Vietnam, Sa Pa: It Rains And It Doesn’t
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.
It was relatively quiet. Not something that we would be used to in Vietnam. Therefore, we put on everything we had in our backpack, sit on the bike and set off to the mountains. Our first stop was the Silver Waterfall (Thác Bạc, in Vietnamese). The waterfall is 100 meters high. Steps are build on its sides leading almost to the top. We were quite lucky, though. The weather was cold and visibility poor. Therefore, we were afraid we would not see much. However, the fog made magical atmosphere (after we experienced raining cats and dogs which forced us to stop and hide under the roof of one house; this all even though we had raincoats). Moreover, we didn’t meet many people due to the weather. Even a guy who would collect admission fee from us was not there.
From the Silver Waterfall the road was climbing up to the mountains. It goes to the famous Trầm Tôn pass. It is the highest pass (1900 meters above sea level). They say it is usually sunny at its one and while at the other it rains. We couldn’t believe the weather would differ so much as if by a wave of magic wand. While we were talking to a vendor who was frying rise in bamboo caraway. And all of a sudden, clouds appeared and rose. This opened magnificent view over the landscape in front of us.
We mutually freed ourselves from our raincoats. Then we continued to the other side of the pass to get warm. Soon we saw Fan Si Pan ( Phan Xi Păng in Vietnamese) – the summit of Indochina also called “the roof of Indochina”.
It was really warm and shinny on the other side of the pass. And we couldn’t believe it. However, the sun was setting slowly meaning we had to hit the road before the dark. We didn’t want to get lost and fall down the cliff while on the road to our hostel.
Of course, we didn’t escape cloudburst which happened on “our “side of the pass. When returning the bike, water was pouring down from us. However, we did survive unharmed. The ride back was what you would expect from such a venture down serpentines. Soon we returned to Saigon. Then only one more trip was left – to Cao Đài church.
GPS: (Silver Waterfall) 22°21'46.3"N 103°46'44.5"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.
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 …
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.
Vietnam is no destination where climbers would travel intentionally. Yet once you are there you should try its climbing areas. We travelled to Cat Ba island which I highly recommend to any climber.
There are many places how to travel in the country. I have prepared for you a small summary with some recommendations.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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