As much as I loved Hanoi, I couldn't be more excited about finally going out of the city and enjoy the nature. Starting with the ultra famous Halong Bay, then going south to see the juicy greeneries of Ninh Binh and finishing with water landscapes of the Mekong delta.
To my highest regret, the most beautiful sceneries of North-West Vietnam, including SaPa, were not a part of the itinerary this time. At least now I got one, good reason to return there someday in the future... In the meantime, while heading to Halong Bay, I really couldn't wait to see that gorgeous place with my own eyes.
Two days spent on a boat were full of surprises, however not necessarily good ones. The boat itself turned out to be a pretty cool place to enjoy the view, local food and great company. As for the landscape, it sure is breathtaking and really unique. And that's why it was all the more saddening to witness the slow destruction of this place due to pollution and unbelievable crowds. It is possible to admire the view, but one has to be prepared to see beaches and water rather polluted with plastic too. Although outside the city, it's not quite possible to enjoy much fresh air neither, as the smell of gasoline and exhaust fumes is something you gotta get used to.
The bay is definitely taking in much more tourists and boats than it should, resulting in a total overload of people and making it impossible to enjoy at least one quiet moment, let alone taking any decent photos. This one depicts a little bit the situation:
To take this picture I had to queue and was surrounded by dozens of tourists. Have I known all that beforehand, I'd probably gave up on going to Halong Bay, in spite of its fame.
A few photos that I took there are from one of many oyster farms.
Compared to Halong Bay, our next, out-of-the-city destination, seemed to be a paradise. Discovering Trang An and Tam Coc, located near Ninh Binh city, turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole trip. Whether on bike, by boat or on foot, this place stole my heart. Staying in a bungalow located among the hills, gave many occasions to discover this gorgeous place.
Despite many tourists, it was far from being as crowded as Halong Bay. The landscape itself being no less spectacular.
One of the best ways to explore the area is taking a boat on the river. Although very touristy, it's still enjoyable and there are lots of possibilities to take great photos and to visit incredible grottoes too.
I'd do anything to stay in Trang An at least one extra day, but having booked my stay in the next destination beforehand, I had to leave after only one day.
Around a week later, when in Saigon, I decided to make a short stay in the Mekong delta. Getting there involved no more than 3 hours ride by car from the city. It was definitely a good idea, as it let me take some rest from the bustling city and see a tiny bit of country, very much different from what can be seen elsewhere in Vietnam.
This too was a very short visit, just enough to feel the vibe of south Vietnam with its floating villages, kind of living in a slow lane. Tasting unknown fruits, coconut candies, slowly moving around by boat - that truly felt like holidays.
Nevertheless, the largest part of the trip was spent in the cities in central Vietnam and in Saigon. Next week's article will be all about those bustling and colorful places, so get ready for more stories and photos :)