Hanoi and Halong bay – Vietnam

We arrived in Vietnam and checked into the Blue Star hotel in Hanoi. The city of Hanoi was very different from where we just came from in Vientien. It was so incredibly busy and noisy, all we could hear was hooters all the time from the cars and motorbikes. It should really be called “Hanoisy”
The area we were staying is full of backpacker and cheap hotel accommodation, and was full of loads of foreigners.

The streets were chaotic to say the least, but in the evenings they went ‘Full Retard’, with the local people all coming out to eat, drink and be merry. The volume of people was insane, and in some places motorbikes could not even go down the street.

We explored the area on foot to see a few local landmarks and found a few very nice vegan and vegetarian restaurants. One of the ones that stood out for us was the “Lantern Lounge” as the whole ceiling was adorned with beautiful lantern, that lit up beautifully at night. The foods was pretty good too.

Being a tourist in Vietnam, we decided to go for a short “Cyclo” taxi ride, which is a pedal powered taxi seat you sit in, while being taken to your destination by your driver. On one of the evenings we decided to go to the theater to watch the “Water puppet show”, which is a traditional puppet show done in water, while musicians using traditional instruments interpret the story. This is one of the popular attractions for tourists in vietnam.

While in Hanoi we organised a short 5 day cruise to Halong bay through our accommodation with “Halong Fantasea Cruise”. Halong Bay was voted as one of the seven wonders of nature, just like our beautiful Table Mountain in Cape Town.

The journey entailed a bus ride to Halong bay, where we boarded our boat which had 12 cabins. Each cabin had a double bed, and bathroom. Our welcome drink on the boat was a glass of Fanta, which we thought was funny as the name of the cruise is “Fantasea”.

On the first day, we left the port and cruised through the lime stone formations that make up Halong bay. What a beautiful site, something we will never forget, and was the highlight our Vietnam experience. The boat stopped and we went to visit the Hang Sung Sot cave, which was the most amazing cave we have ever seen. The cave was very big, and had colour changing lights throughout, which looked amazing. We also went kayaking in Halong bay, and had to navigate our way through a few holes in some of the lime stone formations. After a day of beautiful sights in Halong bay, we anchored in a calm area surrounded by the rock formations and watched the sunset before going to sleep in the cabin.

The next day we had an early morning start. We visited “Ti Top” island, where we hiked up the mountain, where we were treated to an amazing view of Halong bay. After hiking back down, we cooled off at the beach, before getting back onto the boat. Our next destination was “Cat Ba” island, where we went hiking in the national park. It was quite an intense hike to the highest peak, but well worth the view. We then made our way to the Hotel in the town, where we had some free time, which we spent on the beach.

That evening we were told that there was an approaching typhoon that would make landfall the next day. This meant that the cruise would be cut short for safety reasons, and the entire island would be evacuated in the morning. We had to check out at 6am, so that we would make it back to the mainland before the typhoon hit. The police were not allowing boats to arrive, or tourists to stay on the island, so we had to leave. The boat ride back was a lot more wet and windy due to the approaching storm.

After being on the boat, and a long bus ride back to Hanoi, we arrived at our previous accommodation to collect our luggage.  The weather was turning really bad, with heavy rain, and with no accommodation booked, and not wanting to spend another night in noisy Hanoi, we decided to board a night bus to a town called “Hoi An”, which turned out to be a 17 hour journey.