I was so excited when I found out I was going to Hanoi! Vietnam has been on my bucket for so long so the fact I was finally going felt like a dream come true.
My best friend moved to China last year and so this was the perfect opportunity to go and visit but also to travel around for a while! We spent months planning out the perfect 3 week trip around Asia. Hanoi, Vietnam was the first stop on my trip. This wasn’t our intention, but the flights were SO much cheaper to fly to Hanoi and then to China than to fly straight to China. I managed to bag a return flight from London to Hanoi for an incredible £370! I flew with China Southern Airlines, and they were actually pretty good. I wouldn’t say they were the best airline I’ve ever flew with. But they fed and watered us now and then and the movie selection was good enough so what else do you need?
I arrived in Hanoi at 8.30pm which initially proved slightly challenging. Unless you have an airport transfer booked in advance, there’s not many options of transport to get into the city. We had been warned by our hostel before we arrived that some taxi drivers in Hanoi can be quite dodgy towards tourists- this was soon clear after one of our friends at the hostel was pick pocketed of her phone 5 minutes after walking out of the airport by a taxi driver. Just be careful with your belongings and try to book your transport in advance to be safe. Many hotels and hostels are aware of these issues and tend to offer an airport transfer service, however remember to budget this into your trip as it can be a little pricey.
On our first day in Hanoi we headed to Halong Bay. After seeing photos of Halong bay for years I was very exited for this trip, and it definitely did not disappoint! 4 hours to get there by bus, we saw lots of farmers working in the rice paddies, got to speak to people from around the world on the bus and stopped at the cutest little village for snacks on the way. Arriving at Halong Bag we were immediately transported onto a Vietnamese Junk Boat and served the most amazing seafood lunch. I’m not usually a huge fan of seafood but this was divine! The tour guide we had was incredible, telling us all about the history of the bay which was fascinating. After lunch we headed up to the top deck, with the sun shining on us we were amazed by the incredible rock formations that made up the bay. It is literally a dream! Of course we got a million selfies and photos. They took us to a local fishing village where we got to go kayaking and on bamboo boats around the caves and bay.
Back to the boat, we floated around the bay appreciating the views! They took us to the fighting cocks before heading to the cave. Not just any cave- the biggest cave I have ever seen. It was literally massive! Wandering through I was amazed by how perfect the rock formations were and the tour guide told us incredible facts about the Vietnamese people’s beliefs about the caves. He told us stories about how it was formed and the old traditional stories about marriage in the cave (I wouldn’t mind getting married there myself) It was just so perfect, I could not believe that nature had created something so amazing. Around 4pm we headed back to mainland to get back to Hanoi. I could not recommend Halong Bay enough if you’re heading to Hanoi.
After arriving back at the hostel, we headed to the hostel bar to gather for the famous bar crawl! We stayed at the Backpackers Hostel Hanoi which we loved! Everyone was so friendly and it was a lot of fun. However, if you’re not looking to party in Hanoi, this may not be the right hostel for you. The hostel took us to a number of bars around the Old Quarter. We had an incredible night, however the bars we visited were very westernised rather than true Vietnamese culture. After the last nightclub, we bought street food, consisting of Vietnamese kebabs (they were amazing) and sat on the roadside with our new friends appreciating the city.
Day 2- our sightseeing day. First things first, we attempted to cure our hangovers from the night before by heading for food. We wandered through the incredibly busy streets of Hanoi, mazing our way through cars and mopeds, eventually stopping at a cafe. I opted for the local Bahn man and a freshly squeezed passion fruit juice. I love Asian food generally, but Vietnamese food is something else! Next we headed to the lake, capturing all the sounds, smells and sights on the way. Hanoi is certainly a treat for the senses. We wanted to see a bit more of the city, and jumped in an electric car by the lake. We opted for the 30 minute ride, which drove us round the streets of Old Quarter before returning to the lake. Every Sunday on the streets lining the lake, local Vietnamese people bring their children to ride around on bikes, play games with each other and there’s plenty of street entertainment, that we were lucky enough to experience. Next we headed to the Loa prison. I’m a history geek at heart, and after spending an entire year at University studying Vietnamese history I was particularly excited to visit some of the historic places. The prison has been involved in many events, including the Vietnamese war, where the war criminals were imprisoned. It was certainly interesting and an eye opener to Vietnamese history. Despite being short and sweet, my first visit to Vietnam was everything I had hoped it had been.
In just 2 days I managed to experience it’s natural beauty, it’s incredible food and people and it’s fascinating history. If we had had more time I would have loved to have visited the Train Street and head further South of Vietnam. But for now I will cherish the experience I was lucky enough to have!