Our journey through Vietnam is coming to an end, it is time to offer a little feedback since our visit to Hanoi in the north of the country.
During our last break in the capital city (the current one, because it has changed so many times in the course of time) we decided to visit the famous Halong Bay. We chose to do so by spending 2 days on a boat. We had a great time with 2 other french and the crew… The boat was planned for 20 but we were only 4!
Halong Bay and its hundreds of islands north of Cat Ba Island is a world famous site. It is characterized by karst massive emerging from the ocean, slowly eroded by swell and precipitation. The place is quite majestic, in particular in its most remote parts (passage through caves emerging on lakes, the famous « secret lagoons »). We were able to taste our first Vietnamese seafood thanks to the chef’s talent: oysters, clams, fish and even squid sashimi. Unfortunately, the plastic sometimes ruins the picture, especially in the places the most exposed to the swell.
This week in Cat Ba was an opportunity to meet many people at the Countryside Hotel, a real haven of peace in the center of the island.
After that, we left Hanoi with the goal of reaching Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) along the coast. As a matter of fact, after all these mountains, a change of environment seemed important! The coasts have the advantage of offering a flatter terrain and therefore more adapted to travel great distances while making less effort, plus the end of the afternoon at the beach will be a true and well deserved moment of relaxation! Here it is necessary to make a point on our state of mind at half of the trip. Indeed, the first three months of travel were of a great intensity: the climatic conditions, the uneven profile of the course, the unexpected events all day, the language barrier, the culture shock, new encounters every day are all reasons that made this first part an incredibly rich moment, that will be engraved in our memory forever. The physical fatigue had finally disappeared after ten days, but the moral fatigue remained. So we chose to better select our moments spent on the saddle and our moments off for the end of the trip. This is characterized by a few buses that will allow us to rest and better enjoy the places that we selected. After talking with other travelers, it seems that this syndrome is common among long-term travelers, after a few months. We all want to take root and take the time to get to know the place.
Thanks to the recommendations of the people we met, we followed roughly the coastal itinerary proposed by the very good Vietnamcoracle. This guide offers motorcycle tours in Vietnam, which are also very suitable for cycling.
On our way we visited Ninh Binh (kind of Halong Bay with no sea) where Leo did not enjoy because he was sick for three days! We then reached Huê, the ancient capital of the Nguyen dynasty (19th – 20th centuries) which was gradually destroyed by the French colonization. The imperial city has suffered many destructions but the restored parts are beautiful. We then reached Da Nang and Hoi An, passing by the wonderful pass of Hai Van close to the sea. Da Nang is a very dynamic city, between business and seaside resort, but unattractive in terms of architectural beauty. Hoi An is very nice and well restored, we took advantage of the excellent food available at the central market. From Hoi An we took a bus to accelerate another 300km and finished the southern part of the coast to Saigon. In Nha Trang, we enjoyed a Copacabana-like atmosphere, with its long white sand beach and beautiful water (the city is also emblematic of Alexandre Yersin, disciple of Pasteur who contributed to the development of the region) then Mui Ne (some red and yellow dunes). We were able to appreciate the rhythm of life of the fishermen, and we had a hard time smelling the fish and Nuoc Mam aroma close to the market. The coasts are really heavenly on some portions, they are a mix of small coves, steep cliffs and dune beaches. The wind meanwhile has not spared us, with several days of front and three quarters, finally we were not bad in the mountains of the north!
Our arrival in Ho Chi Minh coincided with Leo’s birthday, and it is with great surprise that destiny has put Ygor on our way. Ygor is a Brazilian friend of Leo from his engineering school and the Brazilian university where they studied together. It was a very good moment! We even had the chance to be invited by a colleague of Ygor’s work on the birthday, to enjoy a barbecue of Vietnamese duck, drink beers at the Vietnamese pace (fast). They had even planned a cake, how kind of them!
We could observe two Vietnam, the south being much more urbanized than the rural north. People seemed more stressed (but still very friendly) in the south of the country and we also had to pay attention to scams, but it’s fair enough! The sequels of the history are still present here, although it disappears with the new generations. Indeed, Vietnam was occupied by the French and then by the Americans and it suffered bloody wars. This past is restored by very instructive museums, including the « memories of war » which shows in a very rough way the atrocities of the conflicts.
In the end we will have spent a month and three weeks in Vietnam, because this country offers a broad socio-cultural scene and a great diversity of landscapes. It will certainly remain among the highlights of this trip. Vietnamese are people with whom we have been able to really communicate, they are very open-minded, funny, friendly and it is easier to know the depths of their thought than in other countries that we have gone through. Their hospitality is an example we should all follow!
Today we take a bus to Phnom Penh in Cambodia for our mission with Pteah Baitong, former Entrepreneurs du Monde. We are very happy to discover their action here in Cambodia.
In this regard, our kitty is always open to help them in their actions, so do not hesitate to visit our leetchi 🙂