SAPA – VIETNAM

By Sammy (http://www.tothedayslikethis.com/)

In 2012 I visited Sapa in Vietnam and instantly fell in love. Sapa is a special place, nestled high in the mountains near the border of China, where the air is fresh and the views are breathtaking.


After spending time in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Sapa was the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle. We did two days of trekking and were able to visit local villages along the way. Getting a glimpse into life in Sapa and the nearby villages was an eye opener. It was quite cold up in the mountains and many children did not have shoes or jackets and running hot water was non existent for many families. I felt very fortunate that night to go back to my hotel and have a warm shower – something that I take for granted everyday.


The people we met in Sapa were beautiful. They were gentle, kind and genuinely interested in what life was like for us in Australia. One of my favourite things about traveling is the interesting people you meet along the way. They stick in your mind and give you the warm and fuzzy feelings when you think back.



As a part of the tour we visited a local meat market. What an experience. I won’t post photos, but let’s just say as soon as I got home I hugged my dog very tightly. Again, an eye opener.




I would love to visit Sapa again. I even weirdly enjoyed the 10 hour overnight train trip there – it’s all part of the experience.

Have you ever visited Sapa? What did you think?

( Source: http://www.tothedayslikethis.com/2013/11/sapa-vietnam.html)

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Hanoi Youth Hostel – No.5 Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hotline: (+84) 972004080

Email: kellyyouthhostel@gmail.com

Explore Northern Vietnam: Temples, National Parks and Fortresses

By JULES

So you’ve already explored uber-cultural Hanoi, kayaked your heart out in Halong Bay and met with ancient hill tribes in Sapa – but there is still so much more to see and in northern Vietnam. A wealth of ancient temples, mysterious national parks and colonial fortresses await.

Dien Bien Phu

This city in the northwest of Vietnam is best known for its long-fought victory against the French colonial powers in 1954. The battle fought here culminated in the War of Independence, effectively signalling the beginning of the end of French rule. Around 500km west of the capital city Hanoi, Dien Bien Phu is a must for all history buffs, with many notable sight.  Scars of the war can still be seen within the Exhibition Museum, Him Lam Hill, Muong Thanh Bridge and the deeply moving Dien Bien Phu Cemetery. If short on time, make visits to both the A1 Hill and the fascinating Dien Bien Phu Museum top of your itinerary.

Cuc Phuong National Park

This is the oldest national park in Vietnam; established in 1962, this primary tropical forest lies about 120km to Hanoi’s west. The vast park covers parts of three provinces and the 22,000 hectares are teeming with a rich diversity of wildlife, including 300 different species of birdlife and 100 different types of mammals, alongside many fish, reptiles, insects and amphibians. The Cuc Phuong National Park is studded with deep mysterious cave systems which have long fascinated archaeologists. Searches have yielded fossils of reptiles, thought to date back some 200 million years. Come visit during the dry season which runs from November through to February; meet the Muong minority community who reside in traditional stilt homes, hike the trails and enjoy the peace and serenity.

Tam Coc

Images of pristine Tam Coc will make you look twice; it has more than a passing resemblance to UNESCO listed Halong Bay, with its colourful landscape of karst rocks and river scenery. Tam Coc is much less explored, leaving the intricate caves and rock systems delightfully quiet.

Hung Kings Temple

High up in the enigmatic Nghia Linh Mountains lies the temples of the Hung Kings; the founders of Vietnam. Around 80 northwest of Hanoi, this area in Hy Lang is home to the complex of temples dating back to the 15th century. Located at various heights on the mountain slope, Lower Temple, Middle Temple and Upper Temple are highly revered. This is also the site of the annual Hung Kings’ Festival, Giỗ tổ Hùng Vương, which is held each year on the tenth day of the third lunar month.

Mu Cang Chai

Whilst many travellers head to the remote northern hill regions such as Sapa, there are other hilly gems, such as Mu Cang Chai which lies 1,000 meters above sea level. The landscape is typified by rice plantations balanced precariously on narrow terraced fields. This area is home to communities of H’Mong and Thai, who lead traditional lives. The lush rugged hills and valley are breathtaking and early morning mist bathes the landscape in an ethereal glow. This region attracts trekkers, eco travellers and keen photographers.

(Source http://www.puretravel.com/blog/2014/05/28/explore-northern-vietnam-temples-national-parks-and-fortresses/)

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Hanoi Youth Hostel – No.5 Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hotline: (+84) 972004080

Email: kellyyouthhostel@gmail.com

Our trip to the amazing mountainous Sapa

By Pernille Rasmussen-Lykke Amonsen-Astrid Andersen-Camilla Christiansen, Physiotherapy volunteers, Denmark

We started our trip to Sapa on Friday the 10th May 2013, which we had really been looking forward to. Our expectations were high, as many people had told us what a wonderful place Sapa is and that it was one of the “must see” attractions of Vietnam. After having finished our respective projects on the day, we were all slightly tired but also excited about our forthcoming adventure. Our train departed Tran Quy Cap station at 09:50 PM and should be at our destination around 7 AM the next morning. We settled in quite nicely into our tiny train compartment which had 4 bunk beds with a small table between, where we spent the next hour watching episodes of Friends before we went to bed so we could be all fresh and awake for the next day. The A/C was going on full throttle, so we were all very happy that we had been provided with warm blankets, otherwise we would have awoken with a massive cold. After a slightly restless night, the train conductor woke us at 6 AM by shouting “morning” all through the train. Naturally we assumed this meant that we had arrived safely at Sapa, so we pulled back the curtains to see the spectacular nature. What we saw was not exactly pristine nature, and it did not even look like we were remotely close to any train station. Afterwards we were told that a landslide had happened further up along the tracks, so we were barred from proceeding on to Sapa and they were unable to say when we could start off again. After all it only took 3 hours waiting in a desolate place in Northern Vietnam, and then we were off again. Luckily, we had bought sandwiches which became our breakfast that morning. In the end, our train arrived six hours late at Lao Cai train station around noon time, and we were absolutely starving. But we got there!

We followed the immense crowd of tourist to the arrival plaza where we had to find our guide who would take us to the hotel. We found him pretty swiftly, however we had to wait for yet another hour for the bus which were scheduled to pick us up. The bus was filled to the brim and the last few unfortunate passengers had to vacate plastic chairs which had intermediately been placed in the bus. We were the only foreigners and the rest were local Vietnamese. The bus ride took roughly and hours time, and here we got a preview of the breathtaking nature around Sapa with the green mountain tops and stunning rice paddies. Arriving at Sapa City, we immediately noticed the clean, fresh air which was a stark contrast from the usual grey and polluted Hanoi air. It was reinvigorating to take a big gasp of fresh air, without having a major cough afterwards. The temperature was also considerable cooler than Hanoi, which suited us quite well.

The city of Sapa is placed on a mountainside with a view over a valley covered in rice paddies, forestland and small villages. When we arrived at our hotel, we got the chance to enjoy this spectacular view from our hotel balcony, before we went out for a well-deserved lunch. Thereafter we started out on a hiking tour with our English speaking guide to “The Cat Village”, which is the tribe that is most closely situated to Sapa.

When we were approximately 200 meters away from our hotel, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by tiny, local villagers all clad in the same colorful clothing (which were to show that they all belonged to the same tribe). Unfortunately their questions were as one-sided as their clothing, as each of them asked the same four questions to us time and time again. So after 6 kilometers of hiking, we were pretty bored about answering how old we were, where we came from, how many siblings we had and most importantly: whether we fancied  in buying some of their dodgy souvenirs. However they were all extremely nice, and some of them even followed us all the way in the hope that we would finally succumb and buy some of their junk in order to get rid of them. Our hike brought us through several different villages which had dozens of small shops with homemade clothes, bags and jewellery which were all made in a cacophony of colors resembling their tribal clothing. All through the hike we enjoyed the most amazing views of mountains, rice paddies on the mountainsides and all the way down in the valley we heard and saw the thunder of a stunning waterfall. The hike down to the village was quite steep and we were suddenly well aware of what a strenuous hike it would be to climb back up to Sapa again. While we were walking along, we suddenly realized that a massive buffalo came stampeding down the narrow track that we were occupying. Fortunately it did not direct at any of us, but it did not take a long time before its partner-in-crime chose to take the same run down the track, and our guide did his utmost to distract it with shouts and flapping his arms, in order for it not to run towards any of us. It is safe to say that we were all somewhat shocked by this turn of events, but luckily no one was hurt. Later on we learned that some small boys had been taunting the buffalos further up the road which had caused them to run amok.

In the evening we ate dinner at the hotel. The food was okay but nothing special. Thereafter we chose to relax in our hotel rooms and got a long night of sleep.

We checked out of the hotel at 9 AM as we had scheduled to hike for the whole day together with our guide. The trip went to Lao Chai, where we would eat lunch and then we would return to Sapa. This is equal to about 17 kilometers walking on mountain tracks. We were accompanied (once again) by the tiny tribal ladies that were very keen to sell us their souvenirs once again. However they were extremely friendly in helping us and supporting us on the slopes, which had turned into treacherous patches of tracks due to the heavy rain the previous night. We realized that these ladies were from a different tribe, as their clothing was quite different. It was also surprising to ask about who they were. Even though they all looked to be over 60 years of age, the oldest of them stated that she was 35 years old. The weather was benign all through the Sunday and the sun was shining from a clear blue sky. This also resulted in some badly burned arms and shoulders, as our skins are not really used to the Vietnamese sun.

We took a lot of pictures of the spectacular scenery that surrounded Sappa. It is rather difficult describing how breathtaking the nature is in this part of Vietnam and the pictures we took does not justify this at all, as they can of course not capture the silence and the sounds from the nature.

When we arrived back at the hotel we had a few hours to eat and shower before we were picked up in a minivan and driven to the train. We embarked the train around 08.30 PM and our compartment was even smaller than the one we had had on the way to Sapa and the beds were smaller and different. Thus our train trip ended up being somewhat less comfortable than on the way up and we were rather tired when we met up at work after we arrived safely back in Hanoi.

(Source http://www.mytripblog.org/tag/sapa)

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Hanoi Youth Hostel – No.5 Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hotline: (+84) 972004080

Email: kellyyouthhostel@gmail.com

SIX DAYS IN HANOI, VIETNAM

(By Sivan Askayo  http://sivanaskayoblog.com/)

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel, Tet Holiday, Old Quarter

‘Madam, Motor’… ‘Madam, Motor…’ This is how most of the Vietnamese motor-bikers in Hanoi used to approach me, trying to convince me to get on their bike for a ride for a certain amount of money. For those who didn’t experience Vietnam yet, please be advised that crossing the streets is a challenge.

The country in general and Hanoi in particular, is humming and buzzing with traffic. A steady stream of motorbikes, rickshaws and cars driving around in both directions. Not once, did I join a group of people or someone else just to cross the street, and I won’t lie if I say that sometimes I just hold my breath, praying silently I will make it safe to the other side of the street. I arrived to Hanoi at the end of January, few days after Tet Holiday and the streets of the city were even more buzzing and humming, especially during night time, when families went out for dinner, ice cream treat and some loud Karaoke.

I arrived to Hanoi planning on staying for only two days but ended up staying for longer.

One of the reasons was the place I’ve stayed. I booked a room in Hanoi Hibiscus Hotel, a family hotel, few meters away from the Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in the Old Quarter and it instantly became my ‘home away from home’ place to stay. The central location of the hotel and the friendly professional staff, made my stay much easier than in Ho Chi Min City, where I landed, which has inspired some culture shock. The area around the Cathedral was packed with young crowds, all sitting in the local cafes on plastic stools, drinking tea with lots of lemon and cracking sun-flower seeds, leaving a trail of shells on the ground. Fashionable young girls driving on their motor bikes, was a common thing to see.

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel, Tet Holiday, Old Quarter

The variety of places to see and visit, the comfortable weather at that time of year, the great street food and the sense of tourism, made the North of Vietnam more welcoming and easier to travel.

I’ve booked an initial tour to get to know some parts of the city with Hanoi City Tours, a free tour by a local young student, who wants to improve his/hers English skills and at the same time introduce and promote their city.

I chose to have my guided tour in the Old Quarter or what called the ’36 Streets’, a labyrinth of old streets, evolved in the 13th century when artisan guilds were concentrated along each of the original 36 lanes, and clustered by speciality; Silver street (where you can find silver jewelry as well as gravestones), Silk Street, Mats Street, Paper Street, etc. Each of the 36 craft guilds once had its own communal house, however, like most of the quarter’s pagoda and temples, they were shut down during the communist takeover and transformed into schools or public housing.

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel, Old Quarter.

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel, Old Quarter

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel, Old Quarter

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel, Old Quarter

In the outskirts of the Old Quarter, there is the Temple of Literature (located to the south of the Fine Arts Museum at Pho Quoc Tu Giam street). When it was first built, it was the school of the Elite of the Nation and Vietnam’s first University. After passing exams at the local levels, scholars who wanted to become seniors came here to study for rigorous examinations. It got its name ‘Temple of Literature’ at the beginning of the 19th century, and now serves as a place where people and mostly students come and write a prayer and a wish and ask for success in their studies. If you want to be like the locals, have your wish or prayer written by one of the calligraphers outside the temple. I visited the temple one afternoon, during the last days of Tet Holiday. It was packed with young students who came by, all excited and anxious when there was a special ceremony, all praying for a good luck in the up coming year. The Temple is a homage to Confucius, peaceful and spiritual, arranged in a series of a linked courtyards. I was walking past tone-stealed shaped like turtles, overlooking the students praying with a great intention. (Felt so relieved I don’t need to pray for my next school year)

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel, Temple of Literature

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel, Temple of Literature

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel, Temple of Literature

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel, Temple of Literature

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel, Temple of Literature

One of the most beautiful pagodas that exists in Hanoi is the Tran Quoc Pagoda, which is located beside the Red River and perhaps is the oldest one in Hanoi, dated from the year of 1639. I was there one afternoon watching the crowd lighting perfumed incense and giving fruits and fake money to their Gods, just at the last days of Tet Holiday.

Hanoi, Vietnam, Tran Quac Pagoda

Hanoi, Vietnam, Tran Quac Pagoda

Hanoi, Vietnam, Tran Quac Pagoda

Hanoi, Vietnam, Tran Quac Pagoda

While you are in the area, you can walk along the river towards the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Presidential Palace near by. Make sure to check the opening hours in advance and the strict rules of the mausoleum. By the time I got there by noon, it was already closed. Some of my friends told me I didn’t miss a thing though….

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel

Vietnam, Hanoi, Travel

Even though I didn’t plan it, I paid a visit to Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the infamous Hanoi Hilton. The prison was used by the French people who imprisoned, tortured and guillotined Vietnamese revolutionaries, and later on was used by the Vietnamese who prisoned American pilots, including the Republican senator John McCain. One can easily notice the hinted propaganda by the way the Vietnamese represent themselves as considerate to the American needs. As scary as it is, I really recommend to visit this site.

From Hanoi, it is very easy to book a day-or two day trips to Halong Bay or book a midnight train to Sapa in the North. April is a great time to visit Vietnam. The weather is comfortable, the trees are blooming and the food is always great.

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel

 

( Source: http://sivanaskayoblog.com/six-days-in-hanoi-vietnam-2/)

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Hanoi Youth Hostel – No.5 Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hotline: (+84) 972004080

Email: kellyyouthhostel@gmail.com

 

Absolutely quackers! Travellers take daring duck on 1,000-mile epic adventure in Vietnam … on the back of a motorbike

By Laura Silver

  • Traveller gets given a ‘free duck’ with his motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • The duck, named Rab, joined Dan McAllen, 21, and friends as they took a 1,000-mile journey around Vietnam
  • Rab joined his travel companions in restaurants, bars and on a boat trip through the Phong Nha caves
  • McAllen describes the ‘heart-breaking’ moment when he had to release Rab into a Hanoi Lake at end of the trip

When looking for a travel buddy to go on an epic adventure, it’s customary to look within your own species.

However, one traveller has revealed he paired up with a daredevil duck on an epic two-week-long, 1,000-mile journey around Vietnam.

Rab went on the trip – even riding on a motorbike – with Dan McAllen, 21, and his friends, all from Northern Ireland, as they completed the Top Gear route through the South East Asian country.

What a trip! Rab pictured with Dan McAllen, left, and his friends in Vietnam while on a 1,000-mile adventure around the country
Dan McAllen and his duck pal Rab

Rab the duck taking a boat trip

After getting a free duck thrown in with his motorbike when touring Vietnam, Dan McAllen, left, found himself with a new travel companion

They bought him at the same time as they bought their motorbikes for the journey – from a fellow Northern Irishman.

Dan said: ‘I came across this guy in Ho Chi Minh City selling his bike and, while we were negotiating, he said I could have a free duck. Obviously, I said yes. So I got Rab and a couple of small bowls to feed him from. He was with us the whole trip and I’ve got some great memories of him.’

The group travelled more than 1,000 miles around the country, taking in nine cities, where Rab joined the group in restaurants and bars, pulling up an extra seat at the table so he could sit patiently with them.

Dan said: ‘My fondest memory is when we took a boat trip through the Phong Nha caves. He was sat at the front of the boat just looking out over the water. Every so often he’d let out a little quack but that was it.’

Precious cargo: Rab travelled in a crate on the back of a motorbike while the friends travelled to nine Vietnamese cities

Party animal: Rab joins his friends in restaurants and bars as they keep their friendly new mascot by their sides throughout the trip

 When their trip came to an end and the lads had to return home, they tried desperately to find him a new home.

Unfortunately, despite the obvious love for the bird, they couldn’t find him another home and released him back into a Hanoi lake.

Dan said: ‘It was absolutely heart-breaking – he was like a member of the family. He had become so attached to us that he tried to follow us away from the lake.

‘We had to jump and the bikes and speed off to the airport. It’s a poor area of the world but hopefully nobody has eaten him yet!’

Dan McAllen and pals had bonded with Rab the duck so strongly that they found it heart-breaking to release him into a Hanoi lake at the end of their travels

Dan McAllen and pals had bonded with Rab the duck so strongly that they found it heart-breaking to release him into a Hanoi lake at the end of their travels

Epic adventure: Dan, pictured left, carrying his feathered friend while travelling Vietnam with friends

Epic adventure: Dan, pictured left, carrying his feathered friend while travelling Vietnam with friends

Setting sail: Rab the duck perches on a boat as they explore the waters of the South East Asian country

Setting sail: Rab the duck perches on a boat as they explore the waters of the South East Asian country

Are we there yet? Dan, pictured holding Rab, was given the duck as he and his friends bought motorcycles for an adventure across Vietnam

Are we there yet? Dan, pictured holding Rab, was given the duck as he and his friends bought motorcycles for an adventure across Vietnam

Excellent adventure: The friends carried out the Top Gear motorbike route of Vietnam - accompanied by Rab the duck

Excellent adventure: The friends carried out the Top Gear motorbike route of Vietnam – accompanied by Rab the duck

Best friends: Dan said it was 'heart-breaking' when he had to leave Rab in Vietnam after the incredible two-week adventure

 

( Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2728746/Absolutely-quackers-Travellers-daring-duck-1-000-mile-epic-adventure-Vietnam-motorbike.html#ixzz3CI6DynB1  )

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Hanoi Youth Hostel – No.5 Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hotline: (+84) 972004080

Email: kellyyouthhostel@gmail.com