Our seventh country took us to the glorious country of Vietnam, visiting Hanoi and Halong Bay.
The biggest draw of tourists for Northern Vietnam is Halong Bay. The emerald waters are filled with a scattering of limestone pillars topped with mini rainforests. It is truly a wonderful sight and worth taking a little trip out. We decided to do the most popular tour; 2D, 1N. We booked our excursion through Halong Bay Tours and chose the Stellar cruise. There are so many tour operators that it’s almost potluck whether your tour will be good or not. Luckily, our tour turned out really good.
We were picked up in a shuttle bus and taken to Halong Bay. The drive takes about 3.5 hours with one short stop. The stop is at a large shop which sells many souvenir type things; textiles, ceramics etc. There’s no pressure to buy and you can also buy snacks/ use the restroom here. Once we arrived at the port, we had to wait around 10 minutes before we could board.
Once on the boat, we were greeted with a welcome drink and had some time to settle into our rooms. Our room was spacious and had a hot shower. We then proceeded to the dining room to have lunch. It was a set lunch which was shared with everyone on the table. The food was lovely and very fresh. (It was mainly seafood though, but you can out in dietary requirements beforehand). Drinks aren’t included and they are slightly more inflated prices. After lunch, we went got to our first stop at Luon Cave. Here, you can visit the caves either by bamboo boat (with a rower) or kayak around yourselves. We decided on the latter as it was more fun. This was one of the highlights of the tour and it was nice to be surrounded by the beautiful scenery. Next stop, we went to Titop Island. Here you can chill out on the beach or head to the top to appreciate the views. We then retired back to the boat for a sunset party and more food! We also attempted squid fishing, but we didn’t catch anything. 😔
The next day, we snoozed through our alarm and missed the 6am Tai chi session (oops). After breakfast, we stopped off at ‘Surprise Cave’ which is filled with many karst formations. We hopped back on to the boat where we had a spring roll cooking class and then we ate our creations with the rest of lunch and it was then time to go back to Hanoi.
I also met Captain Carl and then he met the real Captain!
We highly recommend Halong Bay and if you are in Vietnam it should be on your list to go!
Most people stay in Hanoi as it is a base for those traveling to Halong Bay. We only had 1 full day in Hanoi and in hindsight, it would have been nice to have a few more. Hanoi is a crazy city, it’s chaotic, busy and populated. Crossing the road is especially fun here! This applies more to the old quarter, but it’s the area to stay as it is the heart and soul of the city.
Hỏa Lò Prison
We decided to visit the former prison now turned museum. It was formerly used by the French colonists who used it to house Vietnamese political prisoners. It was subsequently used to imprison American soldiers during the Vietnam war. It’s an interesting place to learn about both points of history and I’d highly recommend going to finding some information about this country’s past.
Water Puppet Theatre
In the evening, we decided to watch a water puppet theatre show. It’s quite a short performance, around 45 minutes but it’s nice to see/learn about the culture. The different scenes represent the lifestyles of the Vietnamese culture. There was some English narration in between performances, but you don’t need to understand Vietnamese to watch.
That’s it for Vietnam. On to Cambodia now!