Impossible to describe life in the streets of Vietnam, not only impossible to describe but also almost impossible to put this in pictures. Everywhere things are happening, the streets are extremely lively and we gave up to try to put the whole situation in a pictures. We thought the Philippines were full of motorbikes and of motorbikes bringing along their whole families, we clearly had not been to Vietnam by then. The people of Vietnam take driving their motorbike to a new level. There are so many motorbikes in traffic, this makes crossing the road to a real survival trip. Without causing accidents you have to cross the road and of course you don’t want anybody to get angry with you. The longer we were in Vietnam, the better we got at crossing the road. We tried of course to choose the right moments and if necessary we just choose a local and followed him or her. So by the time we finally reached Hanoi we were almost professionals. Hanoi is THE city of the motorbikes and we were able to cross roads without getting into accidents or fights with locals. Really learned a thing in Vietnam.
Before we reached Hanoi, we visited the Ninh Binh province and stayed in Tam Cóc in the Nguyen Shack. After a long day of traveling we finally arrived in a true piece of paradise. The friendly Tam welcomed us and showed us our beautiful bamboo bungalow. It was an amazing place to spend the next three nights. The bungalow was located directly at the waterside and when we opened our door in the morning we came to our terrace with two hammocks and a breathtaking view. Our first day in Tam Cóc we went on one of the famous boat trips, we drove our bicycles around town and were amazed by the beautiful nature. At the end of the day we climbed up to a viewpoint to see the sunset. Although there was rain predicted for the whole day, we didn’t felt a drop. The sunset was beautiful, we enjoyed the really amazing views with so many different colours. A perfect end of a perfect day.
The nights we spend in the Nguyen Shack we got to know Tam and her colleagues, we learned more about Vietnamese culture, their habits and the lives of these sweet and enthusiastic people. Of course we also told them about our travels, our lives and our experiences and in this way we could also teach them something. These nights were so much fun and we really enjoyed our time here. We could’ve easily stayed way longer. On our last day we rented a motorbike and drove to this national park on a two hour drive from the Nguyen Shack. We hiked in the park and while we were driving back we really enjoyed all the views. The rice fields, the water buffalos and all the people working on the fields. For the time being this was our last road trip on a motorbike, in about a week we would already been reunited with our own car.
From Tam Cóc we went, before going to Hanoi, to Cat Ba. One of the most popular trips in Vietnam is a boat cruise through Halong Bay. During a two or three day cruise you sail through the beautiful waters in Halong Bay, you enjoy the views of the famous rock formations together with thousands of other tourists. There were a few reasons why we decided to not go on one of these boat trips. The overkill of tourists is normally not something we get really excited of, also the price of a bit of a okay boat trip would be far above our budget and the last reason was the bad weather of the last week. All this together would not been ideal and made us decide to go to Cat Ba instead. This island is surrounded by the same famous rock formations and we could sleep here for €5,- per night for two persons including a breakfast for both. This way we could still spend some money on some day trip.
Unfortunately weather was only getting worse. It was cold for Vietnam, about 13 degrees and it was raining all the time. We decided to arrange a guide to go hiking for a day in the only nature park on the island. Rain could not destroy that adventure, it could destroy a whole day on a boat. With a local bus, a very happy guide and another traveler from Austria, we left to the nature park. The hike was beautiful, not exhausting, but still quite a challenge because of the steep parts where we actually needed to climb. The rocks were pretty slippery which didn’t made it much easier to walk, but it didn’t matter because we really had fun. We had lunch at a families home and by bicycle we drove the last part of our trip to the boat. At the end we still had a small boat trip and honestly with these temperatures that was enough. After a short stop on a small island to climb to the top of a rock for another stunning view, we went back to town. The weather didn’t get any better, so the viewpoint was not that impressive, but more grey and mysterious as most parts of our trip through Vietnam. To be honest it didn’t matter, we really enjoyed the hike, talking to our fellow traveler and the lunch at the families home. We had a really nice day in Cat Ba.
Finally we arrived Hanoi, we really were looking forward to visit this city, but it was also a city that marked the end of our backpack adventures. We stayed to full days in the city and enjoyed everything that happened around us. Our eyes popped every time when a fully stuffed motorbike came by. We saw that in Hanoi the don’t only use the motorbikes to transport families or personal belongings, no also the suppliers of for example Coca Cola were driving around to transport their products to the local shops and restaurants. Some motorbikes are wider than big cars, it’s a real experience just to watch them. Driving a bicycle also get a new meaning in Vietnam. We thought the Dutchies are really experienced bicycle drivers because of all the children they can bring along on their bike, WRONG! The Vietnamese also bring driving a bike to a different level. On much worse bicycles than we’ve got in Holland the Vietnamese transport loads of fruits and vegetables. Some even build a whole steampan on their bike so they can even serve you food from their bicycle. Beside that we saw loads of bikes full with flowers, balloons or other party products. It’s all part of the Hanoi experience.
In the city we went on a tour with Ling, this 21 years old tourism student is showing around tourists through her city to improve her English. Her English was good, really good, but her knowledge about Hanoi and Vietnam was even better. In three hours time she told us all about the history of Vietnam, about the situation in her country now and about her life in this city. Time passed by so quickly, we visited different kind of markets, We ate worm cookies and drank the famous “egg coffee”. We both agreed that this tour was the perfect end of our trip through Vietnam. We absolutely enjoyed our time in Vietnam, the delicious food, the beautiful nature and the sweet people we met. It was amazing!
A shortstop of not even 24 hours was the real end of our backpack adventure. We finally decided to buy a drone and what would be a better place to buy one then Hong Kong?! About seven o’clock we met with Emilie, this enthusiastic Dutch girl who we met in the Philippines where she was traveling with her boyfriend. At the moment they’re living together in Hong Kong and while partying on New Year’s Eve we could get along so well that we decided to meet each other again in Hong Kong. We ate something and afterwards she brought us to this amazing rooftop bar with views over the city. A perfect end of our backpack adventure. After a few hours of sleep we went to the airport, on our way back to Kazakhstan and its cold, but also to our car and more wild adventures!