Tam Dao means "three highest mountains" and it's a village in the mountain (900 meters above sea level) located 80 km. from Hanoi. It's known as "The little Spa", and it's where the locals go during the summer season (May, June, July) to find some cooler temperatures and clean air. 

Although we went during the highest season (June) and it was very busy, we could enjoy the nice temperatures, blue sky and beautiful views. 

It's not very popular among the foreigners (Sapa is more famous), so it's perfect if you like to observe locals. We were the only foreigners in the area, and you can tell that they are not used to have foreigners visitors because everything is written in Vietnamese only and they barely speak English. 

It's a "party destination" for locals, but Vietnamese don't party like westerners! To them, party means basically singing karaoke very loud until late and go out for dinner in the street food places. So even in high season it won't be anything like crazy. After all, they are morning people :) 

On the way to Tam Dao you will be surrounded by green, banana trees fields, rivers... So peaceful and clean, and as you drive up the mountain the air will feel more and more fresh! 

What to see in Tam Dao:

* Town square
It's a copy of the town in Sapa, with the colorful houses and coffee places, the gardens and the nice spots to take pictures. It was very busy, with lots of groups taking pictures and live music in the kazeebo. 

Tea with views

* The old church
It was built in 1906 by the French colonizers, and rebuilt in 1937 with stone. It follows the romanic-gothic style, with one single nave. It's small but it offers beautiful views and nice spots for a photos. Around the church and occupying all the stairs there's a bunch of sellers with all kind of souvenirs: keychains, sunglasses, toys... 

A matching couple taking pictures

I had to wait in line to take this picture! A high requested spot

The views from the church
* Night life 
If you are vegan you won't be able to enjoy the local food (see below), but it's worth having a stroll at night to see all the ambiance, the restaurants with the garland lights and the locals enjoying the food, the beer and the music. 
We saw many couples and groups of friends with matching clothes, it seems like it's something very common and we found it really cute. 

Full moon night

* Café Cong Troi
The name is translated as "Heaven Gate", and it really is a heavenly place! They have different terraces to enjoy the mountain views. We had a juice and sunflower seeds enjoying the views and the cool breeze. 

The views from the top terrace

* Hike around 
Tam Dao is surrounded by mountains, that means there are so many possible hikes you can do. We went during the hottest month, so we didn't really hike, but we parked the motorbike at the entrance of a path and we had a nice little walk in the mountains. 
Even if it's cloudy, don't forget your sunscreen! I got burned really bad on my neck... 

* Sake Garden
It was a famous spot where all the cool kids used to take beautiful pictures for their social media. I read about it online and I saw that the entrance was only 25K (around 1 euro), so I wanted to see it! When we arrived there, there wasn't anyone at the entrance and no motorbikes outside, which was very suspicious! But we still walked in, we passed through a peaceful little bamboo forest and we finally got to the gardens. 
We found out that the place is now abandoned, which was perfect for us: no entrance fee, no people around and all the place for ourselves!! We had so much fun walking around and taking pictures, the place is really stunning, and now it has a special charm due to the rusty and abandoned atrezzo
If you type on Google Maps 'Sake Garden" you will find it, it's really close from the centre. 

Where to stay: 
There are many homestays and Villas in Tam Dao; if you go with a group of friends you can either stay in a homestay and share a room or rent a villa to have more privacy. Most of the homestays and villas have swimming pool, lovely decoration and amazing views. 

We went during high season so we couldn't find any homestay available. But there are also hotels, which can be cheaper. The quality standards are Vietnamese, so don't expect anything fancy, but it will be enough if you plan on spending the day outside. 

We found this very affordable hotel called Hoang Long, located on top of a hill, in a quiet street and away from the busiest area. The owners were very friendly, they didn't speak English but we could communicate quite well. We got a simple double room with private bathroom, and we had access to the terrace. 

About the food: 

If you are vegan, BYOF (bring your own food!). There are no vegetarian/vegan places in the town. All the restaurants offer the traditional vietnamese dishes (Pho, Bun ca, Bun cha...) and a lot of meat! They are Vietnamese BBQ style places everywhere. 

The only vegan things you can find: corn, sweet potato, baked egg (vegetarian), fruit (quite expensive) and juices/smoothies. You will find plenty of fresh coconuts too, but not the cheapest (40k per unit). And we found jackfruit chips in a small store (it comes in a plastic package). 

So I recommend you to pack healthy vegan food beforehand; like sandwiches, fruit, nuts...

We went all the way to Vinh Yen, the closest city (40 minutes driving) because we saw that there were many vegetarian places there. We were lucky to chose a nice one called Cat Tuong Lan, buffet style with a relaxing garden. The owners were really nice and spoke a little bit of English. The ride from Tam Dao was worth it!

We had a really short trip and we didn't have time to see that much. But if you have more time you can visit the beautiful pagodas (temples), the waterfall and the National Park. It's a perfect destination for a weekend getaway, especially in summer! Hanoi gets way too hot and it feels so good to escape the city for a few days.


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