I went to Vietnam on January 6 and spent 2 days in Hanoi which was an interesting experience (they have cerrtain streets where only a particular product or product range is sold – e.g. the shoe street, the Bamboo street, the silver street, the coffin! street, the paper street, etc…)
One thing I learnt there (which was also one of the most important things!) was how to cross the street there without getting hit by a few hundreds of motorbikes! The traffic there is CRAZY and still bicycle drivers, pedestrians, motorbike drivers and cars manage to get through the streets with very few accidents. The first few times I waited for minutes to cross and locals smiled at me because they must be used to this sight of tourists almost peeing in their pants before walking across the street (the best tihing is sneak up to a local and walk next him when he crosses!:)
On day 3 I started an 8 day tour across the North, Northeast and Central part of Vietnam (this time with an organized tour in order to manage to see so much in such a short time). First we went via Lao Chai to Sapa with an overnight train. Lao Chai and Sapa are close to the Chinese border and Sapa is a mountain town  at 1650 metres of altitude and is known for beautiful views and for the many little villages of various hill tribes living there. When we arrived there at 5.30 a.m. it was cooooold and damp and foggy and hopped right into bed for 2 hours to warm up and get some rest before our first hike of the day in the Sapa mountain area. We had a lovely guide for 3 days: her name is Mang and she is an 18 year old girl from the tribe hill of the Black H’Mong. She hiked to some hill tribe villages with us (Black H’Mong, Red Dzao and Flower H’Mong tribes) which were far off from the main touristy tracks and we had lunch in the peoples houses abd learned a lot about their culture, customs and way of living. It is amazing at how simple the houses are there, it was really cold (4-10 degrees Celcius) and people and even small kids run around barefoot or in the traditional skirts and sleep on the cold floors. We also visited the famous Sunday market in the village of Bah Ha which was the most colourful experience I have ever had: the women of the Flower H’Mong tribe buy and sell handicraft, embroidery and their traditional skirts and shirts and it is just sooooooo busy and beautiful there (check out the photos I uploaded!). There is also a section of the market where living animals are sold: water buffalos, pigs, dogs, chicken and horses. After I heard the pigs screaming their guts our when they were put into tight cages or bags I promised myself not to eat pork meat for a while (wasn’t really possible though because we got served pork meat very often in restaurants!).
After spending 4 hours at this amazing market we went back with the train to Hanoi and then continued to the East of Vietnam by car – Bai Tu Long Bay was the nezt stop. Instead of going to touristy and buzy Halong Bay we went to the “sister” of Halong Bay named Bai Tu Long Bay where there are hardly any tourists. We had a 3 hour boat tour through the many limestone islands and spent one night at a big island in that Bay where we did some biking the next morning and then some kayaking along floating villages.
We continued our drive to Tam Coq which is a really nice are 2 hours Southeast of Hanoi. The are is covered with rice fields and also limestone hills along the rivers. We spent our time there with biking and going on boat rides and a day after that we drove to Cuc Phuong National Park to do some walking in the lush tropical rainforest. We also visited the Endangered Primate Rescue Center which rescues, studies and breeds various monkeys ( some of them are endangered and very popular among hunters who get a lot of money for them by selling them to restaurants or for medicinal purposes). Pur last day was also very memorable where we went on a long bikeride to Mai Chau which is a village inhabited by a tribe called THAI and those people live in stilt houses. We stayed with a local family in their stilthouse and slept on floormats and thick blankets since it was also freezing cold there (needless to say that I skipped the cold outdoor shower at 5 degrees and mountain spring water temperature!:)) After that we drove back to Hanoi and I went straight to the airport to head for Melbourne.
I want to say the biggest THANK YOU to Kathi from HTS Reisen in Vienna – the BEST travel agent in the world – who helped me out with the problems I had with my ticket there within a few minutes on the phone! Thanks, KATHI! :)))
So now I am in Melbourne (missing the Australian Open by ONE day:(() and I will be flying to Tasmania tomorrow to encounter many more adventures and doing a lot of hiking! 

About Brita Graser

my biggest passion: travelling. That's why I created this blog - to share my adventures and experiences with of of those who have the same interest. enjoy!

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