9 Days In VietnamAug 12, 2011
In August 2011, we spent 9 days travelling through Vietnam. Visited Hội An, Huế, Hanoi, Sa Pa & Ha Long Bay.
Day 1 : Singapore –> Ho Chi Minh City –> Da Nang –> Hội An
Hội An, a very well-preserved trading port dating from the 15th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.
After taking this photo, she asked for money. Having just arrived in Vietnam, the smallest denomination I had was VND 90000. I think I made her happy :)
Day 2 : Hội An –> Da Nang –> Huế
The ~3 hour long train journey from Da Nang to Huế is quite scenic.
Day 3 : Huế
Huế was the ancient capital of the Nguyễn dynasty which covered most of present day Vietnam, parts of Laos, Cambodia & China.
Ngo Mon Gate (a.k.a. the Gate of Noon) of the Imperial City. Notice the strong influence of Chinese culture. A tour guide with tourists inside the Imperial City. I didn’t know it at the time that violet áo dài are commonly associated with Huế. Backside of the Ngo Mon Gate. Notice the moat surrounding the Imperial City.
Being the ancient capital, there are several tombs of past emperors. Lăng Khải Định (Emperor Khai Dinh’s tomb) is one of them.
Stone sculptures of mandarins (bureaucrats). Undoubtedly very senior officials under the emperor.
Other places we went to included the Thien Mu Pagoda.
Day 4 : Huế –> Hanoi The iconic hats so strongly associated with Vietnam are called Nón Lá. Traffic in Hanoi seems chaotic at first But everyone is happy! We learnt that if we just calmly went about crossing the road, the motorcylists would whizz around and make way.
Day 5 : Hanoi –> Lào Cai –> Sa Pa
We took an overnight train from Hanoi to Lào Cai, a small city ~2 km from the Chinese border. From Lào Cai it is about an hour’s journey up the hills in to Sa Pa.
Terraced paddy fields on the hills around Sa Pa.
Visit to Cat Cat village : Cat Cat is a village of the Black Hmong people, located in a valley below Sa Pa. Historically, the Black Hmong were recognized by their indigo coloured outfits. Nowadays (we were told) the outfit is more of a tourist magnet. One of the backpackers we met was telling us about seeing one of the Black Hmong ladies slip on the traditional outfit over her western outfit, prior to heading down to the village.
With the influx of large number of tourists plus being the nearest ethnic minority village to Sa Pa town, Cat Cat village has become more ‘touristy’. Black Hmong girls/women chasing western tourists to be their tour guide.
Girl: Hello! Where you from?
Girl: Where you from?
Tourist: (this time speaking slower) England/France/….
Girl: You want me show you my village?
Tourist: (politely) No, thanks
Girl: Then you go shopping from me?
Tourist: (smiles politely)
(similar scene repeats)
Motorcycle passes by and then stops..
Motorcycle Driver: Hello, you want motorbike?
Tourist: (smiles politely) No, thanks
Motorcycle Driver: Ok, maybe later.
(points towards his helmet)
Motorcycle Driver: Remember my name.. Bono/Jack1 (then drives off)
We opted to walk. The view is best viewed on foot. Bridge on the way to Cat Cat village. It really shakes, especially when a buffalo uses it.
Back In Sa Pa
The lady with the red headgear belongs to the Red Dao minority tribe. Hidden in middle was a middle-aged western tourist.
On foot from Sa Pa towards Lao Chai village Black Hmong lady and child Lao Chai Village. Our visit coincided with the time of the corn harvest.
Overnight Train Back To Hanoi Train coupe on the Ratraco train back to Hanoi.
Day 7 : Hanoi
Day 8 : Hanoi –> Ha Long Bay
View from the about half-way up the hill on Dao Ti Top (more commonly referred to as Titov Island) was named in honour of former Soviet astronaut Ghermann Titov who visited the island in 1962 along with (then President) Ho Chi Minh.
Sung Sot Cave Stalactites and stalagmites. The dimples on the roof are actually created by sea water lashing against it over millions of years. The cave entrance is some 20-25 metres above sea level, so my first impression was that the sea level must have been much higher several million years ago, but a search on Wikipedia revealed that the entire area was lifted up sometime between 420 to 340 million years B.C.
A Floating Fishing Village The houses are ‘floating’ because of the plastic barrels beneath them. Read somewhere that these villages have their own schools as well.
Limestone Karst Formations Man’s head shaped limestone karst formation.
Day 9 : Ha Long Bay –> Hanoi
Day 10 : Hanoi –> Singapore