The last week or so has been spent in the beautiful North of Vietnam. We spent a few nights in Hanoi getting a feel for this fascinating country and eating lots of delicious Vietnamese food (you can find veggie food here you just have to look a bit harder). I've listed some of the highlights of our time in Hanoi below.
1. Exploring the fascinating Temple of Literature and learning more about the history of Hanoi.
2.Eating delicious Vietnamese Vegetarian (vegan friendly) food at the stylish Uu Dam Chay.
3. Visiting the Vietnamese Women's Museum to learn more about Women in Vietnamese society.
5.People watching in the Old quarter and sipping beer with the locals at Bia Junction on a Friday evening.
6. Sipping delicious Vietnamese coffee at the many cute cafes dotted around Hanoi.
7. Re-visiting the dark Colonial years and the American war at the Hoa Lo Prison Museum.
After a couple of nights in Hanoi we headed to Sapa for some trekking, we were very lucky with the weather as it's usually rainy, cold and foggy at this time of year but it was nice and sunny for our trek. We booked our trek through Sapa Sisters, a community-run organisation that empowers local Hmong women. Our guide Mu was very friendly and offered lots of interesting information about the surrounding area during our three day trek. Our trek wound through rice terraces and farm-land and around every corner we encountered another gorgeous view or pastoral scene.
We stayed overnight in Homestays, where the food and home-made rice wine were good and the beds not so much. We only got two bad nights sleep though so we can't really complain. Sapa town isn't really worth hanging out in for long, although we did enjoy the food at The Hill Station restaurant and the red wine at their deli. They have happy hour from 2-6 so don't miss curling up with a glass of wine and a good book whilst you're in Sapa pre or post trek.
We spent one last night in Hanoi before flying to Phong Nha national park where our Vietnamese outdoor adventures continued. We stayed at the Phong Nha Farmstay, everyone was very friendly and we booked their signature one day tour of the park. The tour was incredible and so worth doing.
The first stop was Paradise Cave which is a glittering array of stalagmites & stalactites, I've never seen anything like it, it felt like you'd landed on a different planet! We were underground for little over an hour and we only saw about 1km of this vast 30km cave network. From Paradise cave we headed to the Dark cave for lunch.
After lunch we got harnessed up and were ready for the zip-line into the dark cave! I've never been on a zip-line before, so was slightly nervous. It turns out they are pretty fun and over in a few seconds, I wanted more! Once you've flown across the river you're at the entry-way to the cave. You walk through the dark with head torches for ten minutes or so until you reach a natural mud bath. We wallowed like buffalo for 20 minutes before our guide told us time was up. I have to say my skin is now baby-soft smooth, so maybe there's something to this natural spa-treatment.
After our mud bath there was more zip-lining (dropping into the water this time) and kayaking, followed by some Vietnamese rum! All in all a super fun day! I'd highly recommend visiting Phong Nha on you trip to Vietnam, there's more trekking and caves to be seen but we were unlucky with the weather and spent our second day reading whilst the rain poured down outside.
We head to central Vietnam, Hue and Hoi An tomorrow and we're looking forward to exploring these cities we've heard much about.