Xin Chao !!
I had Vietnam in my travel list since long and finally was able to make it. In the midst of busy work schedule, we tried to squeeze in few days and planned for a 4 day trip to Hanoi, Vietnam.
We can find all in one -a mix of metro lifestyle, ancient Vietnam culture and beautiful views of nature here. We had 1.5 days in Hanoi city and 2 days in halong bay on a cruise. We booked our hotel close to haon kiem lake which is the most happening place. We could just walk along the lake in the evenings and it is bustling with tourists.
There were random musical performances, some rock show happening, someone playing violin and dancing, street food stalls and lot of shops for shopping all along the road. For all those hopping freaks, this place has all the HiFi brands along with small street shops. The lake is beautifully illuminated in the night and if you are the person whose idea of romantic evening is a walk, then this is the best place.
The next day we booked a tour to ninh bin. It is around 2 hours from hanoi and is called the halong bay on land. The King Kong movie skull island was shot in this area. It is a beautiful picturesque expanse of water with paddy fields on both sides and limestone caves on the border. We had a boat ride through the lake, Tam coc – meaning 3 caves. On the way we go below the cave and the experience is amazing. We can touch the cave ceiling just by rising our hands. The calm waters, paddy fields, green majestic mountains, the experience will be forever etched in my memory.
(Aerial view.. Tam coc in summer)
The same day we also visited the temples (Pagoda) of the king and queen of ninh bin who later founded the city of Hanoi. Legend is that when the king came to the city near the red River, he saw something like a rising dragon from the river. Thus the city was named “Thang long” which means the rising dragon. After the French came and occupied, this was renamed as Hanoi.
We reached back to Hanoi by 7pm. Point to note, Hanoi gives a tough competition to Bangalore in terms of traffic :p . After resting for a while, we went to explore the weekend night market near our hotel. Even at 10pm in the night, the streets were bustling with tourists and locals. The street stalls sold souvenirs, bags, clothes, electronic items, what not, at very cheap prices. The restaurants have extended their seating to the roads and everyone was happily sitting on the streets, chatting away, eating street food and drinking. It was like a scene out of the Korean dramas I watch. Since am a vegetarian, i was not able to enjoy it much. However if you are a food explorer, it is the best place for you.
The next day we were all excited for the cruise. There was limousine sent to pick us up from the hotel, to reach the harbour to board the cruise. Ours was a 4 star cruise for 1 night-2 days. As soon as we boarded, the cruise manager Ronald wished all of us in our own languages. There were people from Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Germany, UK. The crew did a small welcome performance in traditional Vietnam style and then we were introduced to the crew members.
We then proceeded to our cabins. The cruise had 3 floors, with each cabin having a balcony facing the sea. The room was amazing with comfortable bed and beautiful view from window and balcony.
By this time we were really hungry and proceeded to lunch in the restaurant. I must say food on the cruise would be a feast for those who eat non-veg (with Asian, sea food). For me, they were generous to prepare special vegetarian items – veg sushi rolls, fried noodles. Once the tummies are happy, we went to the sundeck to enjoy the view.
The view is breathtaking. Huge expanse of water with small islets. Supposedly the James bond movie was shot here. Far away from the din of city life, nothing but the nature to look at and nothing but the peace to experience…
After a while, the cruise stopped at a cave (limestone cave) which has around 800 steps. While we climbed the steps, the view inside the cave became stunning and stunning. The halong bay is supposed to have many such small islands and caves. Itseems the hurricanes from phillippines are stopped or slowed down because of these mountains. Our guide showed us the imprint of a hurricane on the cieling of the cave. The cave has amazing rock formations, which can be interpreted by the creative mind. There was a turtle, a laughing Buddha, a couple kissing, a gorilla, a sparkling stone, no boundaries to imagination. The important one was the form of a dragon bending down from the cieling. Apparently falling dragon or Ha long is how the area got it’s name.
The next stop was to a lagoon, which was water surrounded by mountains on all sides, with just a small opening to enter. We went through boats or kayaks inside and the view was beautiful.
Once we are back to the cruise, we could rest until dinner. The dinner was on the restaurant along with live music. We enjoyed listening to few songs and contently closed the day.
The next day, we woke up early to see the sunrise on the deck followed by a session of Tai-chi. It was fun and tiring too. After that we had light tea and biscuits and went to visit an island. There was a small hill which we climbed to reach the top from which we can see the entire halong bay. It was super hot and a good place for tanning enthusiasts. We just spent some time on the beach and water and hid ourselves from the sun later. Once we are back in cruise, there is buffet breakfast followed by checkout.
We then started back to Hanoi and reached in the late afternoon. After resting for a while, we went to see the water puppet show. Since we were flying back the next day, we dint want to miss this. It is a must watch, it was supposedly originated from the locals to entertain themselves during floods. The music, the puppets, the show was amazing. Thus with this amazing experience, our trip ended.
For those who can spare more days, do visit hochiminh city which is accessible by road from hanoi.
Here are some details of use
How to book(from india)
We don’t have a direct flight to Hanoi. However there are many flights connecting via Bangkok or Singapore. Budgetair.com gave the best price compared to yatra or makemytrip
The below link will give you an idea of different types of hotels available based on your preference:luxury or boutique or budget hotels. Once you check that, look at agoda.com for booking. I got pretty good discount for a star hotel for the suite with balcony. Above that we got lucky and got an upgrade to the luxury suite room with terrace.
For cruise, there are lot of options available online. You can look at the itinerary, look and book accordingly. We went with paradise elegance cruise. The dragon legend cruise is also a good one.
We have to apply online on the government website and within a day or 2, we will get the confirmation. We can get a Visa stamped on arrival after showing the confirmation. You only need a valid passport for applying.
Places to visit:
Ho chi Minh masoulem, many museums in Hanoi, trang an or Tam coc tour, perfume Pagoda, halong bay
In the local shops on streets, you can bargain. No issue with the language, most of them can fairly understand English along with supporting gestures. Don’t miss the night market if you are there on weekend