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Travel Experience – Vietnam
By Taylor Schack
I recently flew to Vietnam for a week with Wide Eyed Tours. Our first stop was Hanoi where we started the day with a city tour, first visiting the Maison Centrale prison. We also had time to look through the exhibitions of the Vietnam/American war museum, which provided a lot of detail and insight into that time.
Once our tour concluded we began the 5-hour journey to Sapa, a popular trekking base that overlooks the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley.
After a buffet breakfast at the Victoria Hotel we travelled by bus to the starting point for our trek. I should mention that travellers must have permits to do the trek, which can be organised through the tour companies.
Our guide Kang was fantastic, providing information on the land, the process of rice farming and how the local villages operate. The 4-hour trek included stunning landscapes, walking through local villages along the way. Some of the hills were quite steep with rough terrain but it was well worth it for the spectacular views. We stayed at a local ‘homestay’ named Lucky Daisy – Buffalo Lounge, which was very basic and more of a guesthouse as we were not staying with a family. Most of the beds were in the same room but they did have western toilets!
That night we had dinner at a very small restaurant located nearby called the Bamboo Bar. The meal was great with a mixture of Vietnamese foods.
On Day 3 we began our trek of approximately 1.5 hours to Xa Hau Thao Village where we met our bus and were transferred back to Sapa. The morning was a little cloudy but the views of the rice fields were just as amazing as the previous day. Along the way we stopped at a few other homestays and spoke to some of the local villagers.
On return to Sapa, we collected our luggage and began the bus ride back to Hanoi where we stayed another night at May De Ville hotel.
The next morning we travelled by bus to Halong Bay. On arrival, we met our tour guide Mee at the Swan Cruises office where we transferred to a tender that took us out to the junk boat. The staff were very friendly and Mee was a fantastic host/tour guide. We enjoyed a seafood lunch once we had boarded, followed by check-in. Then we were tendered out to a floating house where we collected our kayaks. Kayaking around the limestone casts was a lot of fun and the views were incredible. We kayaked to the Monkey Cave and a nearby beach where we are able to swim for about half an hour before heading back. By the time we returned to the junk boat, it was time for the sunset party on the sun deck where the staff provided drinks and snacks we watched the sun go down. Dinner was about eight courses and all of the food onboard was delicious!
The second day of our cruise was an early start with a Tai Chi class at 6:30am, followed by a buffet breakfast. Around 8am we departed for our shore excursion to a cave at the top of one of the limestone casts. We were tendered to the beach where we climbed the 100 or so stairs to the cave entry. There were great views from the top! We enjoyed lunch back on the boat before cruising back to shore and a bus trip to Hanoi Airport for our flight to Da Nang.
From Da Nang Airport we were transferred to Hoi An, once a major sea port but now a beautifully quaint historic town. The morning started with a guided motorbike tour from Hoi An to An Bang Beach. We rode through the riverside area of Hoi An and past the beach until we reached the beautiful An Bang Beach where we said goodbye to the AnBang Beachside Boutique Hotel.
From there, we were transferred back to Da Nang Airport for our flight to Saigon and then on to Melbourne. What an action packed week in such a beautiful country.