Capital of Vietnam, is known by its architecture, culture and food. Let’s see if it’s true

After a highly satisfactory trip in Ho Chi Minh, today I’m on the way to this chaotic but unique city to enjoy for 6 days of its amazing food, streets, culture and people.

My journey started from Shenzhen, Bao an district and taking off from Hong Kong. Why from Hong Kong? Air tickets price mainly. You can easily find air tickets departing from Hong Kong at half price than Shenzhen.

Day 1

After finished packing my backpack and while making a coffee at home, I arranged Didi car to pick me up at home at 9:15am right in front of Fanshen metro station 翻身地铁 and take me to 深圳湾口岸 Shenzhen Bay Port. Easiest way to be spotted by the driver and spot the car in case you don’t speak Chinese as I do. If the pick up point is easy, they usually don’t call you. However, the could message you, hence I would recommend you to send them a brief description of what are you wearing or something easy to recognize in Chinese. Google translate or Talking translator is quite accurate on this matter.

Once arrived to Shenzhen Bay port 深圳湾口岸, the fastest and convenient way to get to Hong Kong Airport is by taking a van. You may find a lot of van services along the way to the entrance to Hong Kong. The chosen one for me was E&E (wearing green t-shirts). I’m always using this van service and never had a problem with them. The price from Shenzhen Bay to Hong Kong Airport is 150RMB and it takes around 1.5hours, depending of traffic jam. The fastest and the most comfortable way.

Landed in Hanoi and crossing immigration, the cheapest way to get to the Old Quarter is by taking the bus 86. The bus is located in in the left side once you exit the airport and its orange color is easy to spot it. The price for the journey is 30,000VND and the staffs are really friendly, clean bus and with aircon. In case you have some doubts on where you should alight, you may ask to the assistant and he/she will let you know once arriving.

The journey takes about 30 minutes with no traffic jam.

Reached to the hotel and checked in, I decided to stroll and spot where to eat, where to have coffee and where to have beers.

Despite this strolling, a good choice also would be have a look to Hoàn Kiếm Lake at night and have a walk along its border. Whether you’re thinking to buy some groceries or coffee, near the lake there’s a supermarket. Affordable price for coffee and others. Cheaper than street sellers. So is a good opportunity to get whatever you would like to bring back home.

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On the north of Hoàn Kiếm lake you may find the most tourist place, streets food and thousand of bars. At night is completely crazy but unique.

Day 2

The plan for the second day in Hanoi is explore Hanoi citadel, museums and the Presidential Palace and its surroundings. During my trip in Saigon, barely had problems to find normal cafes to start a day with a nice breakfast and coffee. Walking around the Old Quarter, hardly could see locals but not scary cafes.

Finally a “normal” Cafe spotted in the area, nothing special but tired to explore around and getting frustrated. Not bad coffee and tea after all, despite the Cafe looks a bit “under destruction”.

On its way, there are hundreds of local shops selling lamps and electronic products, and an old railroad track

The time spent at exploring the area would be approximately 3-4 hours if the weather is good.

War museum photos:

Hanoi Citadel photos:

Tran Quoc Pagoda photos and surrounding:

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Despite the place looks beautiful, it’s a bit disappointing due to all the rubbish thrown in the lake and lack of restaurants or food places. Away from the Old Quarter, it’s really hard to find a good place to sit, eat local food and breath.

Day 3

For my 3rd day in Hanoi, Halong Bay cruise was my choice since I already visited most interesting places nearby.

The journey starts at 8:00am, a bus pick me up at the hotel. Whether you want to make a day trip or 2 days trip in Halong Bay, better to have a good breakfast and some sandwiches to go.

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The journey by bus will take about 4 hours to Halong Bay in order to board later in the cruise.

There are tons of cruise companies, classified by quality and services. From 2 or 3 stars to deluxe cruises. Figure out which one is the best and in accordance to your likes, will be hard since the real pictures will never match with reality. My cruise was Golden Star cruises and it’s average despite I expected something else according with the price (90USD) for 1 night. Anyway, independently of what cruise is the chosen, you will enjoy of incredible views for sure.

The bus will stop eventually in Hon Gai Harbor @ Ha Long city in order to board to your cruise

Once boarded, the journey to Halong Bay waters will take 1-2 hours before to be amazed with its views

The first stop for my cruise was the most famous cave in Cat Ba.

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In the inner part of the cave you will have fun of the views and the crowds. Sadly this cave is a hot spot and it’ll be really crowded with queues to get to different accesses. However, worth to see.

The views from the top of the cave are fantastics. It’ll be a challenge to find space to take some photos due to the crowd tho.

The second stop of my cruise was the Ti Top Island. Small beach and hundreds of stairs to climb whether you want to enjoy of a beautiful panorama of the area. It’s a must!

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Once back to the cruise, the next is to wait for a really romantic sunset.

Day 4

Whether you’re able to wake up at 6am in the cruise, you’ll enjoy of a nice and not amazing sunrise as expected due to the high lands are blocking the views.

The next activity of my cruise was Kayaking for 45 minutes around the boat.

After kayaking, the next activity is a perform but I managed to skipped it to relax and breathe. I never regret of that decision, one boat for myself and drinks in the bar, beside good views

The rest of the day is a journey towards Hanoi, back to hotel and rest.

Day 5

The last full day was spent basically to those places I visited at night, strolling and last purchases

St. Joseph Cathedral

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Hoàn Kiếm Lake

Strolling

Hanoi prison. It wasn’t in my plans at first but worth to see. If you have more free time, it’s a good choice

DETAILS:

  • Location: Hanoi @ Old Quarter district & Halong Bay
  • Time spent: 6 days (4 days would have been enough tho)
  • Season: mid August
  • Weather conditions: Raining slightly on 17 & 18 August/Sunny rest of days with few thunderstorms at night
  • Score: 7/10

SUMMARY

I have enjoyed Hanoi despite the weather was not favorable (raining at first and then extremely hot). But my thoughts is that 6 days is too much unless you wanna take 2 tours (Halong Bay & Sa Pa). I just needed 2.5 days to finish most of all sightseeing spots. If only want to get Halong Bay tour (2 days 1 night), I bet that 4 days is more than enough to stay in Hanoi.

Furthermore, I had better expectations about Hanoi and it really disappointed me despite I read tons of good reviews. I have been in Ho Chi Ming (Saigon) too, and for sure there is no possible comparison. I enjoyed more Ho Chi Minh rather than Hanoi. Why? Nice tours, much better food and more healthy, more local spots, deeper history and a lot of street food BBQ.

 

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