Join BBMLive’s Oonagh Turner as she takes on Urban Adventures Citadels, Karsts and Cycle Tour through Vietnam.
Urban Adventures Citadels, Karsts and Cycle Tour Review
The north of Vietnam has plenty to offer any budding traveler. From its rich ancient and recent history, its fascinating eastern culture to the scenic countryside of cascading rice paddies, limestone rock formations and the meandering Mekong River that runs the length of the country. On board Urban Adventures’ Citadels, Karsts and Cycle tour, you can explore the beautiful north of this incredible country in detail.
The tour is based just to the north of Hanoi – a sprawling urban metropolis in the north of Vietnam where the east meets west in the form of French colonial buildings, and where a seemingly constant stream of motorbikes plough tirelessly through the city streets. The tour picked us up from our hostel base in Hanoi and drove us north of the city to Ninh Binh – a district that was once home to the ancient capital of Vietnam, and our first spot on the tour – Hoa Lu.
Once we arrived to Hoa Lu, our guide showed us round the temples that still serve as sacred sites of worship of the ancient kings and queens that ruled the country in the 10th and 11th centuries. The ancient citadel once covered 300 hectares of land, but today the temples built on the original foundations of the old palaces are all that remains.
The intricately carved wooden temples are a peaceful place to escape the heat of the day, and the surrounding rocky limestone mountains that once served as a natural protective frontier to the capital, make the spot one of natural beauty and a far cry from the urban chaos that is Hanoi.
After learning the rich history of this district, we were given our bikes and helmets for our 12km bike ride. The route lead us through rice fields, past the winding Ngo Dong River and through lush green valleys, whilst weaving through the impressively formed limestone karsts.
Our guide was more than happy to stop along the route to allow us to take photos of the picturesque sights and take in the serene beauty of this region. He was also more than willing to answer any questions we had about modern Vietnamese culture, from queries about life under communist rule to his fascinating and personal account of life during the Vietnam War. He also taught us some basic Vietnamese lingo. After the bike ride, we arrived at our lunch spot for a marvellous spread of traditional Vietnamese dishes where we could fill our boots before the next activity.
After a hearty lunch, we visited Trang An – a new addition to UNESCO’s list of heritage sites. The site is often referred to as the Halong Bay of the land due to its spectacular scenery. We boarded a rowing boat and began a tranquil boat ride that took us deep into caves in the limestone karsts and out the other side.
Our skipper was a fascinating character and veteran from the Vietnam War who adopted a Vietnamese rowing technique whereby he used his feet to pedal us along. We passed bathing water buffalos escaping from the sweltering heat and fields of locus flowers – the national symbol of Vietnam.
The river tour was a tranquil way to end of what was overall a fantastic day full of activity, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Additional information: tour costs $99AUD tour. Comes with local English speaking guide, entrance fees as indicated, transportation, bike and helmet and lunch.
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By Oonagh Turner