17-day trip to Vietnam with
An itinerary that included a visit to the city of Hanoy, Perfume Pagoda, Northern Territories, Dien Bien Phu, Sa Pa, Bac Ha, Haiphong, Halong, Hue, Saigon ( Ho Chi Minh ), Cu Chi, Tay Ninh, Vinh Long, Cantho, Cai Rang.
Our journey in Vietnam was not easy .
First of all, for the climate and for the unsafe conditions of the northern roads.
Then for our guide: he was very experienced and spoke a fluent Italian but, unfortunately, he was tobacco addicted.
We had countless stops and most of them because he wanted to smoke.
Finally, for the late morning departures that obliged us to spend the two last hours of our daily transfer took place in complete darkness . This way, we lost the possibility to see many panorama and take photos .
Besides, our guide tried to make us pay twice and did other things that I do not want to mention now .
Despite those sad notes, which I wanted to mention as information for those who are going to go to Vietnam ( and can contact me ),it is a fact that Vietnam is a fascinating country .
A difficult but a quite fascinating country.
However, apart from the guide ( such Mr. Kong ) whose services would be better to refuse, it is correct to mention the Vietnamese travel agency Vietvenures because they were very careful to furnish excellent services: VietVentures
Northern Vietnam: Hanoi (Temple of Literature, Pagoda with column, Pagoda of Tran Quoc) and Pagoda of Perfumes
Regarding Hanoi, I want to remember the beautiful orchids of the Temple of Literature, the wonderful pagoda on a single column, the charming Tran Quoc Pagoda which is one of the oldest ones in Vietnam.
I could not avoid to take a picture of the chaotic and undisciplined motorcycle traffic of the city.
I could not forget the old woman, whose teeth are permanently stained by the use of betel leaves, who was sitting just in front of the theatre where the wonderful performance of the water puppets takes place.
The artists manage to evoke in an excellent way the performances made by ancient farmers in the waters of rice paddies.
In order to arrive at the Perfume Pagoda we went on along roads through the rice fields. In the middle of the fields there are the graves of the peasants who, in such a way, demonstrate their attachment to the land that had represented everything in their life : hard work, sweat and sacrifice , but also their only source of livelihood.
We reached the Perfume Pagoda by rowing boats led only by women.
In the one-hour journey we crossed channels that offered beautiful landscapes.
The pagodas are all different, located in places almost inaccessible.
I wanted to reach one of them, the closest one.
I must say that I never sweated so much in my life.
Long transfer to Sapa and Bac Ha market
We left Hanoi to start our adventure through the streets that lead to the northern territories.
Those days have been very intense and tiring, but they gave us the most authentic images of that beautiful nation.
We enjoyed beautiful scenes of rural life in a lush countryside, while the paddy fields, on the hills, are spectacular for their position on terraces.
We became familiar with the inhabitants, especially with the wonderful children .
We stopped at the street-stalls to taste cooked eggs, skewers of pork and rice cooked inside the sugar cane.
We arrived in Sa Pa ( 1.600 meters ), made famous by the French as a holiday resort.
Around the town there are many villages inhabited by different ethnic groups of the ”Montagnards”. Each ethnic group has its own traditional costumes.
The villages are placed in inaccessible areas; however all of them have electricity, which is generated by exploiting the speed of the water streams.
We left Sa Pa before dawn and, after an adventurous trip because of the rain on unpaved roads, we arrived in Bac Ha during the Sunday market frequented by the Montagnards who, belonging to different ethnic groups, were dressed with different colourful costumes.
In the afternoon we left Bac Ha to go back to Hanoi where we arrived late in the evening after more than 400 kilometres.
HaipHong (Pagoda Du Hang), Halong and cruise in the bay visiting the Song Sut cave
The next morning we went to Halong to visit its famous bay, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The transfer trip let us be a part of the Vietnamese life: in the rural and in the daily life full of transfers made by bicycle, with the typical cycle or by ferry.
We arrived in Haiphong, Vietnam’s third largest city, where we visited the Du Hang Pagoda which dates back to three centuries ago.
We also visited a multi-coloured flower market in which we were attracted by roses wrapped in a wet newspaper to keep them fresh.
Passed Haiphong, we took a ferry and crossed secondary roads surrounded by a beautiful countryside characterized by a bustling farm work.
We arrived at Halong in time to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the sea.
The next morning, with a typical boat we sailed towards the approximately two thousand islands that protect the coast from the open sea.
It seemed to be in a lagoon, not in the open sea.
After about two hours of slow navigation we landed on an island to visit the cave of Sut Song.
Inside there are stalactites and stalagmites, nothing particularly exciting.
Then, we passed near a floating fishermen’s village where we saw some pupils who were taking lesson in a boat converted into a school.
On board, we had a great meal of fish which included wonderful and tasty crabs.
Central Vietnam: Hue with the Forbidden City, Imperial Tombs, Pagoda of Thien Mu, monk Thich Quang and Hoi Han
We moved to the central part of the country, to visit the city of Hue, the capital of Vietnam until 1945 famous for its Forbidden City, the magnificent imperial tombs and which is bisected by the Perfume River.
We visited the Forbidden City of Hue under a pouring rain .
The tomb of King Khai Dinh is very beautiful and monumental.
With a short cruise on the Perfume River we went to visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, which is important for the architecture of its seven-floor octagonal tower, the Buddhist school, but also because in its garden it grows the blue orchid.
The pagoda is considered one of the most famous architectural works in Vietnam and assumed international fame in 1963 because it was the place of departure of the monk Thich Quang Duc who went to Saigon, using the Austin car exhibited, where he burned himself to death to protest against the South Vietnamese regime. burned himself to death
We moved to Hoi Han where we arrived late in the afternoon and under a heavy rain.
Southern Vietnam: Ho Chi Min (formerly Saigon) with Cholon market, Pagoda Thien Hau, Cu Chi tunnels and Caodai temple
Early in the morning we left by plane to Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon), the rich Vietnam’s commercial capital.
We visited the Cholon Chinese market and Thien Hau Pagoda, full of charm for the spiral-shaped incense which, fixed on wires, burns in the upper part of the inner courtyard .
Then we visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the nearby Post Office built in French style and the Town Hall.
On the same day we visited the Museum of the War with the United States.
The documented atrocities are so strong that we had better not to visit it.
The next day we visited the Saigon’s surroundings: first of all we visited the tunnels of Củ Chi, a network of tunnel of more than 250 kilometres, organized in three floors, dug by the Viet to defend themselves from the American attacks.
Another visit was made to the town of Tay Ninh which is the site of the most important indigenous Vietnamese religion (the Caodaism).
The Caodai Temple is extravagant for its architectural structure and its shape.
We were lucky and we could assist to a religious function.
Here below, I write some notes on Caodaism, taken from a tourist guide.
The Caodaism is an ” ideal religion ” that blends most religious philosophies which were present in Vietnam at the beginning of twentieth century .
In fact, Caodaism is a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Catholicism, animism. This religion has only one God (we do not know which one) and believes in the existence of the soul, even though it also practises the spiritism which is currently banned by the Vietnamese authorities.
The Caodaism was born as a religion in 1926 and is famous for the splendour and originality of its rites. The Caodai faithful must avoid to reincarnate, so that he is obliged to fulfil some duties such as: do not kill, do not lie, do not steal, do not get rich, do not be (too) lascivious.
To close these notes I think it is interesting to quote what an English writer wrote, in 1954 while he was considering to convert himself to this religion: ” What initially seemed to me funny and unique, now it looks like a game that lasted too long “.
Mouth of Mekong river with pagoda of Vinh Trang, Pagoda Kmer of Cantho, floating market of Cai Rang and statue of Ho Chi Minh
We went southwards toward the mouth of the Mekong river and we had the pleasant surprise to admire magnificent scenes of rural life. I show some peculiar images as the bottle of schnapps with an entire cobra inside the bottle; it is a liquor used to relieve rheumatic pains.
Or the picture of the fried fish, served entire at the table… and in a vertical position.
Along the way we visited the Vinh Trang Pagoda which is very beautiful outside and surrounded by a splendid garden where we attended a religious function. We also visited the Khmer Pagoda in Cantho with an unpronounceable name which I try to write: Munirangsyaram.
The humidity of the Mekong Delta was…awesome!
We went out at dusk to suffer less for the heat and wander in the streets of Cantho. It was beautiful the market and the giant statue of the “Uncle ” (Ho Chi Minh).
After a boat ride of seven kilometres we reached the floating market of Cai Rang.