I'm arriving North Vietnam on Sept 1st for 3 weeks, and want to start off my trip with a week in Mai Chau - Pu Luong Nature Reserve, to trek from one village to another.
Is it possible to do it without a guide?
I'm not sure whether the local villages / tribes welcome lone travelers, and whether I could sleep at homestays without a guide.
#1 trekker has been a member since 3/8/2013. Posts: 9
Think how difficult this would be. Each village you would have to find a place to sleep, and since you can not speak Vietnamese, communicating that desire won't be so easy. Villages don't typically have rooms for rent. Why would you think there would be "homestays" in the middle of nowhere? Same with food. You will have to eat whatever somoene makes for you - which may not be something suited to your palate (not to mention your stomach). I am assuming you do not know the environment well. If you get injured or bit by a venemous snake and you are alone, you are in serious trouble. Get a guide.
OP - I would imagine this can be done if you really want to. I have done similar in China and language skills are not a problem in this regard. When you land in a village at 4 or 5 in the evening, the locals will know what you are after and you may even find them asking you if you want a place to stay rather than vice versa. You may have to make do with a mattress on the ground, but they will be more than happy to take your $10/15 for a simple B&B. Needless to say, a phrasebook would also help but there is nothing insurmountable here.
The issue with regards to food applies no more than it does with a guide, i.e. a guide is not going to make Western food magically appear if that is what you are after. I would assume if you are staying in North Vietnam for 3 weeks then you are either a fan of the food or at least willing to try the local specialities.
Local villages and tribes will almost certainly always welcome lone travellers, provided you are respectful and humble towards them. Generally not a good idea to take pictures of them going about their business without their consent.
That all being said, I would do a bit of research on the topic and see what other travellers who have done this before have to say about it. It is worth making sure that the routes you are planning to do are all on open trails and do not involve any walking through dense undergrowth. Also, don't try and be too optimistic with the distances you cover each day. If you are of reasonable fitness then somewhere around 10 miles a day would be a good target.
#3 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738
Any woodsman will tell you that going into the woods / jungle alone is a bad idea. It's a worse idea in the tropics and it's worse idea still in the tropics in a place where you are unfamiliar with a language you do not have command of. You break a leg on you happy trails, or get seriously ill in between villages, you are in trouble. People die doing this all the time in North America. At least go with a buddy (though guide would be better).
Thanks a lot!
I booked a private local guide, for 6 days (5 nights) tour in Pu Luong - Mai Chau.
He charges 65$ a day for private tour.
it reduces to 50$ a day for 2-4 people. (however I go solo).
Would you call this price fair?
I have no experience with costs in Vietnam or any other south asian country.
By the way, is there any Wifi in homestays in Pu Luong - Mai Chau villages?
#6 trekker has been a member since 3/8/2013. Posts: 9
Wow it's pricey - but I still think it's a good decision.
I can't comment on whether or not its a reasonable price as I have nothing to compare it to.
As for Wi Fi - I would be very surprised. Some of these villages probably don't even have 24/ 7 power.
Best of luck with it OP!
Just to clarify, my advice to you was based on my experiences in that part of the world. You sounded like you wanted to do it independently and I was telling you how you could make this possible. If it is as I envisage a trek between villages it is not in the woods or jungle, rather on pretty smooth dirt paths. Of course anyone can google "dangers of trekking alone" and you will get some of the advice you got here. However, seen as this is an independent travel website and the area you are contemplating is far from a war zone, I think it is eminently possible to do it alone (based on what I said above).
Anyway, you've made your decision and that's the first step. Best of luck with it. Vietnam, and the north in particular, is absolutely superb.
#8 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 738
I'd like to share my contemplation with you.
I'm going solo and I'd love to meet other fellow travelers.
Would you recommend me to take a group tour rather than a private tour, to Mai Chau - Pu Luong?
I'm afraid that in a private tour I'll stick on my own and won't meet other travelers and will be exposed to less experiences as a result.
What would you suggest?
#9 trekker has been a member since 3/8/2013. Posts: 9
I'm a lone wolf kind of guy. When I ride, I tend to ride alone (but not exclusively. I have a Thai friend I like to ride with sometimes). So if it were me then I would go alone with the guide. But that's a reflection of my personality, although I had the impression from your posts that you and I share this particular trait.
US$65 a day is at the high end but not unreasonable for a proper and experienced guide. Do you have to pay for food and accommodation on top of that? Sometimes with private tours like this you also have to pay for your guide's food and board, so check that. A bed in a homestay, with dinner and breakfast should cost no more than US$10 / night.
Mai Chau might have WiFi but I doubt anywhere outside of that will have.
As for going on a group tour - I'm not sure if they exist. I doubt it's a popular route / thing to do so the chances of finding an organised group tour are slim. But let me know if you do! For that same reason, it's unlikely you will meet other travellers outside of Mai Chau.
MADMAC thanks for sharing!
I'd rather be a loner in the real life and open myself to new experiences when travelling.
I think there are many travelers in Pu Luong National Reserve, and there are many group tours that do Mai Chau and Pu Luong.
Hit google and you'll find several of them.
#12 trekker has been a member since 3/8/2013. Posts: 9
So there are! Sorry, I misunderstood what you wanted to do. It'd be good to hear what you end up doing as I need to check out that area soon.
When are you gonna trek that area? :)
#14 trekker has been a member since 3/8/2013. Posts: 9