I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published May 5th 2020
I was very lucky to go on a fantastic trekking trip in the Northern Hills of Vietnam recently and got home just before Australia went into lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic. The trek was organised through my local Brisbane bushwalking club. Our group of 13 had wonderful weather. It only rained on our last day when we were back in Hanoi.
Beautiful North Vietnam- Photo by Gavin Blakey
We did the nine-day, eight-night trek with a local Vietnamese Company, Mr Linh's Adventures, a professional, enthusiastic Vietnam tour company, specialising in off-the-beaten-path and adventure tours in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Our group having lunch, photo Gavin Blakey
They were wonderful and I would recommend them very highly. We had our own personal guide, Loi and bus driver. Cathy Ha from the company did a brilliant job organising our trip for us.
Scenery, Photo Gavin Blakey
The bus picked us up from our hotel in the old part of Hanoi and headed off into the hills to the North of the city. Over nine days we trekked through a variety of habitats and interacted with remote hill tribes. We walked 17 – 18 kilometres some days and shorter 5-10 kilometres on other days. We only had to carry daypacks as we stayed in village homestays with local families or in hotels each night.
We trekked through Vietnam's big-sky country through rugged mountain passes close to the China border, through hilly forested areas, rice terraces and rain forests. We visited deep, incredibly beautiful underground caves and waterfalls and cruised and kayaked on Lake Ba Be in the Ba Be National Park.
We ate delicious traditional Vietnamese food, drank homemade rice wine and met amazing, friendly colourful ethnic groups. Our journey off the beaten track let us explore the most beautiful landscapes of Northern Vietnam where we met ethnic minorities such as the Dzao, black and flower Lo Lo, Hmong, Tay, and Nung peoples on the trails and in their remote villages.
We walked along the happiness road. The road was commenced on September 10th 1959 and completed six years later on March 10, 1965. The 200 kilometres of road was made out of 2,899,638m3 of stone. According to the plaque "This is a historical work, a glorious feat that demonstrating will and strength of people against nature.
The road brings happiness to rocky highlands, being exchanged by sweat, tears and sacrifices. The road of happiness has changed the face of material and spiritual life for people in Dong Van rocky highland. From an almost rocky region, thanks to the road, people in Ha Giang now easily trade with each other to help boost the economy as well as area's security. The Ma Pi Leng Pass is the most astonishing mountain road in Vietnam".
There were hardly any tourists in the areas we went, apart from some young adventurers who had hired motorbikes to drive around the hair raising bends on mountain passes amongst the beautiful scenery. I think we experienced more of the culture and scenery by walking. We visited the King's Palace in the H'mong village of Sa Phin, built in the early 20th century. The area is also notable for its many corn plantations.
We experienced amazing geography on our walks, including huge karst mountains, deep gorges and winding rivers. We walked through rice paddies and local villages. We watched hard-working local people working their land, using hand tools and tilling their fields with buffaloes. We also watched talented people doing local crafts spinning, and dyeing their hand made clothes.
We visited and trekked in Ha Giang, Don Van, Meo Vac, Bao Lac, Ba Be National Park. The price for the trip included all our transport, meals and accommodation, sightseeing tickets and travel permits. Loi, our guide spoke very good English and told us lots of interesting information about his country and people. The whole trekking trip with 13 people only cost us US$529 each. For more information about the company go to their websit www.mrlinhadventure.com/en/home.aspx
Photos don't show the beauty of the Ha Giang area where we were surrounded by high mountain peaks. The colourful hill tribe people including the Dzao, Hmong, and Tay have their own culture and dress.
The Dau Dang Waterfall, which lies on the border of the two provinces of Bac Kan and Tuyen Quang, was a highlight of our trip, as well as a boat ride on Ba Be Lake where we saw a wedding on the cliffs at the side of the lake.
COVID-19 had just begun in China when we were in Vietnam. Since we got back to Australia, it has spread all over the world. Two friends went onto Cambodia for a couple of weeks after our trip, and they had to go into quarantine when they returned home. A few people got colds and got tested for the virus after returning to Australia, but they were all negative.
Vietnam is a beautiful place and the Vietnamese people are lovely, friendly people. One woman on our trip had her 60th birthday during the trek, and the company organized a wonderful party and cake. We played karaoke and danced. It was a very memorable trip. Loi made a video. You can see it here.