới)
Recently there was a talk show happening at Manzi with the participation of Nguyen Qui Duc, Phan Y Ly, Anh-Minh Do and MC Dang Hoang Giang that attracted lots of attention from young Vietnamese people. The “hot” topic was: “The West is best. Or is it?”; both the host and the three guest speakers were “international Vietnamese” who returned to Vietnam after spending many years abroad. And with those four “returnees” we could already assume their answer to the topic without even having to attend the talk. No, it isn’t. Read the rest of this entry »
Road Trip: Hanoi – Moc Chau – Son La – Pha Din
I have been taking motorbike road trips a few times before and it has become a serious hobby. Whenever there are long holidays, long enough to jump on the bike to drive to the mountains and back, I would definitely take the chance to get out of the bustling capital for a while. The more I go the more I realize how beautiful my country is, the kind of beauty that you, young Vietnamese people, need to go nowhere else to find. Heaven? It’s here! Right on your motherland!
Contrast to the last trip packed with 13 peeps this time our groups had only 4 people. We headed out of Hanoi on the 6th of Feb, also our Tet holidays (traditional lunar new year holidays). During roughly 3 days we drove our manual Honda through almost 800 km all the way from Hanoi to Moc Chau, Son La, Pha Din pass (one of the 4 most famous mountain passes in the North of Vietnam) and back. Read the rest of this entry »
On the topic of religion in Vietnam: So you really think we are atheists?
Religion in Vietnam on Wikipedia proclaims: “Officially, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an atheist state”.
That statement is perfectly correct and needs no further argument. However, do pay attention to the keyword “officially”, because the actual question is: how about “informally”? Now, this gives room for debate.
Feudal Vietnam was mostly a Buddhist country but Vietnam under Socialism declares no national religion, and most of its population also don’t “officially” follow any particular belief. Normally, when we fill in application forms that asks for religions, we always tick “none”. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean Vietnamese people are all “non-believers” as reported. Read the rest of this entry »
Road Trip: Hanoi – Moc Chau – Mai Chau
On the occasion of the long holidays last weekend (2nd of Sep is Vietnam’s Independence Day), my travel group had another exciting motorbike road trip to the mountains. This time the route was quite mild and we also drove our Honda Wave much less than our previous two trips. It was only a total of 500 km (310 miles) in 3 days. And guess you have noticed how large the group was. 13 people! My personal record for the biggest travel group I’ve ever had. Ever! Read the rest of this entry »
Road trip: Hanoi – Bac Kan – Cao Bang – Lang Son
After the motorbike road trip in September to Mu Cang Chai and Sapa, our travel group set off again for the new year holidays. This time our trip covered a famous route in the North of Vietnam: Bac Kan – Cao Bang – Lang Son (Cao – Bắc – Lạng). It was almost a border road trip because we drove mostly along the border between Vietnam and China. Roughly 1,000 km (620 miles) in 4 days! And each of us spent less than 1.5 million VND (USD 75) including petrol, food, drink, guest house, etc.
Day 1: Hanoi – Bac Kan, 230 km (143 miles)
We had an unlucky first day. It was drizzling the whole morning so the road was super dirty. However, we were totally aware that dirt was a certain part of a motorbike road trip so we didn’t bother too much.
We left Hanoi around 8am and arrived in Bac Kan in the afternoon. The destination was Ba Be Lake (Hồ Ba Bể), the biggest lake in Vietnam.
You can take a canoe to go around the lake and explore the small islands. The whole package will take 5 hours. We didn’t have time since it got dark very quickly in winter, thus, we cut the canoeing time real short to only 1.5 hour.
My first piece for Word Hanoi Magazine about Vietnamese backpacking motorbike road trips. Photo and words by me. Thanks to Nick Ross for editing.
You can read the full article on Word Hanoi’s website.
Climb up to the top of Indochina: Mount Fansipan in Vietnam
So finally I’ve decided to do that trekking trip to the top of Mount Fansipan, the peak of three countries in former Indochina (Laos-Vietnam-Cambodia), located in the North of Vietnam, in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range.
Trekking up to the top of the highest mount to hug that triangle metal piece saying “Fansipan 3,143m” has become a long time tradition among young Vietnamese people. And obviously, Fansipan is also a kind of tourist attraction since it is very close to Sapa, a famous destination for tourists in the North of Vietnam, and a few adventurous and athletic travelers love to combine their Sapa trip with this Fansipan Mount trekking.
Before the trip my travel mates and I had quite a naive thought about the trek. We thought “it’s foot path and we can literally walk up to the top of the mountain(!), only 15km up and 15km down, will be easy, everyone is doing it, we’ll be fine”. However, the whole trip actually turned out to be an intensive training of physical rock climbing, which no one had told us before.
1. Tours and train tickets:
It is quite easy to organize for the trip. All you need to do is do is to book a package tour, then to buy train tickets. We booked a 2 day 1 night tour from this travel agency for 4 people at the price of VND1,420,000 per person (around USD70). Quite easy, just needed to make a few calls, send a few emails and deposit VND500,000 (USD25) 2 or 3 days before the trip.
The difficult thing was actually the train ticket part. To go to Fansipan and Sapa, you need to buy train tickets from Hanoi to Lao Cai then go by bus from Lao Cai to the town. And Sapa is so popular for both foreign and domestic travelers that train tickets sell like hot cakes, especially at weekends. Thus, you’d better go for them at least 2 weeks in advance, or else you may risk having no places at all. The best scenario is that you can buy tickets directly from the train station, however, they reserve only a small amount here so you should really go early (2-3 weeks to make sure!). If not, then you’ll have to ring the agents and buy over-charged tickets.
I only rushed for the tickets 10 days in advance so it was a bit tough. Of course there was nothing left at the train station and I had to call roughly a dozen agents to finally get 4 places in the hard sleeper class. In fact, Vietnamese trains are quite good if compared with the trains I knew in India or Poland. There are mainly 4 classes: soft sleeper (4 beds in one cabin), hard sleeper (6 beds in one cabin), soft seating and hard seating. Advice is to go for the sleeper or soft seating so that you can sleep a bit on the train (there are only night trains going to Lao Cai). Prices per way per person updated in September 2012 are around: VND 700,000 for soft sleeper (USD35); VND550,000 for hard sleeper (USD27.5); VND270,000 for soft seating (USD13.5). Be aware that the price will change quickly due to the skyrocketing inflation in Vietnam(!)
2. Tips before the actual trip: