Backpacking from Ho Chi Minh City to Hainan

                                                                                                                                        By Jee Say Hai – May 2012

Travel route at a glance
  • From Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City by air; flight time: 2 hours 5 minutes.
  • From HCMC airport to city by airport bus: travel time: 25 minutes; fare: 5,000 Dong.
  • From HCMC to Hanoi by air; flight time: 2 hours 10 minutes.
  • 2-days-1-night Halong Bay tour: USD105.
  • From jetty to Vietnam-China border (Dongxing) by bus; traveling time: 3 hours 30 minutes; fare: 80,000 D.
  • From border to Beihai (Guangxi) by bus; travel time: 3 hours; fare 62 Yuan
  • From Beihai to Haikou (Hainan) by 6pm ship with berth; ETA 5am next day; fare: 200 Yuan.
  • From Haikou to Singapore by air; flight time: 3 hours 30 minutes; fare: 648 Yuan.

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In August 1858, the French attacked and captured Da Nang, a seaport north of Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam.  In February the following year the French advanced southward and captured Saigon (the present Ho Chi Minh City).  The French then moved northward and colonized the whole Vietnam in the 1880s.

During the Second World War the Japanese invaded Vietnam and the French were forced out.  The Vietnamese “August Revolution” Forces, led by Ho Chi Minh, gained control of Hanoi, followed by Saigon and other strategic cities after the Japanese surrendered on 13 August 1945.  Tension was up and war between the French and Vietnamese Forces was unavoidable.  Between March and May 1954 the French and the Vietnamese engaged in a fierce war in Dien Bien Phu in the north west of Hanoi.  

The war (The First Indochina War) ended shortly after the Battle Of Dien Bien Phu with the signing of the 1954 Geneva Accords on 20 July 1954.  Under the Accords France agreed to withdraw its forces from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  Vietnam was temporarily divided into North Vietnam and South Vietnam at the 17th parallel, about 100 km from Hue. 

Neither the U.S. nor South Vietnam signed the Accords.  This marked the beginning of a serious involvement of the U.S. in Vietnam and the ensuing Vietnam War or The Second Indochina War (The Vietnamese call “American War”).  The Geneva Accords proposed general election by July 1956 to create a unified Vietnamese state was never held.

The U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s.  Besides Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were heavily bombed too.  The War reached its peak in 1968.  Despite the Paris Peace Accords signed by all parties in January 1973, fighting continued.  The capture of Saigon by the Vietnam Army in April 1975 marked the end of the War.  North Vietnam and South Vietnam were unified July 1976.


In 1986 the government initiated a series of economic reforms, which see Vietnam moves towards integration of the world economy.  Under the reforms, private ownership of enterprises in industries, commerce and agriculture was permitted and encouraged.  Some sectors of its economy have been open to international markets.  As a result of several land reforms it has become one of the major exporter of agricultural products such as cashew nuts, black pepper and rice. Its manufacturing, information technology and high-tech industries now form a large and fast-growing economy.  It is the third largest petroleum production in Southeast Asia.  

It has established diplomatic relations with many countries.  Its economic growth is among the highest in the world since 2000.  It joined the World Trade Organization in 2007.

Vietnam is currently developing a space program and plans to construct the Vietnam Space Centre by 2018.  The first Vietnamese satellite was launched on 18 April 2008.  The Satellite provides applied services of radio, television and telephone transmission, internet, weather forecasts and national security.  It is the 6th ASEAN and the 93rd country in the world to launch a satellite.



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Route: Hanoi > Halong Bay > Mong Cai / Dongxing


(click to enlarge map)
Dongxing > Beihai > Haikou (Hainan)