Vietnam: a long, short trip


We really don’t know why we choose Vietnam for this years’s trip.  Our destinations somehow pop up in the middle of the winter. We had only decided to go East once again. That’s all.  Let’s go, then! .  Air France Flight  Torino – Parigi  and then the long jump to Hanoi:  eleven hours in the thin air towards the Far East.

Our approximate itinerary is to go from North to South, to Ho Chi Min and the Mekong Delta. The first steps in Hanoi are a shock: hot (37°C) , humid (90%) , a thin rain and millions of cars, trucks, motorbikes, scooters and bikes: Vietnam has 80 millions inhabitants, and to us it looked like they were all there at the same time! Chaos apart, Hanoi is really beautiful to walk through: the old quarter, the lakes, the buddhist temples, the markets, the puppets shows… the only challenge is to survive crossing the streets! Two days later we head off to Sapa by night train, on the north west mountains near the China border. From the station of Lao Cai go get to Sapa on a minibus crossing mountains, forests, rice fields, clouds… We are now in a valley stretched between China and Laos.

Sapa is a little but very touristy town: walking its streets we are surrounded by a moltitude of  H’Mong women and girls dressed in traditional costumes who try to sell us everything.  We cross an ethnic market full of handycrafts and a traditional one which sells never seen before fruits and vegetables. On the streets we meet cars, scooters and buffalos

The next morning we head for a trek which will bring us to a H’Mong village; it’s a 4-5 hours walk between rice fields, forest paths, mud, rain, sun , rain and sun again. but it’s breathtakingly  beautiful.  We finally ariive to “our” wooden and mud village where the women light a fire in the middle of their hut to prepare us a meal while we play with a lots of kids who pop up from every corner around us.

On the way back to Sapa we take a lift from a couple of kid’s scooters but the one with Valeria has a little accident which turns out to be serious for our trip: she gets a severe burn at her right leg. The next day we realize that we will probably end our journey earlier than we had planned.

We decide to try to go on anyway to Dien Bien Phu with a minibus: nine hours through a wild and off the beaten track part of Vietnam. The discomforts are mitigated by the raw bauty of the surrounding landscapes. Dien Bien Phu is a town which sees very little tourism, a bit rough for the same reason, but that’s what we are looking for in our trips, so in the end we have a nice memory of it.

Back to Hanoi (a flight, given the conditions of Valeria’s leg), we decide to go to the most famous place in Vietnam: Halong Bay. Three days in a boat between hundreds os island-mountains emerging from the sea, one of the most stunning bays in the world, despite the unbelievable number of people and, as a result, a very polluted water.

Then the situation worsened for Valeria’s leg, and after a short stop in Hue’, and a visit to a doctor, we decided it was too risky to stay longer, so we arranged a flight to Ho Chi Min and from there we flew back to Italy with our hearts broken.

So long, Vietnam…. we will be back another time !


map of vietnam

6 august 2009 – from Torino to Hanoi via Paris – Air France flight

7 august 2009 – arrival at 15.30 – around Hanoi City

8 august 2009 – around Hanoi City – old town – Literature temple – city lakes – puppet theatre on water

9 august 2009 – around Hanoi CIty – to Sapa by night train

10 august 2009 – arrival in Lao Cai – to Sapa by bus – around Sapa

11 august 2009 – trekking on Sapa surrounding mountains – H’Mong villages

12 august 2009 – from Sapa to Dien Bien Phu by bus – around the city

13 august 2009 – iaround Dien Bien Phu – back to Hanoi by plane

14 august 2009 – around Hanoi City

15 august 2009 – from Hanoi to Halong Bay – by bus and boat – tour of Halong Bay

16 august 2009 – arrival to Cath Bay Island – trek and tour of the island

17 august 2009 – back to Halong Bay by boat and to Hanoi by bus

18 august 2009 – from Hanoi to Huè by plane

19 august 2009 – around Huè

20 august 2009 – around Huè

21 august 2009 – from Huè to Ho Chi Min City by plane – around Ho Chi Min City

22 august 2009 – around Ho Chi Min City – night flight to Paris

23 august 2009 – flight back from Paris to Torino