A short break in Hanoi
Thinking about visiting Vietnam's capital? Let us take the Hanoi-ance out of the planning for you!
Touch-down at Noi Bai and check into your airbnb - there are plenty of lovely options for a really reasonable price - we stayed in this African themed guest house which was very cosy and thoughtfully decorated. (An African theme in a Vietnamese city you ask…? Yes, no idea either. But it was cute.)
We’d recommend staying in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, as it’s the perfect base for discovering many hidden restaurants, cafes and shops tucked away in little allies, or in the side streets.
Explore the city on foot and get your bearings before ducking into one of the maaaany spas for a cheap massage. Unless you’re paying a little extra, don’t be surprised when asked to strip down in front of your travel companions, or if the masseuse chats away to their friends the whole time… It’s worth it for a full body massage at a fraction of western prices. Expect to pay £10-15 for an hour including a tip.
Oily but relaxed, stroll on to find somewhere cheap and cheerful for dinner. There are so many great options, so no need to do too much research, but for the best (and cheapest) Bun Cha around, try Bun Bo Nam Bo - add on a Hanoi beer and 2 of the bread buns - seriously.
Vietnamese food is (IMHO) the BEST and there are so many great dishes to try here. One of our highlights of Hanoi was doing this local Vietnamese cooking class to learn a few of these dishes - booked through Airbnb it was one the absolute highlights and the location on Ha’s rooftop felt really special and unique.
We learnt spring rolls, summer rolls & Bun Cha, and were fed beer as soon as we arrived (at 10am..) until midday when full and satisfied (and tipsy).
(Of course we recorded the recipe details in our Travel Notebook to copy back home...)
Apparently it's alllll about the sweet & sour dipping sauce!
After all those beers you'll want to get back into town to try some Vietnamese coffee! If you’re not usually a coffee drinker, try a refreshing coconut milk iced coffee (delicious!). There are some great little coffee shops around, we loved the style and view from Cong Caphe watching the world go by below.
The water puppet show is rather lovely, although we had absolutely no clue what the story was for the most-part. Worth a visit for the traditional water puppets and unusual musical instruments (it's just long enough...)
Ha Long do you have to stay?
Because you’re not going to want to miss at least 2-3 days exploring the emerald waters, beautiful beaches and towering limestone islands topped with rainforests.
Booking a Ha Long Bay boat trip seems like a bit of a minefield to start with. There are so many options for boats and it really depends what you’re after. From total luxury, to cheap and cheerful, relaxed and romantic, to party booze cruise… it’s worth reading some reviews online or dropping into a travel agent to make sure you’re booking the right kind of excursion, since there’s no way off the boat.
We opted for a chilled, reasonably swanky boat. After much debate we decided to spend the 2nd night on Cat Ba and it was the best decision we made!
We had this peaceful island practically to ourselves and it was bliss.
Don't forget to add a new cross to your passport cover being jetting off to the next destination...