It’s been almost a year since I made the journey to Vietnam on my Southeast Asia backpacking tour. It feels like yesterday that I was taking a night bus from Phnom Penh to cross the border into Ho Chi Minh City. It was my first night bus alone and I remember being so curious about what I should expect from it.
I was so exhausted because, naturally, I traveled the most complicated way throughout Cambodia. But hey, live and learn.
On this particular night bus, there was two rows of “beds”. One side had a top and bottom bunk for a single person to sleep on, and the other side had a double top and bottom bunk made for two people to sleep in.
Well, I unknowingly booked the double side and ended up spending my night sleeping next to a stranger. He was such a sweet man and this is not out of the ordinary for the locals. For all females traveling solo, I found the night buses to be completely safe and never had any problems!
I spent 5 weeks traveling the beautiful country of Vietnam. I started in the south with Ho Chi Minh City and worked my way up to the border of China. Still, I could travel the country for many more weeks. But isn’t that how it always goes?!
The first friend I ever made on my solo tour was a beautiful woman named Mica. A gem of a human being from Israel who I shared so many amazing memories with. We traveled together for some time in Cambodia before parting ways and meeting back up in Hanoi, Vietnam.
I was fascinated by her curiosity and ability to find the most remote, off the beaten track places. Not to mention, she always kept me from over spending my money- a true backpacking pro.
In February it’s pretty chilly up north, but Mica was determined to make it as far as we could go. So, of course, I joined her. This is one of the many reasons that I love traveling without set plans, because beautiful moments that can forever change your life happen.
Our first stop together was in Sapa, Vietnam. It had been snowing for days there, but the second Mica and I arrived, the sun was shining over the mountains.
Like i said, Mica always knew the path to the most unique experiences. She told me we were going to meet a “mama” and spend some time with her at her home in the mountains.
Mamas are the lovely local women who are native to different mountain towns surrounding Sapa. They open their homes to tourists so they can have a local, authentic experiences and learn a new culture and way of life.
Mama Ker was the mama that opened her home to me and a few other backpackers. She hiked us through the most spectacular landscapes for an entire day and we ended up at her home right as the sun was setting. She is absolutely amazing and had so much knowledge and many wonderful stories to share.
It was nothing fancy, nothing luxury, but everything that I needed. From the moments spent with Mama Ker I experienced an overwhelming sense of peace of what I value most in the life.
Mama Ker has never left Sapa and was taught by an American tourist to speak english. The first word she learned was “thank you”, and although she still cannot read or write, she can speak very well and now she opens her home to curious world travelers for a living.
I paid her very little, and in return she blessed me with a life changing experience. Two days of beautiful hikes through the most remote villages in North Vietnam, home cooked meals, time with her lovely family, and tea on her porch overlooking the horizon.
Sapa was the farthest I was ever expecting to adventure to in Vietnam. Of course, Mica told me about “the loop” which happened to be even farther north. I love friends that push you past your comfort zones.
Mica and I headed to Ha Giang, and for the next three days we would travel together with two other women and our driver, Hai. He drove us around the loop, which consists of small villages that line the border of Vietnam and China. We saw the most incredible mountain views of my entire life and bonded over freezing cold temperatures, “death” road, and Celine Dion. An experience that took my breath away with each new turn. Did I mention I love traveling?
Vietnam is a country that has so much to offer. I fell in love with each new city and each new experience. Below you can find some more of my favorite photos from time spent in Sapa and Ha Giang!