Tag Archives: Vietnam tour

How to Visit Hanoi in 2 Days? (Day 2 of 2)

If you are visiting Hanoi, make sure you allocate at least ONE FULL DAY to explore beautiful Ha Long Bay. Some people may opt to take a cruise and stay overnight aboard the  Ha Long Bay cruises, but if time does not permit, just book a one-day tour to Ha Long bay. I booked my Ha Long bay package via Hanoi Street Food Tours also, for about USD35.

The trip by bus from Hanoi early in the morning to Ha Long Bay jetty takes about 3.5 to 4 hours, so give or take about 3-4 hours on the boat to Ha Long Bay, you should just about reach Hanoi again around 8.30pm to 9pm that same day.

At around 8.30am on Day 2, the tour bus came along quite punctually and picked me up from the designated pick-up point. I was apparently the last passenger of the day inside the bus filled with tourists of all sorts of nationalities – Japanese, Australian, French, etc.

The bus ride wasn’t entirely comfortable. The seats felt cramped and cannot be reclined. Anyway, I guess these are just some small, little things to suffer in anticipation of experiencing Ha Long Bay soon!!

Nice views of countryside Vietnam…

my obsession with bridges continues….:-p
the train! the train!

…and finally we arrive at the wharf…

…and I got my TICKET!!!

After locating our boat, lunch was served as the boat quietly left the pier. Lunch was not at all fantastic, which was quite OK since it was going to be a boat ride. Even the prawns looked rather raw…

Everything served for lunch was included in the package, except for drinks, so some crew did go around selling marked-up prices of bia hoi and other drinks. Tip: Do bring your own water when you travel to Ha Long Bay!

The immediate thing that struck me as the boat ventured further and further away from the pier was how QUIET it suddenly became. I mean, I must have been growing too accustomed to the blaring of horns in Hanoi that the quietness was such a welcome ‘sound’!

After lunch, everyone raced to the upper deck to get a better view of the sea and also to get fresh sea breeze brushing against our faces…:-D

Gasp! Is that Penang Bridge?!!!

After about what seemed like half an hour, we entered the bay and docked at Thien Cung Caves (Heavenly Palace Caves) where we explored and marveled at the natural limestone formations all around the cave ….

Just a warning that as soon as you enter these caves, be prepared to listen to incredible and imaginative stories and images of what you can SEE from these limestones from your tour guide! In some ways, it was great to listen to these narratives too because there is just so much you can see when it comes to rocks and stones, right? 😛

the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel!
can you see the sitting Buddha?
apparently the story of romeo and juliet is found here…if you look close enough!
can you see the Singapore lion here?

…or perhaps a shark and crocodile?
..or maybe some eagle or dragon or a house or a…oh, you get the idea..:-p

Outside the caves, you will get quite a good view of the bay itself….

whilst there’s road traffic in Hanoi, you’d get bay traffic here!

We were soon on our way back to the wharf…

…but along the way, this was the time where we were all treated to some magnificent sights of rocks around the bay. Many of these rocks have been given names like chicken head or dog or whatever, but I shall just leave it to your own imagination. 😛

Wow! I see a …. (insert imagination here)!!! 

Hmmm…I kept asking myself that this particular rock looks awfully familiar….and many hours later, I saw it again…

Image Credits

Halfway back to shore, an announcement came that since we had a little more time that day, the boat will make a short detour to a nearby ‘floating village’ where we would get the chance to go kayaking or take a bamboo boat ride to explore other areas of the bay.

When we got there, we didn’t see any kayaks in service at all. So some of us decided to go for a ride in a bamboo boat. Price was VND130K per person, which was quite reasonable, I felt, considering the tough life these villagers are living.

One of the highlights of the bamboo boat ride was going under these ‘mini caves’ to another part of the bay, which was simply breathtaking…

After the brief detour, we got back onto our boat and headed back towards the shore. Along the way back, we were treated again to more majestic views of rock structures and everything else we can imagine them to be! :-p

well I see a DeLorean here. what do you see? :-P

the boat tilted, I swear! :-p

On the way back to Hanoi, the bus will most definitely make a brief stop at some souvenier shop. Ours made a stop at this place simply called ABC. Seriously!

From the number of buses stopping there, I guess it could be the only, or if not one of the more popular halfway stops to Ha Long Bay. Anyway, if you do happen to stop here, remember to check out a small section in the souvenier shop where there are some locals working on silk paintings. So far, I haven’t seen any of such paintings in Hanoi itself, so I thought this was pretty cool. 😀

By the time I reached Hanoi, it was already late, and I felt a bad pain on my back sitting upright during the entire journey. But considering the beauty of Ha Long Bay that I just experienced? It was all worth it! 😀

 

How to Visit Hanoi in 2 Days? (Day 1 of 2 – PM)

Picking up mid afternoon, I’d reckon you would have probably completed some shopping around the Old Quarters and is ready for more sight-seeing!

Apart from some of the places to see in Hanoi, one must also not forget to try out the bevy of delicacies of Hanoi street foods! Yes, I must admit that you could easily explore food by yourself, but I opted for an easier (and lazier too!) way out – sign up for a Street Food Tour. Besides, I thought eating in a group would be more fun too! There were quite a few options available, but I took up my package worth USD20 from Hanoi Street Food Tours, which was located very near from my hotel. For an additional USD5, the package also bundled in a ticket to the Thang Long Water Puppet Show.

The Food Tour was quite an interesting concept where a tour guide would take the group around the Old Quarters on foot, stopping at street restaurants, road-side stalls, and even casual cafes for a sampling of Vietnamese food. Here’s a series of pictures of my food trail taken during this 3-hour street food tour, which started form about 5pm.

1.Some Pork Noodles in Sweet Soup Sauce

Mashed up together! Yummy!

2. Pho Bo (Beef Noodles – don’t leave Hanoi without trying it!)

3. Banh Cuon Thit (Meat rolls – something like chee cheong fun)

Basil is found at almost every stall we ate!

4. Assortment of Spring Rolls – tastes something like popiah but brimming with porky goodness!

5. Sugar Cane Water

6. Grilled Pork on a Stick, or as I would rather call Pork Satay…

7. Fried Banana Cake – sorry….no hands to take a pic, but this was the Vietnamese version of Pisang Goreng. 😛

8. Vietnamese Egg Coffee @ Cafe Giang

through the straight and narrow path…
Superb Egg Coffee…just the perfect way to cap off a hearty street food tour!

9. Thang Long Water Puppet Show

After the Street Food Tour ended at about 8pm, we took a short stroll towards Hoan Kiem Lake, where not far off its north tip was the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre!

Overall, I thought the show was quite interesting – something really different seeing puppets moving about on the water. Perhaps it could be made more interesting if the storyline of the show was somehow translated into English; or some translation text flashed on the wall somewhere during the show. Great place to take small kids though. 😀

10. Den Ngoc Son Bridge (at night!)

As you exit the Theatre, just cross the road towards Hoan Kiem Lake and you can get a magnificent view of Den Ngoc Son at night…

11. Dong Xuan Night Market (only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 7-11pm)

From 9pm onwards, feel free to explore other parts of the Old Quarters. If you are travelling to Hanoi over on Fridays to Sundays, do check out their kilometre long night market – great place for buying more souvenirs before you go home! 😛

And whilst you are hungry, simply stop by any streetside stalls for more food! Here’s some other pics of foods I whacked in Hanoi…

can’t get enough of em yummy spring rolls!
boiled piggie ears dipped in lemon sauce
hidden springy noodles with seafood
tofu..
Vietnam apples!

 

beef noodles with sprinkling of peanut….YUMMY!!
Chicken Pho

…and THAT concludes Day ONE of sight-seeing and stomach feasting in Hanoi!

So what do you do now with ONE more day left in Hanoi? Easy, one does not come all the way to Hanoi and miss Ha Long Bay….

Stay tuned as we explore beautiful Ha Long Bay for the entire of Day 2!

 

How to Visit Hanoi in 2 Days? (Day 1 of 2 – AM)

If you had like one week to spend in Hanoi, you would most certainly have plenty of time to go super touristy and explore every inch of this beautiful city.

But what if you only had TWO DAYS?!! Would that be enough time to check out Hanoi?

TWO DAYS was roughly all the free time I had when I visited Hanoi last month. And I think I did pretty OK to cover some of the more exciting places and also Vietnamese food in that short period of time. So I thought I’d share some of what I went through which could perhaps be a suggested itinerary for some of you who might be also going to Hanoi with only two days to spend.

When I did some pre-travel research on day tours in Hanoi, I realised that many of them offered similar half day or full day city tours – which only covered about 4-6 places of attraction for about USD20 onwards. Two cheaper alternatives would be to (1) Secure a personal tour with a local guide for FREE – which you only pay for the transport and also their meals (check out hanoifreetourguides.com or hanoikids.org for example); or (2) Book a motorcyle taxi (Xe Om) to take you go sightseeing. I tried Option 1 with several sites but the local guides were not available on my preferred dates. So in the end I opted for Option 2.

Hiring a Xe Om is quite simple and are considerably cheaper than official sanctioned tour packages too! They are usually just hanging out casually on their motorcycles by any street corner. I managed to negotiate a Xe Om to to take me on a 4-hour tour from about 9am onwards for only VND300,000 (about USD 15). Of course I would spend the first hour hunting down my football ticket. So for just the remainder THREE hours, these are the places I managed to cover. Of course, do bear in mind that riding with a Xe Om is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Apart from getting a bonus roller-coaster death-defying ride for FREE, it also allowed me to see many places in a ‘touch and go’ manner, and I only stopped longer in places I have more interest in. Also, So here we go….from about 10am to 1pm, your tour on a Xe Om should include:

1. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

2. Chua Tran Quoc (next to West Lake)

3. Long Bien Bridge

Quite over-rated attraction. Probably looks better from afar. It’s basically only an old rusty steel bridge but if you were to cross it, you might want to stop somewhere in the middle to catch some good shots of the river running underneath.

View from Long Bien

if you’re lucky, you might spot an old train passing through the middle!

4. Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural

This is actually found along the walls of the main road heading up into Long Bien Bridge. Quite a pretty sight that stretches for a couple of miles. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any good shots from my Xe Om.

This is a sample of what it looks like

Image Credits

5. Hanoi Opera House

6. Thap Rua (Turtle Tower) – In the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake

7. Hoa Lo Prison

This was one of two stops I made which I spent a slightly longer time than usual. Perhaps I have been watching too many prison break-type of movies but whatever it is, I was just compelled to explore this prison. Overall, I have to say that visiting Hoa Lo was very enlightening. It provided a very thorough glimpse of the history of war-rich Vietnam and the significance of its prisoners here during those times. Of course, I would not recommend this tourist spot for families to bring small kids. Many areas that have been reconstructed for tourism purposes still had that dark, eerie and grim feel to it. Here are some pics from Hoa Lo:

8. Vietnam Military History Museum

I also spent slightly longer at this next stop. If you’re a war buff, this has to be a ‘must-visit’ place in Hanoi. They have quite an impressive collection of war vehicles, planes, armoury, cannons, etc. either collected or reconstructed from the Vietnam wars. My tip for those wanting to visit here would be to come EARLY! Strangely, they close at about 12-12.30pm  so it would be best that this be positioned as early as possible in your itinerary.

Arsenal team line-up…:-p

Wreckage of a F111A and B-52 engine – all rolled into one

9. Cột cờ Hà Nội (Flag Tower of Hanoi)

Right inside the grounds of the War Museum is this prominently positioned tower with the Vietnam flag proudly waving at the end of it. It required some climbing up the steep steps to get closer to the flag but in the end the exercise was quite worthwhile. 😀

10. Lenin Monument

11. St. Joseph’s Cathedral

12. Old Quarters

After completing your morning tour on the Xe Om, spend the rest of the afternoon walking along the streets of the Old Quarters to buy some souvenirs or just plain shopping!

For lunch, pick any road side stall and get yourself some delicious street food accompanied by ultra cheap Bia Hoi…

Eel soup!
Cheapest beer in the world? It tastes great too!

With half the day gone, what else is there to do in Hanoi for the evening of Day 1? Stay tuned for my proposed itinerary in my next blog!