This post was most recently updated on May 24th, 2019
I booked a ticket for an 8-day trip to Hanoi, Vietnam just a week before my departure date, March 9th, 2019. I’m not sure why I waited so late, but I heard so many positive things about this destination that I knew I couldn’t hesitate to book a trip. See, I believe it’s important to invest in travel because the more you see the world, the more you learn about people and the different cultures around the world.
So, here’s a look into my journey from my home in New Delhi, India, to Hanoi, Vietnam!
My 31-Hour Journey to Hanoi
Saturday, March 9th came faster than I thought it would.
It was 8 AM and I was headed out the door to get to Jaipur in time to catch my flight to Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia).
I landed in Kuala Lumpur on March 10th. There was no direct flight from India to Vietnam, so this was my first time taking a connecting flight. The most exciting part of it all — I got the chance to eat Malaysian food, buy souvenirs, and interact with fellow travelers.
I finally landed in Hanoi, Vietnam at 3 pm after a very long 31-hours since I left home.
Once I got settled, I quickly learned that Sunday night in Hanoi is the weekend party night. I met up with a friend who was waiting for me since Sunday morning and we hit the town! The city was alive with tourists enjoying the live music, dance performances and pancake stalls. It felt as if the city was gearing up for a festival, but I quickly learned this was the way the city spends their weekends from Friday through Sunday. This was the best nightlife I have ever experienced, without a doubt.
An Excursion in Ninh Binh
It was early morning on March 11th and time to prepare for a day of exploration! Our first excursion of the trip was to visit the Ninh Binh (a small city in Vietnam). Our tour guide first took us to Viet Temple, then we went on a bike tour through the scenic landscape of the UNESCO world heritage site, Tam Coc (meaning three caves). Although it was a great day, it was time to take a break to grab some lunch. And we enjoyed a mouthwatering Viet style buffet lunch at a restaurant nearby. It was a nice experience to taste a variety of authentic Viet dishes that I’ve never had before.
It was time for the most awaited part of the day: The Boat ride through Tam Coc!
We hopped in a small boat rowed by a local who used her feet to move the oars to maneuver the boat through the river. The tour took us alongside limestone mountains and through three dark caves where we were welcomed by the bats who lived inside. This boat tour provided some insane views of Ninh Binh!
TIP: Bring some form of light with you before you go to see inside the caves. Also, be sure to take some money with you to tip your hard-working rower.
Leaving Hanoi for Cát Bà Island
Enough time was spent in Hanoi, so I headed to Cát Bà Island located in the North Eastern region of Vietnam. It was a 5-hour bus and ferry ride to get there from Hanoi. The island was quiet, beautiful, and filled with tourists. There were a few night clubs and incredibly delicious street foods from pancakes to crepes and ice cream. If you ever find yourself on Cát Bà Island make sure to try the most delightful filtered iced coffee from the street food vendors!
At night, we rented a bike from our property owner to explore more of the island, in the dark! I’ll admit it, we got scared after riding for a few miles, so we decided to spend some time at the shore of the harbor which was quite a relaxing and memorable.
Visiting UNESCO Site, Halong Bay
It was the 5th day and another exciting adventure in Vietnam.
We spent the day at the UNESCO world heritage site, Halong Bay, situated in northeast Vietnam. This site is recognized for its emerald waters and the thousands of towering limestone islands topped with rainforests. We started the day with a river cruise in Halong Bay and weren’t disappointed with the beauty of the caves, coral reefs, and lagoons. We took breaks to jump in the Bay to swim, kayak, and we even got to visit Monkey Island (which was the best part of the trip!). The cruise experience is one I strongly recommend.
My two new friends and I diverted our route on Monkey Island while everyone was headed for a hike on the mountain. We came across a hidden resort located on the parallel shore of the island and later that evening, we danced the night away at the popular Ross Club.
From Cát Bà Island, back to Hanoi
It was a great few days and we were all set to leave the island with enough memories to last a lifetime. We crossed back across the ocean on a speed boat and a bus to return to the mainland. Once we reached Hanoi, we spent some time recharging on egg coffee followed by some retail therapy since Hanoi is known for its fashion. And, just like our past days in Hanoi, we closed the night with a relaxing rest on the shore of Hoan Kiem lake.
The Last Hurrah
It was my last day in Vietnam and there were only a few hours until I had to head back home the next day. So, what better way to spend the time than to eat! We dug into some Vietnamese spring rolls paired with a glass of traditional rice wine at a popular restaurant. Next up was The Train Line! Here, café’s and shops are located literally in front of a narrow gauge of the train railroad. I found that there were several Western tourists sitting outside waiting to see the train pass at the Train Line Café. The location is a residential area where some tourists go to witness the narrow space that the train passes through twice a day. As the train approaches you must move both yourself and your belongings out of the way. I’m not exaggerating when I say the street is narrow!
A Final Goodbye before Heading Home
All good things must come to end but this trip was undoubtedly the one to remember. I returned home with new experiences and learnings of the wonderful culture and life in Vietnam.