Thoughts on Northern Vietnam

It was a fantastic ten days in Vietnam; I should be more precise North Vietnam. From what I’ve heard, the South is different. The northern part has different landscapes such as mountain and rice fields in Mai Chau, plateau and river in Ninh Binh, or limestone karts in Halong Bay. Visiting Northern Vietnam will satisfy all tourists – from the adventurous to the organizer travelling travel agencies.

The people are very relax and calm. As a solo traveller, people were very friendly and always happy to help me; several times I was just sitting on the Hoan Kiem Lake quay, and will randomly have small chats with locals. I also find them very stylish, for example, because of pollution they often wear a mask when on motorbikes. Outside of Hanoi, people use the ugly green medical-like mask, in Hanoi folks design their pollution mask matching it with the jacket they are wearing.

Food is fantastic, although I have been disappointed by the Pho. By disappointed I mean, I though they would all be fine, but some were below ok. Regardless, I had several dishes, springs rolls, egg rolls, salty peanuts, some veggies dish as well, and of course RICE! You’ll have plenty of it!!

My few cents on tourism, It is well developed in Vietnam, not as much as Thailand though. But I strongly recommend, especially when traveling solo or within a group of adults to do all your trips/activities by your own. Try as less as possible to book with travel agencies, they often impose they schedule, and you may feel like you’re not really on vacations. I remember meeting a group of tourist mentioning they went to Halong Bay with a travel agency, and the agency only let them swim for twenty min, by the way, they were coming from Denmark.

In any case, Vietnam should be in your list of countries to visit; you won’t be disappointed. The country has it all to make your stay memorable.

Bon Voyage!

Destination Vietnam | Cat Ba Island

My first impression of Cat Ba Island was of a ghost city. I was there in October in the shoulder season. Streets were empty with nobody to see in restaurants/shops, and if you add a grey sky to that, you can easily see how it looked a dark place. Although my first impression wasn’t far for the truth, I realized that I arrived in mid-afternoon where most of the tourists are on various tours or activities offered from Cat Ba Island. Later in the night, the town was suddenly live.

I was starving, thus looking for a spot to eat. While walking in the main street, fronting the sea, there were only two restaurants with few people inside. I decided to check-in at one of the two, the Oasis Bar. I tried the spaghetti Carbonara; the dish was good especially since I previously only had rice my entire time in Vietnam.

After eating, I had to look for a place to sleep. Since it was the low season, there was an abundance of free room; I negotiated the price down quite easily. I stayed at a hotel for 6 USD a night which included a private room with double bed, a TV, a shower, and as a little bonus a Sea view. Don’t get excited the room was just ok, few stains on the sheets, the TV signal was shaky, internet wasn’t working, but well, I didn’t care about those things. In any case, when it comes to accommodation in Cat Ba Island there is everything for everyone, from Luxury resorts with private beach to backpacking/guesthouse hotel. Just keep in mind to Negotiate!

After eating, finding a place to sleep, I was looking on what to do for the next few days in the island. In Cat Ba Island itself there is not much to do, people come here as a cheaper alternative to the various Halong Bay boat cruise tours.

I found a day tour that included Halong Bay, Monkey Island, snorkeling, kayaking, etc.  Stay Tunes to hear more about the tour.

Thailand and Thai people

Thailand is a nice country to visit, being the second economy in South East Asia after Singapore; it is quite developed compared to the region, and tourism is already well implemented. Thai people are genuinely nice and welcoming. The only thing I regret is they usually don’t speak English, so I found it quite hard to communicate with them. If I compare with Cambodia, which is poorer, people there speak English, I remember I could even joke with Cambodians kids.

When visiting Thailand, plan it for several days or weeks if possible, (it will probably depend on where you coming from). The country is large and although I’ve seen a bit of it there are many parts of the country I have miss. I can think of the Southern part known for its beaches or the North with places like Chang Mai where you can do a lot of outdoor activities among other things.

My last comment is about the food; it is good, better than good, exquisite.

They have it all, rice, noodles, meat, fish, spices, sauces, vegetables, fruits…you name it. I cannot remember a particular dish I like but generally speaking a foodie in Thailand will not be disappointed.

Destination Thailand | Kanchanaburi

While I enjoyed Bangkok with its noise, dynamism, and nightlife I decided to leave the city for few days and explore Thailand countryside. I went to Kanchanaburi, a town located 200 km northwest of Bangkok. It is a two hours ride with a comfortable bus including AC for only 110 baht, (more info about the bus trip here).

In Kanchanaburi I stayed at the Tamarind, a guesthouse with rooms overlooking the river Kwai. It is exactly what I was looking for when getting away from Bangkok, a chilled out atmosphere along the river with no noise and not so many tourists.

OK, now Kanchanaburi? I bet none of you has ever heard about this town before! I had not, I heard it the first time when a fellow traveller I met in Bangkok mention it to me and says you should come with us and check out the place.  I said yes.

The city is located at the confluence of the river Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai (yes the same river as in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai). It goes without saying the main tourist attraction in the city is around the bridge, together with several temples especially the Continue reading