Despite the huge variety of facilities and methods of transport available to the modern-day traveller, in the end, there is nothing to beat the oldest travel method of all – walking! Whether that means strolling around the old Quarter in Hanoi or reaching some hill tribe village after trekking through dense rainforest and crossing mountain paths, there is a great satisfaction to having done it under your own steam. And there are some places that can only be reached on foot.
Vietnam offers innumerable opportunities for hiking and trekking, whether it be in the highlands of the north, the fertile plateau of the Central Highlands, or the flat wetlands of the Mekong Delta in the south.
The highlands of north-west Vietnam are real hiking territory. You can get out among the hill tribe villages and meet the various ethnic minorities. The Mai Chau valley is one good starting point. From here you can trek to H’mong minority villages such as Sa Linh, then on through tropical rain forest, using the local tracks to reach the Thai area where you can spend the night in a typical Thai stilt house. Next, you can walk on towards Mai Chau town which is surrounded by picturesque Thai villages.
The more energetic, may choose to tackle Phan Xi Pang or Mount Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest mountain, dubbed “the Roof of Indochina”. The trek begins in the town of Sapa from where you walk among the hill villages, home to the H’mong people. The mountain here is covered in forest and most treks climb to 1,650 metres before pitching tents and enjoying a meal around the camp fire.
The next day is the most strenuous as you continue to the summit. A lunch break at 2,220m allows you the chance to look back at the breathtaking views of the Sapa valley before climbing to 2,900m and another overnight stop. The third day takes you through bamboo forest to the Pahan Si Pan Summit at 3,143m. It is a strenuous climb, but worth the effort to find yourself standing on the roof of Indochina.
In the Central Highlands, the Ba Na region around Kon Tum offers ideal hiking. You can pass through cassava and sugar plantations and have dinner in a communal village house, known as a Rong. You can the nearby Lak Lake and perhaps give your legs a rest by taking a short elephant ride then spend the night in a traditional longhouse.
The Mekong Delta , too is full of minority villages and waterways, but the land here is much more flat, allowing for more sedate hiking. You can visit the many floating markets, ethnic villages, farm lands etc.
Around Ho Chi Minh City are many reminders of the Vietnam War, most of which can be reached by foot for those interested in this period of history. One memorable site is the 75-mile long complex of tunnels at Chi which has been preserved and turned into a war memorial park.
Here we have only given a few suggestions for hiking and trekking in Vietnam. The possibilities are limitless. You can visit http://www.indochinaodysseytours.com to get more information about this.