Hanoi & Ha long Bay
After spending 4 weeks in China and Hong Kong, Hanoi was a huuuge difference for us! We had gone from not seeing any tourists, nobody being able to speak English and no party scene to the complete opposite!!
The moment we arrived at Hanoi Backpackers I knew this was going to be a whole new experience. We arrived at the end of a bar crawl, music was loud, everyone drunk and dancing, having to force ourselves through the crowd with our backpacks so we could dump our stuff in our dorm and get back down to the bar.
We were greeted by Charlie and Andy from our china trip, we spoke about our plans for the next few weeks and Andy had decided to continue with me and Nick but unfortunately Charlie had to go a separate way due to her work experience in Thailand. We had a few drinks, a good catch up and headed to bed so we could get a fresh start on the next day. Charlie stayed in my bed, we discussed how we could meet up again on our travels and that if Charlie had got accepted onto her University Midwifery course that she would try to defer it and try and get a working holiday visa for Australia with me (result!!!!)
To me it seemed as Hanoi was just a city for backpackers to get drunk for cheap and party, problem is that’s not my kind of travel. Sure I do like a drink and a night out, but not every single night, I want to get out and about and see things!!
Over the next few days we went to Hoa Lo Prison Museum – A Vietnamese prison used in the war to keep US prisoners of war in, and the Vietnam Military History Museum (speaks for itself) Both museums were very interesting as they showed the war from a Vietnamese perspective – not the same angle you see it from American movies. Hoa Lo Prison had an amazing collection including John McCain’s flight suit from when he was captured in the war!
After a couple of days exploring and buying our bikes we had worked out how to get to Ha long Bay, we would take the main highway to Halong city, a ferry over to Cat Ba Island and book a cruise around Ha long bay from there! Of course you can get a trip from Hanoi to Halong bay but as we had our bikes we wanted to do it ourselves.
Hanoi to Ha long Bay
Our first ride was from Hanoi to Ha Long City, we decided to take the main highway to Ha Long city this was a 100 mile journey that took about 6-7 hours! I had never felt so mentally exhausted in my life by the time I got there! To avoid being squashed on the road you almost had to have eyes in the back of your head. Lanes didn’t mean anything anymore, nor any of the traffic rules we have here in the UK! Buses would come into your lane with no regards as to what you were doing and traffic would constantly come to a complete halt in a matter of seconds!
After a 7 hours of praying I don’t get squashed by a bus we had made it to Ha Long, we stayed one night and caught the ferry the next day to Cat Ba Island.
Ha Long Bay
Just as you would imagine it to be! Stunning scenery and dead quiet!!
We booked a day tour from Cat Ba Island, we got on a ferry around 7 AM and arrived back around 5 PM. Our ferry took us around Ha long bay where we stopped off and did some kayaking (and saw wild monkeys) and stopped off at Monkey Island which much to our disappointed only had one or two monkeys on it, nevertheless after a mediocre trek we reached the peak of the island which had stunning views of the island itself and Ha Long Bay.
We spent another night in Cat Ba and decided it was time to move on!
Getting from Cat Ba to the mainland again was a massive task, we took our bikes to the port where we were told we would be able to get our bikes on a boat over to Haipong little did we know this meant getting our bikes onto a passenger only boat!! Needless to say making the boat smell of fuel and cramping up the walkway didn’t go down to well with the locals!!
Accommodation – Budget Hostel from £3 ($5) Hotel from £15 ($24) upwards
Food – Street Food about £1.50 ($2.50) meals around £4 ($6)
Getting Around – Only being small you can pretty much walk around Hanoi comfortably. Taxis and what not are available but not really needed.
Things to do
Hoa Lo Prison – About 70p ($1)
Vietnam Military History Museum – Again about 70p ($1)
Trip to Ha Long Bay (from Hanoi) – Can cost as little as £20 (£30) for a small overnight trip, but luxury tours are also available.