Vietnam Roundup

Duck noodle soup with bamboo at a street food stall in Hanoi

Duck noodle soup with bamboo at a street food stall in Hanoi

I spent 30 days in Vietnam and spent an average of $30 per day. I saw quite a lot, visiting Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Ninh Binh, Ha Long Bay, Hanoi and Sa Pa. My experience in Vietnam was a bit of a roller coaster. I had perhaps the worst tour experience of my life in Ha Long Bay, followed by one of the best in Sa Pa. I got ripped off more in the past month than I have been throughout the rest of my entire trip, was shocked by the anti-American propaganda at Vietnam (American) War museums,  and struggled with insane motorbike traffic in the cities. On the other hand, the food was incredible, and when I wasn’t being ripped off I met some very kind and warm people. Overall I’m really happy I visited Vietnam, especially because my father is a veteran. I was able to understand the conflict from a more historical context, and more importantly I understand Vietnam the country, not just the war.

There wasn’t too much I missed that I’d like to see, but perhaps if I come back I’ll spend more time in the south. I skipped the Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc, which are both supposed to be beautiful. There’s also a ton more street food that I haven’t tried yet!

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Walking to Cat Cat

Posing with the Tien Sa waterfall

Posing with the Tien Sa waterfall in Cat Cat

The town of Cat Cat lies just a few kilometers outside Sapa Town, down a valley. It’s rather touristy and filled with cheap souvenir stalls and persistent motor bike drivers, but if you can ignore that then you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of rice paddies and the Tien Sa waterfall. It was a good way to spend an afternoon!

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Trekking with Sapa O’Chau

Posing with the rice terraces in the Sapa region of Vietnam

Posing with the rice terraces in the Sapa region of Vietnam

I spent my birthday doing an amazing 2 day trek with Sapa O’Chau in northern Vietnam. The area is known for its rice terraces and local minority people, including the Hmong and Red Dao groups. Their traditional clothing and cooking are a departure from what I had seen in the rest of Vietnam and I was really glad I took the overnight bus up from Hanoi to experience it.

With Sapa O’Chau I chose the Red Dao homestay trek, which took us north of Sapa Town about 14 km to the town of Ta Phin. The views reminded me a little bit of the Bolivian Yungas and the local Dao people were joyful hosts. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, which tends to be cold, cloudy and rainy this time of year. To top it all off, we ate amazing food that far surpassed my expectations. I’ll always look back on this birthday fondly, and it will be hard to top it next year!

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