Hanoi & Halong Bay

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.

Capital de Vietnam, Hanoi es conocida por su arquitectura, cultura y comida.

Después de un viaje más que satisfactorio en Ho Chi Minh, hoy voy de camino a esta caótica pero única ciudad para disfrutar de su comida, calles, cultura y gente durante 6 días.

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.

Día 1

Una vez hecha la maleta, solicité un taxi a través de Didi para recogerme a las 9:15am en frente de casa con dirección a Shenzhen Bay Port.

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.

Una vez llegado a Shenzhen Bay Port, cogí una furgoneta con dirección al Aeropuerto de Hong Kong, ya que es el método más fácil y rápido por 150RMB

Despegado de Hong Kong y aterrizado en Hanoi, el modo más barato y sencillo de ir a Old Quarter es cogiendo el bus 86. El bus está a mano izquierda nada más salir del aeropuerto y es de color naranja. El precio del billete es de 30,000VND y los asistentes son bastante agradables, el bus está limpio y tiene A/C. En caso de duda de dónde bajar, preguntar al asistente y te indicará cuando llegues al destino.

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.

El trayecto dura unos 30 minutos sin tráfico

Llegados al hotel, decidí dar una vuelta por los alrededores y localizar puestos de comida y cafeterías.

Un buen sitio dónde encontrar de todo es Hoàn Kiếm Lake. Hay cafeterías, bares, supermercados, etc. y de noche es bastante bonito dar una vuelta bordeando el lago

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.

Al norte del lago es la zona turística: comida, bares, restaurantes, fiesta…

In the area marked you will find a lot of food, bars, music and local shops. Most of the bars and food and offering the same or similar, so the best is to find a place wherever you’d like to relax and have fun.

En la zona marcada arriba en el mapa es donde se encuentra la mayoría de bares, comida y tiendas. Casi todos los bares ofrecen el mismo tipo de comida, por lo que cualquier sitio tranquilo es suficiente.

Some beers and food to breath after a tiring day. The average price for local beers is around 20,000-30,000VND.

Obviously, whether you’re already in this area, can’t miss the chance to have a look to St. Joseph Cathedral next to the lake as well.

El precio de la cerveza oscila entre los 20,000 y 30,000VND.

Y ya puestos que estaba en esta zona, hay que visitar la catedral de St. Joseph

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.

Día 2

El plan para el segundo día es visitar la ciudadela, museos y el palacio presidencial y alrededores. En Ho Chi Minh era difícil de no encontrar cafeterías, pero por la zona donde andaba yo aquí era imposible de encontrarlos. Demasiado lejos de la calle principal, tal vez.

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

Encontrada una cafetería normal, me tome un descanso y ver el mapa de los alrededores para seguir con la visita. En esta zona pude ver cientos de tiendas de lámparas y unas vías del tren que atravesaban la ciudad

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

War museum photos:

Fotos del museo de guerra:

Hanoi Citadel photos:

Fotos Ciudadela

Tran Quoc Pagoda photos and surrounding:

Fotos de Tran Quoc Pagoda y alrededores

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.

A pesar de que tenía buenas opiniones, me quedé algo decepcionado por la cantidad de basura y no era un lugar tan bueno como decían, personalmente. En China encuentras Pagodas mejor conservados

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.

Día 3

Este fué el día elegido para ir a Halong Bay. El viaje empezó a las 8.00am: un autobús me recogió a las puertas del hotel hasta el puerto. Recomendaría comer antes de ir a Halong Bay ya que el trayecto es de 4 horas. Hay cientos de agencias para buscar cruceros, o a través del hotel también se puede hacer

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

Hay muchas compañías de cruceros, clasificadas por calidad y servicios desde 2 a 3 estrellas, o de lujo! Saber cuál es mejor dependerá de nuestros propios gustos ya que todos parecen iguales, con más o menos decoraciones. El crucero elegido fué Golden Star por 90USD 1 noche.

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

Una vez a bordo, el viaje dura 2 horas hasta llegar al paraíso

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

La primera parada del crucero fué la cueva Cat Ba

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.

Su interior es único a pesar de las colas y masas.

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.

Las vistas desde lo alto de la cueva son fantásticas. Es difícil de encontrar hueco para sacar fotos pero con agilidad y empujones se consigue.

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!

La segunda parada fué la isla Ti Top. Una pequeña playa con una cumbre y cientos de escaleras para subirla y disfrutar de unas vistas únicas.

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

De vuelta al crucero llega el atardecer. Momento romántico para los que van en pareja

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. However, the sunrise is a “maybe must”

Día 4

Si consigues levantarte a las 6.00am tendrás un magnífico amanecer, aunque desgraciadamente estaba tapado por las montañas y no se ve nada!

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

Lo siguiente durante el crucero fué montar en canoa por los alredores durante 45 minutos. La zona navegable es bastante limitada

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

Después de montar en canoa, había una exhibición pero decidí quedarme en el crucero y disfrutar de un barco entero para mí solo! Gran decisión ya que por lo visto la exhibición fué una pérdida de tiempo

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

El resto del día fué volver a Hanoi y descansar!

Day 5

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

Día 5

El último día lo pasé callejeando y de compras, y visitar algunos sitios dónde sólo había estado por la noche

St. Joseph Cathedral

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

La prisión de Hanoi no estaba en mis planes pero no me decepcionó.

Day 6

Back to Shenzhen through Hong Kong

Hanoi to Shenzhen

The cheapest and efficient way to get to Hanoi Airport from Old Quarter is taking the bus 86 right in front of the post office, near Hoàn Kiếm lake.

Día 6

Vuelta a Shenzhen a través de Hong Kong!

Para ir al aeropuerto de Hanoi desde Old Quarter, cogí el autobús 86 justo en frente de la oficina de correos cerca del lago Hoàn Kiếm

If you have a long journey ahead back home or next destination, is not a bad choice to use Grab or Uber, since these car services provide a good price

Landed in Hong Kong, I used again the van service/limousine service to back to Shenzhen. Easy to find at Hong Kong airport by following the Transports to Mainland panel in the airport. Again, I used E&E Services at 220HKD to Bao An destination. The price may vary depending of your destination. The service is good and reliable and it’ll take around 1.5h.

Consejo: para moverse por la ciudad recomendaría utilizar Grab o Uber. Buenos precios y servicio eficiente

I hope these lines have been really useful for you!

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.

En resume, disfruté mucho de Hanoi pero el tiempo me perjudicó con lluvias y calor. Pienso que 6 días es demasiado, por lo que a no ser que vayas de tours a otros lugares, Hanoi es aburrido.

También me esperaba algo mejor de Hanoi dada que es la capital y después de mi gran experiencia en Ho Chi Minh. Asi que de momento Ho Chi Minh sigue siendo la número 1 de mis ciudades en Vietnam: mejor comida, historia, cultura, gente…

PHOTO GALLERY

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