Vietnam – Part 2 – Saigon to Hanoi

Here it is ! Part 2 of my Vietnam trip.

March 19th 2019, I am in the north of Vietnam right now, it’s time to write about the last 6 weeks. What a ride.

The journey on the map:

After visiting the south I stayed in Saigon for a week, waiting for the Lunar New Year holiday to end, Saigon felt like a ghost town being so empty, most people go back to their hometown to visit and enjoy family time.

The full album of this adventure is here.

While in Saigon I just took it easy and enjoyed the empty city, didn’t photograph a lot. Here’s 2 shots from the city at that moment:

 

 

The pink church of Saigon, this church was another color before and people didn’t care about it, now it’s an Instagram spot:

 

 

It was time to leave and start the journey north, I wanted to visit a coastal location before going inland to Da Lat. I drove up to Ke Ga, a beach and fisherman village, cool spot, not very touristic.

 

 

 

Viewed from the sky:

 

 

The lighthouse is the main attraction of the village, other then the beach:

 

 

 

 

After photographing the sunrise I drove to Da Lat, from Ke Ga you should drive through Kalon Song Mao Nature Reserve, amazing road, with great coffee shops when you get near Da Lat.

 

 

Da Lat was nice and different then what I saw at that point in Vietnam, weather was also cooler, a lot of people from Saigon visit Da Lat for that reason, going from 35-40 Celsius to 25 is a nice break for people from Saigon. When you drive out of the city there’s a lot of things to see, waterfalls, coffee and flower farms. Here’s the view at sunset about 15 minutes outside the city on road DT725:

 

 

Drone view of the road:

 

 

Da Lat viewed from Up Coffee, really cool view for a Coffee Shop:

 

 

The Trúc Lâm Đà Lạt Zen Monastery:

 

 

 

Da Lat is also know for being a flower city, you can see why:

 

 

The golden Buddha at Van Hanh Monastery

 

Da Lat, also known for being the garden of Vietnam, they grow stuff everywhere:

 

 

The night market is the main activity in the city when the sun goes down, it makes for some interesting pictures:

 

 

Street food vendors:

 

 

 

 

Strawberries are grown all around Da Lat and very popular for street vendors:

 

 

Furry hats are extremely fashionable in Da Lat:

 

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How many people can you fit in a limited space ?

 

 

One of the nicest coffee shops I’ve seen in my life, pretty amazing but locals don’t really like it, I can understand since it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the architecture of the city:

 

 

Random picture of people being photographed by a mascot:

 

 

 

There’s another similar building (yellow one in the background) which is a shopping center:

 

 

Bear mascot on break:

 

 

On the outskirts of Da Lat, leaving for Cam Ranh:

 

 

This is a viewpoint about one hour away from Da Lat, very cool spot:

 

 

Twisty roads of Vietnam:

 

 

 

 

I stayed in Cam Ranh for one night and drove to Nui Chua National Park on my way to the park I saw another road, went on there and discovered a place called Bình Lập, that place is amazing, great beaches and landscape with very few hotels and tourists. One of my favorite discoveries in Vietnam so far.

 

 

 

I was walking on the beach, locals were having a picnic and invited me over for food ans beers, people are very friendly in Vietnam and this was another proof of it:

 

 

After a couple of beers I hoped back on the motorbike and drove to the national park, very nice views out there:

 

 

 

In my way back to Cam Ranh I caught the sunset in a rice field:

 

 

The next day I booked a small cabana by the beach in Bình Lập, I really loved the place and decided to spend some time hanging out at the beach, the cabana was about 50 meters from the water:

 

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Woke up at sunrise for some photography, this was about 10 minutes walk from my room:

 

 

 

 

Selfie time:

 

 

Drone view of another part of the area:

 

 

While I was there my friend from Montreal decided to surprise visit me, he booked a flight from Montreal to Nha Trang! I would a friend to drive from there to Hanoi, and do it in about 18 days! Great surprise, I drove to Nha Trang and waited a couple days for his arrival.

Nha Trangplace looks like a small South Beach, Miami. Let’s just say it’s very different when you compare it to Bình Lập. It’s a tourist city, you need to get out of the center to feel like you’re still in Vietnam, for some reason most tourists, about 90%, are Russian and Chinese, it’s their holiday town I guess, like Cancun for Americans.

The beach is very nice, the water and sand are clean, a little crowded in the center of the city but near our Airbnb it was great.

Our apartment had a pretty great view, this was the less touristic side of the city with smaller, more usual buildings for Vietnam, except out apartment complex which was huge:

 

 

 

 

After getting a bike for my friend it was time to move out of Nha Trang, we had a long way to go and needed to get started, first stop, a party hostel in Ninh Vinh “Vietnam Backpacker Hostels – Ninhvana”, not my cup of tea usually but I guess it was a nice change for me as I usually hangout by myself in local spots. The surrounding area is very, very beautiful. I have yet to see water as blue as I saw there.

On the way there, a very green rice field:

 

 

The hostel beach:

 

 

 

There’s many flowers on the property:

 

 

This is my friend posing for the drone, this spot is about 15 minutes away from the hostel and that is easily the prettiest water color I have seen in Vietnam and at the top of the list in the world for me so far:

 

 

 

 

 

After 2 nights there we drove north to Hội An, on the way there you need to drive by Vũng Rô Bay, the road there, is again, great and so are the views and that bay is nice for a quick swim!

 

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In Hội An we stayed by the beach, about 10 minutes from the main attraction, the old city, another very touristic place in Vietnam, it’s a cool place but be ready to be harassed for a boat ride and all sorts of stuff for sale. The beach in front of our hotel was closed, which was a bit sad but there’s plenty of beach open a little further.

Old lady selling burning candles to put in the water, which I think is ridiculous, it pollutes the river a lot, but local people are just trying to get some money to survive I guess:

 

 

This is a the main bridge and main attraction in the old city, it’s all lit up with LEDs and doesn’t fit very well in the old city in my opinion, you can also see the boats for tourist with the lanterns, which are great for you Instagram pictures… you can also see all the lanterns/candles in the river…

 

 

So yeah, tourist, like many places here are destroying everything, it’s sad but it’s the reality. It’s still a must visit in Vietnam, the yellow walls and flowers make the city very photogenic and pleasant to walk around:

 

 

 

The morning market is pretty cool also:

 

 

 

Walking around the streets of the old city:

 

 

 

 

 

Even the local Phốfollows the unofficial color of the city:

 

 

Next up was Da Nang, pretty close to Hoi An and a much larger city that looks a lot like the next Nha Trang, beach, big hotels/resorts and so on, there’s a very cool area drive around close to the city called Thọ Quang, here’s some cellphone pictures of what you can expect around there, didn’t take my camera, sometimes you need a break:

 

 

In the city, there’s the dragon bridge, on Saturday and Sunday the dragon spits fire… and then water, the waster was a surprise but felt good in the heat! They close the bridge for about 15 minutes, it’s pretty wild how many people come to see it:

 

 

 

There’s also some local beaches around the Thọ Quang area, it was pretty busy on a Sunday, it’s also very dirty, not sure it’s worth the trip but if you’d like to go this is the location, here’s a view from the drone:

 

 

The next morning, the great Hải Vân Pass was on the menu, made popular by Top Gear, the TV Show, we woke up before sunrise to be on the pass for sunrise, sadly the sunrise wasn’t amazing but the pass is AMAZING, I highly recommend it. One of the highlights of the trip.

 

The view at the beginning of the pass: (Coming from Da Nang)

 

 

 

Further in the pass you have a couple of hairpins that are very impressive:

 

 

This one is further on the pass and at lower altitude, which had much less fog:

 

 

 

From the sky:

 

 

 

 

The next day we drove from Da Nang to Hué, we drove on the Hai Van Pass again, it was great again, right before the pass there’s a cool temple:

 

 

The bikes:

 

 

Another viewpoint:

 

 

Two of the hairpins:

 

 

Such a great road, with amazing views and many fun curves. We made it to Hue, a city with a lot of history, temples, pagodas. Here’s a couple of pictures from the Imperial City:

 

 

 

 

A big part of the city is fortified, there’s also many waterways around the city:

 

 

 

One of the Pagodas:

 

 

Right outside the city you can find the rural life of farmers:

 

 

The local market, a lot of meat:

 

 

 

Motorbike party:

 

 

Had a little fun in the city at night, many tourists in the area and party people, spent two nights in Hue and moved on to Phong Nha, a village that is getting some hype, well deserved, over they’re crazy caves. The caves are very impressive, we did the Paradise Cave and the Phong Nha Cave. We only had a night there so times was limited but there’s a lot more to see out there! Multi day hikes and so on.

Paradise cave is located in the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park and the drive to get there is another amazing one, twisty roads in the middle of the jungle, just great:

 

 

My friend modeling:

 

 

My bike modeling:

 

 

 

It’s difficult to show the scale of things on pictures but it is very impressive in real life:

 

 

 

The Phong-Nha cave is only accessible by boat (I think that’s a lie but whatever), we took the boat with strangers to split the cost, you can fit 12 people on the boat and it gets pretty cheap when you fill it up, it takes about 45 minutes to get to the cave and you can see a lot of interesting stuff on the way:

 

 

 

The cave is all arranged for tourism but it’s pretty hard to visit such huge caves without lights and stuff so it’s fine by me:

 

 

 

 

Inside is pretty similar to the Paradise Cave but less impressive, if you only have time for one do Paradise, if you want to do both start with this one, here’s a better idea of scale:

 

 

As we start our journey to Vinh, the sky cleared up:

 

 

We had to go, Vinh is a 4 hours drive and it was getting a little late, Vinhwas pretty boring, it was cloudy, rainy and cold, we both felt tired that evening so we really didn’t do much. We did have an EPIC experience at this restaurant. It’s like we were the first foreigners in there and it was very funny and the food was great. The next day we left the city to continue our journey north to Ninh Bình.

Ninh Bình was beautiful, again cloudy and foggy but a lot of nice landscapes again, we only stayed a night so we would be able to enjoy Hanoi for 2 nights before my friend left. I will surely go back to Ning Bình before leaving Vietnam.

A farmer working his rice field, not a bad backdrop to work in:

 

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Shot from the drone:

 

 

We then left for Hanoi were we enjoyed the city for 2 nights, my friend went back to Montreal after those 2 nights. I didn’t really take any pictures in Hanoi, weather was bad and had some stuff to work on after my friend left (this is one of the thing I had to do ;)). I will go back and photograph the city after my northern trip.

A great journey, if you have time and the will, do it, this is not an easy trip, you have to be ready to suffer a little if you’re going to drive a 110cc motorbike (you can get better, really motorcycles also, but I don’t have a license so this 110cc motorbike is already pushing it legally) for more than 2000 km, but in my opinion it’s more then worth it! Hopefully you are still reading and this will inspire you to do it.

Part 3 will come after some interruptions from other countries around Asia, stay tuned 😉