Visits in the North of VietnamLMTV Supporter
Cloé, volunteer SJVietnam
When you are a volunteer, you quickly take the rhythm of working during the week and traveling on weekends. If you work in Hanoi, then the North of Vietnam is easily accessible. After almost two months of volunteering, I have been in several very interesting places in Vietnam. In the North, I notably visited Ha Long Bay, a pagoda called “Perfume Pagoda”, Ninh Binh and I will soon trek around SAPA (Fansipan) and possibly do what is called here the Ha Giang loop. So I can tell you about my experiences.
Ha Long Bay
I went to Ha Long Bay with another SJ Vietnam volunteer, Ruth, from the Czech Republic, on a one-day trip from Hanoi. This was my first trip in Vietnam, we booked it thanks to an agency in the center of Hanoi. The experience was very good, we spent the day on a boat making several stops on islands that we sometimes “climbed”. This kind of landscape is called “sugar loaf” landscape. It describes this kind of context where small islands forming limestone mountains seem to appear directly from the seabed. We also kayak around the small islands and had lunch on the boat.
You also have the possibility of going around in several days, you will then sleep in the boat and I think it can be nice but it is obviously much more expensive.
It was a very good experience and above all the landscapes were incredible.
The week after I visited “Perfume pagoda” with a boy I met in the center where I work, Neyl from France. It is a place of Buddhist worship, one of the most famous religious places of Vietnam.
After having traveled the 70 km that separate the village and Hanoi by bus, we embarked for 1 hour by boat guided by a Vietnamese lady to reach the temple on the river. It was an opportunity to once again appreciate the “sugar loaf” landscapes. After visiting two other small temples, we climbed the mountain of perfumes to reach the Perfume pagoda also called “Chua Trong” in Vietnamese. This path is also a pilgrimage for Vietnamese buddhists. There is also a cable car for people who don’t want to or can’t walk. Arrived at the top we were not disappointed, the view was breathtaking and the pagoda, being in a cave was impressive. The same evening, we returned to Hanoi, it was a peaceful day. It was a very inspiring place, for its spirituality but also for its beauty.
This region seemed to me an inevitable visit for me because all the people I met advised it to me. Indeed, I was not disappointed. This trip will require staying two or three days on site. I went there during my weekend off, so I chose to stay there for two days and one night. In my opinion, Tam Coc is the most strategic village to be able to go to all the places to visit. I had this experience with Mathilde whom I met at SJ Vietnam’s office, a coordinator from an Italian NGO, a partner of SJ Vietnam.
Once there we decided to rent bikes, a service that our hotel offered. A very peaceful way to enjoy the landscapes. That day we visited the Thai Vi temple, Bich Dong, the pier of Thung Nham and the Thung Nham bird reserve. Honestly it was a very good route and very easy by bike. The weather was superb, so we really enjoyed it.
The next day we rented a scooter and we went to Mua Caves for the sunrise, we left at 4am to climb all the steps and get to the top, ready to see the sun rise, it’s there that we discovered a sublime landscape at 360 degrees and a dragon which overlooked the valley. Although the weather was less beautiful than the previous day, I am happy I climbed these steps because the feeling when we discovered the valley is unforgettable. Especially since we were almost alone at this time of day.
After this stage we returned to the hotel to sleep for an hour and check out before going to visit the caves of Trang An, it is a boat ride for several hours where you can visit several pagodas and especially several caves, where it is sometimes worth remembering to lower your head. We closed this weekend with a visit to the ancient capital of Hoa Lu before returning the scooter and leaving by bus to Hanoi.
After going to Tam Coc, we booked the bus few days before and the hostel the day before, it s very easy, and for me it s better to visit this place without guide.
Updated by Antoine, LMT volunteer