I was so grateful Vietnam coincidentally being the destination of my first solo backpacking journey, as it’s such a beautiful country which filled with friendly people everywhere. Before this, the only backpacking experience I had was in Chiang Mai, together with my brother. However this time, I had nobody with me. I’d had to plan and face everything on my own. Therefore, I paid extra hardwork and resources in this Vietnam trip. Instead of rushing from North (Hanoi) to South (Saigon/ Ho Chih Minh), I preferred to have my time spent well around the vicinity of Hanoi.
Vietnam is a communist country, and most of the Vietnamese are atheist, where they don’t believe in gods. However, people are free to practice religions and one can easily notice the presence of churches, and temples scattered in the center of town. Compared to Saigon, Hanoi still inherits most of the Chinese elements, such as the buildings, architectures as well as traditions.
My itinerary in this Vietnam trip summarized as: Hanoi > SaPa > Y Ty > Ninh Binh > Ha Long Bay > Hanoi.
I first landed in Hanoi airport and spend few days walking around the city to experience the local foods and cultures.
Graduation ceremony in Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university since the year 1070
Procession of tricycle rickshaw delivering wedding gifts
Hanoi has the reputation where the motorcycle traffic is crazy
Other than Hanoi, I’ve spent another few days in northern west of Hanoi, called Sa Pa. It’s a highland area and connected to Hanoi via 8-hrs train journey. I’ve pre-booked a private tour (via iGrandtour) specifically for the route for this destination. Gratefully, Anna (firstname.lastname@example.org ) had been very patient, helpful and provided a lot useful information tailored to my request as I wanted to visit a remote area (Y Ty) along with some other famous landmark in Lao Cai region (the most famous one is Sa Pa).
Sharing the sleeping cart with locals
Upon arrival in Lao Cai train station, I was greeted with the personnel assigned by Anna. Immediately after a brief breakfast, we departed to Y Ty, as the journey on the road takes 2 hrs (on motorbike…). However, the views along the journey just ~~~ awesome!
On the go!
Locals walking miles across the mountain …. They never looked tired.
After 2 hours of tiring journey, finally we reach the Y Ty. I was told that people there no longer use dry leaves as roof, but use metal instead. Sadly, I could still see that the kids living in poverty.
Kids surprised with strangers … like me
Busiest place around the area – Wet market!
Stop by while we heading back!
Kids playing happily with each other! No ipad, iphone….
Upon return from Y Ty to Sa Pa town area, I checked in to the hostel I booked online. Interestingly, this hostel which named SaPa Hope Center, accommodate a few orphans. Tourists from around the world played and taught the kids about English. The kids were active and playful. It’s one of the most memorable experience I had in Vietnam!
Meeting new friends !
The kid wearing the green shirts given me a drawing of herself. Sweet isn’t?
The itinerary for next day was to visit Sapa, the famous landmark in this region. Upon arrival, I was speechless. The view was just magnificent.
Cat Cat Village
The kid was singing in front of me while I was taking photo
After Sa Pa, I got back to the town area to spend the rest of the day.
One of my favorite shot.
My train back to Hanoi was scheduled in the night. Coincidentally, the owner of the hostel, Peter was going to Hanoi as well. So he fetched me to the train station.
After a long and tiring journey on the train for whole night, finally I reached Hanoi in the morning. My next destination was Trang Ann, in Ninh Binh. After having brief breakfast in Hanoi, I proceed to train station and headed to Ninh Binh. Actually, I’ve already pre-bought the ticket before I went to SaPa earlier.
Train ticket to Ninh Binh
Train built in decades ago and still functioning good
Trang An Grottoes is a place similar to Tam Coc but less touristy. Tourist take a sampan, ride and float through the surroundings environment characterized by dramatic limestone karsts, permeated with a network of caves, and bound together by flooded inland waterways of high biological diversity.
In Trang An, I shared the sampan with a Vietnamese couple. Even though they couldn’t speak English well, it didn’t hinder our communication as we used body language and some very basic English as communication tools. Most importantly, is the smile on the face~
Sharing the boat with local couple. They are friendly and lovely
After Trang An, I went to Hang Mua as suggested by local tour guide.
A great view of Tam Coc during in sunset
Another magnificent view from the top of Hang Mua
After Hang Mua, it’s the end of my trip in Ninh Binh. I returned to Hanoi the next morning, and prepare to go Halong Bay, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. I took the Superior Dragon Cruise package (2D1N $110). Their route was less crowded, and the scenery was good enough. However, I would suggest one should ask around if there is any cheaper and better package in town.
One of the sunset view in Halong Bay
Overnight on the boat for Halong Bay tour
After Halong Bay, I went back to Hanoi to conclude my trip in Vietnam. Before this, I heard a lot bad reviews about Vietnamese; such as theft cases that occurred very often. What’s more, it’s my first solo trip in overseas and everything was alien to me. So I was on guard since I first landed in Vietnam on day 1. Looking into the faces of the locals, I felt the people looked hostile and new to me. This thinking was very wrong (how powerful the media IS). Vietnamese and their behavior continuously changed my perspective, not only towards them, but totally altered my way of thinking. They are not only helpful, but very kind and friendly towards strangers. In fact, everywhere’s the same. There are good people as well as the bad ones. One should never label or categorized people just because someone told you so. You have to be there, experience yourself, see it through your own eyes.