All posts filed under: Vietnam

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Finding home in Vietnam.

It’s the winter of 2010, and I’m embarking on my most adventurous journey to date, in Northwest Vietnam. Only I don’t know it yet. After failing to beat the crowds in the Mekong Delta, we have pledged not to take the ‘touristy’ circuit again. Instead of taking the train from Hanoi to Sapa (a popular hill station), we’ve set out along the Northwestern hinterlands of Vietnam, and our conviction to make it to Sapa on land via this route rests on the blog of one guy who said the journey is possible. There is no more information to be found online; no bus timings, no trains, no places to stay, not even the names of the smaller towns & villages we may pass by. This is the story of one such village.

Halong Bay: Misty. Mysterious. Magical.

You’ve seen calm seas and you’ve seen sprawling mountains. Put the two together, throw in some evasive mist, dig up some extravagant caves, and shake a magic wand. You might get something close to Halong Bay in Northeast Vietnam. Over 3000 limestone structures arise out of the waters, as though the heavens are really beneath the surface and gracing the earth, forming a spectacle of beauty, mystery and magic, like you’ve never witnessed before. I cruised along these waters of the Gulf of Tonkin (Halong Bay) on the Imperial Junk, one of the many mid-range options to be part of the land on water phenomenon. Imagine sitting on the deck of the cruise, gazing at scores of limestone structures, each with it’s own touch of perfection, looking as stunning at sunrise as at sunset. Halong Bay at Sunrise Halong Bay at Sunset Each cruise provides food (quality is proportional to the price of the cruise), water activities like kayaking and limestone cave exploration. The limestone cave open for exploration is decked up in lights, and …

Ben Lac, Mai Chau, North West Vietnam, Vietnam, mountains, mist

The Untouched Gems of Northwest Vietnam.

For many travelers, Vietnam is the cities of Ho Chi Minh & Hanoi, and the tours that take you around the area. While some of these are pretty and tourist-friendly, most of these are fabricated versions of Vietnam’s real beauty and people. We managed to ditch most of these must-tick boxes in our Vietnam itinerary to explore the less-treaded North Western highlands of the country. Mai Chau No Lonely Planet overview can prepare you for the gorgeous, mist-covered mountains that greet you as you enter the village of Ben Lac, nor for the hospitality of its White Thai folks. There are organized tours from Hanoi that take you there, but if you want to experience the untouched, go on your own. We took a local bus from Hanoi to Mai Chau via Hoa Binh, with locals who spoke no English beyond “Where are you from?” but who were friendly enough to call their friends in Ben Lac and arrange a village homestay for us! We stayed with a couple in a traditional stilt house, and …