For travellers who love beautiful natural landscape, I would recommend you guys to visit Ninh Binh and Ha Giang once. Especially Ha Giang which is the city in the most norther part of Vietnam and it is renowned as the most beautiful city in
Northern Vietnam. The trip is not as difficult as you think, there is a bus
from Hanoi which takes eight hours per ride every day or you could buy a tour
from Hanoi as well, also convenience. If you are not too exhausted, you could
rent a motorcycle and ride around which you would feel closer to those natural
places rather than riding on a car. However, if you are not convenience with the
motorcycle ride, you could rent a car with a driver which you could contact directly with the accommodation in Ha Giang city.
Day 1 | Hanoi arrival
We take a 6 o'clock, early morning flight from Don Mueang Airport to Hanoi. When we arrive at Noi Bai airport, we walk to the front of the airport and search for the bus stop that has bus to the city. We look for that for quite some time, then we walk back to take a bus at the domestic terminal instead. (I learnt later on that bus No.7 also park at the international terminal as well) We take bus No.17 and get off at the bus stop near old quarter.
Upon arriving, we then look for our accommodation that we have already booked. We reach the hostel and keep our luggage and head out to rent some motorcycle to ride around. The traffic here is such a mess and unorganized. Nevertheless, you still could ride around town. Try to drive slowly and try to do as Vietnamese do, would be the best.
During the evening time, I feel like I am going to faint as I couldn't take a deep breathe which I think it is because lack of sleep, drink less water (Maybe because I walk too much) and the weather is pretty hot plus it might be because of a coffee that I have drink (Coffee here is really strong). Therefore, not for long, we need to come back to the hostel and take a rest early for tonight. However, we get to bed early but I could get into sleep until around 4 a.m. in the morning (Cause of the coffee) I feel dizzy and vomit few times during the night.
In my mind, I think this is a rough start for this trip…..
Day 2 | To Ninh Binh
Next morning, we plan to ride a motorcycle to Ninh Binh, however, we change our mind last minute and return a motorcycle and use public transportation instead. We go to Giap Bat bus terminal to take a bus ride to Ninh Binh. The bus ticket costs 60,000 dong and we have to wait around 1 hour for the bus to leave the station as they wait for all seats to be full. The ride takes approximately 3 hours to arrive at Ninh Binh terminal.
Upon arriving, we hire a motorcycle for 90,000 dong to take us to our accommodation,
Hoalu Eco Homestay. It takes around half an hour to reach the homestay and we check-in at 5 o'clock in the evening. Today, we spend almost whole day on travelling. We have a little bit of time until the sunset; therefore, we decide to rent a motorcycle to drive around our accommodation. The atmosphere between today and yesterday is completely different as we feel really impressed with the beautiful scenery here. Moreover, during this time of the day, it's like a paradise.
Heaven on Earth
Day 3 | Ninh Binh + back to Hanoi
On the third day, we wake up early in the morning and ride a motorcycle to the viewpoint at Mua Cave at 7 o'clock. We take the stairs around half an hour to reach the top, however, the view is spectacular and worth the tiredness.
Viewpoint at Mua Cave
Mua Cave entrance
We head down from the scenic point, back to our accommodation for breakfast. After the meal, we take a shower and then take off for a new adventure. Our next program for today is take a boat tour at Tam Coc. However, we are impressed with the view along the way more. The feeling when you drive along the ridge is delightful, moreover, we have 360 degrees scenic mountains and fields views around us as well.
Scenic rice field at Ninh Binh
Off the beaten path
When we reach the Tam Coc boat pier, we meet with Jaime who is a Mexican backpacker that our dorm mate introduces to us. He would like to share our boat fee as it is quite expensive if traveling alone. The boat ride takes around 2 hours and we are really impressed with the paddle skill of this uncle.
Tam Coc boat pier
Boat Ride at Tam Coc
This is how he rowed.
We pass about 2-3 caves during the ride.
We finish riding a boat around 2pm. in the evening and we still have some time left for one more attraction before we head back to a tourist bus back to Hanoi at 4p.m. Thus, we decide to drive to
Bich Dong pagoda which is 2 kilometres away from Tam Coc. Walking inside, you will see a shrine which is located up on the hill. During the way back, we get an opportunity to drive pass the rice fields once again, the scenic view is such wonderful but we are kind of lazy to stop the car. We just take some pictures while driving along the route so we crash down one time. Lol.
We come back to the hostel to pack our baggage, check-out and prepare to take the bus. Our accommodation at Ninh Binh is pretty convenience due to the location is near the attractions and the service is rather great.
Visiting Ninh Binh this time, we still have many other places that have not been to yet, therefore, I think that staying here for 2 nights would be great.
on the way to Bich Dong pagoda
Bich Dong pagoda
These Vietnamese teenagers rescued me on my motorbike falloff.
The bus takes us back to Hanoi around 7 p.m. Tonight, we will stay at other hostel. We meet our roommate which they are the local ladies from Saigon. They come to visit the Northern Vietnam. We chat for a bit and they take us to have a nice meal and wander around Hanoi city during the night time.
Egg Noodle with Pork at My Van Than shop
My two special local hosts in Hanoi
visit Hoan Kiem Lake
They took me to the most famous ice-cream shop in Hanoi.
We sat and talked and had ice cream in front of Opera House.
A bit surprised when seeing this high shirt hanging.
Day 4-5 | Hanoi-Ha Giang
On the Fourth day, we spend our whole day at Hanoi city and decide to go to Ha Giang next as we have heard that Ha Giang has the most beautiful scenery in Northern of Vietnam. Getting there is pretty easy as there is a bus directly from Hanoi to Ha Giang. The trip takes about 8 hours to reach the destination.
At that time, we misunderstood something, therefore, we somehow buy a train tickets to Lao Cai station and then continue to catch a bus to Ha Giang. We take a night train and reach Lao Cai station around 6 o'clock in the morning, then we take a bus from Lao Cai to Ha Giang, which has only 2 times a day. Bus schedule would be at 6.30am and 10.30 am. and we are fortunately to catch a bus at 6.30 in the morning. We are on the bus approximately 7 hours totally as the bus would take a long time due to it would stop frequently to pick up the passages. On the way, we could see a very beautiful scenery view along both sides.
Upon arriving at Ha Giang around 1.00pm, we then ask the driver to drop us off at the motorcycle rental shop. The owner of the motorcycle shop, could not speak English at all, hence, luckily we have Google translate and it works. Finally, we could rent a motorcycle for 200,000 dong per day. The next mission that we need to do is to do the permit to visit Dong Van and Meo Vac. From what we read in the traveling guide book, the permit costs around 10 USD. However, we know later that permit may not be required and if they request, we could ask the hotel in that city to arrange for us. Therefore, we just skip this part and go searching for a hotel for tonight.
Lastly, we book an accommodation at Truong Xuan resort which is located 15 minutes away from downtown but the good thing is it is in the direction that we are heading tomorrow. The atmosphere at this accommodation is pretty great and the decoration is like you are in the garden. The service is great here and the staff gives us a great advice for the trip. Moreover, we are impressed that they even have clear details of a very useful A3 map provide for us as well. For the food at the resort, I would suggest that if you come around 2-3 persons, you should order just one dish as they serve quite a large portion.
Day 6 | Ha Giang town-Dong Van
This morning, we continue our journey, we deposit our large bags at the hotel and carry just a small bag for two nights with us only. Our goal is that we will drive along the way through Dong Van and Meo Vac cities, which we think that it might takes around 2 days.
When we drive pass Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark area, we will meet with the astonishing view of the mountains, rivers and beautiful villages periodically. At first, we stop to shoot the view very often as we are pretty excited with the view that we never see before but later on we choose just the one that fascinate us and the MUST ones only as we have limited time as well.
Today, we drive across Quan Ba and Yen Mihn and finish our journey at Dong Van city around late evening. We have passed by many stunning places; however, the one that I prefer most is the Quan Ba pass. It is the road that goes along the riverside and passes by the steep mountains on both sides which I feel like I am in a paradise. When we reach Dong Van city, we search for 2-3 places to stay. At last, we decide to stay at Thien Huong hotel for 250,000 dong per night. It is located next to the night market within a walking distance.
On the way to Yen Minh
We rode on Honda Wave S 110cc.
Scenic view on the way to Yen Minh
Quan Ba Pass — Another heaven on earth
Scenic view on the way to Yen Minh
There are signs along the way. No worry to get lost.
Heaven on Earth in Ha Giang
Day 7 | Dong Van-Quan Ba
On the second day, we are traveling on a motorcycle trip this time. We have some meal and get ready to check-out during the morning. We start from driving to Lung Cu city which is in the most northern part of Ha Giang and adjacent to the border of China. It is about 30 kilometres away from Dong Van. Some part of the road are under-construction with a small rock around the area, thus, we have to drive slowly and carefully. At Lung Cu city, we only visit a watchtower and then head back. On the top of a watchtower, we could see 360 degrees panorama view of Lung Cu city. Actually, we hope to watch some views of China, yet we could not, we just know the direction where China is located.
Dong Van town
In the morning, we saw parents taking their kids to school.
On the way ride, we found people carrying something (heavy) at times.
The highest tower in Lung Cu
View of Lung Cu town from the tower
Getting down from Lung Cu, we pass Dong Van city once again and then we ride directly to Meo Vac city. The distance from Dong Van to Meo Vac is shorter than we expected which use around 2 hours. On the way, there are plenty of beautiful views as usual but the highlight one that we intend to visit is the Ma Pi Leng pass. It is a route on the steep mountain which you could say that if you fell down, you couldn't make it to the hospital in time for sure. Certainly, the view of the valley and turquoise river along the Ma Pi Leng pass is pretty magnificent and astonishing. We feel stunned with this spectacular view and admired the view for a while before continue our journey. Then, we stop by for lunch at Meo Vac.We order fried rice with egg to eat once again. A portion of food here is kind of big as if they know that we will have to stock up some food for a long trip.
Scenic view from Dong Van to Meo Van
Ma Pi Leng pass
We can really get sleep everywhere.
Ma Pi Leng pass
view from Ma Pi Leng pass
He's little but so strong.
stunning view on the way to Meo Vac
Lunch at Meo Vac town
Just when we drive out from the Meo Vac, suddenly we heard a strange noise from a motorcycle. We try to touch the rear tire and find out that the tire is flat. Therefore, we have to ride back to seek for the tire shop to put air into the tire before continue our trip. Yet, as we continually drive along the way, we still heard some noise still, so we think that the tire must be losing the air. Consequently, we then ride slowly and seek for a shop to fix up the tire. Luckily, we came across a repair shop on the way to Yen Minh and have to pay for a rear tire change for 70,000 dong.
On the way from Meo Vac to Yen Minh, there are many nice views for us to watch, however, we do not have time to stop watching that much as we need to arrive at our destination before the last light. We could not make it in time as the time that we reach at Yen Minh is already 4p.m.-5p.m.,thus we have to stop overnight at Quan Ba. This trip is really kind of a backpack trip as the plan could be adjusted all the time.
On the way from Meo Vac to Yen Minh
Can you see people? Guess this is a mine.
A Vietnamese woman looking at the mine.
CP comes this far.
Day 8 | Ha Giang to Sapa
On the eighth day of the journey, we plan to leave early in the morning in order to catch the bus to Lao Cai at 10.30 a.m. And it is just like the time that we arrive here, there would be only two rounds of bus from Ha Giang city to Lao Cai, which are at 6.30 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. Nevertheless, as we could not get into the city last night and have to sleep over at Quan Ba seems to be a good thing because we could face a thick mist scenery along the way during the ride back to city in the morning. Consequently, we could enjoy the different beautiful atmosphere this time. Nevertheless, we have to be careful while driving as we could only see the road in a close distance only.
We reach the downtown around 8.30 a.m. and rush to the bus station to check whether there is a bus to Ha Giang or not. Luckily, the bus would depart at 11.00a.m. today so we will still have so much time to kill. We decide to eat some breakfast first and then wonder around town next. We return the motorcycle and then hop on a bus. It takes around noon till the bus actually departs from downtown as they need to pick up more passengers in the downtown around an hour before.
You will see a lot of Bun Cuon in Ha Giang downtown.
How to eat? Dip the rice noodle in the soup.
We finally arrive at Lao Cai very late evening, during the sunset time. When the bus drops us off, we continue to seek for a bus stop to Sapa which is located right in front of the Lao Cai train station. Fortunately, we catch a last bus at 6.30 p.m. which spend about 45 minutes on a ride. The bus would stops at the tourist center that is located in front of the church. Our next mission is to find a place to stay for tonigt (again) that there are so many to select from in Saba. We prefer 2-3 of the accommodations that we have searched during the bus ride. However, we couldn't find the places that we intend to stay, therefore, we just choose other one that we didn't pick at first as we are pretty lazy right now. We drop off our stuff at the hotel and head out for some foods. Tonight meal would be a Hot Pot around the center area. This meal is one of the best meals we had since we arrive here, however, I think our hometown Hot Pot is still the best one.
Day 9 | In Sapa + back to Hanoi
Day 9 in Vietnam. We go to visit the Cat Cat village which is a local village that located nearest to Sapa. We take around 4-5 hours visiting this village. In the village has a walkway made of stone and concrete, therefore, it is really easy to walk. Along the way, you will meet with the villagers's shop, coffee shop, Silver Fall. Our impression for this village, it considerably likes touristy attraction, the atmosphere is completely different from Ha Giang. When we finish visiting the place, we then go back to grab our baggage at the hotel and then walk to catch the last round bus at 6.00pm back to Lao Cai to continue taking a train back to Ha Noi at 9.00pm at night.
View of Mt. Fansipan, the highest peak in SE.
Cat Cat Village
these girls amazingly peeled coconuts by themselves.
A beam of light shined on the land
Trekking in Cat Cat village
Day 9 | Back Home
Our last day of the trip, the train takes us to Hanoi at 6 o'clock in the morning. Then, we take a bus No.86 which is an Airport Express bus from the train station. It takes approximately 1 hour to Noi Bai Airport. And this comes to an end of our May 2016 trip.
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