Normally, travelers to northern Vietnam always visit SaPa, a small town in the northwest mountains of Vietnam, known for amazing terraced riced paddies and great hiking. But during my time in Hanoi, the weather was supremely uncooperative – rainy, cloudy, and foggy. I didn’t want to make a 20-hour round trip just to see fog, so I opted to visit Mai Chau instead – a small SaPa-like mountain town 4 hours southwest of Hanoi.
Mai Chau was a great town to just relax in, but there’s not terribly much to do, so this will be a photo-heavy post.
Continue reading Travelogue: Mai Chau
Ha Long Bay is one of the great scenic destinations of northern Vietnam, and there is no shortage of day trips and overnight trips leaving from Hanoi. But with my aversion to tour groups, I chose to make a trip myself to Cat Ba, the island right next to Ha Long Bay. Although the weather was uncooperative, the sights were totally worth it.
Continue reading Travelogue: Cat Ba and Ha Long Bay
Finally, I arrived at the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi! My first impression was not great – miserable cold weather, overcast all day every day. And I didn’t end up liking Hanoi very much, but the food was pretty damn good.
Continue reading Travelogue: Hanoi
After getting tired of all the tourists milling about the old city of Hoi An, I took a bus to Hue, the old capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen dynasty (pre Ho Chi Minh). It’s a city with quite a bit of history, but it’s also got some pretty bad weather – it was cold, cloudy, and rainy every day I was there. In most people’s minds, Vietnam is a warm sub-tropical country, but north of Hoi An, it can get pretty cold! For the first time in a month, I had to pull out my jacket.
Continue reading Travelogue: Hue
After finishing my tour of Saigon and the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, I traveled north to the old city of Hoi An, in the center of Vietnam. And it’s a very beautiful city, but extraordinarily touristy, a prime example of Disneyfication. In the old quarter, the architecture and ambiance is amazing, but every single building and business caters to the tourists who descend upon this city. Clothing stores, souvenir stores, bars, restaurants, tailors, and art galleries. Everywhere. But quite picturesque.
Continue reading Travelogue: Hoi An
Once the post-Tet celebrations ended, I decided to take a trip from Saigon to the Mekong delta, to the town of Vinh Long and the island of An Binh. For me, there’s something about the Mekong – in my mind at least, it’s got this mystique, this mystery. And after my horrible experience taking a tour of Cao Dai Temple and the Cu Chi Tunnels in Hanoi, I vowed to go to the Mekong by myself, instead of relying on a tour. I was pretty happy with the results.
Continue reading Travelogue: Mekong Delta
Saigon, the old capital of South Vietnam, before Communist North Vietnam conquered / liberated the south. For Americans like myself, Vietnam holds a special place in my country’s history, so I had to go and see the country, experience the culture that somehow defeated the US military.
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Don’t be in Saigon during Tet, everyone says. Everything is closed, everything is three times the price, there’s nothing to do, and it’s impossible to get out. Contrary to all this advice, I decided that I HAD to be in Saigon during Tet, the lunar new year celebration. After all, it’s the biggest holiday of the year for Vietnam, surpassing both Christmas and New Years. Plus, I always have to be a rebel.
Conclusion: Saigon during Tet is totally awesome, and completely worth it.
Continue reading Travelogue: Saigon during Tet