The collected writings of a Renegade Tourist

Month October 2016

The Big Indochina Trip: hanging out in Hanoi 

We’ve spent several days in Hanoi taking in the sights at a relaxed pace and generally just kind of hanging out in the city, walking around in the old quarter. Thanks to Yini’s research we’ve also had some really good meals in nice restaurants. 

Except for the markets in the old quarter, most of the things to see in Hanoi are museums. 
 Hoa Lo prison museum is pretty powerful as the old cells are still there and you can sense the brutal life of the prisoners. 

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The Big Indochina Trip: Ninh Binh to Hanoi

The goal of the day was to reach Hanoi, but it’s only 90 kilometers from Ninh Binh so we could take things easy. What we missed when we went to Tam Coc was Hang Mua,  a temple high up on one of the karsts overlooking the river. Spending the morning there was a given choice. Though the karsts are not particularly tall, they are steep and the climb up was pretty hard work with the sun beating down on you. Once at the top though, that hard work pays off because the view of the landscape below is pretty spectacular. … Read the rest

The Big Indochina Trip: exploring Ninh Binh 

Ninh Binh itself is a pretty small town and not much to see inside the city. The reason people come here is to see the countryside. The landscape is somewhat reminiscent of that of Halong bay with the same kind of karst cliffs but instead of islands in the sea, they stick up out of fields, rice paddies and rivers. The best (or at least most famous) place for seeing this landscape is Tam Coc, some seven or eight kilometers from the city centre. You rent a boat for two or maybe three people and a local person rows (using … Read the rest

Duong De road, 3:29 pm 

The road, raised on an embankment, cuts straight through the Vietnamese countryside. On the right are yellowish green fields with grazing cattle here and there, and a few scattered houses. In the far distance a row of mountains frame everything in, and up above pure white clouds tower majestically in the clear blue sky. To the left the square pools of the rice paddies are almost indistinguishable from the river that curves it’s way through the landscape; old barges that look too big to fit between the rice paddies floating lazily by. In the middle distance the karst cliffs rise … Read the rest

The Big Indochina Trip: from Cat ba to Ninh Binh 

After two wonderful days on Halong bay it was time to leave. The guy at the tour company told us the ferry back to Tuan Chua left at 8 am, 11 am or 3 pm. We figured we could take it easy in the morning and slowly make our way to the ferry terminal at the other side of the island and catch the ferry at 11. It took us a bit longer than expected to pack our stuff however, so when we left the hotel we were in a bit of a rush. When we were just a few … Read the rest

The Big Indochina Trip: Cruising the karsts

One of Vietnam’s most famous landmarks is Halong bay and the thousands of limestone islands (often called karsts) that stick up from the turquoise waters. There are plenty of operators that run boat tours to the bay, most of them out of Halong city. We tried to skip the crowds by taking a tour from Cat ba island instead. To get the most out our experience we went for a somewhat more expensive option and took a two day tour with a night on the boat. This worked out really well, we only had nine people on our boat, we … Read the rest

Lan Ha bay, 10:06 am

All around us are little islets, grey limestone rising up sharply out of the turquoise waters, the tops covered in verdant green plants, against the background of a pale blue sky. Whichever way you turn there is beauty, more cliffs in a variety of shapes, more little islets and more turquoise waters; crisp clear colors grey, green, sky blue and the deep turquoise of a tropical sea. I sit back in my sun deck chair and watch the gorgeous views flow by as our boat chugs lazily along.… Read the rest

Ha long bay hidden lagoon, 3:29 pm 

We are paddling through a cave, the roof so low that the upper end of our paddles almost scrape it. We paddle past shell encrusted limestone formations hanging down from the roof and as we come around a corner the darkness opens up to a small lagoon. Grey karst cliffs rise sharply from the turquoise waters, up towards the pale blue sky. The cliff tops are dotted with greenery, trees climbing the steep sides, their branches hanging down over the water. We stop paddling and glide slowly out on the lagoon.… Read the rest

The Big Indochina Trip: Meeting up with Renegade Wife then off to Cat Ba island 

The night bus arrived in Hanoi around four in the morning. Still groggy with sleep I rode my bike to the hotel which was completely dark. I rang the doorbell hoping someone would answer. After a few minutes the hotel owner, who I must have woken up, let me in and quickly ushered me to a room. I slept for a few hours then took the motorbike out to the airport to pick up Renegade Wife. Since she was tired after her early morning flight, we took it very slow during the day, just wandered around the Hoan Kiem lake … Read the rest

The Big Indochina Trip: More caves and then the night bus

I normally don’t get hung over when traveling, I don’t know why but seems to work whenever I’m abroad. Yesterday I relied on this a bit too much and partied a bit too hard with some friends from the hostel. I had planned to take the bike and just ride around in the national park but when I woke up I was in no state to ride a motorbike. So, I skipped that and joined another cave tour instead. The Phong Nha cave is up the river from the village so the tour starts with a 45 minute boat ride … Read the rest

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