Trekking the north.
Vietnam has a special place in my heart. Late in 2017, I ventured into the Phong Nha Jungle, Central Vietnam, to see Earth's third largest cave, and it was this experience that inspired me to pick up a camera and follow my passion as a photographer. But more on that later. This time around was about exploring the north and trudging to our destinations through the mud.
We gave ourselves a couple of days in the city of Hanoi before making our way to Ha Long Bay. I compare the city to a beehive, as, though it appears to be pure chaos, it is more of an organised chaos, of which each member of the society has an integral role to play. We were fortunate enough to explore one of Hanoi's famous markets, where they shut down some of their busiest streets in the Old Quarter to spend time with their families, eat some amazing food, and enjoy performing arts.
We then made the trip to UNESCO World-Heritage-listed Ha Long Bay, with the goals of taking a boat tour through the islands and climbing Poem Mountain. To get up the mountain, we had to bribe a woman to let us through her backyard, which was at its foot, and jump over a barbed wire fence. It was sketchy, but worth it, for once we made it to the top, we were met with uninterrupted, 360-degree views of the city and bay.
After a couple of hours on the top of the mountain, we trekked down and set to the bay by boat. It was an eerie feeling, gliding through still waters and low-lying haze.
Our journey continued via bus to Sa Pa, where we hiked the contours of rice terraces in mud so slippery, we had to calculate every step. Our hard work, however, was quickly repaid, for presented to us were fog-trimmed views of the opposing terraces and the vast valleys and rivers between them. On the way to our accommodation, a homestay in the mountains, we visited a variety of culturally-distinct and colourful villages, whose occupants were generous and kind.
I don't think I can top exploring the jungles of Central Vietnam and visiting the world's third largest cave, though trekking the north and seeing Hanoi were amazing experiences in their own right. Vietnam is my favourite country in Southeast Asia for three reasons — the people, the food, and the landscape.
Finally, if you want to check out some photos of my visit to Hang En cave, you can find them below.
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Written by Chad Gerber, Edited by Nick Petrou