One of the best things about travelling is always discovering unexpected things. As an avid planner I don’t often come across this feeling, but in Ninh Binh, on top of the Lying Dragon Mountain it hit me full force.
We had planned to only visit Trang An and Tam Coc while in Ninh Binh, but since we had some time left – and thanks to the explanation of our lovely hosts – we decided to visit Mua Caves as well. It wasn’t that far from our hostel and a view over the famous limestone cliffs seemed like a pretty good idea.
Over the course of three weeks backpacking through Vietnam, we have stayed in many hostels and hotels, one more comfortable than the other. But when it comes to price-quality, there is one that’s head and shoulders above all the rest; Hoa Bien Hotel in Ninh Binh.
This hotel offered everything I’m always looking for in a good hotel, so if there is one place in Vietnam I’d no doubt go back, I would definitely be this one.
Even though Vietnam wasn’t my first trip far away from home, it was my first time actually backpacking and hence taking care of our own transportation to get places. For Cuba everything was done with buses and arranged by the agency we booked with, and in America we travelled everywhere by car.
Since we would be covering a few long distances through the country, the best option to do so seemed taking the train. And that’s how I ended up on a night train for the very first time.
Let’s go back one week in time. I was busy preparing for my first solo trip to Copenhagen when my friend suddenly linked me this article on Thomas Dambo’s Forgotten Giants.
I was immediately sold. Even though my planning was already more than overflowing with things I wanted to do in the city, I couldn’t stop myself from including the hunt for one of the cool wooden sculptures.
Before departure, Hue wasn’t one of the places that was very high on our do-to list. Of course there were things we wanted to see in the city since we were passing through anyway, but there was just so much more to see in Vietnam that Hue wasn’t very much a priority.
But since the Imperial City was spoken about so much, we had quite some expectations nonetheless. Unfortunately, after the Khai Dinh Tomb, it all went downhill and we left Hue with a bad aftertaste. It wasn’t all bad of course but if there is one place in Vietnam I wouldn’t go back, I’d be Hue.
The road from Hoi An to Hue is known as one of the most beautiful roads in all of Vietnam. This mostly because of the 21 kilometer long mountain pass: the Hai Van Pass. Aside from that, there are also many other points of interest along the way that are more than worth a stop.
Because we wanted to experience this to the fullest, we got ourselves a private driver for the 130km ride. And it was worth every dollar we paid for it.
Every year when Spring is in town, the beautiful bluebells make their appearance at the Hallerbos in Halle, Belgium.
And just like that, an entire forest is turned into a magic purple blue kingdom. As far and wide as you can see, the flower is brightening the already lush green forest. It’s a feast to the eye!
Since I had a day off today, right in the middle of the bloom period, I just couldn’t stop myself from driving all the way to this forest to discover this magic place.
When the hotel you’re staying at offers you free use of their bikes, I’d be a waste not to put them to good use. Biking is in my opinion one of the best ways to discover parts of the city that are too far to visit by foot.
Hoi An is one of those cities that is perfect to bike through. The old center can be visited by foot, but outside the city limits you can find small fishers villages that are just waiting to be discovered.
Even though Cambodia neighbors to Vietnam, it was still a bit too far out of our way to head all the way to Angkor Wat. But luckily for us, only 50 kilometers south-west from Hoi An, in the province of Quang Nam, you can find the My Son Sanctuary.
This World Cultural Heritage Site in Vietnam is often compared to the famous temple complex in Cambodia. So early one morning during our time in Hoi An, we set out to explore these beautiful hindu temple ruins.
If there is one place in Vietnam we visited that was completely different than all the rest, it was Hoi An. About forty five minutes south of Da Nang, this sweet little town is just waiting to steal your heart with its lovely colored lanterns, amazing souvenir and clothing shops and trafic free old center. It’s a fresh breath away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of Vietnam.
And with these four following activities, you can make the most out of your stay in this little paradise.