Here’s another summary from this year’s major travels, Backpacking Northern Vietnam. Northern Vietnam offers variety of scenic areas from the UNESCO heritage site of Ha Long Bay to the Old Charm of Hanoi’s Old Quarters and the wondrous treks in the highlands of Sapa Valley. Here’s our basic summary and some tips from this backpack travel.
The Northern Vietnam trip was last June 13-17, 2008. It was for 5 days with the last day, being an early morning flight to Manila. On the Google Map was our trail numbered chronologically from the places we visited. (1) Hanoi (2) Ha Long Bay (3) Lao Cai (4) Sapa Valley
Day 1: Manila to Hanoi to Ha Long Bay
Day 2: Ha Long Bay to Hanoi to Lao Cai to Sapa Valley
Day 3: Sapa Valley to Lao Cai
- Sapa Village and its colorful Ethnic Minorities
- Sapa Rice Terraces
- Hopping through Cat Cat and Ta Van villages
Day 4: Lao Cai to Hanoi
Day 5: Hanoi to Manila
Budget: I find Northern Vietnam a bit expensive a place to visit, more than Cambodia or even more than my recent China. Probably because it’s gaining a lot of popularity as an Asian destination that prices are being exploited. Our Total expense reached Php 25000++ per pax inclusive of airfares from Manila to Hanoi, Transportation, Park Fees, Food and Accommodations.
Just some important points on the expenses:
Airfare: Round trip Manila to Hanoi via Cebu Pacific = 7,911.00 PHP
Park Fees: Ha Long Bay Tour via Handspan – Aloha Junk overnight Tour 117 USD (although I checked recently that their tour went up to 139 USD. Still I highly recommend their service if you plan to visit Ha Long Bay)
- Backpacker’s Inn Hanoi – USD 8 / dorm bed per night (a bit expensive for backpacker’s Inn in my opinion)
- Hotel Pinnochio in Sapa – USD 8/ night for a twin bed room (not recommended though. I would recommend BAn Mai hotel just across the Bus Station with rooms ranging 8-15 USD)
- Wild Lotus Hanoi – USD 8/ night Double/twin bed
Transportation: Train to Lao Cai from Hanoi and back is 32 USD, for a soft berth in an air conditioned cabin good for four.
Be careful of Taxis. Choose the ones on the move, more on the white ones instead of those on stand by like the green and blue ones. There are unscrupulous taxis whose meters are tampered.
Haggle when you buy on stalls or street vendors. Preferably half the price of what they claim their items to be.
If you can book in advance, do so. Trains don’t allow reservations, better ask a reputable travel agent to book for you in advance if you need to.
My next set of travels would be set by the end of next month and end of the year so I may not be able to write new chronicles by then, unless there are unplanned personal trips in between. For the meantime, I’ll be digging through my archives on what to write.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.