This is the trip I took with my traveling buddy in college during springbreak.It's always been a dream of mine to visit Vietnam and it was my first time out of Europe.It's easily one of the best trips I've ever taken and Vietnam is in my top 5 favourite countries for sure.
We arrived in Hanoi's Nội Bài International Airport,after 2 long flights and a layover in Dubai.We took a taxi to the High Five Hostel,where we booked our stay for $8 a night.Driving along the strees of Hanoi for the first time is one of my most memorable experiences.The insane traffic,the motorcycles honking and the street food vendors preparing their specialities really made me realize I'm not in Europe anymore.We were starving,so we went to eat at the indian restaurant right next to the hostel and then straight to sleep.
Next morning,we woke up pretty early to beat the tourist crowds.We had our first pho for the price of $1.50,and then we set out to explore.We walked to the St.Joseph's Cathedral,a fine example of the french colonial architecture in Hanoi.It is as charming as any other gothic cathedral in Europe and it is also the oldest church in Hanoi.We had a coconut coffee and glanced at the beautiful cathedral.
Afterwards,we headed over to the Military History Museum.It holds a large collection of artefacts related to Vietnam's Military History,spanning from the ancient ages,when they had confrontations with the Chinese Dynasties,up to the notorious Vietnam War with the United States.The entry was about $1.70 and it holds a very large collection of military artefacts.It's a good place to have an overview of the country history,although their take on the Vietnam War is a bit different,as it is a national museum of the communist government.
In the second day we had a bowl of pho for breakfast once again and then we took a taxi to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.It's a must see for anyone interested in history and culture if they're in Vietnam.It's very informative and it gave us a good insight on the various ethnicites living in Vietnam and their culture,tradition and dwellings.The entry fee was $1.70 and we had to take a taxi back to the Old Quarters,as it is pretty far from it.
In the afternoon I had a haircut at a pretty high-end place for what I expected.They gave me an excellent shave as well for $2.50 altogether.Then,we headed to our second stop of the day-The Temple of Literature.It had a very cheap entrance fee and it's well worth it.The place is clean,peaceful and full of vietnamese history.
After the temple,we walked to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum,which is the resting place of one of the most famous vietnamese of all time.The entrance was free and we got to watch the change of guard.It is pretty packed with tourists but still an impressive place and full of history.
We spent our last day of visiting Hanoi at the Hoan Kiem Lake.We walked around the park mesmerised by the beautiful nature and the historical buildings all around,such as the Thap But Tower.We met some students that we talked with and they led us to the Ngoc Son Temple.We had a cup of tea at the small temple before finding ourselves into the evening hustle and bustle of the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square.We had a nice pizza there before getting to the Legend Beer pub,where we had a nice pint before going back to the hostel.
In the fourth day we hired a scooter in Hanoi for $5 a day to get to our next destination,Tam Coc.There we parked our scooters and went for a 1.30hr boat ride around the waterwys and caves of the region.The landscape is breathtaking and incredibily cheap for $3.25,as I split the bill with my friend.The region is also situated in a National Park,for which you have to play $5 to enter.
After the boat ride,we headed over to Bich Dong.We paid $1 to park our scooters there,and then we explored the rest of the place by foot.The complex features a ton of stunning cave pagodas surrounded by the jungle and the water full of lily pads.
The Mau caves were the last stop of our trip around the Ninh Binh countryside.The entrance fee was $4.50 and we had to walk a lot of steps to get to the top.The vantage point on the top offers an incredible view over the waterways and the hills of the region.We spent the rest of the day there,before heading back to Ninh Binhm,where we slept in a rural hut for $15 a night.
In the fifth day we drove back to Hanoi,where we got picked up by a driver that got us to the Ha Long Bay.We had booked 2 days and 1 night in a cruise ship,and the transport from Hanoi to the bay and back was included in the price.The bay is truly magical and it's by far my favorite place in North Vietnam.We explored some of the caves in the region and we mostly ate fish,which I like so it wasn't a problem for me.
The water was very clean and I loved swimming in it.We spent the evening on the deck having a drink and watching the sun as it set down.
In the sixth day we woke up to the incredible views of the bay.We went for a morning swim and then,back on the deck,we learnt to cook some vietnamese dishes.We met a student that spoke good english and he told us a lot of interesting facts about Vietnam and the vietnamese culture.In the evening,we were driven back to Hanoi,where we took the sleeper bus to Lao Cai.
In the seventh day we arrived in Lao Cai after a long night,and we rented scooters for $4.5 a day to get to Sapa,which was our main destination in the region.We ate some fried rice and drunk iced tea with some locals that showed us around and then we drove to some of the villages nearby.We trekked the rice terraces that make the region famous but the weather was pretty bad unfortunately.
In the evening we headed to a bar in Sapa to have a pint of local beer,and then we went to sleep in a rural hut.
In the eight day we woke up early to get to the Hamrong Mountain.We had some difficulties reaching it but the views were beautiful everywhere so we didn't mind.The entry fee was $3 and it was an easy climb.We wandered around for a couple of hours,before driving back to Lao Cai to return the scooters and take the sleeper train back to Hanoi.
Back in Hanoi we had one last bowl of pho,before going to sleep at the High Five Hostel once again.Early in the morning,we took a taxi to the airport and got on our flight home.
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