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Son Tinh campsite

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Son Tinh campsite, 40km from Hanoi’s centre (but still technically in Hanoi), provides a peaceful retreat from the capital’s maddening crowds.

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We went by motorbike which worked out well: the road that takes you most of the way has recently been improved, making the drive quite a smooth and safe, if not exciting, one. It took us a while to get there, as we got lost*, but the journey back was little over an hour. Our friends travelled by taxi — they paid around 350,000 VND to get there and 500,000 VND to get back. So it’s not cheap, but if there are a few of you it’s not too bad.

A world away from Old Quarter

A world away from Old Quarter.

I felt a sense of excitement as we drove up the bumpy pathway leading to the site — countryside at last! And I was not disappointed: the campsite is set on a small almost-island jutting out into the huge Dong Mo lake and is surrounded by forest. Tents are pre-pitched, so no need to take your own, and are definitely of the “glamping” variety. Our 400,000 VND a night tent had a sitting area overlooking the lake, a separate bedroom kitted out with a comfy mattress and fresh bedding and an en suite brick-built bathroom. Certainly a bit different from festival camping. Cheaper options are available.

Our home for a night

Our home for a night.

There’s not an awful lot to do at Son Tinh, but you can hire an inflatable dingy for a row around the lake or take a bike ride on a tandem down to the “cultural village” (nothing much there yet) or to the surrounding area. Some climbing ropes hung between trees might let the child in you out. We took boats for an hour and then pretty much did nothing but chat, drink beer and play cards. Just what I needed.

Row row row your boat

Row, row, row your boat!

Unfortunately, what I didn’t need was the large corporate group there on a bonding weekend who decided to sing karaoke until the early hours. I love karaoke as much as the next person<, but a quiet word seemed to do the trick.

So peaceful...when there's no karaoke

So peaceful ... when there's no karaoke.

Finally, there is a food menu and a limited drinks selection (mainly beer and soft drinks) but if you book in advance it’s worth getting the barbecue. It’s not as amazing as the food back in Hanoi, granted, but 220,000 VND gets you a lot of meat. Breakfast is extra at about 25,000 VND.

My advice: rent a motorbike, take a good book and your own beer, stay for a few days and do a trip out to BaVi while you’re there.

The not-so-exciting cultural village

The not-so-exciting "cultural village".

* The directions provided weren’t bad as far as they went, they just missed a bit of information about where to turn off; 7km after the end of the highway look out for a red sign in the middle of the road with a VietCulture symbol on the corner. Turn right through what looks like a disused carpark. At the end turn left, and after about 500m you’ll see a sign to the campsite.

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