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T-8 Days to Vietnam!

Written by Jeff Drake
1 · 26 · 23
Our Hill Tribe Pre-trip!

Wow, time is flying past us! Our countdown for our return trip to Vietnam is now under 10 days.

Lisa and I have been absorbed by Youtube as we consume video-after-video about travel to Vietnam e.g., videos about what to do, what not to do, what to eat, what not to eat, what to see and when to see it, what to wear, etc. How did we ever travel before without Youtube? LOL!

We last visited Vietnam in 2007 and so we expect a lot of changes, but what we are seeing on Youtube is blowing us away! So much has changed! And when I think back to my first visit to Vietnam during the war, the sights I am looking at for places like Saigon, Dalat, Nha Trang, are literally unrecognizable. Of course, I knew they would be, but still, it’s a surprise to see the changes.

In my last blog “Just a Note and Travel Announcement,” I promised more info about our planned itinerary for this trip to Vietnam. This is an OAT adventure, so the itinerary is theirs and we’re just along for the ride (which is a fun thing to do from time-to-time, although we still love to travel when it’s just the two of us). As it happens, the itinerary hits all the primary places we wanted to visit. We know that we are not going to have all the time we want to explore these places the way we usually would like to, but that’s okay. In some ways we use OAT trips as scouting missions, making note of where we want to spend more time the next time we visit… on our own. Right now, we are both excited to think about spending much more time in SE Asia! I’ll have more on this in the future.

Our flight from Portland will take us to Seoul, South Korea, then on to Hanoi, Vietnam. Our tour is titled, “Inside Vietnam,” and is 20-days long. We opted for the pre-trip extension, titled “Hill Tribes of Vietnam: Journey into Ancient Cultures,” which will take us into the mountains north of Hanoi, within walking distance of the border with China. The pre-trip extension is 8 days long, so altogether we’ll be in country for almost a month! We would have also opted for the post-trip extension, which went to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but since we’ve already been there (2007 Cambodia Adventure, Angkor Wat), we decided against it. We did see a couple videos of recent trips to Angkor Wat and Siem Reap (the town) and were amazed at the growth! In 2007, the streets we were on in Siem Reap were dirt. Now all are paved and the place is looking much more modern.

The pre-trip is an adventure all by itself, so I will just talk about it here, to keep this post somewhat brief. My next post will cover the main trip.

We have two nights in Hanoi, doing tours of the city, before we head to the mountains and a lovely mountain village called, Pom Coong, where we’ll stay with a multi-generational hill tribe family. This will be very rustic e.g., thatch-roofed huts, futons on floor, communal sleeping, shared bath, etc. Reports are that this is a lot of fun and the locals are wonderful hosts. The locals here are known as the White Thai people.

The next day we are off for a trek in and around the Mai Chau valley. We are really looking forward to this! Mai Chau Valley is full of rice paddy terraces. Yes! We still remember the rice paddy terraces we saw during our 2012 China Adventure! Our day here will include a lot of interaction with the locals, which is always fun. We are curious to see what kind of food we will eat during our home-stay. Hmm.

Sapa, Vietnam

The next day will take us to more hill tribe villages as we slowly inch our way by bus to the beautiful town of Sapa. This hill town is about the same elevation as Denver, Colorado. Along the route to Sapa, we’ll stop for a visit to a cinnamon plantation. I’m looking forward to this, as Vietnamese cinnamon is considered one of the world’s finest varieties of cinnamon on the market. The tribe associated with Sapa is known as the Red Dao people. They apparently wear cool red hats and other strange hats, which should make for some interesting photos! Like other towns in the mountains, they are known for agriculture and textiles. Sapa is surrounded by mountains that look like emeralds, rice paddies, and bamboo forests and waterfalls. We’ll also visit the local market, which is supposed to be a lot of fun. We’ll stay at a nice hotel in Sapa.

FYI: OAT hotels are usually not high-end, luxury hotels. They prefer the money be spent on getting to interesting and unique locals, experiences, etc. Since we usually are just in hotels to sleep, we don’t mind this approach, as long as the hotels are clean and comfortable, which is always the case. They’re not budget hotels, but not necessarily high-end either. Lisa and I will sometimes splurge on a few days at a very nice hotel after a trip, to unwind and chill on a beach somewhere, (for example, Zanzibar after our African safari), although we are not doing that this time.

We’ll spend another day trekking around the area and meeting more locals, like the Black Thai people. Hmm. White Thai, Black Thai, Red Dao, I wonder if there’s a tribe called, Thai Dai? I’m going to have to research what’s behind these names! We’ll go to meet the Giay hill tribe. These folks are known for their love of stories, fables, folk tales and humorous sayings. All along our route, we’ll hear local music and watch them perform their local dances.

Fran Si Pan Mountain cable car

Our next day will take us to the village of Sin Chai, located at the bottom of Fran Si Pan Mountain, known as the “roof of Indochina.” These people are called the Black Hmong. Their specialties are weaving and indigo-dyeing. I’m looking forward to taking the cable car to the top of this mountain. At least, I think I am. I may chicken out when I get there, LOL! It’s not for the faint of heart!

Our last stop will be the village of Lao Chai, where we’ll have a nice lunch before returning to Hanoi, where we’ll rest up and get ready to meet our fellow travelers. We’ve got a small group size of 15 this time, which is just the right size!

I’ll talk about the main part of our trip in the next post!

Talk to you, soon!

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Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.
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