Food, Photos and Travel

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Vietnam Itinerary

I have spent a better part of the day reading through my Lonely Planet guide to Vietnnam, and scouring the websites of Vietnamese tour companies. I will be there for almost 2 weeks... 12 days to be exact. Now, I just need to figure out what to do.

With that much time, I have a couple of choices in my itinerary. I could go from Ho Chi Min to Hanoi (or vice versa), and see the entire country, but I think that for the sake of time I will concentrate my trip on staying in the northern part of the country.

While I am there I want to spend some time seeing Hanoi, which I hear is a beautiful city, Halong Bay and Sapa in the northwestern mountains that border china.

Getting to Sapa means a 10 hour overnight train. I want to spend 4 days in that area, trekking to remote villages and meeting with the ethnic minorities that live in hilltribe villages in the mountains, including the H'mong tribes who are known for their colorful clothing. Some of the tour companies offer "homestays" in one of these villages, which would be fascinating but there is a bit of a moral dilemna in that scenario. I don't know how sensitive these city tour guides from Hanoi are to the culture and wishes of the villagers. I may try to find a local guide based in Sapa who my know the area better and take me on some interesting treks during the day and back to my hotel room at night. This part of the country looks visually stunning, with emerald green rice paddies and jagged mountains, and people in colorful clothing and I really can't wait to see what it has to offer. Another night train will take me back to Hanoi, where I will then leave for Halong Bay.

The main thing to do in Halong Bay, a World Heritage site on the northern coast, is to take a traditional Junk cruise, which is like a floating hotel that travels around the bay. Along the way, I’ll get to do some swimming and sea kayaking and maybe visit a beach or two. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will all be fresh seafood and Vietnamese food aboard the boat.

A photo of a traditional Junk cruise ship found at Dreamstime stock photo company.

I will spend 3 days in Halong Bay, and then travel back to Hanoi so I can soak up more of the city, and possibly take some day tours to see the local pagodas. You can also visit traditional handicraft villages where they produce silk and pottery. I love visiting local artisans in any country, but I always want to buy everything! Silk is a very big commodity, and apparently there are some great bargains to be found and I always try to get a piece of art for my house.

Flying home will take me from Hanoi to Taiwan to Los Angeles and then back to Hartford, where I will land at 6 in the morning…..


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