Vietnam, Hanoi: Search for a Mysterious Turtle
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.
Hanoi had been the capital, except for short periods of time, until the early 19th century. The Nguyen dynasty made Hue the capital, the city me and B left for Hanoi. Hà Nội means River within/inside. The Red river is the river. Hanoi stretches along its southern bank.
The French protectorate of Tonkin saw Hanoi as its capital. Yet the true capital of Vietnam Hanoi became in 1976 – the year the country was unified.
Its historical district and narrow streets are well-preserved. Every street’s name comes from its focus on certain craft – Fishermen’s street, Bamboo street, Herbal street etc. Some crafts are still performed in some of these streets. Usually, you can buy souvenirs there or just sit on a chair and have a cold one.
Another famous place is right in the center of the city – Sword Lake (Hồ Hoàn Kiếm). Hero Lê Lợi intended to free his country from the occupation of Chinese troops. A magical sword helped him to achieve this goal. Once he himself became the king, he once sailed the rived in a boat when a large turtle emerged from the water. She asked him to return the sword. There is the Turtle Tower (Tháp Rùa) which stands on an island to remember this moment.
You can see one of these large turtles (Rafetus leloii) in the museum by the lake. The death of the second turtle was great misfortune. Tourists and locals were going to the lake to see her. In vain. From time to time, different videos popped up on the internet allegedly showing the turtle. We were not that lucky. And we won’t be.
The evening was neigh. Instead of searching for the turtle we set off for the downtown. While planning our trip trough Hanoi with our friends we decided to see Ho Chi Min mausoleum and the adjacent park. There is his famous house sitting on poles. I have heard all kind of stories about Ho Chi Min. I had no clue how the mausoleum would look like yet this is a story for the next time.
GPS: 21°01'39.1"N 105°50'08.6"E
Text and photos: Hana Bašová
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.
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.
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.
The end of my stay in Vietnam was neigh. There was one more place to see, a must-see place. The Caodaistic temple. Caodaismus (Đạo Cao Đài) is a young, syncretic religion established by a bureaucrat from South Vietnam in the 1920s.
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.
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.
We had no problems with B to communicate in China. In Vietnam, B took the role of the guide. When we decided to travel to Cambodia, we realized this would be the most exotic country simply because we don’t know the Cambodian language.
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.
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.
There are many places how to travel in the country. I have prepared for you a small summary with some recommendations.
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).
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 …
Upon we explore Hanoi a bit we planned to see other places which are must see in the capital. The first one was the Ho Chi Minh Museum (Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is often regarded economic heart of Vietnam. It is not as hold as Hanoi (Hà Nội) but still it has some magic.
I was feeling like travelling in China when I was on my way to Hoi An – “there is going to be this yellow bus. It will take you there“.
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).
Our journey continued to Hue (Huế), the former capital of Vietnamese emperors situated in the central Vietnam.
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.
Recently was thru internet voting selected the new seven natural wonders of the world. Most information on these remarkable localities in the Czech Internet dismissed several photographs, but we will in our “Do you know that” – serial will try to say something more about the places that you did not receive his reputation by accident.
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