Saturday, January 13, 2018

Essential Tips to Travel in Hanoi & Ha Long Bay

Can't believe we are now in year 2018.  Time flies.  Everything happened in 2017  was still clearly appearing in my mind.  It had been a great year for me, I shall name it as 'Year of Revive'?  There were many changes had been made to life compared to the previous year.  I'm truly grateful to own what I have and for whom I'm being now.

'Job fills your pocket, adventure fills your soul'

This is my favorite quote at the moment and I am doing currently - earn money and travel.  Ageing is a scary life process and it is scarier if at the end of your life, you realize that you haven't done much in your life.  Different individuals might have different goals in life - family, prosperity, social class and etc.  And well, I choose to wander around the world. 

Hanoi is one of my bucket list which I had ticked off end of 2017.  It wasn't the best trip though, I have a feeling that I will visit this place again one day in the future.  Crossing through the busy streets in old quarters, getting lost in the midst of the crowd, I'm falling in love with this city.

Things to know about Hanoi, Vietnam:

  • Vietnam was conquered by French from 1873 to 1945, it is easy to find some French-style buildings in Vietnam nowadays.
  • Hanoi was declared as the capital of North Vietnam in 1946 and it became the capital of reunified Vietnam in 1976.
  • Weather: Unlike Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi experiences four seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) in a year because of sitting at the northern part of Vietnam.  The best time to visit is during dry seasons (October to April).
  • Currency: Most trades are carried out in Vietnamese Dong (VND) and some places e.g. hotels or travel agencies do accept USD.  1 USD = approx 20,000VND
  • Visa and passport: No visa needed for Malaysian passport holder.
  • Language: Vietnamese and simple English are commonly use in Hanoi

The only airport in Hanoi is Noi Bai International Airport, situated in Soc Son District, about 15km from Old quarters.  There are many flights available from KL to Hanoi and I bought my return flight tickets from Airasia during free seat promotion (not free though) at around RM450 without check-in baggage.  It took us about 3 hours from KL to Hanoi.

There are buses and taxi available in Hanoi but I found Uber/ Grab are more convenient because you can reach your destination safely even if you can't speak Vietnamese and more standard rate is charged.  Thus, throughout the 5 days in Hanoi, we used mostly Uber and walking with the help of google map.  

We stayed at Hanoi 3B hotel, located at the Old quarters of Hanoi.  It is good to stay in old quarters because most of the tourist spots are there.  We stayed in a triplet room, which cost us around RM50 per person per night.

What we like: strategy location, cleanliness well maintained, awesome breakfast with many choices of food
What we dislike: electric tripped several times in a day, we were charged overprice by the front desk for a day tour (read further to find out)


1. Wander around the busy streets in old quarters
Trust me, crossing roads in Hanoi can be so difficult.  You will end up with standing by roadside for hours if you're afraid to step out.  Countless motorcycles passing by and hearing car horns from different direction, it is just another beautiful image of Hanoi city.  But don't worry, you will get used to it very soon.

Another interesting fact about the streets in old quarters is, the streets are named for the products.  Therefore, you will be able to find out all the shops are selling the same product in the same street!

2. Sign up a free walking tour with the local university students
There are a few non-profit organizations are offering free walking tour in Hanoi.  These organizations are established by a group of enthusiastic university students (major in tourism), who are eager to introduce the Vietnamese history and culture to foreigners.  The tours may take a few hours up to one full day, depends on the type of tour you're taking.

The pretty guide and us

3. Watch a water puppet show
Traditionally water puppet show was just an entertainment for the locals.  It became famous probably because of unique ways of performing accompanied by traditional music.  The show is conducted in Vietnamese language, so it is advisable to read up the story line before entering the theater to have a better understanding!

Location: Thang Long Water Puppet Theater
Price: 100,000VND (~RM18)

4. Walking around the Hoan Kiem Lake during weekend

For your information, the main streets around Hoan Kiem lake are closed to traffic during weekend.  Therefore, you can enjoy walking easily without being harassed by the aggressive drivers in Hanoi.  Other than tourists, you will be able to see many locals are jogging or sitting by the lakeside at their leisure time too.
Recommendation: spend time here from evening to night so you will be able to see the view of the lake at day and night time!

5. Take a sip of the Vietnamese coffee (especially egg coffee)
Vietnamese coffee is characterized by its sweet and rich taste which is made of coarse ground dark roast coffee with a drip filter.  It might be too sweet for certain people because of the sweet condensed milk.  Comparatively, I would prefer egg coffee (cà phê trứng) in Hanoi.  It has a thick layer of egg foam on the coffee, taste smoothly as the coffee and egg foam flow down your throat slowly.

Location: Giang cafe (39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam)
► Please note this cafe is a hidden cafe in a small lane, try your best to find it out!
Price: 25,000VND (~RM5)

6. Try the Vietnamese cuisines

Say frankly, trying the local food is the best way to understand their cultures. There are few must-try foods in Hanoi: Bun cha, pho, Banh Mi and Nem ran. Generally, the Vietnamese foods are prepared in healthy ways, i.e. less oily and with a lot fresh vegetables. I think that is the main reason to keep almost all Vietnamese slim!

Banh Mi 

Bun Cha

Pho @ PHO 10, Hanoi (35,000VND)

7. Visit Temple of Literature
Founded in 1070, was the site of Vietnam's first university and now it becomes the place to pray for good grades! (I should have came when I was a student LOL) Coincidentally, it was the period of university graduation, so there were many university students came for graduation photography with robes and traditional clothes.
Entrance fee: 30,000VND (~RM6)

8. Listen to the church bell sound at St Joseph Cathedral
The church was built by the French colonial government in late 19th-century. It is the oldest church in Hanoi. Entrance via main gate is only permitted during Mass. We just spent our time outside and get amazed by the Neo-gothic style architectures.

9. Visit Ha Long Bay 
Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site, known for the picturesque scenery formed by numerous limestone island and the emerald water. The best way to explore this site is by taking a 2 days 1 night cruise. This region is famous for sea kayaking, cave exploring and hiking.

There are so many cruises available and varies in price, facilities, food, activities etc. We had chosen Rosa Cruise after reading so many good reviews about it. There were 16 of us in the trip to Ha Long Bay.

Our room

What we like: smooth bus transfer from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay (4 hours bus ride), the ship is in good condition, interesting activities were carried out with enough rest time in between.
What we dislike: food served were below expectation
Price per person: about 100USD booked via + 10USD for bus transfer

Dropped by a handicraft workshop by the handicapped 

Visit to pearl farm at Ha Long Bay

The amazing cave

This is the breathtaking view I had been waiting for

DIY Vietnamese spring roll before checking out

☢ All beverages on the cruise (except mineral water provided in the room and on the transfer bus, 2x500ml) are charged separately! Kindly ask before allowing anyone to pour any drinks into your glass, otherwise you might get a heart attack when you look at the bill upon checking out 😓

10. Sign up a day trip to Ninh Binh province - Trang An and Bai Dinh trip

Since we had one day extra to spend with, we decided to sign up a day trip to Ninh Binh province which is around 2 hours drive from Hanoi Old Quarters. Ninh Binh is known for the Bai Dinh pagodas and beautiful scenery in Trang An. The trip was signed up with our hotel front desk.

Tentatively, the trip should include a visit to Bai Dinh pagoda, buffet lunch, bamboo boat ride at Trang An river and cycling. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side. It started to drizzle upon picking up at hotel and the rain was getting heavier as we were getting nearer. We ended up walking in pagoda with bare feet because of heavy rain. The trip was terminated half way after the so called buffet lunch (poor food quality with a lot of flies) because the road to Trang An was flooded!

Fortunately, we could get back some refund but meanwhile we got to know that we were charged so much higher than the other guests who signed up for the same trip from different travel agencies!
Now, story time....
The front desk lady and the representative from the travel company were trying to explain that the trip we had was a premium trip. The other guests originally were signing up for a standard trip with their agents but then the standard trip were fully booked. Thus, their agents have to book premium trip for those guests and paid on behalf of them. Still, we felt cheated and luckily after so much arguing, the representative from travel company agreed to return us back the money. 😠

Lesson learned: MUST compare the price from different agencies before signing up any trip and negotiate as much as you can!

Inside Bai Dinh pagoda

Best travel ootd LOL

Anyway, despite of the bad weather, it was still a good trip for me.  If I were given another chance to visit Hanoi, I will visit the railway street in Hanoi and take a short trip Sapa! 

“In fiction: we find the predictable boring. In real life: we find the unpredictable terrifying.”
It is unavoidable to have something unpredictable in journey, what we can do is just accept and learn to dance in the rain!

Here I end this post with a short clip I did, enjoy!

Till then, see you next time!


  1. Amazing blog and great post honey!I love it!I am following your blog now hope you can do the same :)

  2. This looks like a beautiful place. I haven't read or seen much of Asia but it's crawling up my travel list. Can't get over the scenery and the food sound tasty too. Great post!
    Following you on bloglovin now
    Katie x


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