Second leg of the Vietnam Trip 2018: 42 days, from Hanoi moving southward to Ca Mau on Ho Chi Minh trail then along the coastline back to Hanoi.
I do not have a detail review of each destination/attraction here. Please contact me or search them on Google if you need any further information.
DAY 1: HANOI – NINH BINH (110km)
Leave Hanoi for Ninh Binh by 2 hours riding. Enjoy the peace and serenity of the UNESCO-listed Heritage Trang An Complex – Hoa Lu – Tam Coc on the week day.
The boat ride through Tam Coc is a must. The best season to visit is from Apr to Sept with a stunning view when the rice field covers all along the water way to Tam Coc (Ngo Dong river), below the karsts and limestones.
- Visit Dinh and Le King Temple
- Join a cycling tour around the area or
- Another boat ride at Trang An
- Trek the Hang Mua Cave for a spectacular view over Trang An – Tam Coc area
Specialty of Ninh Binh: goat meat (both steam & grill) with some beer
DAY 2: NINH BINH – THANH HOA – PU MAT NATIONAL PARK (260km)
Start the Ho Chi Minh trail here from Ninh Binh, we stopped by the Ben En National Park in Thanh Hoa on the way but found nothing to see there.
We reached Pu Mat National Park in late evening and seek for an overnight place. After checking the condition of the guest house inside national park, we decided to stay outside. It had weird smell and not very clean. About 5km from the park, there are some homestays in Bản Nưa – the stilt house of Thai People where you can have their traditional dishes for dinner and a tranquil night.
DAY 3: PU MAT NATIONAL PARK – CAU TREO BORDER GATE – HUONG KHE (205km)
In the morning, we visited Bản Nưa, its surrounding and a part of Pu Mat National park then had a brunch before leaving.
On that day, we tried crossing the border to Laos at Cau Treo Border Gate but it was not permitted for vehicle. The way to Cau Treo Border Gate run many trucks; rough and very hard to ride. We had not had it on our planned schedule, just in a moment we saw the signal on the road showing the way to Cau Treo Border Gate and followed it, for a try. But not a nice try.
Then, we were back to the Ho Chi Minh trail and continue our road to Huong Khe, Ha Tinh.
DAY 4: HUONG KHE (HA TINH) – PHONG NHA NATIONAL PARK – QUANG BINH (156km)
Head to Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, one of the most well-known attraction in Vietnam to foreign tourist . It takes around 3 hours riding and we got in Phong Nha Town at noon.
Paradise Cave: you can buy the ticket then free to explore the dry cave with a 1km long wooden stairway through the cave. Otherwise, there is a 7KM TREK TOUR TO EXPLORE PARADISE CAVE if you want something more adventurous into the wet cave of Paradise. It is compulsory to have a professional guide with you into the wet cave. Find the tour here @ PARADISE CAVE OFFICIAL WEBSITE
Some more photos here: Động Thiên Đường – Paradise Cave Vietnam
DAY 5: PHONG NHA AREA
Our schedule for the day:
- Phong Nha Botanic Garden
- Hang Toi (Dark Cave) – Song Chay with some outdoor activities: zipline, kayaking, swimming…
- Wanderring the villages on the edge of town.
Some other options instead:
- Phong Nha Caves
- Tours to explore surrounding villages with local guide (ask your hotel staff for tours)
DAY 6: PHONG NHA – KHE SANH (190km)
From Phong Nha, we dropped by Dong Hoi City for the oil change. Get out of the city then turn back into the Ho Chi Minh Trail (Ho Chi Minh West), continue the trail to Khe Sanh.
The Battle of Khe Sanh during the Vietnam War took place here. Khe Sanh Combat Base is now a museum where relics of the war are exhibited.
Khe Sanh town is right next to Lao Bao – the main border gate with Laos. It is usually a stop for one who do the crossing ASEAN/Asian or IndoChina road trip, therefore there are many guest houses available for backpackers in town.
DAY 7: KHE SANH – LAOS – A LUOI (200km)
At Lao Bao Border Gate, we did a short ride to Laos, aimed to check the procedure and document required (if any) for taking the motorbike with us crossing the border. It seems so easy when you just need to pay the fees for vehicle to immigration officer then pass without checking luggage or something.
We rode about 50km into Laos, looking for some Laos food then back to Vietnam right after that. The shortest and most nonsense trip abroad ever.
Stop at A Luoi for this night. A Luoi is a small town of Thua Thien Hue. There was only 1 or 2 guest houses in the town. At night, after having dinner at a street stand, you can take a short walk to the center square and join the kids at the playground there.
DAY 8: A LUOI – THANH MY, QUANG NAM (200km)
Leave A Luoi with a full stomach and happy heart with the cheapest breakfast and morning coffee ever.
Visited Bhơ hồông Village – the residence of Cơ Tu Ethinic in Quang Nam Province. It is about 60km away from Da Nang and be well preserved for Community tourism. You can choose whether spending 1-2hours for a short visit or book their bungalow for a night. The bungalow is right at center of the village, opposite to Nhà Gươl – their traditional community house, clean and authentic.
Left the village, we continued our trip to Thanh My, a town of Quang Nam and spent the night there.
DAY 9: THANH MY – KONTUM (135km)
Enjoy one of my most favoured riding road during the trip. The road surface is newly recovered, smooth and the scenery is stunning.
Visit Kon Tum Cathedral, also known as Kon Tum Wooden Church, is considered the most beautiful and antique relic. The Cathedral has always been the pride of Tay Nguyen people. The Cathedral is initially constructed in 1913 by the French priests. Having existed for more than 100 years, the Wooden Church is a special artistic architecture which is perfectly designed under the combination of Roman architectural style and Ba Na people’s architecture for stilt house. Hence, its beauty is the convergence of Tay Nguyen culture and Western style. (Info by: Vietnamtourism: Kon Tum Cathedral)
DAY 10: KONTUM – PLEIKU (60km)
Visit the Kon K’Tu village to see “Nhà Rông” – the traditional community house of Ba Na People and enjoy the peaceful ambience: some women weaving in front of their houses, kids are playing around…
It takes only one hour from Kon Tum to Pleiku and there is not many things to see in Pleiku. We had intended to skip it but it was rainning so hard on that day that we need to stop at Pleiku for a night.
DAY 11: PLEIKU – BUON MA THUOT CITY (177km)
In the morning, we had a breakfast with the specialty of Pleiku – phở khô – dry rice noodle then came to Biển Hồ – the most popular site in Pleiku but unfortunately it was under construction at that time.
Head to Buon Ma Thuot City – the land of Vietnamese coffee. The atmosphere in Buon Ma Thuot is cool and very comfortable at night.
Some highlights for BMT City:
- Trung Nguyen Coffee Village / Buon Me Thuot Coffee Museum
- Dray-sap, DrayNur, Gia Long waterfall
- Lak Lake
- Buon Don – the home village of elephants in Tay Nguyen Central Highland
- Arul Coffee – 17-19 Trần Nhật Duật, BMT
DAY 12: BUON MA THUOT
Spend the day visiting Dray-sap, Dray-nur, Gia Long waterfall system and the surrounding area with some villages of Ba Na Ethnic and E De Ethnic people.
DAY 13: BUON MA THUOT – LAK LAKE – DA LAT (212km)j
On the way from Buon Ma Thuot to Da Lat, stop at Lak Lake and visit Buôn Jun.
After lunch, go ahead to Da Lat.
DAY 14 + 15: DA LAT
Da Lat is more famous with domestic and Asian tourists for it romantic scenery and atmosphere.
2 full days in Da Lat with some tourist attractions:
- Da Lat Station and Grand Lycée Yersin – Da Lat Pedagogy College
- Lam Vien Square, Xuan Huong Lake and St. Nicholas Cathedral (Rooster Church)
- Cau Dat Farm
- Datanla Waterfall Area: with adventurous outdoor activities like: high rope course, slide along the falls…
- Da Lat night market
Da Lat is also well known for many coffee shops and pubs in style and their live music every night. Love song is also a kind of specialty of this city.
DAY 16: DA LAT – BAO LOC (110km)
You’d better buy your breakfast then bring it to Me Linh Coffee Garden on the way out of the city. Have a coffee and enjoy your breakfast with a panorama view over large hills of greentea or tropical trees.
At 50km South of Da Lat, visit Pongour Waterfall, appeared in many international tourism magazines as the most stunning waterfall in Vietnam.
In the afternoon, we came to Bao Loc and stayed there for a visit to Dambri waterfall the next day.
DAY 17: BAO LOC – DAMBRI WATERFALL – NAM CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK (60km)
In the morning, visit Dambri waterfall with its impressive 70m height falling onto a lake and flows as a river below; and the story of a women crying waited for her husband who never came back. At the Dambri waterfall park, you can also take a ride on the alpine mountain coaster which is included in the price of the waterfall park with some other activities.
Head to Nam Cat Tien National Park. Upon reaching the park, you will need to choose whether to stay inside or outside the National Park Area. The accommodation provided inside is managed by the Park’s Office and the price is much higher.
If you stay outside (like us), enjoy the cheapest bungalow ever, only 8-10USD for a double room with breakfast for two. Rooms are separate to each other, cylindrically built, like a stone guard tower with a balcony upstair, clean and convenient. In return, you need to buy ticket for every time you go inside to visit the park, which you have not to if stay inside.
There are some tours to explore Nam Cat Tien National Park, provided by the Park Office or the surrounding homestay:
- Bird watching & sunset on boat: taking you along the Dong Nai River – the outer ring of the Park for around 2 hours. From the boat you may see many kinds of birds, stork, some monkey, squirrel… – tour by homestay.
- Night safari: a truck body lined some benches will take you into a part of the park. At night, you might see bigger animals like deer, tod or even elephant go hunting… under a starry night sky – tour by the Park’s Office
- Trekking and watching crocodiles in the core of the forest – tour by the Park’s Office
DAY 18: NAM CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK – TAY NINH (245km)
Just a ride to Tay Ninh. Be careful with GG Map at this stage. It might lead you to somewhere you’ve never had an idea of. lol
DAY 19: TAY NINH – CU CHI TUNEL – SAI GON (91km)
In Tay Ninh, you have an option of trekking Ba Den Mountain. Otherwise, visit The cathedral of Cao Dai religion with its certain influence in the Mekong area.
After lunch, head to Sai Gon and visit Cu Chi Tunnel on the way. Cu Chi Tunnel is a tunnel system network, parts of which were several storeys deep, included countless trapdoors, constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapon factories, field hospitals, command centres and kitchens.
DAY 20 – DAY 24: SAI GON
We spend 5 days in Sai Gon since we have so many friends and business partners here for a visit. For a tourist/traveller, I think 3 nights in Sai Gon is enough for everything.
Highlight in Sài Gòn:
- Sai Gon Nortre Dame Cathedral
- Tan Dinh Catherdral
- Sai Gon Post Office
- Chinatown: District 5&6 – Chùa Bà Thiên Hậu/ Tian Hou Pagoda
- Đền bà Mariamman/Indian Hindu Temple
- Saigon Waterbus
- Hồ con rùa – Turtle lake and surrounding coffee shops
- Sai Gon nightlife at Ta Hien Street – Pham Ngu Lao area.
- Street food: snail and seafood; bánh mì; cơm tấm (broken rice??); coffee…