Vietnam – First Solo Backpacking

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.

hanoi street

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.

Temple of Literature

Graduation ceremony in Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university since the year 1070

street wedding

Procession of tricycle rickshaw delivering wedding gifts

crazy motorcycle hanoi

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 ( ) 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).

train to sapa

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!

towards Y Ty

On the go!

towards Y Ty

towards Y Ty

Locals walking miles across the mountain …. They never looked tired.

Fascinating view!

Y Ty

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 in Y Ty

Kids surprised with strangers … like me

Y Ty Market

Busiest place around the area – Wet market!

scenery while back from y ty

Stop by while we heading back!

back from y ty

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!

news friends met in Sa pa

Meeting new friends !

sapa kids drawing

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.



sapa Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village

sapa kids singing

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.

kids in sapa

One of my favorite shot.

train station sapa

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.

hanoi 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.

waiting to go ninh binh

Train ticket to Ninh Binh

train 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.

trang an

Beautiful view~

trang an


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~

friendly people met in trang an

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.

sunset near Hang Mua

A great view of Tam Coc during in sunset

sunset near Hang Mua

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.

ha long bay

One of the sunset view in Halong Bay

ha long bay

ha long bay at night

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.


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