Southeast Asia 2023 – Vietnam: Mỹ Sơn Trek and Hội An

My final post about this trip to Indochina starts with another guided trek in the jungle mountains around the ancient Hindu ruins at Mỹ Sơn and ends with a phenomenal, large-scale theatrical performance combining elements of Cirque de Soleil, Olympic Game opening ceremonies, and Super Bowl halftime shows in the old town of Hội An. Together, they provide fascinating glimpses of Vietnam‘s long history and the country’s contemporary vibrancy.

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Southeast Asia 2023 – Vietnam: Ninh Binh

Coming down from the high mountains on the Hà Giang Loop, I spent a few days in the bustling capital city of Hanoi before continuing south to the quieter city of Ninh Bình. I visited the UNESCO World Heritage Sites at Tràng An and Tam Coc to see more karst limestone mountains and caves that can only be reached by guided rowboats. They are very popular with tourists, so it felt crowded initially, but once the boats spread out on the river and we entered the caves, we on our boat felt quite alone. The quietness of nature around us was much appreciated.

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Southeast Asia 2023 – Vietnam: Hà Giang Loop

My injured ankle continued to keep me from trekking to ethnic tribal villages in the mountains of Southeast Asia, but I found another way to get to those parts of northern Vietnam: on the back of a motorcycle! Tour operator Authentic Ha Giang helps visitors who don’t have strong riding skills to team up with their professional “Easy Riders.” Together with my riding partner and our group leader, 24-year-old “Johnny,” I joined a few friendly tourists from around the world for 3 days, making our way on the winding roads and paths of the “Hà Giang Loop.”

Hà Giang Province is Vietnam’s northernmost province, bordering China, and is considered the country’s “final frontier.” We passed many ethnic villages, but at a speed that made it impossible to have any personal interaction with local people, as I had on my hiking treks. To compensate, however, I was able to see so much more of the incredible landscape than I would have been able to see on foot, so I really didn’t mind at all.

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Southeast Asia 2023 – Vietnam: Hạ Long Bay and Cát Bà Island

Still trying to stay off my feet, I continued my trip by traveling from Laos to northern Vietnam, starting first in the iconic Hạ Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Cát Bà Island. My primary means of transportation were ferry, cruise boat, and motorbike to explore amongst the thousands of karst islands over a few days. This allowed me to see this incredible landscape in various weather conditions and at different times of the day. Please enjoy some of the photos I took.

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Southeast Asia 2023 – Ethnic Tribes and the Secret War

Before I continue my travelogue, I want to share some information about the unique ethnic groups in this part of the world and some of their tragic history in the recent past. My interest spawned from my years in Namibia, where I met friends from the many different African tribes that make that country so fascinating and strong. It was intensified a few years ago when I met a young man – one of my teacher trainers – who told me he was Hmong and that his family was part of the “large diasporic community in the United States of more than 300,000” (Wikipedia) that escaped to the US and other countries after the “Secret War.” I had no idea what he was talking about, and what I have since learned has blown my mind. A part of my country’s history during my lifetime that I might not otherwise have learned about…

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