Hanoi is one of the places that almost everyone who decide to visit Vietnam go to. I think it’s because of the amount of flights going to and from Hanoi. Moreover, there plenty to see not to far away from the city… and that was the reason why I’ve visited this big and loud city. Plus… a lot of friends recommended me Hanoi.
First thing you see in Hanoi is traffic, people and motorbikes. According to all guides the Old Quarter is the place to be. That’s why most of the hotels are built in this area. But if you don’t like the sound of honking motorbikes and crowds everywhere, maybe it is not the best area.
My reaction to Hanoi? …. mmmm… maybe I’m strange… but I was a bit shocked with the amount of people, motorbikes and let’s face it… dirt on the streets (what was I expecting?).
However, a lot of travellers love Hanoi…and maybe it is worth checking it yourself. Plenty of people love it and I don’t won’t to spoil this love 🙂 Morever, I actually did like it 🙂 It has its own atmosphere, especially the area around the lake – plenty of people working out and group dancing (?) – very interesting place.
Ha Long Bay (or Lan Ha Bay)
Ha Long Bay is the highlight of Vietnamese holidays. All travel guides show beautiful breathtaking photos with hundreds of little islands on a blue sea… something you can’t miss when you are in Vietnam.
It is located around 2h bus ride from Hanoi. I read somewhere that Lan Ha Ba, which is a part of Ha Long Bay is as beautiful, but it is also less crowded. That is why we’ve decided to take this direction! To Lan Ha Bay you can get from the island Cat Ba. A lot of tourists sleep on Cat Ba and then they take a day trip to Lan Ha Bay. We took a trip with sleeping on the boat. I definitely recommend this option. It was nice – however I don’t think we chose the right company (Cat Ba Sisters – stay away from them! Boat was nice but the guide was a very unprofessional).
The boat takes you kayaking in the caves and also you get to visit one of the fishing “floating houses” and see how the people live there.
The visit to floating houses (and hotels) was very interesting. You can see their interesting collection of small and huge fish that they sell, and their little houses that the whole family live in.
One of the stops was the Money Beach with wild monkeys eating all the food that the tourist give them (pretty sad) – it was an interesting experience for a person like me – who only saw a monkey at the ZOO.
This little island is very pretty – there is a little restaurant and you can climb to the top (only for fit people considering the HOT climate), and the view is just stunning!
Ha Long / Lan Ha Bay is definitely something that all of us should see – it is a beautiful wonder of the nature. It is stunning during crazy rain, sunny and cloudy days. The only problem with it was, as I mentioned in my previous blog post – PLASTIC.
This was a gem of my vietnamese trip! Hoi An is a beautiful old town by the river with lovely lanterns, vibrant restaurants and unforgettable atmosphere.
To get there you have to catch a flight from Hanoi to Da Nang Airport – but the domestic flights are not that expensive in Vietnam. I know that you can also take a train or a but from Hanoi, but it is a different experience (and from what I’ve heard – pretty uncomfortable).
Da Nang seems like a really nice city with beautiful architecture and long sandy beach. But then you get to Hoi An and this is just very beautiful. During the day you can sit in one of local restaurants located by the water, enjoying Vietnamese coffee or any refreshing drink (since it is extremely hot). Watching colourful boats on the river.
And when the afternoon comes, this little old town turns into a colorful, vibrant (and busy) area. The lanterns turn on, the live music bars start creating the amazing atmosphere, and the boats take you for an unforgettable ride down the river surrounded by beautful lanterns.
Tourists can also buy different souvenirs and other more and less important gadgets from people on the streets. Old ladies and children sell paper lanterns you can put on the water. It does look amazing, however, I wouldn’t recommend buying them, since they only create rubbish in the water. You can see it in our previous post about Plastic Vietnam
Sapa is a small mountain town located around 350 km from Hanoi. If you dream of seeing the rice fields, thats the place to go to! The best way to get there from Hanoi is “the sleeping” bus. It is quite an experience… it is a bus but you can lay down, enjoy the views…and take a nap. There is no regular seats. I actually think we should introduce them to Europe too.
We booked the tour to SaPa through our hotel which was $105 with the transport, a very nice hotel (Eden Boutique – highly recommend) and 2 hiking tours. However, I think if is possible, I recommend booking everything by yourself and do the hiking tours on your own. I think it might have been even cheaper. However, we only had 2 days there so we chose the express version.
The tours are guided by the local women dressed in “traditional” oufits which is pretty cool. You can ask them all the questions about the history of the place, climate and the rice fields. Very friendly and informative.
About the traditional clothes – as the guide explained to me – they actually wear cheap clothes made in china styled for traditional ones as- the traditional outfits are very thick and to hot for a nice summer days.
First tour we took was to Cat Cat Village – a small villae around 3km from Sapa. To be honest, it looks nice, as it is created to look old and pretty, however, a ot of elements there look like they were made only for the tourists.
There are plenty of small souvenirs shops where you can buy more or less authentic souvenirs.
The tour was still very fun! We got there after a very big rain, and there was a lot of mud – my mom experienced a nice muddy bath for her new white shoes 🙂
And the most important – the views to the rice fields are amazing!
My mom had a bit of a thrill at the beautiful old bridges…
The next day we took another tour to one of the villages – I will have to tell you though – if you want to see real traditional village – try to walk by yourself and pick the longest ones as the towns near Sapa unfortunately lost their beautiful, traditional spirit.
When hiking around Sapa, each view point is full of local women and children trying to sell souvenirs. You have to prepare for it! They will not leave you alone until you buy something. They are very lovely and friendly – smiling to you and joking.
For me, the worst part of this whole experience were children who sell souvenirs. We saw small 4- year olds with a little baby on their back, walking around and selling little bracelets … It is hard to say no to them but I will not support it.
Overall Sapa was a really nice experience – cool restaurants with good food, beautiful views and nice people. They also organize evening markets and everyday you can go to the little market where you can buy all local (and not local) products.
I definitely recommend Sapa – nice hiking, a bit fresher weather than hot Hanoi and great atmosphere!
I am sure there is plenty of more interesting spots on the map of Vietnam. That is what I can recommend because I’ve had the opportunity to visit them. If you need any information about the trip or advice – let me know. Im happy to help you out!