Volunteer Abroad - Vietnam, Volunteer Abroad Programs

Travels in Central Vietnam: Quang Binh Province, Hue, and Hoi An

by Daniel Jun, Greenheart Travel Volunteer Participant in Vietnam

This past week was my last hurrah in traveling in Vietnam. I will be in Hanoi for a few more days before I head back to New York – just in time for the NBA playoffs (let’s go Knicks!). Since this was my last excursion, I took a week off from work to travel around central Vietnam via the Hanoi-Saigon Railway: Quang Binh Province, Hue, and Hoi An.

My first stop was Quang Binh Province. This area is not as popular as other tourist sites since it is relatively new, but it was well worth the visit. In the province is Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The park is home to 2 popular caves, Phong Nha Cave (which the park was named after) and Paradise Cave. Until April 2009, Phong Nha Cave was the largest cave in Vietnam. It was then replaced by the exploration of Son Dong Cave, also located in the park, which is now the biggest cave in the world. Unfortunately, the Song Dong Cave is still closed to the general public; experienced cavers can visit for a small price of $18,000 per group of 6-7 people. I did, however, get a chance to visit the other two caves, which were amazing on their own.

Boat ride on the Son River

Riding a boat on the Son River (also an underground river) to the entrance of Phong Nha Cave.

Phong Nha Cave

Inside Phong Nha Cave.

Motorbike ride to Paradise Cave

I drove a motorbike to get to Paradise Cave. This was the type of scenery that I witnessed during the 40 min drive: green fields, large mountains, and turquoise rivers.

Motorbike ride continued

More beautiful scenery.

Stairs in Paradise Cave

Stairs leading down into Paradise Cave.

Paradise Cave 1

The cave was MASSIVE. I personally liked Paradise Cave more than Phong Nha Cave.

Paradise Cave 2

Another view inside Paradise Cave.

Stalagtites and stalagmites

Stalactites and stalagmites. Harry: “I never know. What’s the difference between a stalagmite and a stalactite?” Hagrid: “Stalagmite’s got an ‘m’ in it. An’ don’ ask me questions just now, I think I’m gonna be sick.” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, JK Rowling)

My next stop was the imperial city Hue, another Unesco World Heritage Site. Hue was the capitol of the Nguyen dynasty in the 1800s, and is now the home of a centuries-old citadel (complete with walls, gates, and a moat) that makes up a large portion of the city. In the citadel, modern buildings are scattered among old structures and people still live within the confines of its walls. Many old buildings were destroyed during the American War (the “Vietnam War” to Americans), and signs of restoration were present. Nonetheless, the citadel, especially the Imperial Enclosure, still retained its regal grandeur.

The main gate to the Imperial Enclosure

The main gate to the Imperial Enclosure with signs of restoration work being done.

Courtyard in the Imperial Enclosure

The courtyard in the Imperial Enclosure.

Fancy doors at the citadel

Some fancy doors at the citadel.

My favorite part of Hue was the night market that lines the street next to the Truong Tien Bridge. The market comes alive with people at around 6pm selling food and goods. It was a great place to wander around on a warm evening while browsing through the different stalls.

Truong Tien Bridge

The Truong Tien Bridge that changes colors.

Under the bridge

Who’s under the bridge? Not trolls, but hungry people who are getting their snack on. This area is like the food court section of the night market.

Stalls under the bridge

Stalls lit by dangling lights.

Artists in Vietnam

Artists creating and selling their work.

artists 2

More artists creating and selling their work.

My last stop in my travel was Hoi An. The Old Town, which was a 15th – 19th century trading port and is now a Unesco World Heritage Site, was the most scenic town that I have ever visited. Because of its history, the town exhibits European, Japanese, and Chinese cultures in its architecture, such as the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Chinese Congregation Hall. The town was well preserved and quaint. It was obvious that this was a major tourist spot not only by the large number of foreigners, but also by the services that were offered, from the tailor shops, to pedicabs, to children selling trinkets and toys. Although prices for food and goods were higher than usual, my time in Hoi An was the best from my travels.

Old Town

Streets of Old Town.

Old Town 2

Old Town.

Boat rides on the Thu Bon River

Women selling boat rides on the Thu Bon River.

Pedicab

Pedicab anyone?

Clothing in Hoi An

Hoi An’s specialty: clothing.

Candle stalls

Setting up to sell candles.

Candles in the river

Releasing the candles into the river.

Riverfront

Lights along the riverfront at night.

riverfront in Vietnam

A view on the riverfront

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

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