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From Luang Prabang we flew to Vietnam to start our travels in our third country of The Big Trip, first up was four days in Hanoi. This was our first ever time in Vietnam and we were beyond excited about what the next few weeks would have in store for us.
Lao Airlines were offering well priced tickets to fly from Luang Prabang to Hanoi. It is possible to undertake this route by bus, however the journey of approx. 24hrs was one we were looking to avoid due to the timescales of our trip.
Fairly far in advance we used Booking.com to search for hotels in the Old Quarter and stumbled upon Serenity Villa Hotel which had good reviews and was well priced. It is common for cheaper properties in Hanoi to have some rooms with no windows which was an absolute no for us – four days in Hanoi without daylight in our room; no thank you!
We stayed on the top floor and had views out over the city, which was pretty cool. With a huge bed, and even a bath tub, I knew we’d picked the right hotel. The staff at the hotel were excellent and couldn’t have been more helpful even if they’d tried! The location in the was great too, as it was down a side alley which meant it was nice and quiet for sleeping but close enough to everything during the daytime and evenings.
With only four full days to explore Hanoi we knew we’d be pushing it a little, but were optimistic we’d fit in everything we wanted to do without a problem.
Day one was our first full day, and a common theme for us when visiting cities is to do a walking tour, so we can get our bearings, learn about the place and see the sights all in one go. Hanoi was no different, however as we left it so late to book something and because we wanted to do a free walking tour, we did end up having a guide who was super lovely but either didn’t know enough English to convey facts about the places he was taking us to, or just didn’t know the history in the first place. Nonetheless it was nice to be shown around by a local and see Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple, Heritage House and Dong Xuan Market, and the pièce de résistance was the egg coffee from Cafe Giang at the end which I loved, and I’m not a coffee person usually!
As Vietnamese isn’t a cuisine CLB or I are very adept with we knew we should do a food tour to learn more about what they eat in the country seeing as we’d be spending near enough three weeks there. Luckily some friends of ours were in Hanoi a few weeks before us and recommended Rosie from Hanoi Motor Bike Street Foods who took us on the three hour street food tour by motorbike. We had a great time flying around Hanoi on mopeds with Rosie and Ha; the restaurant choices were excellent and we learnt a lot about local favourites and some history too.
Day two had been earmarked to head out of the city on a day trip to Ha Long Bay, which we pre-booked via our hotel with Wati Travel. The day started early with a two and a half hour journey to the dock to board out boat. Once aboard we set sail and lunch was served as we made our way to the first stop of the day; Sung Sot (surprise) cave.
Next up was kayaking, followed by a visit to Ti Top (Titov) Island however this was just as the heavens opened and so we didn’t walk to the view point and instead I had a quick dip in the sea.
Before we knew it we were heading back to shore, the day just flew by! Back on the coach back to the city and it is safe to say we slept well that night. What an excellent day!
Day three came around quickly and after a small lie in (Ha Long Bay really did take it out of us!) we decided that we head away from the Old Quarter to the West Lake area, also known as the Tay Ho District. We took a walk around the lake taking in the sights before lunching at the lovely Gòn – Bites & Veggies.
In the evening we visited Train Street to watch a couple of the trains pass us (and a ton of other tourists) whilst enjoying a Chang or two. It may have been busy but it was so worth it, plus after the first train of the evening had passed it became much quieter.
Day four was our final day in Hanoi, and Hoa Lo Prison was on the agenda. The prison was used by the French during their colonial rule of Indochina to hold those fighting for Vietnamese independence, it was then later used to hold US prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.
Post lunch we did a little souvenir shopping before making our way to beer street in the early evening, however it wasn’t really our cup of tea so after a couples of beers we decided to head away from this area and grab a bite to eat.
Hanoi is a fantastic place with so much history, fantastic food and such friendly locals. Four days in Hanoi was the perfect introduction to Vietnam and this made us even more excited to continue exploring this vast country.