Northern Vietnam’s treasures: Halong Bay, Hue & Da Nang
After spending a lot of time in Sapa and Hanoi, I needed to hurry up to the other cities if I wanted to stick to my plan. A lot of these cities have only 1 or 2 things which were worth visiting for a couple of days.
Halong BayHalong Bay is one of the most scenic and famous places whenever you talk about Vietnam. This UNESCO World Heritage protected bay area with nearly 3000 little islands makes a great facebook cover photo and postcard picture. Of course with the luck I have, I visited Vietnam during raining season, meaning I didn’t get the chance to take those wonderful sunny bay photo’s you see online. Most travel agencies offer you a packaged deal where they take you to one of the most famous island in the bay, Cat Ba island with an overnight stay on the boat. This way you can wake up early for sun to rise over the rocks in the bay. The trip to Cat Ba island stops at a few other islands along the way to visit some caves on the islands. I originally planned to just take the boat to Cat Ba island, spend a night or 2 there exploring the island. When we were nearing the island, the guide offered some us a night on the boat for a cheaper price. I figured this wasn’t a bad deal and accepted the deal and decided to head to the island in the morning. But of course the next morning it was pouring down already even before the sun was up so needless to say that there was not glorious sunrise over the bay. Even when going to Cat Ba island it was still raining heavily. The same boat picked up the people that stayed in the island the night before and was headed back to Halong City. Since it was raining really badly, I didn’t feel like staying 1-2 days waiting for the rain to pass. Instead I just took the boat back and headed to my next destination: Hue.
Hue used to be the political capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen dynasty as you all know. This meaning of course that there are a lot of remnants of old temples, pagodas and imperials palaces. That is one of the reasons that most people pay a visit here, the Imperial citadel which surrounds the Purple Forbidden City. For the people that have visited the “real” Forbidden City in Beijing before, this seems to be a miniature version of it. There are several houses on the ground which were used by the royal family and their servants.The area and buildings by themselves were pretty interesting to see, it’s just such a pity that so many of the buildings were in such poor condition. Most of gates seem so neglectd that it’s hardly worth taking pictures of. Then again, the deteriorating look does have a historal feel to it. But in my opinion, if they fixed up the place a bit, it could be a great money maker for local tourism. Anyhow, I visited the Citadel and checked out the Thien Mu pagoda, one of the most famous buildings in Vietnam, all in one day so the next day I left for Da Nang.
Looking back at it now, I don’t know why I would stop by a city, just for a museum. Da Nang is home to the Museum of Cham sculptures. I am a fan of Cham sculptures, but at the time, I realised that this wasn’t exactly a stop worth stopping for. I did meet up with a couchsurfer who just came back to his hometown after spending a few years in the States studying. He took me around on his motorbike and explained me some of the changes of the city of Da Nang over the years.The city itself is pretty lively and modern, but not enough to make you actually stay a few days, especially if you have tight itinerary.