Vietnam – Ways to Travel
There are many places how to travel in the country. I have prepared for you a small summary with some recommendations.
You can rent a car or a motorbike. Some years ago it was not officially possible at all, and the international driving license did not help. I really do not wonder to tell the truth, so the experienced driver here will have problems. Especially in cities which are chaotic. The brave ones of you can rent a bike to the north and ride through the mountains. However, good orientation is quintessential, you will not find not many maps over there and locals don't usually even know how to use them.
The second option is the use of local public transport - day, night, and even busses with
beds - in my opinion the worst option. They are not comfortable, they do not keep to their schedules and the crossings are long. Besides, the pockets with some pockets have one minor problem, the size of the pocket is normalized to the average Vietnamese, so you do not have a chance to fit in...
I would not recommend buses at all for long journeys. Even if you had a local driver. The maximum speed on the highway is about 80 km/h. So you can make quite a good guess how much it would take from Hanoi to Hue; nearly 700 km.
Domestic flight is not a bad solution either. Yet I recommend night trains instead. They will get you to a lot of places, save you some money you might otherwise spend for accommodation, and the next day you will see new places. It depends on the type of train, somewhere beside a bed, you can also get small refreshments, water, fruit and biscuits, some even one-time slippers. There is one disadvantage to trains – air conditioning is always put on max. Cabins are mostly 4-bedded and can be seriously cold on the top bunk. I have not met a train yet, where one can switch air conditioning off. However, the quality of this means of transport is improving, new wagons feature better toilets, digitized train speed information, information on the next stop or terminus. At the station you may be approached by kind helpers who will offer help with luggage. As soon as you nod to him, prepare a lot of money, however. Nothing is for free, and they can significantly overestimate the value of their work.
A minivan with local driver is the last alternative of transport which I recommend to take to places where trains do not travel. This is something you will appreciate a lot for a handy local driver or a guide might be very helpfull. They will be able to deal with significant weather changes and take you to places you will hardly find otherwise. He will be your mediator in communicating with local residents, acquainting you with exotic fruits and local specialties, finding a suitable restaurant or inventing a replacement meal.
We're by train to Lao Cai. Here you do not have to worry about losing a destination. In any case, Lao Cai is the terminal. Moreover about 30 minutes before the trip, you will hear the tones of the national songs that are played in local.
Lao Cai is the starting point for traveling north of the country. The first tourist destination was Sa Pa, to where you can take the bus which takes about 45 minutes. The mountain town is situated at the altitude of Snezka mountain. Over the years I've been visiting this place, it has changed a lot. Hotels and catering facilities have been built there. However, Sa Pa has not lost its atmosphere till today. It is definitely a smart place to go for a walk along the rice fields, a short walk from the new high-tech cableway to Phan Xi Pang in Indochina, or visit Cat Cat village.
We leave a walk on rice fields for the next time.
GPS: (vesnice Cat Cat) 22°19'51.3"N 103°50'00.3"E
Text a foto: Magdaléna Radostová
Our journey continued to Hue (Huế), the former capital of Vietnamese emperors situated in the central Vietnam.
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.
Ha Long Bay is one of Vietnam's most famous and popular tourist destinations. It is located in Tonkin Bay in the South China Sea in Quang Ninh Province. Since 1994 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ha Long means the place where the dragon descends into the sea. It is also said that thanks to the dragon there were created interesting limestone rocks from the sea, which attract many tourists every year.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
Upon our arrival and first impressions of Vietnam, we take a tour of Hanoi. The guide first takes us to Ba Dinh Square, which is famous especially for Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
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.
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.
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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