Omnipresent honking, grandmas pulling bikes with flowers, Vietnamese sitting on small chairs, food, bikes, wires, bikes, French cafes, bikes with food, bikes with chairs, bike transporting part of another bike… Welcome to Hanoi! It is a city crazy beyond believe. You either love it or you hate it eternally.
The capital of Vietnam – 8 million live there making it the second largest city in the country – is in the northern part of the country and you shouldn't miss it. In any case, I don't recommend you to start with Hanoi and certainly not if this is your first visit to Asia. It is really intense expereince to see Hanoi. Not everybody can handle it. Moreover, there is the largest number of tourist frauds right next to Cambodia. Locals can tell if you are a "greenhorn".
So why visit Hanoi? First of all - the food. When I said about southern Vietnamese that the food is their foremost priority I am clueless how to describe the inhabitants of Hanoi. The life in the streets is vibrant. It seems as if locals only rode bikes, drank coffee and tea and ate. Hanoian street food is recognized all over the world, for instance Bun Cha and other "hotpots". Once you get a taste of it you fall in as locals. How to choose? Go where it is swirling with locals and where it smells good. You can't get yours fingers burnt. They mostly cook only one meal. But they do it the best.
Try Vietnamese coffeé - either Ca Phe Sua Da which comes with condensed milk and ice (its very very strong and addictive) or a coffee with whipped egg - local specialty. Cong ca phe chain is my favorite and especially their coffee with coconut.
Omnipresent presence of French colonial era gives Hanoi its charm. In the old town, there is the architecture of the first half of the 20th century. French influence is easily recognizable. Moreover, there are countless French-style cafes and restaurants. Vietnamese want to be stylish, like the French. It means nice clothes, haircut, shoes... But when it rains they easily put a plastic bag on their head just to keep the haircut intact.
There are countless places to visit in Hanoi – it is just up to you which one you choose. Among the most famous is the Ho Chi Minh Museum situated in downtown; weekend market in the Old district; West Lake; and Military History Museum. Moreover, there are countless small Buddhist temples.
Eventually, I spent there not a day as I planned originally but a week. Every week endless scenes of its crazy streets were rolling in front of my eyes. Birds singing in cages, flowers, bikes, food and "true" locals. If observing people and eating food interests you, then Hanoi is true paradise for you. For more peaceful vacation be sure to avoid Vietnamese capital. Rather visit Da Lat or go to the sea.
Today we are about to enjoy our last amazing trip in Vietnam, we originally intended to visit the Ba Vi National Park, but for time constraints we had to change our program because we need to reserve at least two days for this park. So we had a hotel counseling and planned a trip to a place that was not even mentioned in our book guide, although it is very popular for tourists (even for local people). Today, we go to visit the largest Vietnamese pagoda Bai Dinh and then explore the beautiful complex Trang An.
Cat Ba is an island southeast of Vietnam. It was very difficult to get there until recently. In September, a new road featuring a bridge made it easier to travel to the island. Hence, Cat Ba is a popular tourist resort. You may buy a ticket to Cat Ba town in Hanoi and Ninh Binhu zakoupit. It takes 4 hours to get there from Ninh Binhu and 3 hours from Hanoi.
Do you think which destination is the right one for you? Where is something interesting and unusual? Where you can find beautiful landscape, excellent cuisine, and pleasant locals? Well, I know where to go. My favorite place is... Vietnam and I will try to convince you in the next few articles that even for you this is the right choice.
We imagined the visit to the lake as relaxing time after quite a busy day. The reality was seriously different from our expectations. I have remembered the first impression until today. With my daughter and son, we dodged through the local traffic and it was not really easy. The flood of motorcycles was not to stop. We naively thought that someone might slow down or even stop. Don't expect that. Just walk to the other end of the road. And be brave.
The very first day in Asia went very quickly, and in the evening we moved to a cozy family hotel. The environment is friendly, staff gives advice with a smile, they recommend you meals, trips, help with transportation or you can buy the fruit you want. At least first, before you get by, you will certainly appreciate the help.
Immediately after arriving at Sa Pa, stay and do not waste your time. With clear visibility, the best choice is to arrange a lift to Phan Xi Pang. It is the longest cableway in the world that uses a three-lane system. Its length is about 6 km and was opened in 2016. It is still being built here. True, for tourists who enjoy the virgin nature with a mountain cottage, it probably will not. Several pagodas, sanctuaries, even a train have been built on top, which will take you to the highest point. The prospects are really good, and the landscape here is on your palm.
One day trip to the Bach Ma National Park, approximately 40 kilometers from Hue, was one of our best days in Vietnam. The park was founded in 1991 and its name means a white horse. It covers an area of 220 square kilometers.
Nha Trang is practically the most famous tourist resort in Vietnam, not so much for some landmarks, this coastal city of Khanh Hoa province is famous for its seven kilometers long sandy beach with adjacent islands. The city of approximately 392,000 inhabitants and this number is growing steadily.
After a tough night-train trip, we arrive early in the morning to Da Nang City, where we do not stay very much. First we head to perhaps the most beautiful Vietnamese city - the Hoi An lantern, from which we go for a trip to the Marble Mountains, Vietnamese Ngũ Hành Sơn.
In the evening we arrive at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon). We are already busy only to lodge for a quick dinner in the busy streets of this largest Vietnamese city and sleep. The next day a very exciting war trip is waiting for us - we go to the Cu Chi tunnels.
Da Nang (a city almost in the geographic center of Vietnam) is largely unknown. Which is unfortunate. An average tourist usually passes by there in a taxi on his way from the airport to his favorite Hoi An hotel…. I spent three weeks in Da Nang. And the city got on the list of my favorite places in Southeast Asia (right next to Chiang Mai). In Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson called the old road to Hue as the “abandoned fragment of perfection.” I absolutely agree.
Upon an hour of waiting for a visa I was free to explore the capital of the country I really looked forward to exploring. First of all, I somehow let a cab driver to make a 300 crown rip off. Sometimes things like this happen. But honestly – this happens in Prague as well. Aboard the airplane I could see streets where millions of bikes stream in all directions. And “down” here the traffic is even more crazy. If I compare Ho Chi Minh city to Bangkok, a city of comparable size, in the former there are much less traffic jams. One must add that there is no subway, or rail that would go above the ground. It seems that high taxes on car is working.
I have always longed to see a large desert with sand dunes. However, neither in Europe nor in Southeast Asia (the places where I spend most of my time) is one. Once I first saw pictures of Mui Ne, Vietnam I knew for sure that I want to go there. Okay, it is not a desert per se but sand dunes there are huge.
As much as I hate to travel by bus, I would repeat the ride from Nha Trang and Da Lat. The former is the city of two hundred thousand. It is the most popular spot to spend honeymoon at in Vietnam. It is situated at 1500 meters in the Central Highlands. You can enjoy a number of great views while on the road. And it gets even better on bike …
Someone loves it. Someone swears to not to come again. There is nothing in between. I am with the first group. From the first day on in Saigon, a hectic city, and I turned into a side street. We are about to introduce you to a new series where we tell you about interesting places in the city and the country. First of all, let’s talk some important facts about the country.
We reached Hanoi (Hà Nội in Vietnamese) by train, again. Friends had been waiting for us at the train station already. Hospitable as they were they took us on their bikes to their place. Founded in the 11th century, Hanoi’s original name was Thăng Long – Soaring Dragon. The legend says the emperor saw a dragon soaring at this place so he founded the city there.
Every time I have the feeling I know something more about something I come to realization which tells me the opposite. I spent one year of studying and travelling in China. Bit arrogantly I had felt Asia couldn’t surprise me much more. Fortunately, I hadn’t boarded a plane to the Czech Republic, instead I boarded a plane to Vietnam.
On the following day we set off to Hoi An (Hội An . It was during the daylight and also it didn’t rain. The sun was pleasantly shining and warm. We reached the historical center by foot and were ready for some great sightseeing (even the one in the night had its atmosphere).
Even though the title suggest some offensive connotations we were did not intend to disgrace royal tombs as if we were in an action movie. A rented bike, however, solved our problems. The tombs around Hue are scattered along vast area. Before relying on public transportation it is better to pay couple of crowns to rent a bike.
The last day was before us in Hue, the picturesque imperial city. In the early morning we hit the streets and just roamed around in the city. Indeed, we saw one of the most distinctive sights in the city - the Trường Tiền bridge across the Perfume River.
In the region of Sa Pa, northwestern Vietnam, the best means of transport is a bike. You don’t have to worry about missing your bus, of taxi not coming, or that your taxi cab driver would be someone who drives illegally. Therefore, we rented us a bike in Sa Pa. It cost only a few crowns. Then we planned our trip.
When someone in Prague says “Sapa” everybody recalls the famous marketplace in Prague. However, once you dig into where the name originates you soon find the mysterious area of Sa Pa in Vietnam’s northwest (near the borderline with China).