Category: Vietnam

Apr 09 2010

Sapa, Vietnam to Hekou, China

Arrived in LaoCai at 7.30am. Stored my bag at the train station (10,000 Dong~USD$0.50), had breakfast (20,000 Dong~USD$1)

and got a minivan (35,000 Dong ~USD$1.7) to Sapa. Sapa is just around 35km away from LaoCai. Sapa is a very colorful town with a few ethnic minority groups such as the Hmong, Dai and Tay.

It’s very misty up in Sapa.


BBQ piglet


Hmong people discussing about business

Terraced paddy field

Got back to LaoCai at 2pm and got on a motorbike taxi to the Vietnam-China border which is 3km away from the train station.

Leaving Vietnam

Crossed the border to the border town, HeKou.

Bought a 8pm bus ticket (137Yuan ~USD$20, 450km, 9 hours) from HeKou to Kunming.

I almost forgot that the time in China is an hour ahead of Vietnam, luckily there were still some time left when I thought about that. The sleeper bus left at 8pm sharp and was full. China has a first class infrastructure, the roads are much better than Vietnam and many other South East Asian countries. After spending the past few weeks on slow buses going on windy, narrow and bumpy roads, the bus ride to Kunming felt quite different. The bus went pretty fast. Instead of going around the mountains, there are many tunnels through the mountains and it’s a 4 lane highway so the ride was more comfortable.

Apr 07 2010

Hanoi Day 2, Vietnam

Rented a motorbike (110,000 Dong~USD$6) for the day.

Visited the History Museum (10,000 Dong~USD$0.5). The building has an IndoChina architecture which is a mix of Western and Eastern style.

Vietnam has a strong Chinese influences and a lot of Vietnamese artifacts have Chinese characters on it.

Museum of Vietnamese Revolution (20,000 Dong~USD$1).

Vietnam is a country which has been in many wars for the past 100 years. The museum was divided into Vietnamese struggle for independence from 1858-1945, thirty years of resistance war against the French and Americans from 1945-1975 and current history.

A guillotine used by the French to execute prisoners.

Dong Xuan market.

Local street food (15,000 Dong~USD$0.8)

Old structures

Crossing the red river to the other side using Long Bien bridge.

Military Museum

An old building from the Nguyen dynasty


The tank that broke through the presidential palace in Saigon.

Snake meat is popular in Vietnam. The village is located at Le Mat road which is around 10km way at the North Eastern part of the city separated by the river. It took around 40 minutes of motorbike ride to get there.
Playing with snake.

Snake in a jar

Apr 06 2010

Hanoi Day 1, Vietnam

Finally arrived at Hanoi at 4.30am in the morning after 2 days in 6 different vehicles. Got off the bus station at 5.30am.

Originally we were planning to take a cab to Hanoi Backpackers Hostel but because the driver seemed to be a little sketchy, we got off at a bus station. After asking around, took public bus number 8 (3000 Dong~USD$0.15) towards Hoan Kiem lake and managed to find our way to the hostel (USD$5).

Finally settled down in Hanoi after a long journey from Luang Prabang, Laos. Hanoi is the capital and the second largest city in Vietnam with a population of around 6 million people. The city has been the capital of Vietnam most of the time in history and the city is celebrating its 1000 year anniversary this year.

Since it’s the center of the communist government, I saw more men in military uniform than in Ho Chi Minh city. Visited Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex.

Ho Chi Minh body was well preserved here rest peacefully in the mausoleum.

Walked around the old quarter. The old quarter has some windy street with colonial and pre colonial buildings. Roads in Hanoi like Ho Chi Minh is not pedestrian friendly with motorbikes and food stalls all over the walk way.

Had a local Vietnamese dish (55,000 Dong~USD$3)

which was too much for 1 person.

Lake Hoan Kiem

A cathedral

Spent the afternoon getting my sense of directions and shop for tours to Halong Bay. There are many copy cat shops here and many shops use the same name. Sinh Cafe is the most popular name used for a tour agency with maybe a hundred shops using the name. It’ll be hard to find the original Sinh Cafe.

Night view of Lake Hoan Kim

Apr 05 2010

Laos-Vietnam border crossing

Morning in Phonsavon

Alms for the monks.

There is a weekly bus from Phonsavan to Hanoi but because currently is a low season, the bus is not running. Went to the bus station at 6.20am and took the 7am bus to Nong Haet (40,000 Kip~USD$5, 160km 4 hours).

Met Igna on the bus, she was another traveler who was doing the same trip to Hanoi overland.

Passing by some local villages

Arrived at Nong Haet at 11.30am and took the 12pm tuk-tuk (15,000 Kip~USD$2)

from Nong Haet to the Laos border which is another 15km away.

Local villages

The border was closed for lunch and only opened at 1.30pm.
Trucks waiting at the border

Laos side of the border

Crossing the border was pretty easy and only took 30 minutes.
Crossed to the Vietnam side

It’s 25km downhill from the Vietnamese border to the nearest town called Muong Xen. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any transportation other than motorbike. Since Igna doesn’t prefer to take motorbike, waited on the road and managed to find a car going down to the city and paid him 120,000 Dong~USD$6 each to get to Muong Xen. The driver was quite friendly and invited us to his house

while we waited for the bus towards Vinh.

Got on the 4.30pm bus towards Vinh (40,000 Dong~USD$2)

but we got off at Cuong Con, around 110km away. Arrived at Cuong Con at 7.30pm.

Had rice with chicken for 60,000 Dong~USD$3 and waited for the 8.30pm bus towards Hanoi (200,000 Dong~USD$10).

Apr 01 2010

Vientianne, Laos

We changed to a different bus at 1.30 am in the morning to Vinh and then got on another bus at 2am towards Laos.

The bus arrived at the border around 4am and everyone waited

until 7am when the border opens.

The Vietnamese side

The custom officials at the Vietnamese side wanted USD$1 for the border crossing. Since everyone paid so I just went along. I think the USD$1 is a bribe and not an exit tax.

Crossed the border to the Laos side

The whole border crossing took 2 hours for everyone.

The weather in Laos is hot and dry. The bus doesn’t have air condition and the window can’t be opened so it’s pretty stuffy inside. Bags of rices and boxes were stacked all over bus.

The bus stopped a couple of times, dropping of goods.

After a long and torturous ride, finally arrived at Vientienne at 4.30pm after a 23 hours bus ride.

Got on a tuk-tuk (USD$1) to the city center which is another 13km away with 4 other guys from Japan and Korea.

Found Orchid guesthouse to have a better deal after searching around. Cramped into a room together (5000 Kip~USD$6 per person, USD$1~8420Kip)

and this felt like a high school trip with 4 guys in a room.

Orchid guesthouse is just across the Mekong river and there were some open air food stalls beside the river. Had sticky rice for dinner (26,000 Kip~USD$3) with my new roomates.

Mar 31 2010

Hue, Vietnam

Had an early breakfast, noodle with bread (20,000 Dong~US$1)

with the locals

Got on the 7.30am bus

towards Hue,

around 120km away and arrived at 11.30am.

Bought a bus ticket to Vientianne, Laos for this afternoon (42,000 Dong~USD$22). Met a Japanese guy, Yusuke and we rented a motorbike (70,000 Dong~USD$4)

and went around the city.

After having noodles almost everyday for the past few days, this time we had quite a sumptuous lunch of rice (50,000 Dong~USD$2.50)

Hue was the ancient capital of Vietnam. The imperial Nguyen dynasty ruled from Hue from 1802 until 1945.

Visited the former Imperial Palace (55,000 Dong~USD$3). It’s a big complex with many buildings, temples and gardens.

Inside the Imperial Palace

The palace was badly affected during the war.

Passed by a few places of worship, a buddhist pagoda


Got on the 5.30pm bus towards Vientianne, Laos. (420,000 Dong~USD$22).

Mar 30 2010

Hoi An, Vietnam

Arrived at Hoi An at 6.30am. Hoi An is a UNESCO heritage city. It’s old name is Faifo which was a major port in the 16th and 17th century. The city was the first site of Chinese settlement in Southern Vietnam. There are a few HuiGuan, (Assembly Hall/Chinese Congregation) which still play an important role for Vietnamese Chinese.

Walked west towards HaiBaTrung road with more accommodation options. Finally stayed at HopYen Hotel which is the only one with dormitory style room (USD$7).

There are 7 beds in a room and actually it’s not cheap relatively because there are USD$8-10 single rooms around.

Hoi An is a compact and small city. It’s easy to walk around the old city in just an hour.

FuJian association

Dropped by a local restaurant

Hoi An is famous for Cao Lau (30,000 Dong~USD$1.50), a local dish with a special kind of noodles.

Local Market


Japanese covered beach which was constructed in the 1590s by the Japanese to link them with the Chinese quarters.

Hoi An is famous for tailor made clothings, There are more than 100 tailor shops there.

and other handicrafts

Rented a motorbike (USD$4). Cua Dai beach is 5km east of the old city.

Then head north to Danang,

View Larger Map
which is the 4th largest city in Vietnam around 30km north of Hoi An. Danang succeeded Hoi An as the major port in central Vietnam in the 19th century. There aren’t a lot to see in Danang and is just a typical mid size city with tons of motorbikes roaming around.

Museum of Cham sculpture

Rode the bike back from Danang to Hoi An in the evening.
This is one of Hoi An local food called White Rose (30,000 Dong~USD$1.5).

Night view in Hoi An

Mar 29 2010

Ho Chi Minh to Nharang, Vietnam

Took the 8am bus towards Hoi An.

The ticket I got was actually an open bus ticket all the way north towards Hue (USD$25). The bus stopped for half an hour at Mui Ne at around 12.30pm. Mui Ne is a small town beside the beach.

Some para sailing activities

The sleeper bus towards Nharang

Arrived at Nharang at 6.30pm and stopped for another half an hour before heading to Hoi An. Nharang is another town beside the beach but the town is bigger than Mui Ne.

Mar 28 2010

Ho Chi Minh Day 2, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh downtown

Hair cut on the street (Hat Toc in Vietnamese)

Vietnam Museum of history (15,000 Dong~USD$0.80)

which has some exhibits about Vietnamese History.

A well preserved body

Opera House

Mar 27 2010

Ho Chi Minh Day 1, Vietnam

Vietnam has a pretty big population of 85 million. The country has gone through many wars especially during the 20th century (with the French, Japan, civil war, US, China and Cambodia) and is governed by the communist government. In 1986, the country introduced market reform called Doi Moi (Renovation) which resulted in a socialist oriented market economy similar to China. The country has been growing at 7-8% rate for the past 20 years after the reform and is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. The country joined WTO in 2007 and things are looking to change for the better
Vietnam has some Chinese influences and was a vassal state under the Chinese rule for a thousand years until 938 Ad. Even the Vietnamese language incorporated some Chinese words.

Ho Chi Minh city is full of motorcycles.

Walked to a market nearby and had this (20,000 Doong~USD$1)

for breakfast. Lettuce and fish sauce are very popular among Vietnamese dish.

Rent a motorbike for the day USD$6.

Benh Thanh Market

Food section

City Museum

Notre Dame Cathedral

Central Post Office

Inside the post office

Reunification Palace/Independence Palace (15,000 Dong~USD$0.80).

This was the former South Vietnamese presidential palace and was preserved from the day Saigon fell to the North. The infamous picture of a Nothern Vietnamese tank crashing through the gate of the palace was took here symbolizing the defeat of the Americans and the South Vietnamese government.

The president’s office

First lady meeting room


War Remnants Museum (15,000 Dong~USD$0.8) which is one of the best museum visited in Vietnam so far. It showed the other perspective of the war from the Northern Vietnamese view. It was formerly known as the exhibition of American war crimes and showed some of the cruelty that American soldiers did in the war. It might be a little bias because it didn’t mention about things that the North Vietnamese did but still an eye opening experience.
Tanks and weapons used


Bullets of different sizes

American soldiers with a Vietnamese soldier skull

A sewer which was used by Vietnamese kids to hid inside but American soldiers found them and stabbed them to death.

Americans used a lot of Chemical weapons in the war

which destroyed the environment

as well as causing a lot of birth defects among the Vietnamese population even until today. Those batches of Agent Orange contained Dioxins and will cause long term cancer effects and genetic defects which leads to birth deformities.

In 1961 and 62 the Kennedy administration authorized the use of chemicals to destroy vegetation and food crops in South Vietnam. Between 1961 and 1967 the US Air Force sprayed 12 million US gallons of concentrated herbicides, mainly Agent Orange (containing dioxin as an impurity in the manufacturing process) over 6 million acres (24,000 km²) of foliage and trees, affecting an estimated 13% of South Vietnam’s land. In 1997, an article published by the Wall Street Journal reported that up to half a million children were born with dioxin related deformities. There were many pictures showing birth defects but I didn’t take those.

During the war, Americans dropped almost 7 million tons of bomb in Vietnam.

A sense of remorse from Senator McNamara

John Kerry’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, APRIL 22, 1971

An excerpt from the interview

“We found that not only was it a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from any colonial influence whatsoever, but also we found that the Vietnamese whom we had enthusiastically molded after our own image were hard put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from.

We found most people didn’t even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace, and they practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Vietcong, North Vietnamese, or American.

We found also that all too often American men were dying in those rice paddies for want of support from their allies. We saw first hand how money from American taxes was used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by our flag, as blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties. We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs as well as by search and destroy missions, as well as by Vietcong terrorism, and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Vietcong.

We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum.”


Just motorcycles on the road

Pho again for dinner (30,000 Dong~USD$1.50)


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