The road north: Hue to Hanoi

There are two ways to see Vietnam, and both are pretty linear. You either go north to south, or the other way around. I chose south to north – heading from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. This post covers my journey from Hue to Hanoi, via Phong Nha. Regardless of how you decide to see Vietnam, you’re not going to be disappointed!

Buses are your friend in Vietnam – sleeper busses plough through the country on a frequent basis and are, in my opinion, the cheapest way of getting around. For instance, my bus trip from Hoi An to Hue set me back a grand total of $6. Considering it’s a 3 hour trip, this isn’t bad at all.

Hue… hmmmm. It’s a nice enough place and I feel its trying a little to be like its neighbour Hoi An, but it’s not there yet. I’m not the biggest fan of the town but I can see the appeal if you’re into history as the Imperial Citadel is cool to see.

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The Imperial Citadel in Hue.

I got ripped off twice here – once by a crazy delinquent food stall lady in the local market – she gave me the price for some chicken stick thing but the price changed immediately after I finished eating it. It was at this point she conveniently ‘didn’t speak english’, while 5 minutes beforehand she spoke the queens english fluently. I argued, she resisted, blah blah blah. I called her a lying thief – she understood that funnily enough! Then I realised we were arguing over less than half a dollar so I gave her the money and left. It’s funny how these things can put a bitter taste in your mouth about a place. This happened twice but the second time I was over caring enough to make a fuss.

The homestay in Hue was also pretty average. It ticked all the boxes in terms of decent location, cheap, etc but it felt a little cold.

From Hue, I ventured further north to Phong Nha – home to a national park that contains a number of huge, beautiful caves. I ventured into the Phong Nha Cave – it was really incredible. I’ve never been into a cave that big in my life – you truly feel the vastness of the empty space. You feel as if you’re travelling to the centre of the earth – I loved it. As it’s been raining heavily in the region, a small boat took us through the cave, paddled by a small lady – she had unbelievable strength!

Driving from Hue to Phong Nha, you cross the old DMZ (demilitarised zone)- spitting the north and south of Vietnam – pretty cool piece of history to see.

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Going through the Phong Nha cave – it’s about 7km long. Massive!

The only downside to my Phong Nha cave experience was the person I was sitting next to on the bus there – the imbecile spoke about himself for 4 hours. I really couldn’t give less of a shit about his life. The older I get, my mental capacity to pretend I care reduces. Thank god he was heading another direction and not to Hanoi (as I was) or I fear there may have been a ‘drowning’ incident in the cave.

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A beach within the cave.

Hanoi! It’s an overnight bus from Phong Nha to Hanoi which is convenient as it saves a night of accommodation cost and as it’s a sleeper bus, you can (mostly) lie down and get some rest.

I loved Hanoi. It’s a vibrant, crazy city. There isn’t all that much to see (apart from the usual statues, museums and cathedrals) but the spirit of the place is awesome. It’s buzzing the entire time, day and night. The streets are jam-packed with food stalls, markets and scooters and most streets are covered n lanterns and lights. It’s a beautiful city.

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One of the many street markets in Hanoi.

What made my Hanoi experience that much better is I’d made some friends in Ho Chi Minh and although we’ve been bumping into each other throughout the trip north, we were all in Hanoi at the same time so it felt like a mini reunion. It was great to hear everyone’s impressions of the country over a few beers.

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A typical street in the city.

Hope you’re all well and happy!

Cheers!

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