Archiv der Kategorie: Vietnam

Vietnam – Summary & Pictures

People: What I heard and read before my trip about the Vietnamese, was not too good: They are rude, unfriendly, and just trying to make money off the tourists. Luckily I can say that I did not have this impression – at all! Most locals we met were very friendly and helpful, and even if there was no English – there was always lots of smiles. You did get the odd taxi driver wanting to cheat you – but isn’t that the case all over SEA! The travellers I met were mostly younger backpackers travelling for an extended time in SEA – just like I used to, 5 years ago 🙂 There were also lots of travellers in my age group or older though, so I usually found someone to hang out with!

Food: After our first horrible food experiences in Hanoi, food actually turned out pretty decent for the remainder of my time in Vietnam. I missed some of the spiciness though that you get in other SEA countries. Sometimes food was a bit too bland for me. Food during almost all the tours I booked was always extremely delicious and plentiful!

Weather: Weather was a challenge. At first we got hit by a cold front in Northern Vietnam. Then I had so-so weather in Central Vietnam – not much actual rain but mostly overcast (un-photogenic) skies. Then I had to rush up North to Sapa in order to catch the sun – since it was gonna be rainy afterwards (at least, that rushing worked out!). And I spent the last few days in Bac Ha and Hanoi freezing at around 10 degrees, and catching a cold… Nope, weather has not been my friend in Vietnam! It made me change and adapt travel plans many times – and given the circumstance I guess I made the best of it…

Costs: Vietnam can be super cheap! My daily budget ended up being about 27 Euros, and I could have easily saved a bit more. This includes the internal flight from Hanoi to HCMC, but excludes the tour with Ethnic Travels. Surprisingly, my costs of travelling alone were about the same as with my family before, where we stayed in better hotels and ate at sometimes nicer restaurants. But I guess I was often able to split some costs by 4 instead of paying all by myself. Also, I spent 3 nights in a double room by myself, which I could have avoided and I splurged during my last 2 days in Hanoi to get rid off the last cash that I still had. If I had calculated it better and not gotten too much money out of the ATM, and stayed at dorms only, I think I could have cut back my daily budget to at least 25 Euros, if not less. 20 Euros should be possible if you avoid tours/expensive sights and eat in plastic chair restaurants.

Accommodation: When travelling with my family in a bit nicer places, but still paid only around 15-20€ for a double room. Afterwards, I mostly got dorm beds for around 3-5€/night. There were maybe 2 or 3 hotels/hostels which were not that great, but overall I stayed in very nice places throughout the month. For the first time while backpacking, I ended up booking everything in advance – is this the new me!?

Infrastructure: Everything was quite modern and well-maintained with a few exceptions. Our night train was a horror trip, due to hard mattresses and the train shaking like a ship in a storm. Also, I came to hate sleeper busses. During the night, they are alright, even though too small for European-sized travellers – but during day-time I really don’t like to be forced into a horizontal position…

Illnesses: I did not get sick – until the last few days in Hanoi, when I suddenly found myself with high fever and an aching throat. Luckily it turned into a normal cold which I was able to cure during my travel break at home.

Safety: No issues, didn’t really feel unsafe anywhere. My hostel in Sapa was a little outside town and there were few street lights, so I did take a taxi back once after meeting some people for dinner in town.

Itinerary: I had a bit of a crazy itinerary due to the weather situation, seeing part of the North first, then flying South, then travelling all the way up North again. With a bit more time (and/or different weather), I would have stayed: 1 more day in Dalat, 1 more day in Hoi An to see the beaches and surroundings, 1 more day in Hue to go to the DMZ, 1 more day in Ninh Binh to drive around by motorbike, 1-2 more days in Sapa to do some more trekking or visit Fansipan mountain. Also, I might have liked to add Phong Nha-Ke Bang NP, Mai Chau and the North East around Ha Giang. Potentially Phu Quoc in the South too! So if you have 1 month or longer at hand, you will definitely not get bored in Vietnam 🙂

Highlight: Difficult, but I guess I would have to say Sapa. The landscape, the people, the weather – it was just all good 🙂 I also really liked the Mekong Delta, Halong Bay and Ninh Binh, and of course Dalat. I still stand by my words that if I had to live in Vietnam for an extended period of time, I would choose Dalat as my home base.

Lowlight: Mui Ne or Hue – can’t decide. They were both underwhelming…

Click here to see all my best pictures of Vietnam:

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Back in Hanoi – once again!

29.01.-30.01.2018 Hanoi

I left Bac Ha for Hanoi to spend my last 2 days before my flight back to Amsterdam here. As much as I would have liked to discover one more place in Vietnam – weather was gonna be bad everywhere in the North and it felt like a big city is still the best place to be when it’s cold and grey. After a seemingly never-ending bus journey from Bac Ha, the bus company dropped us somewhere very far outside the city centre in the middle of a dusty construction site. It was cold and drizzling. Traffic was zooming past us, not knowing where to go or what to do. 3 Uber taxis cancelled on us given the crazy traffic conditions. Finally I managed to get us a Grab taxi, an app that is much more common here than Uber.

When I arrived at Buddy Inn & Travel I was cold, tired, hungry and miserable. I had a quick dinner and then fell into my dorm bed… where unfortunately I did not get any sleep. The mattress was very uncomfortable, and people in the dorm were loud, arriving and leaving at different hours. I also felt a bit like I was getting sick – so opted to switch to a double room in the sister hostel at noon where I slept until late afternoon. I then kicked myself out of bed to at least go out and try the famous egg coffee that I still had not tried. It was delicious!! The egg foam on top was sweet and light, the coffee underneath the typical nice Vietnamese coffee.

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But I also realized that I was definitely sick, with high fever and generally feeling very weak. So I called it an early night (after trying Cha Ca – one last dish I had to try, again, delicious!) and stayed in my room as long as I could the next day. When I had to check out, I opted for a museum day – thinking that museums might be warmer at least than outside. While both of them did not have any heating, it was probably still the better program in my condition. I first went to Hoa Lo Prison Museum – an interesting museum, showing the prison conditions and life under the rule of the French, and also the American war later on. It was good to learn at least a little something about the history of Vietnam, before leaving the country!

I then continued to the nearby Vietnamese Women’s Museum – basically an ethnology museum but then only talking about women. The exhibition is very well done, reaching from marriage and pregnancies to stories about women acting as spies in times of war, as well as women’s clothing and beauty standards. I paid for an audio guide and just listened to the stories – of course, being sick, I was not super excited about anything, but it was interesting enough to hear some more things about Vietnamese culture.

After a last walk through the old quarter, I then called a Grab to take me to the airport. I invested my last Dong in the most expensive Pho noodle soup ever, which did not even look or taste like Pho, and off I was… Destination: Amsterdam! At this point, I was feeling very sick and very much looking forward to a few days back at home. Byeee, Vietnam!

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Time for Football & Markets in Bac Ha

27.01.-28.01.2018 Bac Ha

After the trekking in Sapa I would have loved to stay another day or two, do some more trekking or rent a scooter to drive around. However, weather had turned bad over night just like projected and there were no views at all. Thick fog lay on the roads of Sapa. So I took a bus to Lao Cai and changed there for Bac Ha. The total bus journey took me about 3.5 h and most of it was rather boring. About 10-20 km from Bac Ha, there were some nice views and I briefly considered renting a scooter anyways once I’d arrived.

I’d forgotten about the soccer though! Vietnam was playing in the U23 Asia Cup and doing very well for the first time, ever. Even though it was just U23, the whole country was watching every match excitedly. So when we drove into town, there were flags hanging everywhere and a public viewing area was set up next to my hotel. So of course I had to go watch! I quickly met some overexcited local girls who didn’t speak any English but put me into a Vietnam t-shirt and put some flags on my face. So for the next couple of hours I was cheering for Vietnam, learning Vietnamese football songs, getting my hair braided and playing with local kids running around. What surprised me was the relaxed atmosphere. No one was booing when the other team scored or getting angry with the referee. Also, no one was drinking any alcohol. And everyone just took care of the little kids running around, playing with them or taking them on the shoulders in between. And whenever a Vietnamese player made good ball contact, the crowd would cheer loudly. Great atmosphere! Unfortunately the Vietnamese team lost, otherwise I’m sure there would have been a big party. Again, remember this is the U23 team I’m talking about – in Europe we wouldn’t even watch these matches…

But – I hadn’t come to Bac Ha for the football of course, but for the Sunday market! Already Saturday night there was some dancing and singing on the main market square, which luckily I had heard about from some girls from my hostel.

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Sunday morning then started early for me: I woke up at 6am and was at the market at 6.30 before any other tourists. To be fair, the market was in full swing only a couple of hours later, but it was still nice to walk around before most other tourists and tour groups arrived. Each Sunday, locals from different ethnic villages come to this market to sell their goods, wearing colourful traditional outfits. I always enjoy markets, but the traditional clothes, especially from the Flower Hmong, gave it a nice colourful feel in addition to the usual market hustle and bustle.

I really enjoyed walking around and taking pictures. I guess I could have taken even better ones, but I don’t really feel like flashing into people’s faces (something that many other tourists don’t have an issue with). There were 3 main sections of the market: the vegetables were spread out on the main market square, behind it was a covered section mainly aimed at tourists (souvenirs) and again behind that was the animal market which can seem a bit sad to watch. We always have to remind ourselves that in Europe we’re generally treating animals even worse.

After a couple of hours of walking around, I went for late breakfast, packed up my things in the hostel and then hopped onto a direct bus to Hanoi at 12.30pm. The rest of the day was spent on the last sleeper bus (yay!) of my Vietnam trip, urgently awaiting a toilet stop…