Bringing our camping equipment back to Vietnam was the best decision we could have made.
We love homestays in Vietnam; they are one of those experiences we recommend to everyone coming to travel here. But there are so many wild, out of the way places throughout the country that are perfect for camping.
One of those places is Xuan Son National Park.
The weekend we made it to Xuan Son was the height of our bike problems, and a plan to head to Cat Ba was immediately foiled by Oli’s bike breaking down. The Honda Dream would simply be too slow. We needed a new plan.
So with our camping stuff all packed up, we headed West out of Hanoi towards Ba Vi and then just kept on going. There was a beautiful green spot on the map that we had never heard of before- it sounded perfect.
And just like all road trips in Vietnam, we stumbled upon unexpected beauty every step of the way.
First were the tea fields of Thanh Son.
Then we found ourselves on the edge of Xuan Son National Park, the green oval spot on the map West of Ba Vi, and we turned left off of the main road beside a small lake.
A crop of trees clustered on the edge of the road, their fallen leaves scattered in a perfect blanket on the ground. It was the perfect camping spot.
As it was early in the day we set up and Oli rode off the get beers. Then we simply chilled in our hammock, enjoying the dappled sunlight filtering through the trees.
When the sun began to set we strolled down to the water’s edge for a swim. The family in the houseboat watched us curiously as we swam out past their house and fish farm, as the water turned gold with the setting sun.
When we finally came out, shivering in the cooling air, they invited us in for tea. The two teenage sons helped us to communicate in broken English and gestures, we helped the husband feed his fish and, of course, we were invited for dinner.
The kindest and generosity of the Vietnamese people never fails to amaze us. They cooked up a feast of fresh fish from their farm, strips of delicious pork belly and greens from the lake itself. There was also a soup the colour of blood and seasoned with peanuts, which I’m sure we’ll never see again, but was surprisingly delicious.
The family were incredibly concerned about where we were going to sleep, having no understanding of this camping business. It wasn’t until we’d said goodnight, after a desert of endless fruit, and the sons had walked us ‘home’, peered inside our little tent and conferred with one another, that they gave us big smiles.
All was good, they seemed to say, we will tell our mother!
The next day we explored the area, swam by the dam a little further along the turn off and went to say goodbye to the family. We turned up during lunch and they wouldn’t let us leave without sharing a last meal with them.
We told them we’d return and I know we will.
We took the long way home, along the unnamed road through the middle of the park, and discovered that we’d barely touched the surface of this beautiful place.
That Xuan Son National Park is relatively unknown is incredible. It’s only 154km from Hanoi, the roads are fairly good and the mountains are breathtaking. And as far as camping in Vietnam goes, it is perfect. Next time we’ll spend one night with the family and then another further in the park, with these incredible views.
If you want to do the same, get in touch. We starred the perfect spots on Google Maps and we’d love to keep them a little secret…
Have you been camping in Vietnam? Or would you like to? Let’s chat in the comments below!
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