Sapa – Tam Coc, Day 5: Tam Coc – Bich Dong (Ninh Binh)

We came back to Hanoi very early, so we stayed at the train station for a while before catching a taxi back to Hanoi Sports Hotel.

We walked to the Sword Lake and enjoyed seeing people exercising for a bit, then searched for the place where a bus would wait for us. Around 8 AM, we started for Ninh Binh province where we would visit Hoa Lu (the old capital of Vietnam under Dinh, Tien Le and Ly dynasties) and Tam Coc (which is dubbed the Ha Long Bay on land).

Hoa Lu architecture looked like Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam to me, so I wasn’t so interested. But Tam Coc was exquisite beyond description. I preferred the Ha Long Bay on land to the real Ha Long Bay.

All of us loved the boat trip on Tam Coc. What a majestic scenery!
And I also liked the buffet with local specialties.

Back to Hanoi, after dinner, we went to Dong Xuan night market very late. Then we found the delicious sweet treats on a sidewalk to enjoy before we called it a night.

Continue ReadingSapa – Tam Coc, Day 5: Tam Coc – Bich Dong (Ninh Binh)

Sapa – Tam Coc, Day 4: O Quy Ho Mountain Pass (Lao Cai)

It was raining in the morning which prevented us from going outside early as we expected. However, we were lucky that the rain stopped around 9 AM. We headed out to rent 2 motorbikes at a nearby hotel, then straight to the Ô Quý Hồ peak.

We passed “Thác Bạc” (Silver Waterfall) but then we didn’t stop long because all the beauty could be seen from outside. I heard that “Thác Tình Yêu” (Love Waterfall) was more beautiful, but someone didn’t stop on the way to the peak. So we reached the peak at around 10 AM. We took so many photos here because my lil bro always wanted to reach the top of the highest place of Vietnam where a bike is accessible, of course.

We went back to “Thác Bạc” for a salmon lunch. The price was quite okay, and we had a square meal with 3 dishes (salad, roast an hotpot) of 1.5 kgs of salmon.

Following a local or tourist advice, we went back to “Thác Tình Yêu” (Love Waterfall) for sightseeing. Someone opted out as he was too full to walk. The 3 of us (my siblings and I) could only walk to “Suối Vàng” (Golden Stream) because we were afraid of a possible rain.

We went back to Quoc Thai Inn, checked out then walked back to Auberge Dang Trung Hotel for dinner. We caught the coach there to the Lao Cai train station.

We did nothing while on board the train tonight. We silently went to sleep early.

Continue ReadingSapa – Tam Coc, Day 4: O Quy Ho Mountain Pass (Lao Cai)

Sapa – Tam Coc, Day 3: Cat Cat Village (Sapa)

We had breakfast and checked out of the hotel. The trek to Cát Cát Village started at 9:30 AM. The village was quite far from the center of Sapa as we leisurely walked for about 45 minutes to reach the place where the guide had to buy tickets. Around 11 AM, we reached the waterfall after passing through many ethnic display and sale points. I loved the place though it was fully exploited for the benefits of tourists. I was standing very close to the famous rice terraces of the Northwest.

It was blacked out in the morning, and when we were back, there was no electricity. I asked the hotel owner and he said it would be back around 4 PM. What a town!

At noon, we had lunch and then left Auberge Dang Trung Hotel for Quoc Thai Inn. I called it motel because it seemed you could bring your bike or even a car. But I wasn’t so sure. We took a rest.

In the late afternoon, we went out to visit the Sapa market and shopped a bit. Then we went to the Hàm Rồng Mountain area for a barbecue dinner. As there was another black out when we finished the meal, we went to a cafe called T-Bone Steak House which has a balcony overlooking the Cầu Mây Street. A very relaxing time for us all!
Then we went back to sleep early as we expected to wake up early for the Ô Quý Hồ Mountain Pass the next morning.

Continue ReadingSapa – Tam Coc, Day 3: Cat Cat Village (Sapa)

Sapa – Tam Coc, Day 2: Ham Rong Mountain And The Sapa Stone Church

Around 5:30 AM, we reached the Lao Cai train station. Even though there’s a person to pick us up, we had to wait for about an hour for the coach to Sapa to depart (maybe because the hotel needed to pick up passengers for another train which left later than ours).

We checked in and had breakfast at Auberge Dang Trung Hotel (I loved their crepes) then hiked the Ham Rong Mountain near the hotel around 9 AM. Turned out the walking made us very tired, especially on a sunny day like this. Some steps were quite steep, so we only made it to the top around 11 AM (with many stops on several places below to take photos).

Around noon, we went back and had lunch at the hotel. It was quite a square meal with white rice and many dishes.

Because my siblings wanted to take a nap and it was quite cold in the hotel rooms (due to the natural air conditioning system :P), we could only leave the hotel around 4 PM also. We visited the Sapa stone church then went back to the hotel for dinner.

Around 10 PM, we went out for some foot massage, and then headed back to the hotel to sleep. I needed to use some foot massage for my aching legs, but it didn’t work out well enough.

Continue ReadingSapa – Tam Coc, Day 2: Ham Rong Mountain And The Sapa Stone Church

Sapa – Tam Coc, Day 1: Hanoi To Sapa

Because the VietJetAir plane to Hanoi was delayed several hours, we landed at Noi Bai airport quite early in the morning. We only reached the Hanoi Sports Hotel around 3 AM. We were all too tired and went to sleep right away.

The alarm woke me up around 7 AM. We headed downstairs for breakfast. Around 9 AM, we walked to the Sword Lake. After visiting around for a while, we took the electric car for a 35-minute trip around center districts (should have picked option no. 1 around the Old Quarter instead).

We checked out the hotel and wheeled our baggage to the Highlands Coffee near the lake. We had lunch and spent almost the afternoon there. It was quite sunny outside.

Then around 4 PM, we wheeled out baggage to the Hanoi railway station. The streets were so terrible for walking that we all sweated out a lot (should have taken the taxi instead). So we decided to rent a room for taking shower before we got on the train. There we called KFC for dinner. (The chicken had a lot of fat and tasted worse than in Saigon).

We checked out of the hotel and went to the station on time to take the 8:30 PM overnight train to Lao Cai. We spent the evening playing cards. Often I was lost, but today I won. So lucky! Then we called it a night around 11 PM and went to sleep. (We booked a 4-berth cabin with soft sleepers so we felt quite comfortable.)

Continue ReadingSapa – Tam Coc, Day 1: Hanoi To Sapa

Con Dao, Day 3: Way Back Home

We had a buffet breakfast like Day 2 in the restaurant at 7:30 AM, then headed back to the hotel room to collect stuff and check out of the hotel at 9:00 AM.

We waited there for the plane for 1.5 hours. The plane looked newer than the other one we took to Con Dao islands. We reached Tan Son Nhat airport at noon.

The Con Dao trip ended here.

Continue ReadingCon Dao, Day 3: Way Back Home

Con Dao, Day 2: Hang Duong Cemetery And Prisons

We had a buffet breakfast in the resort restaurant at 7 AM. At 8 AM, we went to the Hang Duong cemetery, had an official ceremony then visited Vo Thi Sau’s grave. When we came to Le Hong Phong’s, it rained heavily and we had to run out. It was still raining when we visited An Son Temple. We postponed the tiger cases till the afternoon.

There was sunshine in the afternoon after all. Eve felt headache so she didn’t go with us. I sticked to her friend Binh coz he was kinda the only one I felt acquainted with. We went to Phu Tuong prison (Bagne 3 +) to see tiger cages French style. Then we passed the shooting range where they shot Vo Thi Sau and left at Phu Tho prison (Bagne 3) gate.

We then visited the tiger cases American style at Phu Binh prison (Bagne 7), Vestige of Skull and Ham Phan Bo in Cow Cage Isolated Area, then Ma Thien Lanh Bridge. The last site of the Con Dao trip we went to see was the Ben Dam port.

Today’s sites, especially the tiger cases left a special impact on everybody.

I tried to connect iPhone with my Dell netbook which runs on Ubuntu but failed. I went to sleep kinda early tonight coz the long day out wore me out.

Continue ReadingCon Dao, Day 2: Hang Duong Cemetery And Prisons

Con Dao, Day 1: The Museum And Wharf 914

Today I got up early to go to the airport to catch the flight to Con Dao archipelago.

We departed Tan Son Nhat airport 30 mins later than expected. After 45 mins, we reached Con Son (Co Ong) airport and then the hotel around noon. The landing was a lil bit like a nightmare. I was so scared that I didn’t feel nauseous.

At 2 PM, it was raining a lot and I thought we had to cancel the visit to near spots. But luckily, the rain stopped. We walked to the museum nearby and listened to the Con Dao geographical and historical stories for half an hour. A few more walks led us to Wharf 914.

We left the wharf for Phu Hai prison (known as Bagne 1 for French people). We couldn’t see Phu Son prison (Bagne 2) because it was late.

We went to the beach in front of the resort for the evening swim. The beach here is more beautiful than in Vung Tau.

After dinner, we went for a karaoke section.

Continue ReadingCon Dao, Day 1: The Museum And Wharf 914