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At Asia Senses Travel we’re adventurers at heart. Our journeys are all about discovering new places and cultures while creating unforgettable memories through physical activity and breathtaking scenery.
by Khuong Nguyen | Mar 27, 2020

ASEAN Overland Expedition 2019


As a move to promote the tourism in the region, from 23th November to 28th December of 2019, Hannibal Overland Asia decided to organize an ASEAN Overland Expedition 2019 (Trans SEA Vietnam 2019) for the Land Rover Defender lovers from Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Hong Kong.

Set off in Singapore, after passing through Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia, Vietnam was the forth destination in the itinerary of this overland expedition. Just a few days prior to the Christmas, the group reached Vietnam, starting the 2 week trip in a land of wonders and natural beauty.

Ho Chi Minh City

After the entry from a Cambodian border, the group headed to Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam's southern metropolis is an intoxicating amalgamation of the country's past, present and future. Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as it is also still referred to) played a pivotal role in the Vietnam War and there's no better place to get a handle on the historic events that unfolded. It also displays its French colonial history in a number of important landmarks while skyscrapers prove that it's a city on the move.

Ho Chi Minh City is the vibrant, cosmopolitan hub of Vietnam and the original ‘Pearl of the Orient’. In this thriving metropolis, old and new collide. Gleaming sky scrapers, expensive restaurants, bars and designer shops, stand in stark contrast to the ancient pagodas, colonial era landmarks, ramshackle markets and wandering monks.

Ho Chi Minh City is a feast for the senses, fast paced, colourful, loud and utterly mesmerising. Whilst it hurtles head first into the 21st Century, Ho Chi Minh City is a city with a compelling and unforgettable history. Key sites such as the historic Reunification Palace, the Revolutionary Museum and the War Remnants Museum provided us a fascinating insight into the Vietnam War and the historic fall of Ho Chi Minh City in 1975.

Da Lat

Leaving Ho Chi Minh City behind, we jumped to Da Lat. This is Vietnam’s premier hill station, which sprung up as a cool respite for the French from the stifling tropical heat of Saigon.

The area surrounding Da Lat is extremely picturesque with many tiered plateaux whose perpetual spring-like climate is able to support a diversity of crops not generally associated with Vietnam.


Quy Nhon

After admiring the very beautiful sunrise over the Da Lat pine tree town, we set off for the next stop of this trip: Quy Nhon, which is so called "Maldives of Vietnam". Quy Nhon in Binh Dinh Province is recognized as one of the three tourism hubs of Vietnam's south central coastal region along with Da Nang and Nha Trang. Along the way, we encountered a very big full rainbow.

The Quy Nhon town is blessed with a 42km long coastline, diverse topography comprising mountains, forests, salt marshes, plains, lagoons, lakes, rivers, peninsulas and islands, abundant seafood and natural resources.

Hoi An

The Vietnam overland expedition continued to roll to Hoi An. The enchanting port town of Hoi An is one of Vietnam's best-loved destinations. It's brimming with charming architecture that displays its international influences from Japanese bridges to Chinese temples and French colonial merchant houses. Its wonderfully preserved old town is UNESCO listed while outside of Hoi An the countryside offers an insight into rural Vietnam.

Da Nang

Located 30 km north of Hoi An is Da Nang an evolving city. Nowhere in Vietnam is changing as fast as Da Nang. For decades it had a reputation as a provincial backwater, but big changes are ongoing. Today the city boasts an impressive skyline while resorts and hotels line up along the coast.

As a part of Sun World Amusement Park and over 20 km away from Da Nang downtown, Ba Na Hills is the most significant resort and recreational complex of Vietnam. At the height of 1,487 m from the sea level, the Ba Na Hills is coined the “heaven on earth” owing to its spectacular climate and otherworldly natural landscape.

Da Nang is also an ideal city for those who love traveling and exploring. Combining traveling and camping is an economical and interesting choice for those who love discovering. In this trip, we camped in front of the beach which is off beaten path and non-touristic.

Hue

Bid farewell to Da Nang, we continued to Hue. Home of the Nguyen Emperors and the nation’s capital for over a century, the city of Hue is rich in history and imperial monuments. There are elaborate palaces to explore, regal tombs to marvel at and quiet temples to enjoy. And thanks to Hue's location on the Perfume River, it's also a picturesque city.

Once in Hue, your visit is not complete if not trying Bún bò Huế. This is a popular Vietnamese soup containing rice vermicelli (bún) and beef (bò). Huế is a city in central Vietnam associated with the cooking style of the former royal court. The dish is greatly admired for its balance of spicy, salty, and umami flavors. The predominant flavor is that of lemongrass. Compared to "phở", the noodles are thicker and more cylindrical.

Vinh Moc Tunnels and Hien Luong Bridge

Before arriving in Halong Bay, we spent time for a short visit to see some of the historical sites that very worth visiting in Central Vietnam.

We drove up Highway 1 across the Hien Luong Bridge, and over the Ben Hai River which demarcated North and South Vietnam. This area saw some of the heaviest fighting during the war. Doc Mieu Firebase, which lies just north of here, played a pivotal role in the South's defence and for a while, this was the command post for calling in airstrikes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The journey from here to Vinh Moc Tunnels was scenic after we left the main highway, passing through quaint villages and skirt along Cua Tung Beach. The Vinh Moc Village found itself tragically positioned in one of the most heavily bombed areas of Vietnam. In order to escape this bombardment, the villagers constructed approximately 2.8 km of underground tunnels which they used as a refuge to survive the bombings. Three hundred people lived intermittently in the tunnels from 1966 to 1971.

Ha Long Bay

There is no doubt Halong Bay is the jewel in Vietnam’s scenic crown. Widely considered to be one of the natural wonders of the world, this UNESCO World Heritage listed region is simply breathtaking. Thousands of karst limestone and jungle covered peaks and isles, rise dramatically out of the emerald waters of the bay. On the famous islands of Halong Bay, caves, secret coves and beautiful beaches await discovery and the towering peaks provide some of the best rock climbing in South East Asia.

The ideal way to explore Halong Bay is onboard a traditional Junk boat which can either be privately chartered or shared. We enjoyed a cruise on a junk boat and explored remote offshore islands, kayaked and swam in the warm waters and captured an incredible sunset over a panorama of peaks.

Hanoi

Conquering some 2,000 km, we finally arrived in Hanoi. Known as the ‘Paris of the Orient’, Hanoi is the buzzing capital and cultural heart of Vietnam. It's a place of delightful contrast with the frenetic chaos of the streets juxtaposed against the style and grace of its French colonial architecture. The city offers a number of attractions though much of its charm is in simply wandering around the historic quarters.

Sapa

Now the time to head north with Sapa. Located 1,500m above sea level, Sapa is a former French hill station nestled in the rugged Tonkinese Alps on the slopes of a spectacular lush valley of cascading rice paddy fields. For shopping, Sapa is a delight with a multitude of minority groups producing beautiful jewellery, clothing, accessories and souvenirs.

Here, farmers in conical hats plough the fields with water buffalo and local ethnic minority groups (such as H'mong and Dzao) maintain their age-old traditions, including their own languages and intricately embroidered traditional clothing. Sapa is full of colour thanks to these local tribes people who head into town each day to trade at the local markets with their bright clothing and wonderful range of handicrafts.

Lai Chau & Muong Lay

Dien Bien Phu

After 2 weeks, the group landed the final destination of the ASEAN Overland Expedition 2019: Dien Bien Phu. Tucked away in the Muong Thanh valley, deep in the highlands of northwest Vietnam, it has earned its place in history books as the turning point of colonial rule.

For history buffs, a trip to Vietnam is simply not complete without a visit to Dien Bien Phu in the northwest region. The site of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu during the first Indochina War, the small town was fortified by the French in 1953 until it was seized by the Viet Minh, marking the end of French involvement in Indochina and heralded the collapse of its North African Empire.


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Source of images: John Kong, Borneo Overland Expedition and Asia Senses Travel