Vietnam - North and Central

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Vietnam has beautiful mountains in the North including 3143 meters high Fansipan which is the tallest peak of Vietnam and also of Indochina which includes Laos and Cambodia, too.

Guan Yin Statue close to the summit of Fansipan


We arrived in busy Hanoi on December 18th 2019 which is the capital of Vietnam and the the northern metropolis of Vietnam with more than eight million inhabitants and probably more little bikes. Crossing the street of its old town is a real challenge due to the incredible extensive bike traffic. Many of its streets, churches and markets were nicely decorated.

  Christmas in Hanoi

 

Two days late we took the comfortable night train to Lao Cai and continued to nearly 1500 meters high Sapa with the bus early in the morning. It was cold and foggy when we arrived but the weather forecast was excellent for the next days. The Sapa Hill Sapa Homestay was an outstanding hostel managed by two younger Ladies which did everything to make our stay pleasant.

Buffalos of Sapa

 

Our cozy home in Sapa - The Hill Sapa Homestay

 

Excellent and delicious dinner in The Hill Sapa Homestay

 

In Sapa we climbed up Ham Rong Mountain (1903 meters sea-level) and Fansipan, which is the roof of Vietnam. Originally we wanted to climb the latter without the usage of the recently built cable car but it turned out that we need a guide and it is much more expensive. Thus we took the exciting cable car and hiked the upper part to the summit which is adorned with many pagodas and statues.

Summit of Fansipan

 

Divinities in a temple close to the top of Fansipan

 

Happy girl in Sapa

 

Another superb hike leads to the rice fields in the valley south of Sapa and to the little village Cat Cat, which is a popular destination for tourists. Our trails are included in the GPS coordinates file of Vietnam.

Local woman with little girl

 

Girl in Cat Cat

 

After spending Christmas Eve 2019 in Sapa the weather forecast for the mountains was cold and rainy. Consequently we returned to Lao Cai and took the sleeping train to Hanoi because we intended to go to Ninh Binh where the temperatures were much higher predicted. It is located approximately 100 kilometers South of Hanoi close to the coast.

Lao Cai is a typical border town with busy markets and a lot of people strolling around. Human traffic on the border was heavy from China to Vietnam but vice versa very low.

Goods traffic from China to Vietnam

 

Barbershop in Lao Cai - Alfred dared to go in

 

Alfred in the hands of the hair-dresser

 

We had to wait few hours in Hanoi for the train to Ninh Binh. Thus we visited the interesting and touching Vietnamese Women's Museum.

Picture of two elderly Ladies

 

Ninh Binh is a nice medium -sized town to explore on foot. We rented bicycles to visit the Mua Cave and the Tam Coc river which is famous for boat riding. Close to the Mua Cave is the 121 meters high mountain Lying Dragon which is short and popular hike.

Lotus flower on foot of Lying Dragon

 

Rowboat on Tam Coc River driven by an elderly Lady with her feet

 

Bunker in Ninh Binh

 

Dog in Ninh Binh

 

We were more than happy that Marion's sister Jutta and her husband Hermann joined us. Again, we returned to Hanoi to pick them up and to explore the inner city together.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

 

Picture on the way to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

 

Carpet Vendor

 

Little Turtle close to the West Lake

 

In the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

 

New Years Eve in Hanoi was a nice and peaceful experience. In the evening lots of people were gathering around Hoàn Kiem Lake in the center. There was just a little fireworks at midnight but the laser show was very impressive.

Marion, Hermann, Jutta and Alfred on New Year's Eve

 

Laser show on Hoan Kiem Lake with Turtle Tower

 

On January 1st 2020 we took the bus and ferry to the island Cat Ba which is the largest island in the famous Halong Bay. We did the usual boat trip including a kayaking in a cave, swimming in the Ocean and a visit of Monkey Island where we climbed up its rugged peak. Beautiful is the Cat Ba National Park in the center of the island which provides two superb hikes including 225 meters high Dinh Ngu Lam Peak. Outstanding was the Venus Hostel in Cat Ba City with an extraordinary good service.

Port of Cat Ba City

 

Floating village of Cat Ba

 

Delicious lunch on our little boat from the family of our Captain

 

Monkeys on Monkey Island

 

On top of Monkey Island Peak

 

Thanks to the Venus Hostel we got reasonable night train tickets to Dong Hoi in central Vietnam on its narrowest part between the Ocean and Laos (just 40 kilometers). We had a cozy compartment together and slept well. Besides its beaches Dong Hoi has no major attractions but it is close to the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is famous for its limestone rocks and caves.

Wonderful Paradise Cave

 

On the Son - Lipstick River to the Phong Nha Cave which is the largest known river cave on earth

 

Marvelous Phong Nha Cave

 

The hospital in the Phong Nha Cave during the American war

 

Lovely Hue was the capital of ancient Vietnam till 1945. Its old town is very nice and it has a large pedestrian area which is very pleasant. Famous is the 19th century huge citadel  which was the Emperor's home.

Boats on Perfume River with Truong Tien Bridge

 

Gate to Truong Sanh Residence in the Citadel

 

Golden Dragon in the Citadel

 

There is a lot of history in Hue and its surrounding. We rented bicycles and pedaled to the royal tombs of the Emperors Minh Mang and Khai Dinh. Sadly Hue was heavily impacted by the American War and suffered one of its longest and bloodies battles. We saw some remains on our trip like bunkers. It is mandatory to stay on beaten tracks due to still active mines!

Lady in the Tomb of Minh Mang who ruled Vietnam between 1820 and 1840

 

In a broom shop

 

We hired a private taxi to Hoi An to have some time because there are some nice attractions on the 120 kilometers long way. We hiked approximately 1 hour to a little peak from the Hai Van Pass which is the geological border between North- and South-Vietnam. Unfortunately it was misty like it is quite often the case. We swum on wonderful My Ke Beach in Da Nang, which is with 1.2 million people the third largest city in Vietnam. Finally we visited the Marble Mountains with its rugged peaks, holy caves and many pagodas.

Tourists on the laguna of Lang Co

 

Upper exit of Van Thong Cave in the Marble Mountains

 

Guard in the Huyen Khong Cave of the Marble Mountains

 

Hoi An is a superb destination for tourists because it has wonderful beaches, a picturesque old city including a bigger pedestrian area and an awesome environment which is perfect for bicycling. We stayed three days in the cozy Chau Plus Homestay which is managed by a very friendly and helpful Lady. Another highlight for us was the Nam Hai Restaurant on Cam Kim Island where we enjoyed real Vietnamese country life.

Shop with playing kids (right bottom)

 

Hermann and Jutta in a tiny round boat driven by an elderly Lady

 

Fisherman with a lot of tiny round boats full of tourists

 

Marvelous flowers of Khami Cafe

 

Pagoda on Cam Kim Island

 

Two old boys at same age in the wonderful Nam Hai Restaurant

 

Unfortunately our visas expired and we had to say sadly goodbye to Vietnam. We returned to Da Dang and flew via Hanoi to Luang Prabang in Laos on January 15th 2020.


Many of our waypoints including all hotels and most of our trails are included in the GPS coordinates file of Vietnam

For more pictures, please click here

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