Vietnam Trip: Explore the Country’s Natural Wonders and Unique HeritageHighlights include: Hanoi, Halong Bay Cruise, Sapa Trekking, Hue and Hội An
Vietnam is one of the key tourist destinations in South-East Asia, and it is easy to understand why! In this Vietnam trip, we were able to mix adventurous trekking, great cultural experiences and fun urban visits, as well as an impressive immersion in locations like UNESCO World Heritage site’s Ha long Bay and sparkling cities like Hanoi and Hue! All in less than 2 weeks… This Vietnam trip does not cover the south of the country, which would have been too much in 10 days. However, we plan to go back there in order to do the south part of Vietnam and especially to visit Ho Chi Minh City.
My recommendation for this trip is to plan well in advance your itinerary and to really map out all the locations you wanna visit. If you know people with experience/knowledge of the country, ASK them. This will make you avoid the unpleasant experiences & tourist scams in Ha Long or unwise hotel choices… Another good option is simply to take some time and read a lot about the destinations and traveler experiences!
Enjoy and add your comments & suggestions!
Step by step
Day 1-2: Hanoi
Hanoi, a great starting point for a Vietnam trip
Flying from Singapore, we arrived in Hanoi by the end of the afternoon after a 3 hours and something flight. This was the start of our Vietnam Trip :) We were rapidly caught by the frenzy atmosphere that characterize Hanoi and which is very contagious! An explosion of different colors, perfumes, ambiances...
We found a nice hotel and went for a walk nearby. We lost ourselves in the tiny streets of Hanoi and finally found a small restaurant where no one spoke English.
After a funny, sign-only discussion, we managed to order a dish with chicken, pointing our finger at the (dead) animal! The meal was delicious and the place very typical.
The next day, we woke up early to visit the Vietnamese capital. Each area of the city is dedicated to a specific economic activity: metallurgists, wood carvers, artists, high-tech specialists... Get (not too) lost! We also visited some of the key monuments such as Tay Dang Communal House and Phu Dong Temple.
Day 3-4: Halong Bay Cruise
Halong Bay Cruise
We started early the 2nd day - 8am - to reach quickly Ha Long. Arriving at 12:30 pm at the boat station, we embarked on a traditional boat that has around 10 rooms and started the magical Halong Bay Cruise in the Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is easy to understand why!
Breathless is the adjective that I would use to describe the feeling we all had facing this incredible scenery! We spent the night onboard and enjoyed really great food for lunch, dinner, and breakfast. We made several stops to visit caves and deserted beaches. We even climbed one the peaks to admire the sunset... What a memory! We definitely recommed doing the Halong Bay Cruise, even if it has become a giant touristic attraction...
You'll find a great deal of information about the cruise here: http://www.travelfish.org/feature/77
Day 5: Tam Cốc-Bích Động
Tam Cốc-Bích Động
After getting off the boat by the end of the morning, we started our journey to Ninh Binh (4 hours by car and around 180km distance). We spent the night at Hoa Lu.
Day 6-7: Tam Cốc-Bích Động - Hanoi
Tam Cốc-Bích Động - Hanoi
The next day was a great tourism experience for our Vietnam trip! We visited the Halong Bay land on a barque. We stopped several times to admire the (really) massive landscapes around us and the caves. We were amazed by the local rowing technique: 'use your feet...'
On the afternoon, we went back to Hanoi. A 2 to 3 hours journey by car (about 100km). We spent the night there. We visited another day Hanoi and then took a night train at the central rail station to LaoCai...
Day 7-8-9: Sapa
Sapa, a key part of our Vietnam trip
Spending the first night in the train, we were really glad to see the quality of the cabins. They're truly comfortable. We reached Lao Cai at 5.30 am where we were welcomed by our guide and transferred to Sapa.
Our trekking adventure in the mountains and rice terraces was now ready to begin! The first leg was to go to the CAC CAC village, before heading to the SINCHAI village (6km further by foot). We discovered the authentic lifestyle of the Hmong tribe, a very enriching experience. We spent the night in the village with our hosts who served us a delicious dinner with local rice alcohol... That's what I call a Vietnam trip!
The next morning, we woke up early and march to the Tavan and Jiang Tachai villages, where the Dao rouge tribe lives. Again, we spent the night there with nice hosts.
The third day was dedicated to te return to Sapa, where we finally had enough time to visit this nice town. We enjoyed a short excursion to the mountain pass of TRAM TOM (the border between Laocai and Laichau). A short visits to Taphin village, and we went back to Laocai for our train back to Hanoi (night in the train).
Day 10: Hanoi - Hue
Hanoi - Hue
Arriving very early at Hanoi (4.30 am), we transferred with a domestic flight and flew to Hue - capital city of Thừa Thiên–Huế Province. Hue is also one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites! We spent the full day visiting the beautiful city, its historic monuments, the citadel, the perfume river, the largest Pagoda in the city...
It is definitely worth the time! Our hotel was the New Star, which I would recommend .. especially for the swimming pool that will help you relax after a long day!
Day 11-12: Danang-Hoian
Hue - Danang-Hoian - Hanoi
The last 2 days of our Vietnam trip were spent in Hue and Danang, before going back to Hanoi for our flight back to Singapore. We did the amazing Perfume River and visited the Thien Mu Temple and the Tu Duc tomb.
We headed for Danang, passing by the cloud mountain pass (a Japanese stop) and spent the night at the Van Loi hotel in order to be close to the old town in the evening. An incredible experience awaited us: seeing all the colored lanterns and lights creating a magical atmosphere in the tiny streets.
The next morning, we visited Hoi An and went in the afternoon to the Marble Mountain and the cham museum.