Vietnam is a land of experiences. From the verdant fields to the urban cities, this is a country both interesting and intense.
Danang is a spacious city that presents a break from the usual dense cities in Vietnam. Its best feature is the long wide esplanade that is quiet by day, but lively at night when people come out for the city lights.
The city has a relaxed atmosphere. It is easy to be less alert. While sitting at the esplanade, a man joins me and during our conversation, reaches behind to remove the compact camera from my bag (sitting open on my other side). I reclaim my camera only when he leaves it on the bench after a policeman orders him to move his motorbike. Following this incident, I take more precautions with my bag.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and its magnificent Paradise Cave are my highlights in Vietnam; among the most beautiful natural wonders I have seen. I highly recommend spending a day or even several days exploring this area.
I arrived in Hanoi about 4am on an overnight sleeper bus from Sapa. We were dropped off at a street corner where many taxis awaited. Instinctively, I thought it was a bad idea to take a taxi here but it was 4am at some unknown place. After a short time in the taxi, I realised the meter was wrong; got out, refused to pay. The driver threatened to slap me twice. I held my ground.
After hearing the positive reviews from travelers, I arrive in Sapa looking for a homestay experience. While official tours are available, it is easy to organise directly with the Hmong. They have a large presence in town; often approaching tourists selling handicraft, jewellery or tours to their villages. I meet a Hmong woman named Mama Ti. We agree on an overnight stay at her village two days later.
In the meanwhile, I enjoy a sunny stroll around Sapa. A pleasant town with manicured gardens around a lake.
Motorbikes, scooters, cars and people cram the busy streets of Hanoi. The traffic is among the first things to greet a visitor.