Sapa – Vietnam from above
As so often in life, all worries were in vain: the border crossing from China to Vietnam worked without any problems. Since I am already in the mountains in the north of Vietnam, my first destination is Sapa near the border. I look forward to mountains and rice terraces. For the night’s rest, I chose a homestay. Very cheap (I think the equivalent of € 3 a night) and according to the map located on the outskirts. The information on Google was not entirely correct … and so I find myself after a little walk with all my luggage a little above the traditional village in the valley. Beautifully situated with a view over the rice terraces.
I just wasn’t expected. Once there, I only met an older woman who was obviously not responsible. Communication was not really possible. So I sat down and waited … until the landlord had slept through his hangover – it was now 5 p.m. Nice but a bit lost. I was therefore very grateful when another guest arrived and I now knew that I would not be alone for the night. We were a total of three guests. In the last second before everything closed, we quickly got something to eat and spent a nice evening in the middle of nature.
I was very happy that I had learned to keep warm at night. The hut consisted of only a few boards. With a night temperature of 5 degrees it can get quite chilly.
I have already secured a bus ticket to Hanoi for the next day. So I have a good half day to hike through the rice terraces. I start early … and I enjoy the view over the valleys. To this day I cannot say whether I would prefer mountains to the sea or vice versa. I definitely like to be able to look far and deep. As if you were floating like a bird above life, goings-on and all worries down there.
Hanoi – busy but cozy
I’m looking forward to this city like a bow. I’ve heard so much about Hanoi. Even from one or the other: “For me this is the most beautiful city I have ever been to!”
The bus – a sleeper bus – stops just a few minutes’ walk from my accommodation. I’m spit out in the middle of thousands of honking scooters. And I wind my way down the sidewalks with tables, scooters and other stuff, or even nonexistent to the hostel. Check in, shower, good night! Oh no, it’s not true at all, I was supposed to have dinner – with an Italian I had met on the bus. So would say good night later.
Adventure Train Street
The next day I stroll through the city, let myself drift and make a decision: even if it is said to be closed and sealed off by the police, I’m gonna have a look at Train Street. I had just been looking forward to this street in Hanoi too much. And yes, it’s locked, with an officer at all entrances. Carefully, almost shyly but curiously I am looking through the barrier.
Suddenly the man next to the policeman comes over to me and asks if I want to go into the street. I look at him with wide eyes and nod. First carefully, then quite clearly. I should follow him. Then I do too. After a few meters, I briefly wondered if it was such a brilliant idea to follow a stranger into an alley. My stomach says: “everything is ok” and before my brain continues to work we have already arrived. He took me to a tiny café. Actually, the cafes all had to close – so I’m officially visiting friends. There is no need to explain how this worked out with the policeman at the entrance. So there I was. With a delicious smoothie in THE Hanoi street, which is actually closed, and wait for the train to arrive or pass as scheduled.
Five minutes before arrival, all the chairs are put inside and I have to change the side of the street. We all stand in the doorsteps and entrances of the houses and wait for the train with our cell phones pulled out. And there it comes … and rushes past our noses a few centimeters away. Wow! So impressive! I’m really glad that I was still able to experience it.
An extensive photo session on the tracks with the two boys from the café followed – of course it was forbidden, but I shouldn’t have been there in the first place. And so I decided to wait for the next train in 1.5 hours and have something to eat. I was just finished with my snack when I realized it was getting hectic around me. The trigger was not quite clear to me yet, but I quickly understood that all the chairs and guests had to disappear inside. We were standing with the chairs under, around and above us, our glasses somehow balancing tightly in our hand in the mini interior of the café. And then we saw the reason: the police were on patrol. We all were holding our breath for a moment. Then they had passed by … and all of us burst into laughter.
For two more days I stroll through the streets of Hanoi, test the famous egg coffee – coffee with a raw egg whipped in it – and sip one coconut coffee after the other. Lake, park, night market, small streets, all full of scooters, street food and always these mini tables with mini chairs on which people sit on the street. Busy yet cozy. The nightlife also seems to be fun. But I don’t feel like it, so I’m usually happy in bed around 11 p.m.
Slowly I have to decide where I want to spend Christmas. Even if I like it here, it is somehow too touristy for me. It is so easy to get from A to B, you hardly get in touch with locals in contact. I decide to go to the coast here in Vietnam and then spend Christmas in Kuala Lumpur … before I’ll head over to Sulawesi. This is my next “I definitely want to go there” destination. Why I can’t really say?
Pack your swimming trunks …
For my trip and to visit the Vietnamese sea, I choose against Ha Long Bay and for the other side of the bay: Cát Bà. There I meet Andi from Huppendorf close to Bamberg again – we once met in Irkutsk in Siberia. Completely different trips, but here we now both arrived. Thanks to his direct research, I got a room with a king size bed in a brand new hotel for 5 € / night. A private room! With my own bathroom! How much you can enjoy such a tiny little comfort. First I unpack everything and distribute it throughout the room. Just for the fun of it. Because I can.
We spend the next few days alone or with others. It’s the same for both of us: sometimes not doing anything is very nice.
One day we’re drawn to the water. With a boat and a canoe you will go through the floating fishing villages, past rock formations and hidden bays. The morning is still rather foggy. I love the mood, almost mystical.
Check out the video here.
Things I learned in Vietnam
1. I am spoiled. From non-tourist areas. It’s difficult for me to get used to the fact that everything is so easy. At the same time, tourists stay among themselves here. Of course, it is also nice to share experiences with other travelers. But I also become aware of the untrodden paths I have been on so far – and how much I like it.
2. The sea actually seems dirtier here than I have known before. Plastic floats in the water and it also looks cloudy. However, there should be a lot more in other places in Vietnam, especially on the beaches. I notice that I have no desire to jump off the board – now that I basically have the courage to do so.
3. Travel burnout as a new trend. The exchange with other travelers quickly becomes exhausting. I notice how they like to outdo each other in terms of “being informed” or the number of places you’ve already been. And I notice how it really stresses one or the other. Funny dynamics. There you are somewhere in the world, far away from home, all the everyday stress. And as if something was missing, new stress factors are being built up. I notice how one or the other struggles quite a bit, even thinking about breaking off. “So 2-3 weeks of home leave, that would be relaxing.” Crazy world, weird humanity. And I’m happy again about my relaxed approach, not to focus on traveling, but simply to think about what I want from day to day.
And this desire moves me to Malaysia …