My trip to Vietnam spanned a good 4 whole days. After a painfully long flight I arrived to a cool foggy grey Hanoi morning. I took a taxi from the airport to the city center and quickly immersed within the energetic sights and sounds of Vietnam. It was only 6.30 am but people seemed to be in a hurry to work. Motorbikes were buzzing around my taxi. Most of the motorbike drivers wore colorful helmets and facemasks. Some motorbikes were carrying crazy loads – dozen of ducks in cages, poking their head through the grids or a woman with overloaded brunches of vegetables.
Entering the city centre, Hanoian people at all ages seemed to keen on doing morning exercises. Groups of people went jogging, doing gyms and aerobic round the lake near Old town. My impression about Hanoi is that this is a strong character city. Its Old Town is full of specialty streets: a street of altar items, a street of shoes, a street of candies, a street of silks and a street of Eastern herbal medicine. Each street is named after what it sells. My hotel was located in a street where people sold only jewelry and decorating tools made of silver. I decided to take a cyclo ride to look around and take photos and it was a super interesting way to watch the way this city works. Street vendors and barbers were working on the pavement. The smell of charcoal – grills meat, coffee and exhaust fumes brought a unique feeling about Hanoi.
From Hanoi, it is very easy to book a midnight train to Sapa in the North. Although it is a fairly long journey and hard to have a good sleep in a clanging and jostling train, the view you experience will be well worth the time. The mountain town is peacefully located under the peak of Indochina – the Fansipan – and half hidden in cotton-like clouds. I spent the next two days trekking and taking photographs in the remote hillside villages in Sapa. My days were spent with a warm-hearted woman from the Hmong tribe named An, who was introduced to me by Eviva tour. An guided me to various beautiful places such as valleys, terraced rice paddies, small villages, across footbridges and along winding mountain trails. December was a great time to visit Vietnam. The weather is comfortable and the peach trees are blooming which brighten up a corner of the jungle. There was a huge market on Sunday. Everybody came to the market on this day. Thanks to popularity of tourist, many of them could speak fine English, which mean you will have no problem engaging with activities of the market. I found it interesting that there are 10 different ethnic minorities who inhabit in this area but each tribe still maintains their own culture and traditional outfit. An taught me to distinguish tribes by looking at their outfit color and patterns. The market sells everything, serving for the needs of both local people and tourists. Besides embroidered bags and handmade scarves, they also sell animals; horses, water buffalo, chickens, ducks, etc.
After exploring Sapa for three days, I returned to Hanoi and took a flight to Bangkok to continue my Asian trip and thinking of coming back to Vietnam to discover its South. Anyone interest?