Jun 14, 2015

Vietnam in a Nutshell

Finally had the time to sit down and write some stuff happening over the few weeks. After Korea, I went to another impromptu trip to Hanoi, Vietnam but this time with my colleague. Hanoi is a place I wanted to go very badly especially Sapa Valley after I have seen the photos.

For this trip, I just booked like some sort of ground arrangement tour with our hotel, Glance Hotel. I send them my planned itinerary and they gave me a quote on the things I wanted to do and see. And it seems ok, hence the booking. This must be the shortest research I ever done for my trip and also the most relaxing one since the hotel already arrange everything for us. The details of my itinerary is as follows:

View of the paddy fields in Sapa 

Day 1
Arrive in Hanoi and wow..I got such a good impression of the airport. From landing to picking up our bags in less than half an hour. Small and compact airport but yet not suffocating. Much much better than our klia2 which takes forever to reach the boarding gate. We got picked up from the airport and send to our hotel in the old quarters. I asked for a day use room as we reached early in the morning we wanted to take the overnight train to Sapa on the same day. Actually before the trip, I have compared the cost of going on my own and taking the arrangement offered by the hotel. It's not much difference, hence we took up the offer. If we to take the overnight train itself, it cost about USD 40 per way. So we spend some time to wash up, sleep, walk around the old quarters and then dinner before being transport to the train station. First time sleeping in the train and it was really eye opening but nevertheless the journey was quite comfortable.

Day 2
Reach Lao Cai in the wee hours of morning and again we were transported to our hotel, Panarama hotel in Sapa to freshen up and breakfast before the hiking. The journey up the hills took about an hour and by the time we reach Sapa, we were famished and dashed to the breakfast counter. We did not even washed up as since we are going for trekking and will be sweaty afterward, why bother to wash and sweat again, haha. And we even wore the trekking clothes as pajamas the night before in the train! We went to the Cat Cat village and some rivers nearby for swimming. While the rest of our group's Ang Moh swam, the Asian us sat under the umbrella and shade. At night, we walked around the Sapa town.

Day 3
Today, the trekking was a bit tough especially going down and we were swarmed by Hmong women offering to accompany us during the trekking. I was glad to have one of them to hold me while I descend the rocky trail and end up buying some souvenirs from them. Later on, I realised I paid double for that but it's ok since it's for repaying her for helping me. We took the night train back to Hanoi at night.

Day 4
The famous red bridge in Hoen Kiem lake
Reached Hanoi early in the morning and the hotel arrange for transport to ferry us back to our hotel. We stayed at the same hotel, Glance. We slept for a while more before getting down for breakfast. Today, we explore the attractions in Hanoi. We walked from the old quarters to the Temple of Literature and to the One Pillar pagoda and then to the other side of the Hoan Kiem Lake for the dessert before ending near the bridge. Walked about 30km in that one day!

Day 5
Halong Bay
It's the day for the 1 night cruise in Halong bay. It's a 4 hour journey from Hanoi to Halong Bay and we stopped by one of the places for souvenirs. Did not buy anything here as it was pretty expensive but I got to admit the embroidery was pretty impressive. I almost wanted to buy one myself. We checked into our cruise by lunch time and we had lunch while the boat cruising along the bay. After that we went for kayaking into some of the more secluded area and this is the first time my friend experience kayak and she is pretty good at it! Even better than my husband. Our cruise had a mother and son from Malaysia but we were intrigued with the couple from Thailand. Was speculating whether they are really a couple or the girl is just an escort for the much older guy. And who the other older woman who followed the couple along? These are some of the questions we were so dying to ask but refrained from doing so. At night we had squid fishing but sadly we did not manage to catch any squid.

Day 6
Halong Bay
Sunset at Halong bay
The next morning, it was raining and there was no sunrise to catch. So continue sleeping until breakfast and then off to one of the caves. We alight from the cruise around noon after lunch and then it's another 4 hours back to Hanoi.

Day 7
Tam Coc
I wanted to go this place after hearing raving reviews from my dad but boy, we picked the wrong time to go as it was hot as hell and I just practically sweating by just standing outside the aircon bus. It took us about 2 hours to get there from Hanoi and this is another day trip we booked with the hotel. The highlight will be the sampan kayak by the locals using their feet instead of hand. I spent most of the time hiding under the umbrella in the boat. One of our tourmates, a Polish guy kept asking me to help him take photos and dictate me how to take them. I was a bit pissed off and ran off after the first time helping him. If you want me to take photo of you, let me do it my way la. So when the guide suggested him to share a boat with us, I quickly dragged by friend to a boat while the Polish guy is busy showing off his photos to another Singaporean couple. Luckily we did not share the boat with him as I can foresee that he will block most of the view with him in front. After that, we went for biking along the paddy fields for another 45 minutes. I almost forgotten how to ride a bike.
Train tracks in Hanoi town
As it was the last day in Hanoi and the only day we can go to the night market, we spend almost 4 hours walking around the night market trying to finish our dong. It was good have someone helping out with the bargaining, haha.

Day 8
Flight home
It's time to head home.


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