Backpacking in Vietnam: Top 5 Memories from Northern Vietnam

Backpacking in Vietnam: Top 5 Memories

Backpacking in Vietnam: Top 5 Memories from Northern Vietnam

It’s time to reminisce about my time backpacking in Vietnam. At the time I wrote a few articles about my tours there but I wanted to put them into a quick top 5. I have only been to Vietnam once so far and I toured the north part only. It’s one of the countries that I have written less about, along with Cambodia, Argentina, France, Germany and Myanmar. I got my Vietnam Visa in Hong Kong in 2012, though the situation may have changed since then. So here are five varied things to see and do in Northern Vietnam (which was actually once the name of a country).

Backpacking in Vietnam: Top 5 Memories

Backpacking in Vietnam: Top 5 Memories

1.Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hanoi
In terms of highlights in Hanoi city itself, then it has to be the completely impressive Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. If you click that link, you will see my full review and backpacking overview of this historic building and the history of the lad himself – Ho Chi Minh.

Outside Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum in Hanoi

Outside Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum in Hanoi

It was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum that remained my highlight from the capital city.

Backpacking in Vietnam - highlights

Backpacking in Vietnam – highlights

2.Halong Bay Boat Cruise
Most people end up on a few days and nights in Halong Bay, they party with other backpackers and then they head on down the coast. It’s a crazy place. I decided just to do Halong Bay on the cheap – I did a quick one day boat tour which included kayaking, caving and full lunch  on board the boat.

On a boat cruise in Halong Bay

On a boat cruise in Halong Bay

The views on the bay are fantastic and this remains a highlight.

Touring Halong Bay

Touring Halong Bay

Cave Tour at Halong Bay

Cave Tour at Halong Bay

3.Hiking to Ta Van
I wrote quite a bit about the village of Sapa in northern Vietnam. I also did a two day hike here which included witnessing indigo dyeing, lunch with a local H’mong tribe and a gorgeous hike through the valleys and rice fields. It was nothing short of extraordinary.

Hiking from Sapa to Lao Chai

Hiking from Sapa to Lao Chai

On Day 1 we hiked from Sapa to Lao Chai and then onwards to Ta Van.

Hiking from Ta Van to Giangtiang

Hiking from Ta Van to Giangtachai

On Day 2 we hiked from Ta Van through more epic countryside to the village of Giangtachai.

4.Night Train to Lao Cai
Night trains in Vietnam are pretty special and I did two of them on my trip. I preferred the northern journey from Hanoi up to Lao Cai which is right by the China border.

My dorm in the night train to Lao Cai

My dorm in the night train to Lao Cai

I shared a four bed sleeper dorm, had a few tins of Hanoi Beer and drifted to sleep to awake just south of the China border.

The night train to Lao Cai

The night train to Lao Cai

5.Hoa Lo Prison (The Hanoi Hilton), Hanoi

The horrific visit to Hoa Lo Prison sticks long in the mind. It’s up there with my visit to Saddam Hussein’s House of Horrors in Iraq , Agdam in Nagorno Karabakh and Tuol Sleng in Cambodia. Sarcastically nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton”, here you can see the death cells and the true effect of the bad times in this city.

Hanoi Hilton visit - Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi in Vietnam

Inside the Hanoi Hilton, this ain’t no hotel for relaxing, this is Hoa Lo Prison, hiding the scars of yesteryear in Hanoi, Vietnam

Of course I did spend most of my time actually in Hanoi itself, and to escape the madness of the crazy city, a few beers always go down well. Bia Hoi Corner is world famous and I joined up with a few others to drink cheap beer in the city. A shout out to Japanese backpacker Hiro, my South Korean buddy Daeuk, my Canadian friend Nick Arcieri and Australian Jack. We all enjoyed the cheap beers of the bars in Hanoi.

Drinking with Hiro and Daeuk in Hanoi Backpackers in Vietnam

Drinking with Hiro and Daeuk in Hanoi Backpackers in Vietnam

Nick and I on the beers in Hanoi, Vietnam

Nick and I on the beers in Hanoi, Vietnam

Next time, I’ll explore the south of this country. Here are some videos from the north of Vietnam:

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About Jonny Blair

I'm Jonny Blair, a travelling Northern Irishman. Since leaving my hometown a decade ago I have managed to visit over 100 countries and over 600 towns or cities across all 7 continents. Along the way I have worked in countless jobs! Join my journey on Don't Stop Living - a lifestyle of travel as I provide you with tips and inspiration to live your travel dreams! Safe travels! Follow me on Jonny Blair Google Plus
This entry was posted in Asia, Halong Bay, Hanoi, Sapa, Ta Van, Vietnam. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Backpacking in Vietnam: Top 5 Memories from Northern Vietnam

  1. Ray says:

    Still can’t believe you and my friend (Nick) randomly met like that in Hanoi! If it weren’t for that chance encounter, then who knows if I would have ever found out about DSL at all? Love following your journey!
    Ray recently posted…Indy Hostel – Indianapolis’ Only HostelMy Profile

  2. Jonny Blair says:

    Hi Ray – indeed it was a crazy time out in Vietnam back in 2012, I guess you would otherwise never have heard of me or DSL! I just found out there are four countries in and around Ontario and Quebec by the way – so could be a good reason to go back – Republic of Rathnelly, Aerican Empire, Barastan and Northern Forest Archipelago. Safe travels. Jonny

  3. Hey Jonny. Just letting you know that British Citizens can now enter Vietnam visa free but its only for 15 days and worst of all you can’t come back in for another 15 days.

    I mean you can’t really see all of Vietnam in 15 days. Its like 2 days of train travel between Hanoi and Saigon.

    Can’t wait to get to Saigon sometime in early 2016

  4. Jonny Blair says:

    Hi Martin, wow really, visa free?! That’s incredible! I kind of would miss the magic of getting the visa though, as the Vietnam visa is an easy one to get. Does this include the northern land border with China do you know? All borders I guess. Safe travels. Jonny

  5. Martin says:

    Hi Jonny

    Yes this also Includes its land borders with China, Laos and Cambodia. So yeah feel free to take the 2 day train from Beijing to Hanoi.

  6. Jonny Blair says:

    Hi Martin, that’s really good information thanks. As a side note, Kazakstan and Kyrgystan are also both visa free for UK passports as well, a few years ago visas were needed. Safe travels. Jonny

  7. Alexis says:

    I really like your article because it’s very informative and covers the top attractions in the area. Since you’ve included Hanoi, Sapa, and Halong Bay in your article, I think it would be helpful to include some recommendation as to when travelers should visit the north. I recently wrote about this and my expat friends loved it, so I just share it with you:

    Please check it out and let me know your thoughts!

  8. Jonny Blair says:

    Hi Alexis, thanks for the comment and link to your blog. I hope it can also help fellow tourists who visit Vietnam. Safe travels. Jonny

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