To my dearest friends, family and fellow culture cravers,
Last week’s escapades led us to the capital of Vietnam – Hanoi.
Renowned for its insane amount of traffic, scrumptious street food and 12p pints of beer, we were excited to head back into the big smoke for a couple of nights.
First impressions – it was bloomin’ cold.
Jeans and jackets on, we spent our first day trying our hardest not to be mowed down by mopeds in the Old Quarter, learning more about the Vietnam war at Hoa Lo Prison and educating ourselves about the day-to-day lives of the Vietnamese women at the Vietnamese Women’s Museum.
Warn out from walking the stretch of the city, we treated ourselves to a couple of Hanoi’s Bia Hois – bargain home-brew beers at one of the many street stalls, which line the streets of the city’s Old Quarter.
Similarly to Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi is constantly alive with the buzz of the Vietnamese lifestyle.
By day, admirable women lug around carrying poles full to the brim with fruit, vegetables and flowers and locals crouch around street food vendors whipping up warming bowls of Pho.
And by night, the city is swarmed with the buzz of locals and travellers alike indulging in delicious food, cheap drinks, portable karaoke and strong tobacco bongs.
The Vietnamese are a sociable bunch!
The next day we took a stroll to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where Uncle Minh himself lays embalmed and to the Temple of Literature.
That night we caught an overnight bus to Ha Giang, a province in the very very North of Vietnam.
Most people who head up North tend to go to Sapa. However, after hearing that this area is tourist orientated, we opted to go to its less popular counterpart – Ha Giang.
The main draw to Ha Giang is its mammoth motorbike ‘loop’, which boasts world-class scenery close to the Chinese border. However, as we were definitely not ready to travel 300-odd km on two wheels, we spent our time here shivering, trekking, soaking up the unbelievable scenery and even took a drive to the Chinese border!
On our first full day, we decided to sign up to a challenging 16km trek through Ha Giang’s rolling countryside. Conveniently, Lizzie’s tonsils decided to flare up the day before so, she didn’t think it would be wise to join…
I joke, I inspected her tonsils and they were definitely not in good shape.
The next day, as Lizzie lay snuggled up in bed (I wasn’t jealous at all…), myself and an English guy who’d been working at our hostel for a few months headed off towards the hazy mountains.
We trekked through spectacular scenery.
Vibrant rice terraces rolled down the side of each mountain, local tribal villages were dotted amongst the landscape and a silhouette of grand, jagged mountains stood in the distance.
I was in awe of how pure and peaceful the scenery was.
We didn’t encounter a single other tourist, just a few local tribesmen and women going about their day-to-day lives and a fair few scary buffalos (apparently if you clap loudly they’ll get out of your path…)
Ha Giang had lived up to expectations.
Once Lizzie was fully recovered we caught the bus back down to Hanoi for our trip to the most unmissable spot in Vietnam – Halong Bay.
As the saying goes – leave the best ’til last.
We were spoilt for choice with different tours to take to this outstanding corner of the country and, after a recommendation from a couple of girls we’d met, ended up booking onto the Hideaway Tour via Central Backpackers Hostel (I will write-up a whole review on this tour soon!).
Hideaway focused its time in the Cat Ba National Park area, which is a quieter archipelago than Halong Bay but boasts the same unique rock formations, scenery and activities.
And with scenery like this, the trip definitely didn’t disappoint…
We had an incredible few days soaking up the area staying on a beach, swimming, kayaking, hiking, rock climbing and cycling.
This week we are heading to Pai in the North of Thailand for a week before flying to Myanmar!
Until next week…