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).
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.
It was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum that remained my highlight from the capital city.
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.
The views on the bay are fantastic and this remains a highlight.
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.
On Day 1 we hiked from Sapa to Lao Chai and then onwards to Ta Van.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next time, I’ll explore the south of this country. Here are some videos from the north of Vietnam: