How are you my lovely people? It has been long and I am really sorry for keeping you wait for the second part of my Vietnam travel diaries. I was little caught up in tussle with work life balance and things are organized right now. So let me take you to the charming world of Hanoi.
Adding the quick link here for the Part 1 of my Vietnam travel diaries for you to refresh and get charged up for the next.
I boarded the morning Vietjet flight from Ho Chi Minh City. Guess what! I could see my biggest nightmare coming true when the flight took a descent . The sky looked darker than usual and rains started hitting the window panes. While I was a bit sad I was also proud of myself for the little homework done before journey began and I had packed my umbrella. Hanoi being a slightly tropical zone of North Vietnam it experiences unexpected showers throughout the year, the monsoons being May to October. December being a cold month in Hanoi some warm clothes are also necessary. In case you missed any not to worry, the local market offers you a variety of raincoats to warm wears pick the ones you like. After collecting baggage I took a Grab taxi to my hotel room located in Old Quarters, the beaming face of Hanoi.
After waiting the whole afternoon for rains to stop, the evening was a bliss. As nothing much could have been done, I decided to explore the area around the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake. Peaceful and quiet, the lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda sitting in the center on a small island. This is the place so vintage and artistic, I can spend days and hours together sitting by the lake side. Apart from having my dinner and favorite Vietnamese coffee at Conifer Cafe for 100.00 VND, I did some shopping from local market as well.
Top 5 things what you could do when around Hoan Kiem Lake-
- Visit the Ngoc Son temple, enjoy some peaceful moment just sitting on benches or walking around the lake admiring the view.
- Get close to Vietnamese culture at Thang Long Water Puppet Museum. It will cost you around 100.00 VND for one show.
- Then find your way to historical St. Joseph's Cathedral. Historical building dates back to 1886, standing upright proud of its massive architecture.
- Pause and enjoy bird's eye view of lake sipping your favorite smoothie or coffee at 4th, 5th floors of cafes by the side of the lake. My favorites are City View cafe and Cafe Pho Co.
- Shop your heart out at the local market where you get all varieties of caps, hats, shoes, bags, clothing which any fashion forward person would love.
Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
Thang Long Water Puppet Museum
St. Joseph's Cathedral,Hanoi
Đồng Xuân Market, Hanoi
Yes guys! I am at North Vietnam and how could I miss the World Heritage, Ha Long Bay. Now a days it has become an over run tourist trap, you can see junk boats and garbage litter in the bay. As a responsible tourist I suggest you to do your bit right. It was a full day Ha Long Bay tour. The previous night I planned 1 day cruise tour to Ha Long Bay due to limited time and adverse weather conditions. You can also plan 2 days cruise or stay there, relax and explore the archipelago.
Top 5 things to do at Ha Long Bay-
- Take a cruise and explore the big hits to the less visited quieter islets. Definitely you have to get to water for island hopping. Choose your traditional cruise wisely from dozens of companies checking the reviews. You can plan your stay, food and wine on board to make the experience memorable.
- Kayaking through the caves at Hang Luon and the emerald water of Gulf of Tonkin is an enthralling experience all together. Enjoy the silence and view the towering karst formations from a different perspective.
- Believe me it is worth the climb to Hang Sung Sot/ Thein Cung Cave located at Bon Hon Island which is a World Heritage site. Witness the beauty of the stalactites and stalagmites formations happened over millions of years and the change continues. Also some formations have funny depictions which you need to explore. The lights streams through water and create beautiful flickering patterns on the cave walls.
- Hike to the Tip Top or Bai Tho mountain, then sit back for a while and enjoy the view of the serene water and tall green topped karst formations. This will give you a completely different taste from the over commercialized Ha Long Bay city. you can visit Tip Top when you are on your cruise ride(easy access) but Bai Tho you can visit from the mainland(accessibility is little difficult).
- Swimming is what you must enjoy when by the beach side and vacating. Tip Top is the best place for sun basking and sit back relax on the white sand.
I had taken VietJet Cruise for 570.000 VND for 1 day trip which included 1 lunch.
Hang Luon, Ha Long Bay
Vietnamese Lunch on plate.
View Ha Long Bay from Tip Top
By the Beach Side, Tip Top
It always does not work as you plan. I had planned a trip to Tam Coc in Ninh Binh district. All thanks to rain accompanied by chilled weather, I had to cancel the trip. I was just lazying around the bed till noon and then took a stroll around Hanoi Old Town knowing more about their culture and people. Also explored the west side of Hoan Kiem Lake which has old building of French colonial era and tree lined boulevards. Here there are many shops, malls and hotels. For dinner savored some hot chicken pho soup went back to hotel.
The Train Street, Hanoi
A painter's shop, Old Quarters, Hanoi
Westside of Hoan Kiem Lake
Chicken Pho Noodle Soup
The next morning boarded my flight back to India. Vietnam and its people were so loving and welcoming. Many wonderful places left behind to be explored like Sapa, Phong Nah, Hoi An, Ninh Binh, Phu Cuoc. I wish I could to be back sometime soon.