Go back to Climbing.
Vietnam has been on our radar for a couple of years. However, flipping through the thin climbing guidebook to Ha Long Bay it seemed that it did not have the critical mass of climbs: overwhelmingly single pitch sport things and deep water solo lines, both of which have zero appeal to us. On the other hand, the setting of the Bay looked incredible and the country (food) fascinated us. Googling around I was able to dig up some additional information. First, we found an online guidebook supplement that listed a handful of short but multi-pitch tower routes in the Bay (trad ones at that). Second, convinced that the mountainous regions of the country must have some additional, established climbing, I found another short pdf guidebook to an area called Huu Lung Valley, some 2.5 hours northeast of Hanoi. With those we thought we had enough for a trip especially if we threw in some cultural immersion (eating) to round things out. And after the complex Russia trip earlier in the year, we figured that a resort style climbing experience would be a good change of pace (it was).
Given the usual time restrictions, we decided to get local fixers for both places. We used Asia Outdoors to arrange all the logistics on and around Cat Ba Island (lodging, transport especially boat rides to climbs, post climbing stuff like kayaking) and ended up with Andrew from New Zealand as our babysitter for 5 days. Similarly, we used VietClimb (a climbing gym in Hanoi) to get us to our climb of choice in Huu Lung. Here, our babysitter was Lena from Ukraine. Things worked very well in both places and we were able to tick off all the routes on our short list.
It almost goes without saying that Vietnam is a safe and easy country to visit. Though you’ll need to procure visas in advance, the process is almost trivial (don’t even have to send the passports in). And, as all the dreadlocked, western, wannabe hippy kids traveling on their parents’ dime will tell you, it can be a reasonably cheap place to travel through.