Do you remember Khuyen? Well today she dropped by for a visit. She is now a married woman and is looking good. I am happy she is OK.
Sometime back I wrote a blog on what I thought would be an off the beaten track tour. I was fortunate enough to be hired by a very nice couple to take them on such a tour and we had a blast! It is two years since the original post and I have become much more knowledgeable about the roads, cities, and towns that are suitable to visit. We were even fortunate enough to be the first foreigners (my supposition) that traveled former forbidden roads along the Cambodian border. They had only a week prior been opened and the shock on the faces as we drove by was priceless. We did have some scary
moments being shadowed by police, but it all turned out ok…. Anyway….. I am going astray. Based on my knowledge and experience after traveling extensively in central and southern Vietnam, Here is what I would consider to be my ultimate off the beaten track tour. It does not include northern destination as I have been there a number of times, but mostly to the known places… This trip is about the lesser known.
After arriving in Saigon I would spend a couple of days just getting used to the shock and confusion. Then the tour begins……..
Day1 We would visit a floating village and end arriving in Vinh Long where I would board my private Sampan to take me to my homestay for the night
Day2 We would set off and travel along less traveled roads to U Minh Thuong National park for a boat ride down waterways enjoying different wild life and then overnight in a local residents house.
Day3 After another day of traveling non tourist trails, we will stop in Tra Su national park for another interesting and beautiful boat ride. We then perhaps visit Sam Mountain and overnight in Chau Doc.
Day4 On the way back to Saigon we will stop at Xeo Quit and other venues (hopefully less touristy) and overnight in Saigon
Day5 Your Motorcycle /bus/car guides will pick you up at your hotel and set out through the hectic streets of Saigon. We will visit Cu Chi tunnels in the morning and then head off on back road adventures traveling roads that very few ever see. The scenery will change from the urban housing and businesses, gradually to glowing green rice fields. Overnight in Dong Xoai.
Day6 We wake up and spend the day exploring little travelled back roads and interact with the surprised locals. We drive through areas of great beauty into a mountain range and jungles. Overnight in Gia Nghia
Day7 We continue into the mountains to the central highlands where we will stop to visit some plantations and mingle with the locals. Overnight in Buon Ma Thuot.
Day8 Will be a interesting drive where we will visit coffee plantations, pepper farms, visit a fishing village and enjoy a scenic drive to Nha Trang
Day9-11 Relax in Nha Trang and enjoy some of the attractions or local tours available (on the beaten track 😉
Day12 We set out through the country roads amidst jungle and sugarcane fields before making the high climb into the mountains as high as 2500 meters. We will stop at a minority village and end in Dalat where we will visit a beautiful and fun waterfall and a tranquil Temple. Overnight in Dalat
Day13 We will start with a few local Dalat attractions before descending from the high mountain city into the Central highlands
Along the way we will visit a silk manufacturing facility and a large happy Buddha, then overnight at Lak Lake.
Da 14 We spend a slow and leisurely day exploring the highlands and visiting with local hill tribe people still locked in their traditional ways. We can perhaps ride an Elephant and explore small back roads. In the afternoon we will visit Dreynur waterfalls and then stay once again in Buon Ma Thuot.
Day15 We depart northward and spend the day enjoying the local sights, walk on a suspension bridge, visit Sea Lake, and finish in Kom Tum where we will visit with more minority people.
Day16 Again we will head into the mountains and join up with the original Ho Chi Minh Trail. We will enjoy spectacular beauty and visit with some mountain people. Overnight in Kham Duc
Day17 Will take us further the Ho Chi Minh Trail through spectacular vistas and minority mountain people. We will overnight in A Luoi (The famous Hamburger Hill)
Day18 Continues the drive past famous battlefields, ethnic villages, and beautiful countryside to Khe Sahn
Day19 We will reach our northernmost destination and explore the beautiful limestone formations and caves of Phong Nga
Day20 We continue our visit in the DMZ and end our day in Dong Hoi
Day21 From Dong Hoi we spend the day visiting interesting sites on the road to Hue
Day 22-23-24 Enjoy Hue
Day 24-25-26 Back into the touristy world and Relax in Hoi An before returning to Saigon or continuing on to Hanoi with a flight from Danang. A person could even continue to complete the circle by visiting Quy Nhon and Tuy Hoa before catching a return flight from Nha Trang.
If this trip is done by car or bus, the duration will be a few days shorter and still enjoyable, however, much of what makes a trip like this special is also lost such as the small non traveled roads, and the interaction with other people. It could also be shortened by eliminating the Mekong pertion at the beginning, but I enjoy the less touristy parts of the Mekong, so it is included.
The above trip is based on things that I enjoy seeing and experiencing and is not for
everybody. Trips such as this is part of my daily life. Sometimes there can be long hard days of driving, hotels or restaurants that are not quite to a tourists standard, bad weather, and other unforeseen circumstances, however, a trip like this is something that very few foreigners would ever experience and make you feel like one of the rare individuals that will truly have a good understanding of the country and its people. I will let someone else on some other blog tackle such a trip for the north.