Welcome to Vietnam
Hanoi – Vietnam’s capital races to make up for time lost to the ravages of war and a government that as recently as the 1990s kept the outside world at bay. Its streets surge with scooters vying for right of way amid the din of constantly blaring horns, and all around layers of history reveal periods of French and Chinese occupation – offering a glimpse into the resilience of ambitious, proud Hanoians.
Negotiate a passage past the ubiquitous knock-off merchants and you’ll find the original streets of the Old Quarter. Defiant real-deal farmers hawk their wares, while city folk breakfast on noodles, practise t’ai chi at dawn or play chess with goateed grandfathers.
Dine on the wild and wonderful at every corner, sample market wares, uncover an evolving arts scene, then sleep soundly in luxury for very little cost. Meet the people, delve into the past and witness the awakening of a Hanoi on the move.
Halong Bay – Towering limestone pillars and tiny islets topped by forest rise from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1994, Halong Bay’s scatter of islands, dotted with wind- and wave-eroded grottoes, is a vision of ethereal beauty
– LONELY PLANET
Why Hanoi and Halong Bay? Watching King Kong, that’s why. As soon as I saw the location in the film I hit google and found Halong Bay! That was it! I knew I wanted to go. My next adventure planning was on the way. A two week trip to Asia. Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand.
This post is going to focus on Vietnam. Not big on visiting huge dense cities, I focused on traveling the less traveled road. Da Nang, Halong Bay and Hanoi was on my list of potential cities. Realizing I didn’t have enough days I settled with one night in Hanoi and doing a three day two night cruise on Halong Bay. After reading many reviews, many stated that the usual one day two night cruise on Halong Bay just simply isn’t sufficient to feel the real sensation of these beautiful islands. So Da Nang got scrapped. Maybe next time.
Research Time! Endless days trying to find the best hotel and cruise for our trip I decided on the Hanoi La Siesta Central Hotel And Spa https://www.hanoilasiestacentralhotel.com/overview.htm a beautiful hotel situated in the perfect location by the Hoan Kiem Lake. Literally in the heart of Hanoi. Reviews were great on Tripadvisor. Looked like it had the old world Saigon charm, I knew this is the hotel I wanted to be at. Had a great charming rooftop bar too with a great view of the city. As for the cruise in Halong Bay I was a bit skeptical about some of the junk boats, and after much searching I decided on the Orchid Cruise company. http://www.orchidcruises.com I couldn’t have made a better judgement. It was as luxurious as it could have ever been.
Our arrival into Hanoi, I set up a transfer with the hotel to pick us up at the airport. Very timely mannered with bottled water. It was about an hour to our hotel, but didn’t seem like it with the drive and just admiring the culture and seeing the bustling city bursting with energy driven motorcycles everywhere! We arrived at our hotel nestled amongst the markets and shops on a narrow street by the Hoan Kiem Lake. A bit skeptical as we saw the location. As we climbed the steps into the hotel, opened the door, the wonder upon us just gleamed with black and white decor with the most beautiful smiles I’ve seen in quite a while. The welcome was pure happiness, with ginger tea, warm cloths, and a small snack. Once checked in, our room was a bit small, cramped but still the decor and the bathroom was efficient. After all we were only here one night. After settling in, we decided to hit the markets, the lake and take in a beer or two at one of the small bars on the busy streets of Hanoi. After getting back at the hotel, we headed up to the rooftop bar atop our hotel. Drinks were amazing and the view spectacular. A bit misty that day from the dreary weather but still amazing! We decided to eat at the hotel at the Red Bean Restaurant. Best decision we made! Food was fantastic! Hanoi was a success! enjoyed every minute of it, and definitely suggest to anyone traveling to Vietnam. For us, one day was sufficient. Here’s a few pics of the hotel and Hanoi.
I had scheduled a transfer with the Orchid Cruise Company for pick up the next morning after checkout. It was going to be around a two and half to a three hour drive depending on traffic. We slept and napped. Once at the dock, we were taken to check in and our luggage was taken. The Cruise boat is docked in the bay so we had to take a boat shuttle to get to it. Everything was done in a timely efficient manner. Once on the boat we were given a drill and an introduction welcome cocktail. After that taken to our rooms. It’s a cruise ship with roughly around 10 cabins. Literally this boat is as luxurious as it gets. Beautiful spacious accommodation. And man, the bathtub with a view!! I was definitely going to make use of. Food of course was all included in the price. I don’t think I had a disappointing meal, but I’m usually not the picky one when it comes to meals. The cruise included small excursions, about four to be exact. One was on an island with a small beach area, the second kayaking, third a cycling trip to one of the biggest islands into a small village and rice fields and the fourth to a hidden lake through a cave. We had the best time on this cruise. And the views continuously awed us everyday. It was very peaceful and calm. The only negative was all the pollution in the waters. Sad to see, but hope the government will do something about it to preserve the beautiful nature surrounding these islands. Once the cruise was done, we had arrangements made with the cruise to take us to the airport to head to our next destination, Cambodia! As always these reviews are based on my own experience and opinions and doesn’t reflect the opinions of any organizations I might be affiliated with. I was neither paid, nor do I endorse for this post.