Saturday, 12 March 2011

Good bye Vietnam

I have spent just about 10 days in Vietnam, travelled from the very far North where I arrived in Lao Cai to where I am now in Hue, about half way through the country. I've certainly had good times but unfortunately no sun, since I arrived I've been in or under a huge grey mass of clouds and haze, which I find makes the whole experience less enjoyable. Altogether I'm not enjoying the country that much, I have been changing my plans almost every day since I got here, chasing sunnier / warmer climes as well as trying to escape from very busy and ultra touristy areas, with all the fairly aggressive touts and scammers that come with them.

I have probably covered 1,000 km in Vietnam so far and the only grace weather-wise was a clearing of clouds for some sun and blue skies a couple of hours this morning. Anyways, I decided to give up on Vietnam and move on to Laos tomorrow morning. I am taking a bus early in the morning for Savannakhet.

I have some nice photos, met some cool people to chat with as well as spend a day or evening with, so it was all good but I also won't be missing Vietnam very much, nor am I in a massive hurry to come back. I guess it's a spoiled traveler's issue, but I much prefer China - I'd recommend going to Szechuan or Yunnan over Vietnam any day.

I certainly don't want to just sound sour, so here are a few highlights of my time here, with a few photos.

Now you see what I mean when I said Sa Pa was in the clouds and had bad visibility.
I wasn't sure I liked Hanoi much at first though As I met a few people who lived there on the 2nd day, I started to warm up to the busy atmosphere. I think it would be a great city to live in, and it was certainly nice to walk around for a couple of days. I'd say the city has a lot of charm, though not necessarily many beautiful sights for a tourist. I didn't find the food amazing either, good but not great. Maybe I didn't go to the right places, but you may know I can also be a condescending snob about that (well that and probably some other things come to think of it ;).

I decided to give Halong Bay a miss. They closed the site to most tourists the day before for fog reasons and most of the people I talked to who had just come back from it said it was not worth it given the bad weather. It was also a considerable expense for my budget, I decided to keep that money for some other attraction another day.
Busy traffic in the Old Quarter of Hanoi
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
I played around with reflections in the photos
I met some cool people to have dinner  and drinks with, including Ralph, World Traveller - his business card says so.

I went to Ninh Binh instead, with Tam Coc close by and many karstic rock formations considered to be an inland Halong Bay (actually these sort of rocks cover most of the country a I saw during my train ride later on). I spent a nice day cycling around with a Danish chef who showed up - which was good because I think I might've gotten bored by myself and he is a cool guy. I was going to go to Cuc Phuong National Park but the weather still wasn't great so I headed south on the train the following day.

Nice views of the rock formations, though limited by weather.
The long train ride was one of the highlights of Vietnam for me, I enjoyed just watching rice paddies, banana trees, rock formations and occasional trees go by while listening to music and reading for 8 hours.

It doesn't look amazing but it was a bit difficult to take good photos on the train. And it didn't actually look that great either. I enjoyed the train ride nonetheless and had an awesome book to read. 

After a short and random stop in Dong Hoi for a night, I decided on a whim to stop earlier than planned on the train, in Hue rather than Danang and Hoi An as I originally planned. I might have wasted about $5 changing train tickets and destinations, so not a huge deal.

Still cloudy weather yesterday in Hue, I spent a nice afternoon with some English people walking around the Perfume river and the remains of the old imperial palace. Had nice food for lunch, local sort of roll'em yourself spring rolls with a good peanut sauce.

In the old Imperial palace of Hue.
I'm catching up on some writing today, here and i wrote two letters, so that's four letters in Vietnam - still enjoying writing them very much. I think that'll be it for now, folks!


Adam said...

Sounds like you're having a great time! I'm guessing my letter might get here sometime after you get back!

Klaas van der Horst said...

Thanks Willem-I enjoyed reading your Vietnamreport and eventhough you were unlucky with the weather , the pictures definitely reflect Asia.
The beard goes well I think as long as you don't put on any weight.
i wish you a great trip on the bus to Laos.