Vietnam- In the land of dragons 08/2023
Many of you probably know Vietnam mainly because of the sad history of the Vietnam War. I will take a closer look at the Southeast Asian country on my trip and see how it is today.
I have read a lot about the country and know that the best time to travel is actually between November to May. A cloud pass between Da Nang and Hue separates the country into two zones - the tropical south and the subtropical north. But those who know me by now know that I prefer to travel in the low season. I like it when there is not so much going on, it also rains now and then - or even more - because that often makes the travel photos a bit more special.
There will be again a mix of cities, adventure, nature& animals as well as diving.
I will also try to find out why the country Vietnam is also called "In the land of dragons". Maybe I will meet one, who knows.
Be curious and accompany me with pleasure on my journey through North and Central Vietnam!
For once, I didn't have to take the S-Bahn to the airport, because I was lucky that my dear neighbor brought me there by car in the early morning hours.
There I saw already a long queue at the Qatar counter and that at shortly after 6 o'clock in the morning. But since I now have the "Silver Card", I queued up in the "Priority" row, so I didn't have to wait at all. I asked at the counter if it would be possible to get a seat with more legroom and got it.
Afterwards I got a coffee and a butter pretzel and sat down at the gate. Boarding was on time, but we still took off over 30 minutes late.
I had a nice seatmate who was from Alabama but flies around the world for work. This time she was on her way to Australia.
During the flight I was given preferential treatment thanks to my "Silver Card" by being greeted and seen off, but also always asking if everything was ok, they always brought me what I wanted. I could get used to such a "luxury" when flying.
In Doha, I then had a stay of just under 3.5 hours. I spent the time in the "Silver Lounge", very close to my next departure gate. Here, too, I enjoyed putting my feet up, eating and drinking as much as I wanted. Time flew by, so I almost forgot about boarding time.Once there, I again asked for a better seat and was again lucky.
So I could stretch out and sleep well again on the long just over seven hour flight.
Arrived in Hanoi, the weather greeted me with rain, but I did not mind. It was not pouring.
I walked directly to the immigration desk. Since I am only 15 days in the country, I also do not need a visa and so I got my stamp without further questions and followed to the baggage carousel.My suitcase came first and so I could leave the airport quickly. Outside, I then looked for bus to the city and went for 1.72 € (45,000 VND) to the center.
From the bus stop I walked for about 10 minutes through the small streets until I arrived at my hotel, the "Trang Trang Premium Hotel"https://www.trangtranghotel.com. Even though the check-in time was only from 2pm, I was allowed to check in already at 9am.
My room is small, but nice and overlooks the alleys where the life of Hanoi takes place.
But before I look at Hanoi later in the rain, I rested a bit.
After I had rested a bit, I set out to explore the city a bit.
Hanoi, by the way, with eight million inhabitants, is the second largest city in Vietnam after Ho Chi.Minh City, but has been the capital since 1976. And the name means "city within the rivers".
However, since it was raining heavily, I decided to first go to a small cafe called "The Note Coffee"https://thenotecoffee.com, overlooking "Hoan Kiem Lake". Inside it is decorated with many small colorful notes written and pasted by customers on the walls.
I ordered a small sandwich and a fresh mango orange smoothie.
Strengthened I walked in the rain once around the large "Hoan Kiem Lake". On the lake I could also see the famous "Ngoc Son Temple". However, I did not go over the red bridge, because for this they demanded entrance fee and I wanted to stroll today just something through the streets and make me a few impressions of the capital of Vietnam.
On my MapsMe map I had picked out and noted in advance again many locations and interesting photo spots. So I walked through the busy streets "Pho Hang Non", "Hang Bong Street" and "Pho Hang Thiec" until I happened to pass the well-known "Trainstreet"https://shippedaway.com/hanoi-train-street/.
The streets are shared with the overabundance of honking motorcycles, scooters and cars. You have to be careful not to get run over. They don't really know about red lights or crosswalks.
Unfortunately, the "Trainstreet" was guarded by policemen, because last year it was closed for tourists. But the owners of the cafés, which have their restaurants directly at the Trainstreet, did not play along. They got the people through back entrances to them and thus on the tracks. I scurried in with a family and so I came then also there. I walked up and down the tracks a bit, took a few photos and when I realized that a train would be coming in the next 30 minutes, I treated myself to a Coke and waited.
When the train came, everyone had to get down and to the sides into the cafes, no one was allowed to stand with only one foot down. This also reminded me of my Thailand trip when I saw a train passing through a market north of Bangkok as well. I positioned myself and as the train chugged along, I tried to get a few good shots.
After three minutes the spectacle was over and the tracks were again occupied with people.
In the meantime it had also stopped raining, but the humidity was so high that I was soaking wet and made my way back to the hotel. There I sifted through my photos, swapped the battery and packed my things for the two-day trip coming up tomorrow.
When it got dark I was on my way again, because I got hungry and I wanted to see the colorful night market. However, since the market was still being built, I decided to eat dinner at a small street restaurant. Plastic chairs for children and small tables are standard here.
On my evening walk I also ran to the "Pho Phung Hung" street. There are many great paintings on the walls to see.
Meanwhile, the night market was also in full swing and everywhere crowds and a volume as if there had never been Corona.
Life definitely takes place outside here, no matter what the weather.
In a supermarket I then bought my small breakfast, went to shower, put my feet up and fell asleep exhausted.
Day 2 Mystical Halong Bay
Punctually at eight o'clock I was picked up today by my guide Dan. I had booked the two-day tour through "getYourGuide" https://www.getyourguide.de. I was not the first, but also not the last to be collected.
When we were all complete, we drove about two hour and a half north to the coast. On the way there, Dan told us a lot about Hanoi, Vietnam and Halong Bay, among other things, that the mysterious Halong Bay consists of nearly 1996 islands and that there are three breeding stations for pearls here.
We stopped at a factory. Here we were told that there are three different types of shells and of course we had to walk through this factory and its store, hoping to buy something. However, I didn't really run here, walked through, got my breakfast coffee, sat down in the café and waited until we met again.
10 minutes later we drove to the marina. Here I was a bit scared, because there were masses of tourists here, many many boats. I thought to myself: I hope this does not ruin the beautiful panorama and the atmosphere.
We took a small boat to a slightly larger one, the "Ha Long Phoenix Cruiser" and boarded there. To welcome us, we got a delicious welcome drink and took a seat in the dining room. I was joined by Robert and Mary, an older couple from Sydney. We hit it off right away and were happy when we were assigned cabins because we were neighbors.
After we had moved in, we had lunch right away. We were joined by Jongchol. He comes from South Korea.
In the meantime, we had already cast off and sailed out to the open sea, or rather into Halong Bay. And the weather also played along. Instead of thunderstorms and rain, we had pleasant weather and not too hot. Meanwhile, we had already spent two hours on the water.
Before we all met again at 2 p.m., I packed my backpack, because we were going to "Da Ti Top Island". There was a small hike to a viewpoint and bathing on the program.
Once there, everyone had just under an hour and a half to themselves. I first made my way to the top. After 424 steps and an extremely high humidity I reached the "summit" completely sweaty. Here I had a great view and took a few photos. With a good yield I made my way to the descent.
When we reached the bottom, I wanted to take a cool bath, but the water was not cool, but warm.
We went to another island, with the name "Hang Sung Sot". Here we also had to climb back up first to get into a cave. But it was worth it. It was beautiful and really big.
On the other side we went down again. The boat was already waiting for us and we went back to the big ship. There we had "Tea Time" with fresh fruit.
Until dinner I enjoyed the nature and the view, saved my photos and charged the batteries.
After dinner there was another surprise - fishing in the dark and karaoke on deck. But nothing came of the karaoke, because no one wanted to sing, so we all went to bed early.
Day 3 Nature, Adventure, Cooking Class and Back to Hanoi
I set my alarm for just after five o'clock because I was hoping for a beautiful sunrise. Unfortunately, when I pushed the curtains aside and looked out over the bay from my bed, I saw no sun or anything colorful in the sky. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the peace and the view. When does one have such a view from the bed?
After breakfast, the sun came out from behind the clouds and it was time to get back on the small boat.
We went to a dock for kayaks and bamboo boats seven minutes away. There you could choose whether you wanted to go alone in a kayak through the small cave into a bay, or were driven in a bamboo boat. I decided to take a single kayak and paddled off. That also worked quite well.
Kaum war ich durch die kleine Höhle durch, begrüßten mich schon die ersten Affen. Auf Nachfragen wie die heißen, sagte man "Normale Affen", die aber nur dort leben. Merkwürdig. Ich muss diese später noch recherchieren. Da mein Fotorucksack bei Robert und Mary auf dem Bambusboot waren, paddelte ich zu Ihnen und holte mein Teleobjektiv aus dem Rucksack und schraubte es auf meine Kamera. So gelangen mir ein paar gute Fotos. Anschließend verstaute ich wieder alles, gab den beiden alles zurück und paddelte durch die Bucht.
After a good half hour, we unfortunately had to turn back. It went back to the big ship, there we could shower again. Then we packed and checked out.
On the way back to the harbor, we were given a crash course on how to prepare spring rolls, which we were then allowed to try at lunch.
After the two and a half hour drive back, we were taken back to our accommodations. I checked into the hostel https://buffalohostels.com. Here I was greeted very friendly. I moved into my room, saved all the photos, rested briefly and went back into the noisy hustle and bustle towards evening.
But before I wanted to take another look at the nightlife of Hanoi, I made my way to the "Thăng Long Citadel". It was the imperial court of several Vietnamese imperial dynasties. Once there, I couldn't get anywhere inside. No matter where I looked, everything was closed.
So I walked to the Temple of Literature, which is on the edge of the old town. Here, too, they were already in the process of closing, but I could still briefly look inside.
Back I strolled through various alleys until I ended up on Train Street again.
Here everything was already shining, because it was already dark. I sat down in a bar, drank two beers and waited for the train to come. But this did not come. Why also always, so that I went afterwards in the direction of Hostel. On the way there I ate dinner in a small street restaurant and watched the people.
You really have to pay attention, because in Hanoi pedestrians, cars and scooters share the streets. And honking is also around the bet.
Back in my room, I arranged everything for tomorrow and fell tired and exhausted into bed.
Day 4 At the market of thieves
In Germany, I had received a tip from a photographer to book a photo tour through "Vietnam in Focus" https://www.vietnaminfocus.com. So I contacted Yen Nguyen. She is Operation Manger at this organization. Very helpful she explained me the services incl. discount and so I booked two tours: 1x the Incense Tour and 1x Hanoi Explorer Private Photo Tour Combined On The Tracks & Long Bien Market. She also helped me book my train ticket to Hue.
However, since it rained a lot in the last few weeks and rain was also forecast for the days I am in Hanoi, the incense tour was canceled because the Vietnamese can only dry and make incense when the sun is shining. For this, there must be at least three days of good weather. Unfortunately, that was not guaranteed, so Yen suggested that I offer another tour in Hanoi. I agreed and rebooked.I got the contact details of my personal photographer and contacted him.
At 8am on the dot, Tung Phan https://www.vietnaminfocus.com/photographer/tung-phan/, a local photojournalist, picked me up and took me on a "Grab", which is similar to an Uber, to another neighborhood, "Thieves Market".
There is no telling how long the "Sky Market" or "Thieves Market" has been around, but I quickly realized why Vietnaminfocus had chosen this place for me. It is a local market that really has everything: from fruits and vegetables, to meat, live animals, scrap metal, electrical stuff, factories and much more - just everything. And in between small courtyards with locals and apartments.
I could not get out of the amazement and everywhere there was something to photograph. Great situations arose and we could play with the light. But also today there was no rain, but blue sky and sunshine. A bit of a pity, but I was still satisfied. Even though I was already completely sweaty after just under an hour and sweat was dripping from my forehead, I had a lot of fun. Tung spoke with the locals, so that I was also partly allowed into their houses and could thus capture special moments and situations.
When I saw an elderly gentleman behind a lattice window in his living room, I just had to photograph him. And the great thing was: he was having fun too!
In addition, Tung helped me to improve my photo technique so that I could take really good photos and see the difference from before.
At some point we walked behind the stalls into a small alley. And suddenly I was standing in the "PingPong Club". Here mostly only older gentlemen play table tennis. I photographed them in action and they were having great fun themselves. An 81-year-old gentleman asked me if I could also play. I denied, but it was enough for a little mud and I was cheered on by the locals.
After a good hour and a half, we took a break in a small bar and drank a special fruit juice, talked and learned a few things about each other.
Then we continued and passed a factory. Here, too, I was allowed to enter and watch the men at work and photograph them.
However, when we passed by the live animals and the meat department, I wanted to flee relatively quickly, because it just wasn't for me.
We preferred to stay with the "scrap" and the fruit and vegetables. Here there were enough photo motifs and I let meinfach something drift.
After a good four hours, this tour was over and we drove together back to the Old Quarter to my hostel. He gave me a tip for dinner https://metvietnameserestaurant.com.vn and we said goodbye. But I see him again tomorrow, very early, because then I go on the early morning tour with him. I am really looking forward to that.
I took a shower, downloaded all the photos to my external hard drive and rested a bit, because the midday heat is almost unbearable.
In the afternoon, I took another walk.
I went to the recommended restaurant, which was only five minutes away, settled down and had a delicious dinner.
Meanwhile, I got a message from Mary and Robert that they had followed my advice and were sitting at the Note Cafe. I set off and actually met the two of them again, on a bench by the lake. We talked a bit more and as the sky closed in I made my way to Bamboo Street.
But there everything was already dismantled, as everywhere else and so I ran without detours back to the hostel. Dry I did not arrive, was soaking wet within minutes. Yes, I wanted rain, but that it then rains so hard and the streets were actually only crowded with cars and scooters, no nice street life, I did not know of course.
So I spent the evening in the hostel, treated myself to a beer, which is free between 7.pm to 8.pm, and went to sleep early, because tomorrow I have to get up very early.
Day 5 Early Morning Hanoi
Hanoi was still sleeping, the sun had not yet risen when Tung and I set out. We again took "Grab" (a cheaper version to cab) to another spot on Train Street that was not crowded with tourists.
Once there, we first checked the train schedule and walked around the area a bit. Only a few locals setting up their stalls or just going to or from the market livened up the scene. I tried my hand at a few shots and the technique I had learned from Tung. We also put in a little shooting.
As it started to get lighter, we looked for a good position to get a proper shot of the train. But it came too fast, I was actually overwhelmed, so I didn't get the right photo on the first try. I was a bit annoyed to have missed the chance. But I was lucky: Not five minutes later another train came from the other direction. But even with this one, the special photo didn't work out. Focus, light, speed - it was somehow too much for me. Unfortunately, I did not have another attempt, because no more train came, so that we made ourselves on the way to the "Long Bien Market".
Here I was frightened: This market, which is visited mainly only by locals, was loud, stressful, dirty and in the middle again a lot of honking scooters and also cars. The sun was already shining very strongly, so that the whole thing here was no real fun for me, because whenever I wanted to take pictures, the honking scooters shooed me aside. These have priority, no matter where!
I just wanted to get away. Tung reacted well and so we walked onto the famous "Long Bien Bridge", right next door. On the way there, a man was sitting on the steps enjoying his cigarette. I asked him if I could take his picture and he agreed. He really struck a pose.
Further on the bridge I met extremely many scooter drivers. I had not seen such a thing yet: A separate lane just for scooter riders. I played with the backlight. Now and then pedestrians came towards us, which I tried to capture with my camera.
We continued through a few streets to the next market, the "Dong Xuan Market", which is located in the central Hoan Kiem district of Hanoi. Originally built in 1898 by the French government, it is the largest covered market in Hanoi, with wholesalers selling everything from clothing to household goods to food.
The focus was mainly on clothing and fabrics.
But unfortunately I found no great motifs and the atmosphere was also not so sparkling, so we continued to walk until we came to the "O Quan Chuong Gate".
On the way there I could take some great pictures of life in Hanoi. But when we passed a kindergarten, I felt like taking a look inside. Tung asked, and so I got the chance to watch and photograph the kids playing.In the beginning the kids were a bit shy, but a few got curious and posed properly. Everyone had fun, including Tung and me.
The O Quan Chuong Gate in the northeast of Hanoi's Old Quarter is the only remaining gate of the old Thang Long Citadel. It was colorful and noisy there again.I noticed that we were heading towards the "tourist district".
After a good four hours, this tour was over and Tung still invited me to a Vieatnem breakfast in a local street eatery.It tasted interesting, and delicious.
Back at the hostel, I said goodbye, thanked him for the great two days, showered, rested and checked out at 11 am.
I didn't like the café that Tung had recommended, so I went across the street to the café "Vi-Anh-Coffee", ordered an "Egg coffee", looked at my photos, wrote my travel blog and watched the hustle and bustle outside.
Around 2pm I picked up my luggage at the hostel, booked myself a grap with the aim of going to Train Street one last time (where we were already this morning). That worked out great and I arrived there safely. At the caboose, I asked if the train was really coming at 3:30pm, which was confirmed. So I took a seat with an older, local lady, drank a coconut and waited for the train.
Two Austrians joined me on the train. The train arrived on time, I managed a few shots and then it started to rain.
I waited a while, then set off on foot to the main station, which was just under 400 meters away. Once there, I asked at the information desk which track the train I had booked was leaving from. I was told that the track only opens 20 minutes before departure. So I looked for a restaurant and spent the time until departure there.
Three days of Hanoi are over and I am curious how the night on the train to Hue will go.
Day 6. Arrived in Hue
The trip went smoothly. I shared my compartment with five local men. Next door I met Paul from Frankfurt. He is currently traveling Asia for six months.
As I walked through the train in the morning, I realized that I had actually booked the wrong car. I had ended up in the local compartment instead of the tourist section. But that's what makes travel special.
I pulled down the window in the aisle to enjoy the scenery and take a few photos. That's when the conductor came and scolded me. The window must be closed. Fortunately, I had been able to take a few shots by then. Almost on time I arrived after 14 hours train ride in Hue.
Paul and I decided to have breakfast together and so we walked towards the center.
At a small cafe in a park we settled down. But there was nothing to eat. I had to make do with a mango yogurt and a drink. No matter. it tasted anyway.
From the café, I booked us a "Grab Taxi" which was supposed to take us to my homestay "Hue Sweethouse 2 Homestay". However, I entered the wrong destination and had to walk from there noh five minutes. Paul had his hostel also almost nearby.
Once there, I was warmly welcomed by Lien and Tawzheng. I had to take off my shoes and got slippers. There was a delicious freshly squeezed orange juice and we chatted since my room was not ready yet. After I told them about my travel blog and photography, they arranged a special tour for me tonight.The great thing is, Lien and her cousin will accompany me. I asked Paul as well and he joined.
I also got a fresh omelet and a delicious coffee. Then I moved into my room, which is really beautiful and has a great view.
Hue was built in the 17th century and was the capital of Vietnam and seat of the last emperors for more than 140 years - from 1802 to 1945.
I spent the afternoon in my room and took some pictures of the other rooms for the host family. I also wrote with Yen from "Vietnam in focus", because I was interested in another tour in Hoi An.
Meanwhile, Lien organized me a boat trip on a dragon boat on the Perfume Riverincluding floating lights, her friend Lien and an extra boat. I got a special prize for taking photos of her homestay for her. A Great Consideration. Give and take!
I asked Paul if he wanted to come too, so he showed up around 5pm and we walked together to the dock.
The young women had really dressed up, because they wanted a little shoot. On the dragon boat we were also warmly greeted by the elderly captain and his wife, and we immediately had a beer.
During the boat trip was not much to visit, but we enjoyed the sunset and I made of the women as well as the two elders a few beautiful shots.
Just in time for sunset we reached the "Thien Mu Pagoda", a Buddhist monastery. With the seven-story Phước Duyên Tower, the pagoda is the highest in Vietnam. We made a short stop there so we could have a look at the pagoda.
When the sun disappeared behind the horizon, both Liens - yes, they have the same name - transferred to the small boat, and were paddled a little more on the water by the older woman. When they were in the right position, I was allowed to climb onto the roof of the dragon boat and tried to take a few photos from that position. I couldn't quite realize my vision, but this night photography and then still on the water just remains a challenge for me.
After a good two and a half hours we reached the starting point again. We thanked and ran back, Paul to his hostel I to my homestay.
On the boat I already noticed that I was missing a lens. In my luggage it was also no longer to be found, so that I remembered again that Tung had taken the one with him and wrote to him. On the boat I already noticed that I was missing a lens. In my luggage it was also no longer to be found, so that I remembered again that Tung had taken the one with him and wrote to him. Fortunately he had it and since he really goes to Central Vietnam the days, I get it back in a few days.
Day 7 Scooter Tour
The last night was a little different than normal because in the middle of the night I got a visitor. A little girl suddenly stood in my room looking for her mom. Accordingly, I was a bit tired this morning when I went to breakfast. I was greeted friendly and the Vietnamese coffee made me awake.
Punctually at 7:30 Lien's father already appeared to pick me up.
We drove with his scooter to the incense village, "Lang huon Thuy Xuan", which is located just outside of Hue. Fortunately, there wasn't much going on there, so I was able to let off some steam while taking pictures. I found a ladder and my host father set it up in the middle of the incense sticks. But this was so wobbly and rotten that he had to hold this and I moved only very slowly and carefully on it. So I got some new photographic perspectives. It's a miracle that I didn't fall down with this rattle rack and my photo actions.
In the back room of a store, I saw a young girl and asked her if I could take her picture. Somewhat shyly, she picked up a hat and came outside with me. Because of the sun and the hat she had on, there were great shades on her face. I showed her the photos afterwards and she thought they were great. I asked for your email and promised to send her the photos.
It was so extremely hot again today that I was already soaking wet again after a good 10 minutes of photographing.
Near the incense village there is inen small viewpoint "Vong Canh Hill" over the Perfume River and with a bunker from the war time. Here we both took a seat on a bench and communicated via google translate, because he unfortunately spoke as good as no English.
After a small break with a great view we drove a quarter of an hour until we stopped at an old water park. And there he was: The dragon
Children's laughter, water fun and action belong to the past. The place, which does not appear on any ordinary map, was as if extinct. A great Lostplace. In the rainy season you can take beautiful mirror pictures, so I tried to capture some great shots of the abandoned dragon and of a car. We walked across the bridge into the building. I love "Lost Places." Because they say so much and you always find something to photograph.
On the other side we walked over another bridge a little deeper into the jungle and passed a slide place. The jungle overgrows the water park! Nature had a firm grip on the slides and it really looked different, interesting but at the same time a bit weird. Nevertheless, I could very well imagine with how much life and fun this place must have been animated in former times.
The heat made us both so much to create that we looked for a café and I ordered us first a delicious ice cream. In the shade and in the wind of the fans we cooled down a bit and recovered from the efforts. I used the time to look at the photos. I realized that my camera settings were wrong. I corrected that and saw on the first blic no "mistakes" on the photos.
When we regained our strength, we drove five minutes to the Khai Dinh Royal Tomb, built for Khải Định, the twelfth emperor of Vietnam's Nguyễn dynasty. It features a blend of Vietnamese architecture and Western style. The tomb was completed in 1931 after 11 years of construction. I got a ticket, which cost just under 150,000 VND - that's 5.75 euros - and took a closer look at the tomb. In the meantime, Tung took a break under a tree in the shade.
When I came back to the meeting point, I asked if we could stop again briefly at the incense village on the way back, because I wanted to photograph again, with the right settings. No sooner said than done, after a good 20 minutes we arrived there. But now everything looked different here. Everything was full of people, so I did not stay long and we drove back to the homestay in Hue.
I thanked and said goodbye to Tung.
Since it is so extremely hot outside at noon, I spent the afternoon in the room, slept a little and picked out some things I want to look at tomorrow in Hue.
In the early evening I got ready again and roamed the streets until a scooter driver approached me, where I come from, how long I stay in Hue and that I should go to the "Dong Ba Market", which would have open and is great.
He also offered to drive me over there for a dollar. I made sure it would stay at one dollar and decided to switch to the other side of the river. Arrived at the market I wanted to pay, but he could not change to 5 dollars, instead he wanted to give me too little dong. I calculated with the Währugnsrechner and said that it is not true and thus he was content with 20,000 VND instead of 25,000 VND, which is equivalent to 0.95 €.
I first strolled around outside the market. It was not too busy, no tourists, only locals and I took a few photos. On the way back I looked for the way through the inside of the market, so through the hall.
Since Paul had not reported back to date, I walked a little along the waterfront until I came to the "Flag Tower". However, it was already dark, everything was closed and I was totally sweaty again, so I bought a delicious fresh peach tea at a bar that also had WIFI. I arranged to meet Paul and booked myself a "Grab Scooter" back to the old town.
It all worked smoothly and with Paul I then went out for a delicious meal. and We treated ourselves to a delicious cocktail, enjoyed the evening, strolled together through the nightlife of Hue and said goodbye.
Tomorrow he is already going to Hoi An. But maybe we'll see each other there again, we'll see.
Day 8 Vietnam History
On the last day in Hue, of course, some history was on the agenda, so after breakfast I again took a "Grab Scooter" across to the other side of the Perfume River to Imperial City, the Imperial Citadel.
It was once the place from which the Nguyen Dynasty ruled. Some of it was destroyed during the Vietnam War. I could still see that today. In some places they are now working on it again and restoring it.
As the center of Vietnam's royal dynasty, Hue Imperial City is a complex of about 100 monuments on 520 hectares. 13 emperors ruled and lived there in the pre-war period.
The Imperial City was built in 1804 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Once there, I bought a ticket for 200,000 VND, which is just under 7.50 € and walked across a moat and around large entrance gate. Fortunately, not too much was going on yet and so I could look at some buildings in peace. In the Imperial City are, among other things, some temple complexes, the forbidden Purple City, old archways, walls, memorials and much more.
You should plan at least half a day here if you want to see everything.
I was not quite through after four hours, but the heat was getting to me again, so I decided to leave the Imperial City again and go to the nearby "Dom Ba Market". There I first looked for a café, drank a delicious ice cream and regained my strength.
Afterwards I strolled for quite a while through the small alleys of the market.I could actually stay at the market all day and watch the locals shopping. And at every corner you can find great motives.
In the afternoon I rested and packed my things.
From 6 pm, the streets here in Hue are closed and called "Walking street". Find I really great, no annoying scooters or drivers. I treated myself to a little massage and went to sleep early, because the night will be short again. Why I tell you like tomorrow.
Day 9 - Drive from Hue- to Hoi An
The night was short, but my driver, whom I had booked through GetyourGuide, was at my homestay promptly at 4:30am. In the dark, we drove to a small fishing village located right on the "Đầm cầu Hai Lagoon".
The sky was slowly getting redder and brighter and you could already see the first fishermen coming back from fishing. I found the right position, or rather the right place to take pictures only later.
I sat down on the shore, set up my tripod, checked the settings and started to capture the local fishermen at their work.
At some point, children also came and had a great time splashing in the water and posing in front of the camera. At the end, however, you shouted, "Money, money." Of course I gave you something and the sparkle in the children's eyes was priceless.
Barely 15 minutes further we arrived at the next lagoon, the "Đầm Lập An". But there was dead pants, there was nothing going on, so we looked for a small beach café by the sea and we treated ourselves to a coffee.
After leaving the lagoon area, we went up the mountain. until we reached "Hai Van Pass", a scenic mountain pass with panoramic views and summit ruins. When other Asians spotted me I couldn't help taking photos with them, they thought I was so tall and said I had golden hair.
On the other side we went down again, because there was one more stop: "The Ba Na Hills" with its "Golden Bridge". But when I arrived there, I was shocked: I should pay another 900,000 VND to go up with a cable car. I didn't see that, I didn't want to push myself with thousands of other people there over a bridge and their fairyland.
So we continued on to the "Marble Mountains", which are a group of five marble mountains with several caves, ornate temples and viewpoints. I took an elevator to the top and strolled around a bit.
But today, it was again extremely hot, so after a good 40 minutes I returned to the meeting point and we drove the last 10 kilometers to my homestay https://tan-thanh-garden-homestay.business.site at the "An Bang Beach".
There I was already expected and warmly welcomed. After the formalities were done, they showed me my room and the facility. Lovely, with a view of the sea. But I first had to take a shower and lie down. The early rising, the long drive and the heat had made me tired agai
In the afternoon, I rented a bike for Paul and me each and we rode together to the "Tra Que herb Village" just 10 minutes away. Tra Que Herb Village or Tra Que Vegetable Village is famous for its vegetable cultivation, especially the aromatic herbs that are typical for Vietnamese cuisine.
It was just gorgeous because it was so quiet, no tourists and very friendly locals. As we passed a courtyard with loud music, I saw three guys drinking beer and eating. We stopped and I went into the courtyard to take a picture. And poof, Paul and I were invited for a beer. If it were up to the guys, we'd still be sitting there.
But after 20 minutes, we grabbed the bikes and rode around the village a bit more before parking them again and just walking through the fields.
Many things were told and explained to us. In addition, I was allowed to photograph again. Great motives.
We were back in time for sunset and jumped into the sea to cool down. Wonderful!
My diving gear is packed, battery is charged, memory card empty, tomorrow it's finally back: Under water!
Day 10 Birthday Diving in the Chienese Sea
Perfect for my birthday I had a healthy breakfast with a beautiful view of the sea.
Strengthened and almost on time I was picked up shortly after eight o'clock at my homestay by the diving school CHAM diving https://vietnamscubadiving.com and driven to the marina. In advance I had already corresponded with Lodo, the owner and agreed on a cooperation.
Arrived at the marina I was startled: A huge queue of people who had registered. At first I thought they were all there for diving, until I realized that some had also signed up just for a snorkeling trip.
When it was my turn, I was assigned a boat, a big wooden boat. When I saw all the scuba tanks, I knew it was going to be a "mass dive" for sure. Before we left, we were of course asked about our certificates, dives etc. and so on, and then we were put into the right groups. Apparently I was the most "experienced", because nobody had more than 40 dives. There I was with my 107 already a real "profi" :-)
My Divemaster Pierre, from Australia explained to me and my group, which consisted of four other divers, how the procedure will be. After a good hour and a half drive, we arrived at the "Cham Islands" and anchor was dropped. The first dive spot was called "Hon tai sough".We got ready and the crew helped us to "put on our jackets". Then it was off into the water with a big step ahead.
My group was up first. On the way down, one of the group had problems, I guess with the ear pressure, weights and mask, but only got it on the sidelines, so she stayed up and the five of us went on liveaboard.But there was not much to see. Right at the beginning two small "Ornate ghost pipefishes". Unfortunately the visibility was bad, maybe 5-8 meters.And except a few fish two small "Nudi branches" and some clownfish in the anemones not much to see, except rocks. The highlight was a nice big purple anemone. Normally, the view is clear and wide. Probably this is due to the side saion. And you can see stingrays and turtles with luck. But that's just nature. The water temperature was just under 28 degrees and we only dove to just under 15 meters deep on the first dive. I used the dive to work on my focus for photos, or a bit on the buoyancy. After about an hour we resurfaced together, I still had about 100 bar left.
Back on board we went to the second dive spot "Singh vien". I had the feeling that there was no real break and approached Pierre about it. He said we are still waiting and I can take my time, he will practice with the one lady who had to abort her first dive. As the last one, I also hopped into the water at some point and we dove down together.But also this dive was not really nice. Nothing to see until we found another beautiful big colorful anemone at the end.
For lunch we drove to a sandy beach, ate lunch together and then relaxed a bit on the beach.On the way back I slept a little on deck in a sun lounger and enjoyed the peace and the breeze.Around 4:30 p.m. we reached the marina and were taken to our accommodations.
I showered, read my birthday wishes and ordered a "Grab Scooter" to Hoi An, which is just under 5.5 km from the beach.Expensive this ride was not, the equivalent of 1.50 €. There I met with Paul and we went to eat together and drank a cocktail.
Afterwards, we walked a bit through the small streets, which are also closed in the evening for scooters and motorists and passed by the Diving Bar. Here we stopped again, met Pierre and another dive guide and toasted to my birthday. But I was tired from the day and so I said goodbye to everyone and drove back to my homestay.
Day 11 Beach and Hoi An City
Actually, I wanted to sleep in today. But nothing came of it, because at six o'clock I was already brightly awake - without alarm clock.I enjoyed quite quietly and relatively long my breakfast with a beautiful view.
After I had packed everything, I spent the morning on the beach and relaxed a bit, watched the fishermen fishing and swam a little in the sea.
Around noon I took your "Grab Taxi" to Hoi An City to my homestay https://misstenhomestay.com on one of the islands. My host mother was already waiting for me and brought me a fresh lemon juice because she didn't have fresh milk for a coffee.
But before I entered the homestay, I had to take off my shoes. There was no real check-in. We took my luggage to the room together, which was on the second floor.
I packed my things and went to see the old town. I let myself drift and strolled through the small streets. I noticed that there are more tourists here and every house is a store or cafe. Locals are more likely to be seen between the houses in the backyards or in very narrow alleys.
After a good half hour I needed a first break. 36 degrees, high humidity and that in the city. I was once again soaking wet. So I stopped at a café, ordered a chilled coconut coffee and an apple pie.
After this refreshment I strolled on until I came to a tailor who had been recommended to me. It has to be said that there are a lot of tailor/cloth stores, or leather stores here. But when I was supposed to choose a dress and the matching fabric, I was completely overwhelmed. I just can't imagine that I would like the dress afterwards. But for the price, I did want one. I also asked for a blazer. Despite their help, I could not and would not commit today, but promised to come back tomorrow afternoon, because I would have to sleep a night over it and ran back to the homestay to rest and cool down first.
In the evening I ran again briefly along the banks of the river and the small streets.
Day 12 Hoi An River Life
Also today the alarm clock rang before sunrise.
After the two photo tours with "Vietnam in focus" I had thought about booking a photo tour here as well and wrote to Yen in Hue to get more information about this tour. I liked the https://www.vietnaminfocus.com/day-tours/hoi-an-river-life-photo-tour/ tour and so I booked this tour with a discount.
At five o'clock I stood in front of my homestay and Christian https://www.vietnaminfocus.com/photographer/cristian-sorega/ and also Tung, who had traveled from Hanoi to Central Vietnam, picked me up.
But before we went on the boat to watch the local fishermen catching and fishing on the "Thu Bon River Delta" at sunrise, we walked through the market in Hoi An.
And I was amazed how much was already going on. No tourists were on the road, only locals. Christian explained to me how to take better pictures in the dark and I tried to implement this.
After all three of us had captured a few impressions with our cameras, we got on the boat and headed towards the sun. I enjoyed the ride, even though we saw very few fishermen at the beginning.
At some point we reached the traditional fish market "Duy Hai Fish Market". Also here was already quite a lot going on. It was a really colorful hustle and bustle to see. But I was also a bit shocked how dirty it was on the shore.
We walked along the market, which is located directly on the water, saw how was sold, but also how fresh fish was brought and loaded again. I was also able to watch how ice cream is produced. The people here are all very friendly and were happy that I photographed them. Some even post properly.
With the boat, we then drove further along the river "Duy Hai", saw now and then again fishermen, but far away from their nets. And exactly that I wanted to photograph: Fishermen at their nets while fishing.
The next stop was the "Kim Bong Carpentry Village", which today is considered the origin of the generations of craftsmen in Vietnam. But before we marveled at the craftsmen and the artwork, we took a seat at a small cafe on the shore and fortified ourselves with a coffee or a smoothie.
After the small break, we walked through the small village and could observe and photograph how people carve, craft or otherwise make some things out of wood. I found that great. A little something I bought, but of course only with bargaining.
Last but not least we drove to the "shipyards". But on the way we passed an active fisherman. It was great and very interesting to watch and photograph him at his work.
At the ship values we could see how people restored the old boats.
Unfortunately, this tour had an end at some point and so we came back to the port of Hoi An around 9:30. We walked together to my homestay. I thanked them for the great time and said goodbye.
My host mother was already waiting and made me a small breakfast. Afterwards, I took a shower, slept a round and sifted through my photo yield. For lunch I was invited by the host family and so I had lunch together with them, which was very tasty.
I spent the early afternoon in my room because it was just too hot outside.
Later I walked again to "Old town", because I wanted to go to a tailor again. My host mother recommended me one, I wanted to see it in any case.
First I looked for the leather store that Paul had recommended to me. He had himself had a bag made there according to his ideas.
Again, I was overwhelmed to find something for myself, but I found a belt for my mother.
Then I went to the tailor store https://www.billbentailor.com that had been recommended to me. There it looked much quieter and tidier today than yesterday.
The two ladies were very patient with me and took a lot of time.
After some back and forth and negotiating, I decided on a blazer, a dress and a top. Measurements were taken on me, I made a deposit and tomorrow I could already pick up everything, they told me. However, since I will not be in Hoi An tomorrow, we arranged for Friday morning. Because if something still had to be changed, you would still have the Friday during the day.
I am very curious whether it meets my expectations and really suits me.
Since it was already dark, I returned to my homestay, packed my photo backpack and organized everything for tomorrow, because then it is called for me: Wildlifephototour.
Day 13 In search of the most beautiful monkeys in the world
My driver was over-punctual this morning, so we left shortly after five o'clock.
Today's goal: to find the most beautiful monkeys in the world, which exist only in central Vietnam. Most of them live on the Son Tra peninsula near the city of Da Nang. Already in Germany I contacted Luc from https://www.ecoguidevietnam.com . He offers many wildlife tours in Vietnam. With him I could arrange a cooperation.
After about a forty minute drive I met Luc. He was already waiting for me. However, instead of us walking into the jungle as I usually do, we rode a scooter up the mountain. I quickly realized that it was not a real jungle. After barely five minutes it was: We met three local photographers, also on the way with their scooters and photo equipment. They had already spotted the first "red-legged dress monkeys" high up and in the far distance in the trees.
We stopped and I unpacked my tripod, telephoto lens and camera. Then I looked for a good position and focused. Anyone who photographs wildlife, especially monkeys, knows that it is not always easy to get the fidgety animals in focus. Two of them were eating, climbing and jumping from tree to tree. Nevertheless, I managed to get some pictures.
Luc called me over because he had spotted another family of monkeys. Some of them were walking over a hanging bridge that was built especially for the monkeys to cross the road that runs through the peninsula and the jungle.
The locals chatted with Luc and said that I was really lucky, because usually you look for these monkeys often for hours or even days. Often without success. And I see after five minutes already two families. When the families moved further into the thicklich, Luc and I drove a bit further into the jungle, because he wanted to find another family with a baby. And we were lucky with that as well. We spotted them and were able to take some good photos.
After two hours, my yield was satisfactory. Actually, I had booked a full day, but after I already found three families, I asked him if there were more animals. He denied and I asked him if we would then end the tour. He left it to me, even said that he did not want money, I would only have to pay the driver. since we were only two hours together on tour and he is happy when I am satisfied.
I was, but still gave him a decent tip, paid the driver and still saved almost 100 €.
When I was back at the homestay, I also got breakfast and was invited to dinner. I retreated for the first time to my room and slept a short round, before I lost myself again in the alleys of Oldtown.
First I treated myself to a massage today. No matter which, they are relatively good and cheap here in Vietnam and all of Asia.
After kneading, I ran to the tailor store, because I was curious if not yet my things were ready. Arrived there I was greeted warmly and indeed, the blazer was ready. But when I put it on, I didn't like some details yet. But that was no problem for the women and put it on directly. Tomorrow morning everything should be ready and if there is still something then, you would adjust it during the day. Meanwhile I have a good feeling.
When I passed a small leather store, I saw a bag that I immediately fell in love with. But the color didn't fit me and so I picked out another leather. The bag should also be ready tomorrow. In addition to my bag, I also found one for my sister.
Since shopping and walking around is exhausting, I took a seat in a café, ordered an ice cream and watched the hustle and bustle on the streets.
Back at the homestay, I took a shower and then had dinner. We chatted and tomorrow I will go to soccer in the evening with the host father and son to take pictures of the locals playing.
After dinner I grabbed my camera again and went out the door. I wanted to take some night shots of the street life in Hoi An today. It was great, the glowing lanterns everywhere, street food and lots of live music.
In a bar I read me down, ordered me a beer and enjoyed the evening.
Day 14 Last day in Vietnam
The last day of my 14-day trip through Vietnam I wanted to approach today a little quieter and more relaxed. So I slept in, had breakfast in peace and then went to the tailor store.
Once there, they were already waiting for me. I tried on the blazer first. So completely it still did not fit and one of the two women took directly the changes. The same with the top. However, I liked it already very well.
But with the dress it looked different. I looked like a potato sack. The cut, the shape, the fabric. Somehow nothing fit and I felt mega uncomfortable. Then they said they could adjust it by tonight, that would be no problem, but I didn't want any more. I also no longer believed in it and let it stay. Alternatively, one of the women wanted to offer me another dress with a different cut, but I refused. I had no more patience. I decided, however, for a second top, slightly changed. Here we could also agree on price complete and I had to pay nothing for the dress. Tonight I look again and hope that now everything fits.
Next, I visited the leather store to pick up the bags for my sister and me. And everything fit here.I was very pleased.But that was not all.I went to a coffee shop "Lauterus Coffee & Tea", because I wanted to get Vietnamese coffee for friends, family and me.In the process, I drank an egg coffee.
Afterwards I brought everything to my room, packed and slowly I doubted whether everything will go smoothly tomorrow with the weight. Let's wait and see.
Since it was already noon and accordingly hot, I stayed a while in the room, because my circulation actually made something flabby. When I had recovered, I looked for a snack and stopped again at a massage parlor.
Shortly after 5 p.m., I rode with my host father, Khanh Nguyen, on the scooter to a place where he met with three of his friends.
At first they found it a bit funny that I was there, but then they started to play soccer. But not with a normal soccer ball, but with a small one, similar to a handball, only made of plastic.
I took pictures of them and after a quarter of an hour I said goodbye, because I wanted to pick up my blazer and the tops. Everything was already ready and this time it fit.
Satisfaction on all sides. I thanked, paid and strolled in the evening a last time through the bright streets of the old town.
Tomorrow it is then: Goodbye Vietnam, because it goes back to Germany.
I enjoyed one last time the delicious breakfast of Tran Hong, who is actually only called "Miss Tran". In the process, I met a German couple who are currently making a small trip around the world and so we got to talking. They were raving about Tokyo. I think Japan will be on my wish list.
Around 11 o'clock Khanh Nguyen, my host father, helped me to carry my luggage. After all, it had to go back down from the 2nd floor and into the car. The children joined me and everyone bid me a warm farewell. I took this family so much to my heart. Khanh then drove me to Da Nang, three quarters of an hour away, and to the airport.
Once there, there were small complications, because before I can go to the check in counter, I had to go to another place, pick up my booking number there. I had booked through Qatar and their number was not valid here. I got the number quickly and went with it to the check in counter. Then everything worked. I was even able to check a second piece of luggage at no extra cost. When I asked if I could get a seat further forward at the window, it was said that it costs something, 90,000 VND, the equivalent of just under 3.50 €. So I didn't say no and instead of the 6th row I even got a seat in the 1st row. The security check was not an issue.
We flew over Da Nang along the coast towards the north. It was nice to see Vietnam also partly from above again.
In Hanoi, I first had to collect my luggage, since it was only a domestic flight, take the shuttle over to the international terminal and check in again.
With the Silver Card, I also did not have to stand in line and also got a ticket for the business lounge. This was above the gates. You could look from there nicely on the planes and the runways.
Arrived in Doha, I also had some stay and wanted in the Silverlounge to sleep something. But this was full and so I was unceremoniously ubgegradet in the Premium lounge. Here I could rest a little and also sleep.
Shortly after sunrise we flew over Munich and landed on time.
My trip ends here and I am happy to have taken such great people and impressions from Vietnam.
Goodbye Vietnam and thank you for all the great time!
Recommended contact details:
Vietnam im Fokus: https://www.vietnaminfocus.com
Hue Sweethouse 2 Homestay: Telefon: +84 795 669 199, Email: email@example.com
Tan Than Garden Homestay: https://tan-thanh-garden-homestay.business.site
Miss Ten Homestay, Hoi An: https://misstenhomestay.com
Cham Island Diving: https://vietnamscubadiving.com
Eco Guide In Vietnam, Luc Nguyen: https://ecoguidevietnam.com
Bill Ben Tailor: https://www.billbentailor.com, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org