I skipped through a lot of country from Hanoi to be here, by way of two weeks spent helping a thankless invalid. I might have been on my way to Cambodia, as originally planned. But who sticks to an original plan these days? I hopped over going to mountains in Sapa, or running through caves in Ninh Binh, and stopped for a walk through Hue’s old war- ravaged citadel, on the way to historic Hoi An. The Viet 'Cong' (the American label for the guerrilla troops of South Vietnam and Mekong who fought alongside the the North Vietnamese), had given the yanks too much credit in assuming that they wouldn’t desecrate these momentous temples of Vietnamese religion and culture, in their bid to chase down Communism.Holy places have a habit of making me wistful. I began to mull over whether I could ever leave Asia. Imagining myself another life where I am ‘settled’ requires decoding of the word itself. ‘To settle’. The verb defined in the Oxford dictionary with more than three meanings. Here are the top three: to reach a conclusion or agreement to a problem; to reach a decision; to come to a dissatisfactory acceptance.To ‘settle down’ is to accept an unrealistic and bogus idea of existence. Even those who think their life is mapped out will find surprises, whether good or bad. And those whose definition of adulthood is based on ownership of some form (cars, careers, mortgages and kids for instance) are only defining their experience of the world through MONEY and possessions.I don’t think that the Cham emperors of the past, when building their red mortar worshipping grounds, would have ‘settled’
Ho Chi Minh City
Cruelly made infamous by the American intervention in the late '60s, Vietnam is a mystical land that deserves to be navigated by every serious backpacker. Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is the capital and largest city in Vietnam, making it the melange of everything the now stable country stands for. With its high-octane energy on the streets, the finest hotels alongside, and the most expensive of boutiques at the photogenic squares, HCMC spoils tourists and changes their perspective about the country forever.Famous for: Food and art.Things to do: Visit the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts. Nibble on street food.Weather in January: Average temperature is 30 degrees celsius, but remains pleasant all though the day.Average budget per head for 5 days (excluding flights): Rs. 46,000For more details, read this.
Located about 2 hours drive from Hanoi, Ninh Binh offers some peace from the hustle and bustle of the cities, you can sail down the river in Tam Coc and visit the old capital while taking In the beautiful views that surround you in the county.8- Try some of the unusual street foodVietnam, like most of the Asian countries is known for its street food. While I stayed away from the dog and cat meat which is everywhere in the town we lived, we eat street food a lot and even tried some of more unusual dishes such as frogs and birds. You can also have some of the insects, however after trying them in Thailand, once was enough for me!9- Visit Uncle Ho in Hanoi
Day 16 Da Lat – Cat Tien National Park (BL) Am: Have breakfast at hotel. Leave Dalat for Cat Tien National Park at 7.30 am. On the way you stop to see Chicken village and Pongour falls for more admiration of beautiful landscapes. On arrival, cross through Dong Nai River to enter the Cat Tien National Park for beginning your wildlife experience. Arrive at the Nam Cat Tien National Park, check in and follow by lunch. Pm: In the afternoon you start walking 8km along the ecologic route: sites of Lagerstroemia Ovalfolia (BangLang), Tetrameles nudiflora (Tung), Cycas rumphii (Thien Tue), Ancistrolandus Tectorius (Trung quan), Afzelia cyclocarpa (Go). After that you are back to the center for having dinner. Overnight at the park. (Optional: You can take a night safari to see the diversity of wild animals and their lives at night) Day 17 Cat Tien NP - Ho Chi Minh (BL) Am: Have breakfast at hotel. This morning you will continue your journey on 9km transfer by jeep inside the park to a junction. Then you go on trekking 5km to the Crocodile lake station. You have a short break at the lake before trekking to the main road again. Jeep picks up and transfers back to the park center. Check out the room. Have lunch at the park Pm: In the afternoon you leave the park, take the ferry across the river, then head back to Ho Chi Minh City. On arrival, check in hotel. Free to have your own dinner. In the evening you are free to walk around the city and explore. Overnight at hotel.
Nha Trang is probably the cheapest place in the world to pick up your PADI, but admittedly the underwater scenery is a bit depleted and underwhelming. Regardless, the prices are amazing and you can save a lot to get your Open Water PADI here for less than Rs. 16000, including accommodation.
Danang City is developing into a venue for Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE). Large hotels, casinos and wedding halls line the coastal roads and excursion to UNESCO Sites like Hue, Mỹ Sơn and Hoi An are close by. The cool months of December is a wonderful time to visit and we certainly wouldn’t mind returning for more exploration.
Can Tho is a place where traditional Vietnamese food and street foods are available in plenty and with English language meagerly seen or heard in these parts, experience the ecstatic adventure of trying to figure out the food on the menu, enjoy playing volleyball and conversing in English with the students at Can Tho University and simply wandering around the streets and market place relaxed.
Chau Doc, on the Cambodian border is a hodgepodge of markets, boats and shacks lining the Bassac River. We jumped at the chance to stay in a funky room right on the shore. From our windows above we watched the beehive of activity and listened to the variety of motors powering boats along the river. We even put up with the occasional speed boats, making so much noise that we had to pause our conversation.
We continued our journey towards the South and this little town of Quy Nhon was a delightful stop along the way. Miles of beachfront provided hours of walking along the surf. From high atop the bell tower of the cathedral in Quy Nhon we spotted a rooftop statue of Quan Lin. Like a treasure hunt we followed the narrow streets until we found these resident nuns, who welcomed us in for over an hour; serving us tea, explaining the different statues and how to light incense, then bow. We were welcomed once again into the Vietnamese culture.
tp. Hội An
Day 6 private car Hai Van Pass to Hoi An town (meal: B)After breakfast, about 9.00 am our car and driver will come to pick you up for moving to Hoi An Town. on the way we will top on HAI VAN PASS - the most beautifull pass in center of Vietnam.The distance from Hue to Hoi An is 145km, it takes you about 3 hours by Hoi An private car. On the road from Hue to Hoi An, there are many famous heritage places in Vietnam that Foreigner are interested in, such as: Lang Co beach, Hai Van Pass, My Khe beach, Marble mountainDay 7 Hoi An - My Son day tour (Meal: B,L)7:30 – 8:00: The bus and tour guide pick you up at your hotel 8:30 : Leaving Hoi An for My Son HolyLand.9:30: Arriving in My Son - the Holyland surrounded by the marvelous mountains, 48km west of Hoi An. My Son was chosen as a religious center, built in the late 4th century under the Cham’s King Bhadravaman. It is a huge religious complex with over 70 towers and temples of different architectures. Wander through the elaborate carvings and sculptures of the Cham people, tourists are welcomed at the Old Tower of the Cham.Spend 2 hours to enjoy and discover the beauty of Ancient buildings at of the Champa Kingdom with our tour guide.12.00: Leaving My Son for boat station and taking a boat trip on Thu Bon river. You could visit the living of the local people and feeling the fresh air. You will have soft lunch on the boat and see the beautiful views along the river13:30: The boat trip will finish at Bach Dang Boat station. Our driver will pick you up to local restaurant for lunch. Back to your hotel after lunch & End your trip!.Day 8 Hoi An - Airport transfer - Flight to HCMC- Pick up- check in Hotel (Meal: B )After breakfast at your hotel and you are free till airport transfer. Today, you will have a flight to Ho Chi Minh city and stay overnight at the most touristic area of Ho Chi Minh City.Day 9 HCMC - Mekong delta - Cai Be Floating Market - Vinh Long tour (Meal: B, L )08:00 Picking up from hotel/stay.08:15 Starting drive to Cai Be. Short time to take photos at Tan An town over the flat rice fields.10:30 Start the motorized boat to visit the Cai Be Floating market, experience how people exchanging goods, fruit and many other commodities on their vessels. Visitors then roam into the small villages to visit the orchard, fruit plantation. Keep cruising to Vinh Long through small canals to enjoy the charm of the Upper Mekong Delta. Visit some handmade family business products such as the coconut candy mill, the crispy rice popcorn.Arrive in Binh Hoa Phuoc village the green pearl of Vinh Long town where you can indulge yourself into the nature.Have lunch with fresh river food served in the heart of the garden. Enjoy the southern Vietnamese traditional folk music. Take a nice walk through the bonsai garden, in Vinh Long. Head home to Ho Chi Minh City.18:30 Arrive in your hotel. Day 10 HCMC - Airport transfer - end the trip (Meal: B )This day you are free to visit Ho Chi Minh City and shopping for souvernirs until transfer to Tan Son Nhat airport for your flight back home. Trip ends.
Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An, being a UNESCO World Hertiage site, one has to purchase tickets at the gate which allows entry into three of the many sites which need tickets. The colourful lanterns lining the street added to the festive atmosphere for the town, which I can’t decide if it beautifies the place or makes it fake.Chinese, predominantly the Hokkiens (where my ancestors originated) from Guangdong province descended here in 1600s, bringing with them their religions, customs, and architecture. thus, I see familiar temples and buildings as we walked along the streets. Most of the houses have been turned into souvenirs shops, cafe, art galleries, restaurants and handicrafts showrooms. Those that are not in the above categories are designated heritage houses where you can visit with your ticket.I went into three owned by merchants, one of whom traded in Chinese medicines. The long interior reminded me of my grandma’s house at Cuppage Road (which has been turned into a restaurant as well). The indoor courtyard allowed light into the otherwise dark terrace house. Narrow stairway leads upstairs to the what were bedrooms before but now a lantern workshop.We were told about the annual floods and how the heavy Chinese furniture had to be moved upstairs via a pulley system from outside the house. Marking of the floods are proudly displayed on the pillar, with the month and year clearly stated, with the most recent dated Oct 2013, merely a few days before we arrived. The town is situated next to a river which facilitates trading in the olden days, and these were the inconvenience living next to the flooding river.To really walk the complete town, one needs a few hours. A better way is to cycle as the whole town is closed to traffic. Most hotels in the vicinity provide free bicycles for guests. Unfortunately, my husband thought it too dangerous to cycle from our hotel due to the traffic outside the old town.One of the more interesting location for me is the market at the opposite end of the entrance. There, one could try local food for cheap instead of eating at the restaurants or cafes. Much like our hawker centres, one could choose to eat a wide variety of local food there. We chose to try a local noodle stalls. It was delicious. The stall owner had a menu with photos and we just pointed to her.Much like the wet markets in Singapore, this market also houses a dry area selling dried food, coffee powders and yes, souvenirs for tourists. Further in is the meat section which has been cleaned as business hour was long over.s we walked along, we see vendors selling snacks along the streets and river banks. I was excited to see a soya custard (served hot) seller on wheels and even though it’s not my favourite snack on a hot day, I wanted to eat it for nostalgia sake. This was probably how it was sold in the old days in Singapore as well. (Nowadays in Singapore, it’s retailed in pre-packed plastic bowls in chillers.) It tasted the same as in Singapore.As dusk approached, the lanterns were turned on and the whole town transformed into a fairy land.
Elephant waterfalls, located about 40 km outside the Dalat city center, is one of the famous spots which offers exemplary scenic beauty and village experience along its 2 hours motor ride and don't miss to sip a hot vietnamese coffee at Me Linh coffee garden overlooking the beautiful lake and forest. Sign up for a one day adventurous canyoning and jungle trekking tour to experience the thrill and adrenaline rush of testing your bravery.
Stayed at the Moon Resort in my own private bungalow, but it rained the entire time. Met up with a guy that I had met waiting at the airport and we rode around in the rain on a motorbike. We found this amazing waterfall where all of the locals swim and hang out which I would recommend finding for sure. The night market is okay, seemed like a pretty relaxing atmosphere. We grabbed some beers and sat on a bench up on a rock near the lighthouse and hung out. Unfortunately it only stopped raining at night, so I would go off of someone else's opinion of this place. I'm sure it's lovely but we didn't really get to experience too much.
The legend goes that the people of Vietnam were born from the union of the dragon and the fairy. The dragon rose up from the sea and onto the Earth to unite with the fairy of the mountains. Together they created one hundred sons. When the dragon returned to the sea, fifty sons followed to live thousands of feet deep in the oceans. Once Vietnam became threatened by Chinese invaders in the North, the Gods summoned these dragons to resurface. They released jewels and jade from their mouths creating islands across the bay, forming a great wall of protection. As the mother dragon made her way onto the Earth, she fell so heavily that deep valleys formed and filled with water when she plunged back into the sea. The peaks left behind became the region known as Ha Long or “where the dragon descends to the sea.” For thousands of years ancient civilizations lived in these jungle covered limestone islands surrounding the bay. It is in this labyrinth of channels that the Vietnamese stopped invasions from its coastal neighbors. Many years later it was through these same waters that hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees fled Communist rule en route to Saigon. Today communities live on and from the sea in floating villages. A UNESCO world heritage site and one of the new Wonders of the World it has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of Southeast Asia. Tourists cruise across the bay snapping photos, passively observing the surreal beauty and foreign way of life.