Starting at Ho Chi Minh City and moving North towards China stopping off at a few cities and interesting places along the way.
Transportation Options and Experience
In Vietnam I decided to use the train to go from HCMC to Hanoi in the North. Heard many good things about the railway network and having used predominately buses in the previous countries and change was welcome. However, I decided to do it the cheapest way possible and what is good enough for the ordinary local folks would be good enough for me. Ended up a couple of times spending the night on the "hard benches". This can be pretty rough when the train is full with no leg-room or being able to stretch out. Trains being pretty slow the average journey time was a good 10hours.
Walk-abouts in traveled through Cities
Having explored pretty much SE Asia now I now am heading North to China. Hanoi is my final objective where I need to get my Chinese Visa extended/renewed. Heard much about Vietnam and its beaches, so another objective to spend a few days on a beach somewhere.
Ho Chi Minh CityBusy bustle city. Never seen so many scooters before in my life. Took a walk-around heading to river first all the way t the railway station to buy my ticket North, but then decided also to have a look at the airport. Walked about 18km that day!
VIRTUAL TOUR - Nha Trang. With 2 EMBEDDED VIDEOS IN THIS PANO
A sequential tour along the beach. Truly a beach town and pretty much sold on the Russians with quite a few signs in Russian and Travel shops. Not bad for a beach town and noticed that the main beach gets raked ... so pretty clean. (Double-Click photo for full screen, then click&drag mouse/finger to navigate the 360)
VIRTUAL TOUR - Hoi Ahn
Everyone talks about Hoi Ahn as a very beautiful place and a highlight for many tourists going South or North. To get there 1st a train to Danang... where I stayed to have a look around. Then a local bus to Hoi Ahn which was about 30km South. Then a quick bike-about Hoi an ... and to check out the beach, but where-ever you go, you have to pay for parking your bicycle. So I looked for a private spot for a quick swim... found one in-between all the resorts and "beach here" signs. Just a bit of fun! 🙂 (Double-click photo for full screen, then click&drag mouse/finger to navigate the 360)
Dong Hoi and Phong Nha - Ke Bang National ParkNext leg up was Dong Hoi, but took a slight detour to see the Caves of Phong Nha, and really appreciated the scenery of the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park when I rented a scooter instead of taking a packaged tour!
VIRTUAL TOUR - Hanoi
Final leg was to Hanoi for China Visa. But a stop-off to Sa Pa an old french hill station before crossing the Chinese border to Kumming. I stayed in 2 hotels with the second one in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. A very lively and "rustic" which made for some interesting walks and captured some interesting pictures. Also Hanoi was the hottest place I had traveled to. Even worse than Singapore! 🙂 (Double-click photo for full screen, then click&drag mouse/finger to navigate the 360)
At the Hoi An Guesthouse I met Tu and his girlfriend from Hanoi. When I arrived in Hanoi, Tu kindly invited me to his girlfriend's birthday party at Green University. This was a lot of fun as well as the ride to the University which we captured with a couple of 360 videos. Thank you guys! 🙂 (Double-click photo for full screen, then click&drag mouse/finger to navigate the 360)
Less than $50USD/day
Again absolutely no problem at all in Vietnam. Actually Vietnam was probably the best for good budget accommodation than all the other SE Asia countries. I guess it is because of the large number of young and independent travelers coming to Vietnam ... not just backpackers. So there is a demand for it and the Vietnamese have stepped up to meet this demand. The Hostels, the ones which everyone knew about and had great reviews were always in demand and good. The homestays and the Nha Nghi (guesthouses in Vietnamese) catering for the international traveler and to be found on the main booking sites were also pretty good too. However, having said this this was also the first time I gave a hotel a negative review. Not because of the quality of the premises, but the friendliness and service I received. Which inspired me to write my post on Quality versus Atmosphere.
Getting Across the Border
I could not find much information on how to cross the border in Lao Cai Vietnam to China. It is not a very big tourist or backpacker route. But I was fortunate that I showed a passenger my passport and Chinese Visa stamp and he talked to the bus driver and was told he would drop me off near the border crossing. He dropped me off just after the main bridge and 200m from the control point. From there, this was the easiest border crossing I have experienced in the 2.5 months traveling. An uniformed officer came immediately to me and escorted me through the process on the China side. All done in 30mins with no "extras" that felt great.
My favourite memory song for Vietnam ...