Looking for a wild escape to challenge every sense? Vietnam will do that for you. We spent two weeks in this amazing country. In this post we’ll let you know about our days in Hanoi and a cruise of Halong Bay, including tips on touring a city with food poisoning!
Our first stop in Vietnam was Hanoi, the country’s capital. We had three nights in Hanoi, one night floating around Halong Bay and then one more back in Hanoi before flying to Hoi An.
Hanoi was a great spot to start our Vietnam adventure. We had two full days in Hanoi and then one more evening before we had to leave. Hanoi is beautiful. Stepping into Hanoi we were hit with damp heat and overwhelming smells. In Hanoi you get a mix of Vietnamese going about their daily lives and tourists, like us, keen to see the local sights and making the most of being away from the daily grind. Some of our Hanoi highlights were:
- Tran Quoc Temple Pagoda -this is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi, over 1450 years old!!! It is on a tiny island on the West Lake, accessed by a long bridge. Go into the quiet temple to see the locals offerings and gaze up at the tall Pagoda which contains the ashes of important monks.
- Visit Ho Chi Minh’s palace, mausoleum and stilt house -Ho Chi Minh was a humble man who chose not to live in the luxury his position afforded. It is great to walk around the grounds and see where he lead his simple life and became the man who inspired so many. When we visited the mausoleum was closed for Ho Chi Minh’s upkeep. Apparently when open, it’s mainly the Vietnamese who visit to come and pay their respects.
- Street food -yum, yum, yum!! Try local pho or a noodle salad.the flavours are insanely good.
- Walk the old quarter -this was our favourite thing to do in Hanoi, in fact this is our favourite things to do in most of the places we visit. The old quarter is stunning with lovely colonial architecture and many little temples to stumble upon. It is also the business hub so get your bartering pants on an shop up large. Maybe consider purchasing a second suitcase. On one of our wandering days I was struggling with food poisoning…. we spent the whole morning walking 10 minutes from our hotel in one direction before walking back briskly to use the toilet and then trying a different street for another 10 minutes.
- Bag Trang pottery -all over Vietnam there are craft factories or workshops where you can see how products are made and buy their products. If you go on any guided tour they will take you to these workshops with the hope you’ll buy things. We loved seeing how the pottery at Bat Trang was made and came away with some cute little souvenirs.
- Hanoi military museum -this was a wonderful way to learn about the history of the Vietnam war. When we visited the heat nearly killed us and we drank about 2 litres each over 2 hours!
From Hanoi you can book a cruise at one of many kiosks around the old town. A bus will then pick you up from your hotel and take you on a long, and slightly scary bus journey to Halong Bay, where we spent 1 night on the water. On the boat we had out own room and ensuite. Our boat took about 20 other people to get to know. Some of the activities we enjoyed on our cruise:
- Watch the sunset while floating in the waters of the South China Sea while visiting Titov island. Avoid putting your head under, the water was pretty gross.
- Sung Sot Cave -get your sweat on and climb lots of steps for some mega views before descending into a huge cave net work.
- Chill on the deck with a gin and tonic and watch the many stunning islands go by.
- Join in on a cooking class with other passengers. It was great contribute to one of the many amazing meals we had while on board.
- Start your day with tai chi at sunrise and realise that you suck at tai chi.
Hanoi and Halong Bay were our introduction to Vietnam. Hanoi was wonderful to explore independently and we had tour best times wandering the streets looking at everything that is so different from home! The Halong Bay tour was great fun though one night ‘cruising’ was probably enough for us! Next up, Hoi An for full moon festivals and heat stroke….
Chloe and Daniel