After a typical (and very in-effective) Asian border crossing experience, we drove straight into the heart of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), the former Saigon, largest city in Vietnam. Already as a child I had been fascinated by that name on the map and now we were finally here. But unfortunately we had to acknowledge that nothing of the hoped-for exotic flairthey was to be found. In contrast, we jumped into an incredible intense hustle of a modern metropolis. Not without reason is this city responsible for 33 percent of Vietnam’s booming economy.
But since we are not big city fans, we boarded a night train the evening of the next day and went on towards Hue, in the North. As the trains passed through the neighboorhoods with many homes only five meters away from the train windows, we even had a little evening entertainment, watching the various activities of the residents. In Da Nang, we immediately jumped into a bus that took us to Hoi An, a beautiful small town on the Chinese Sea.Founded by the Cham, Hoi An is now a World Heritage Site and also a stronghold for tailoring. After all the stress in the past few days it was just wonderful to stroll through the nearly traffic-free streets and look from time to time in one of the old Chinese wooden houses.
The culinary aspect was not neglected as wekk and especially the delicious Cao Lau noodles drenched our palate. In the evening the rice balloon lit streets offered another very special spectacle and all this made it quite difficult for us to leave again in direction of Hue. Unfortunately we got a lot of rain there and some program points fell into the water.
On the way north we stopped in the beautiful area around Ninh Binh where we marveled at the huge rice fields surrounded by karst rocks and temples during our paddle boat and bike rides.
Soon we were sitting in a train that took us quite relaxed to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. There, once again, we were welcomed into a super nice couch surfers shelter and in the evening he introduced us to the culinary delights of the city. Above all, I loved the fermented shrimp paste with its elephant-house smell. Great stuff! Unfortunately the weather let us down again and the old town packed with honking scooters and cars did not really thrill us either.
So we decided, despite a cool drizzly weather, to go for a trip to the famous Halong Bay. With almost 2,000 towering limestone rocks emerging from the turquoise waters, this bay is a real highlight in Vietnam and, accordingly, a tourist magnet. Therefore we decided to take the less crowded island of Cat Ba as a starting point. The next morning we had to sit through fog for two hours in port, before we could head out into the bay. But gradually, the weather improved and in the afternoon and the sun came out and we were able to paddle the impressive rock formations. In addition, we explored a huge cave lit with different colors. An amazing sight.
Once again we slept one night in Hanoi, then we went back south to Vinh, where we boarded after some toing and froing a night bus to Laos. Ultimately, we were quite happy to leave Vietnam behind us, because we did not like the weather, the extreme traffic and also the rather unfriendly way of some people. All this should change in Laos …