Hanoi & Ha Long Bay
it is noisy, it feels very claustrophobic in some ways but in others it is quite charming. Crossing the road is one of the biggest challenges you will face as hundreds of motorbikes descend on you. If you stand at the side of the road and wait for them to let you out…think again. You will be there a long time. Best thing to do is walk out at a steady speed and they will very easily without any beeping or cursing go around you. Side stepping like a rugby player will cause mayhem so walk forward and close your eyes and you’ll be ok :0
Personally I think two days is more than enough time in Hanoi, walking around the Old Quarter takes only an hour or two depending on your speed and trips to the Ho Chi Minh Monument (has to be done very early morning as it closes at 10.30am) and the War Museum can be completed before midday. There are lots of small local restaurants which sell delicious food at great prices. Living in Malaysia we are used to eating out fairly cheaply but adding on a beer or two usually doubles or triples your bill. No such problem here though. A 450ml bottle of decent local beer is about 20000Dong / 60p / $1 rather than $4/$5 you are likely to pay in KL. When a can of sprite/coke or fanta is the same price, well what to do??
Being in Hanoi means you are only 3 hours away from the world famous Ha Long Bay. Again I had been previously on a 3 day / 2 night excursion and although I knew what to expect I was still excited for Aida who was about to see some beautiful scenery. There are many packages on offer here, from 1 day trip all the way unto a 5* 2 night cruse. We chose a mid range 2 day / 1 night cruise with accommodation on the boat (Legacy), rather than staying in either Ha Long or Cat Island. We were very lucky as our fellow travellers were generally all very friendly and allowed some banter especially when one of the guys was the dad of Kimi from The Vengaboys…Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, I want you in my room!!!
The views are amazing and the cave you visit on day one is also pretty stunning especially when you get to the top and look out ay the bay. Coming down we got to kayak for 45 minutes and relax in the wonderful scenery. Back on the boat the food was plentiful and the beer (not included) was free flowing. Trying to catch squid for the next day was unsuccessful so we left that to the crew and played some drinking games for the next 3 hours.
Day two saw Aida get up early to participate in a Tai Chi class whilst I observed with a minor hangover. We visited a local community on day two where the sights where somewhat more impressive although there are talks that this village will be closed and the inhabitants located in the city in the very near future.
Once back on land, another 3/4 hour journey will see you back from the peace and tranquility of Ha Long to the panic pace and pollution of Hanoi.
On reflection, Ha Long Bay is the somewhat perfect way to end your time in Vietnam so maybe if you have the choice start in the south and work your way up north, however for us, we had a plane to catch to the city of Hue.