Vietnam, my beautiful homeland ..
It's been a while since my last blog. There were a few obligatory blog posts that I wanted to write for the New Year but didn't feel inspired to write them so I figured people would be less than inspired to read them. In 2013, I've also decided to switch my blog posts about my experiences traveling to more of a photoessays about the places I've visited. So I thought there is no other place more dear to my heart that I would like to share with you than Vietnam, my beautiful homeland. So be warned, this will be a long post with lots and lots of pictures of the spectacular and mesmerizing scenery I saw during my time here.
My family and I left Saigon, Vietnam in 1990. Since then, 15 years have passed till I first came back to visit in 2005. I fell in love with the country all over again and came back immediately after in 2006 and then once more in 2009. As wonderful as those visits were, they were brief 2-3 weeks haste where I tried to see as much as I could in as little time as possible. Now that I am no longer restricted by how much vacation time I can get, I decided that my 4th time coming back to visit would be a long one at 2 months where I would travel from North to South.
I initially arrived in Hanoi by train from China. Unfortunately, I only spent a total of 3 nights here and the majority of the time was spent eating and people watching (which I will do a separate post later on about the people and food of Vietnam). It was just so wonderful to finally be back and to be able to communicate with people after spending a month in China where barely anyone spoke English and almost everyone was mad that I couldn't speak Chinese (Mandarin to be more exact). I did manage to get a few decent night shots of Hanoi which you can see on my FB page here.
From Hanoi, I took an 8 hour overnight bus northwest to Sapa, a magical town high in the mountains known for its amazing rice terraces. I explored the nearby villages on motorbike and was in awe at each turn of the road as the landscape laid out before me.
In addition to the rice terraces, the town of Sapa itself also has a very mystical feel to it. I remembered one day, I just sat on the balcony of my guesthouse and watched as the low flying clouds came in and engulfed the whole city in a matter of minutes only to disappear shortly after. This process repeated itself countless time that afternoon and I was never ceased to be amazed each time it occurred. I will be working on a timelapse video of this mesmerizing phenomenon but until then you can see some pix of what I am talking about on my FB page here.
After Sapa, I made my way back to Hanoi for one night rest before heading to Ha Long Bay, which is a 5 hours bus ride east. From there, I took a ferry to Cat Ba Island and saw some of the most amazing archipelagos on the 40 min ride in. You can see more panoramic images on my FB page here.
I also rented a kayak and explored all the area around the island and found myself on a secluded beach amongst many.
From Cat Ba island, I took a hydrafoil to Hai Phong and made my way south to the Trang An Grottoes. They were pretty but I couldn't get any shots good enough for my website because the row boat was moving pretty fast. If you are interested, you can see them on my FB page here.
For more spectacular caves where you can walk around and explore, I highly recommend you check out the Phong Nha Caves south of Trang An. They have motorboats that take you in to the front of the cave and then row you in after that to a spot where you can get out and explore.
And if the caves in Phong Nha wasn't big enough for you, go in another 30km further and visit Paradise cave, which at one point was designated the largest cave in the world before they discovered Son Dong Cave nearby, which has not been opened up to visitors as of yet. It is a +500 steps climb to the entrance of Paradise Cave and then more stairs to go down into the cave where the wooden path goes on for quite a distance.
From Phong Nha, it is a 4 hours bus ride to Hue, where I had some of the best food of my life. As far as scenery, the pagoda and citadel were the only two places I enjoyed seeing. There were many tombs to visit but after seeing one, it was enough for me.
Hoi An was a short 2-3 hours bus ride from Hue. A majority of tourists come here to have clothes tailored (which I did not do due to limited space in my suitcase) but I found the old town with its hidden temple, Japanese bridge, and colorful houses quite beautiful and worth a visit.
From Hoi An, I rode my motorbike for an hour to visit the My Son ruins, which was quite a site.
As beautiful as the ruins were, what I really enjoyed the most here were the abundance of interesting creatures.
After Hoi An, it was a long overnight bus ride to Nha Trang. The Po Nagar Cham temple was interesting, the beaches here beautiful, and I definitely enjoyed island hopping, snorkeling, and diving for very cheap. However, the thing I enjoyed the most about Nha Trang had to have been my awesome hotel for $15/night with an enormous balcony that had a 270 degrees view of the city and allowed me to watch both sunrise and sunset.
I made my way inland towards Dalat after Nha Trang and enjoyed a beautiful scenery of the mountains on the bus ride in. Here, I visited Dalat's Golden Valley
Lang Biang Mountain where you can either hike 3-4 hours to the top or pay a small fee to be taken up by Jeep,
and the Valley of Love.
As spectacular as the landscapes were at these places, I visited all three places within a day. Whereas, I spent the whole day at the Dalat Flower Park being completely enamored with all the strange and exotic flowers/orchids there. I spent hours in their greenhouse photographing all the gorgeous flowers/orchids in there at the dismay and confusion of the vendors who were wondering what the heck I was doing.
Coming from the warm weather in Nha Trang, Dalat was quite chilly. Therefore, I was happy to be heading back to the beach again after Dalat towards Mui Ne, a small resort town in Phan Thiet. The sand dunes here are worth a visit if you don't mind getting sand everywhere. Although, I must admit I spent most of my time here swimming, then lounging poolside and watching the sunset.
By the time I got to Saigon, I was pretty exhausted from all the quick pace travel I've been doing. I found a great apt with an amazing 360 degrees view of Saigon from their rooftop on the 18th floor so I decided to stay longer. Although, my month and a half here seem to flew by and as hard as it was, I did manage to get out of the city last week to do a quick trip to the Mekong and see what life is like on the river.
I came back to Saigon just in time to celebrate Vietnamese Tet (Lunar New Year) of the Snake. With lights up on the main streets in celebration of New Year and Tet, Saigon is very lively lit. The firework on the Eve of Tet viewed from my rooftop was pretty spectacular.
Happy New Lunar Year of the Snake. I hope you've enjoyed the scenery of Vietnam and will be inspired to visit someday. You can check out my other post to see the people, animals, and food of Vietnam. If you are interested in purchasing prints of the pictures above, visit my galleries where I offer a multitude of prints and products made from these images that you can buy and have ship to your residence anywhere in the world.
Keywords: Cat Ba, Dalat, Halong Bay, Hanoi, Hmong, Hoi An, Hue, Lang Biang, Mekong Delta, Mui Ne, New Year', Nha Trang, Phong Nha, Saigon, Sapa, Tet, Trang An, archipelagos, architecture, balcony, beach, bridge, bridge, cafe, cave, citadel, city, ethnic, firework, floating market, flower, garden, grottoes, island, kayak, life, minority, mountain, night, nightlife, ocean, ocean, old town, pagoda, park, pool, resort, rice terrace, river, river, sunrise, sunset, tomb, valley
Thank you everyone for your kind words, I am glad you all enjoyed the post and photos. And yes Yuki, Vietnam is beautiful and I am happy to share. I hope you'll enjoy your trip to VN Paul and if you have any questions re: the places I've visited, feel free to shoot me an email and I'll be happy to help if I can.
Breathtaking! I didn't realize all the beautiful Places Vietnam has to offer. I look forward to reading about the people and food as well. Thank you for sharing these amazing pictures!
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