Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa

So this my 6th day in Vietnam. So far everything has gone ok. As I mentioned earlier the traffic is crazy in Hanoi but today I felt quite ok walking in the downtown (“old quarter”). I didn’t feel like hitting and kicking everyone who is using the honk right behind me.

The narrower and the more crowded the street, the louder the honk. That’s at least how it seems to be here.. The motorbikers mainly use the horn for warning others (“I am coming”), to ask you to move away or apparently just for “fun”. It drives me nuts..

First my plan was to go to Halong Bay (an UNESCO World Heritage Site) for two days but the weather hasn’t been very good. It has been gloomy and foggy which is why I decided to go to Halong Bay only for one day. It was still nice and luckily I was able to see the beautiful isles and we also visited a cave and went kayaking. Halong Bay is around 170km away from Hanoi.

I also took a 2-day tour to Sapa which is around 380 km (6,5 hours by bus) away from Hanoi, in the north of Vietnam. I took a night bus on Monday evening and then returned by bus on Wednesday evening. I am so happy I made this trip! Even though it was also foggy in Sapa I was able to see the beautiful mountains and the rice fields. We hiked on Tuesday to a homestay and then we hiked on Wednesday to a small village where a mini bus took us back to the Sapa town (and then I returned to Hanoi). On Wednesday we hiked around 10 km which took us around 5 hours and on Wednesday we hiked only couple of hours. I have never done hiking before and I really fell in love with it!! It is so cool! We went up and down the hills and sometimes we had a small path and sometimes nothing that could be identified as a path. It was muddy and dirty – just the way I like it :-D but I didn’t fall. Our guide was amazing and the host family cooked us a delicious dinner and breakfast (pancakes, condensed milk, bananas and pine apples. Yum yum!).

We also saw many water buffalos, pigs and piglets, dogs and their puppies, chicken and goats on the way. Also it is very common that there are few local women and sometimes even children who are walking behind you and they want to help you. In the end of course they try to sell you some souvenirs. It is hard to be annoyed because they do it because they don’t get enough rice from the fields so they need another source to get food and money. But seeing the kids is very annoying because they should be in school and not selling the souvenirs. Anyhow, the trip was awesome!

First I planned to stay 3 days in Hanoi but because I was only one day in Halong Bay I am now 4 days in Hanoi. Three would be enough but I have bought a flight ticket for Saturday so I have to be still in Hanoi for today and tomorrow. Today I am pretty tired so I don’t have any special plans. I went out for a lunch and found also a cool cafe “Cộng cà phê” where I had an amazing rum milk tea. I also had a back massage (45min) and maybe later I will go to see the night market. If you are interested in the prices a meal costs usually 30 000 – 50 000 Vietnamese dongs (1,5-2 euros), my massage was 250 000 including tips (10 euros) and the rum milk tea was 45 000 (less than 2 euros).

Also what I really love here is the Vietnamese egg coffee (Giang cafe) that apparently is found only in Hanoi. It sounds strange but it is heavenly good! It is like an espresso with a sweet custard-like foam. If you are in Hanoi, you HAVE to try this! It costs only 20 000 (less than an euro).

Few comments about my hostels in Hanoi:

Little Hanoi Hostel 1

  • It is located near the old quarter, you don’t really hear the traffic noise
  • quiet hostel
  • good beds
  • nice staff
  • large breakfast
  • 6 USD (a bit over 5 euros) per night in women’s dorm

Vietnam Backpackers Hostel (downtown)

  • it is located in the heart of old quarter, you can hear the traffic noise very well
  • everything is close
  • breakfast is ok (choose from 3 options)
  • very lively, lots of people, nice staff
  • good security for luggage and valuables
  • nice beds
  • has a bar and daily activities
  • 9 AUD (around 6 euros) per night in women’s dorm

One thing has made me here super happy. Vietnamese cuisine uses coriander!! Something that I missed in Japan a lot.

edit: I forgot to mention that something very bizarre happened today. I arrived at the hostel really late and when I woke up in the morning, I noticed that my childhood friend who I haven’t seen in like a decade was in the same hostel room! What a small world!

First day in Southeast Asia

I decided that I’ll try to write short updates about my trip. Today I arrived to Hanoi. I was so nervous and sure that things won’t go smoothly with the immigration inspection and with the way from the airport to my hostel. In the end the immigration officers didn’t really even care that I don’t have a visa or a flight ticket out of Vietnam, and the way from the airport to my hostel was a “taste” of real Vietnam. The bus that I wanted to take was already moving but the nice guys outside the bus ran after the bus and stopped it for me. Then me and the backpack size of me went to sit in the front. I mean really in the front and next to the driver :-D I saw the whole way from the airport to the center. I knew the traffic would be crazy but that view made me almost pee in my pants, hehe. I also got a ride from the center to my hostel with a motorcycle. Yep, me and my backpack and a driver (who made me pay a bit more that was agreed, argh) on a motorcycle. That was crazy!

Today I just decided to go to the center and walk around. I also met a nice girl from Germany who is also travelling alone. We went to see Water Puppet show which was quite interesting. Never seen anything like that.. Basically there were water and the puppets were playing in that. There was also a band that sounded very nice but the people looked bored to death. I guess the same people make the same show every day (multiple times).

First impression from Hanoi is that the traffic is crazy (people just drive everywhere, really close to you and they use a horn A LOT), it is loud and there are many people who want something from you (but they leave you alone when you show no interest), there is lots of tasty looking street food and one should be careful of robbers (I bought a money pouch right away). Taking photos with a phone is apparently risky so I guess I’ll be very picky about what I will photograph. And I think I will only load them to instagram (see on the right side of the blog).

The currency is also crazy. I am like a millioner! One euro is around 24 200 Vietnamise dongs.