From Hanoi we went to Halong bay on one of the ‘2 day, 1 night’ organised sleeper boat tours. We paid $69 USD each for this. It included; bus transfers to and from Hanoi, one night on the boat, one breakfast, two lunches and one dinner, entry to the cave, pearl farm and kayaking. The boat we were on was called ‘Golden cruise’ and was classed as deluxe. The quality of the boat and food was ok, it’s hard to tell without having seen the other boats! But we would advise go for the best standard you can and then try and haggle to the price you want. Looking back we may have paid a bit too much but we would do it again, it’s a really fun trip. Try and get to know the people on your boat, and take advantage of the free beer! We got chatting and completely forgot and then the free beer hour was up.
The kayaking was my favourite part, we went through a little archway into a secluded bay and saw a load of monkeys 🐒 swinging from the trees 😄.
Back on the boat we also did a mini cookery lesson, making spring rolls :).
We arrived back in Hanoi about 1800 and went straight back to our travel agent to book a tour to Sapa. We’d heard some good things from other travelers so wanted to fit it in.
Our agent got us on a bus that night which left at 2200, getting us to Sapa at 6am. Arriving in Sapa was a little stressful as we realised when we had got on the bus the night before we gave in our whole ticket for the trip which the bus driver then ‘couldn’t find’ the next morning. We called our travel agent who told us to go into the hotel next to the bus stop. They were really helpful and called our guide to come and meet us. There were a few of us in the same situation who had all given tickets in so if you do this make sure to get part of it back off the bus driver! A guide turned up and walked us about 20 mins to a hotel where we had some breakfast. We waited around a bit longer and a local Sapa lady called Zing then turned up saying she was now our guide for the two day trek. She was very sweet, only 19 but seemed much older! She was 7 months pregnant with her second child and managed to walk faster than any of us with a mountain 🐐 like ease. We left our main luggage at the hotel and packed a small over night bag to take with us on the trek. If your doing this in March make sure you have a raincoat, decent shoes and long trousers.
Once we were walking we were joined by about another 8 Sapa women. Who were just as fast and agile regardless of age or footwear (flip-flops).
We walked down the valley side and back up again through some stunning scenery until we reached two villages, we had lunch in the second one. At this point all of the Sapa women descended on us with their souvenirs which was mostly ‘silver’ jewellery. Stand up for yourself and try not to be taken in too much, they will all tell you how they need to feed their families etc.The lunch was great with spring rolls, sautéed meat and vegetables, rice and noodles – we are almost pro chopstick users now (practice makes perfect as there is often not standard cutlery available).
After lunch we trekked a little longer to the homestay where we all slept in one big room on mattresses on the floor, it was actually pretty comfortable and not too cold as there was a curtain to drape around each mattress. We helped cook dinner with the family which was a variety of Vietnamese dishes, and they tried to get us to do karaoke afterwards. We were a bit of a shy group and only Sam (an English guy) and two of the Vietnamese girls did it. More gin needed I think!
The next day we trekked for another couple of hours and then got a bus back to Sapa where we were catching the afternoon bus to Hanoi. We got to Hanoi about 2200 and crashed into bed.
Our first stop was Hanoi. From the airport to our hostel we got an uber and paid 265,000 dong which was much cheaper than the taxis outside the terminal. It took about 40 minutes for us to get to the old quarter, where we stayed at ‘central backpackers-old quarter’. The hostel was fine for the money. The biggest bonus was the free cocktail, beer, walking tour and the staff were really friendly. There was also a restaurant which did food really cheap and was yummy. Much cheaper than any restaurant we found on the street!
Hanoi is a great city, imagine manic markets, scooters and people everywhere. Lots of bars and nightlife, seemed to be street entertainment and happy hour somewhere every night! You could sit in the road and drink beer 🍻 from a keg for 5000 dong a glass (that’s 20p).
One thing we did in Hanoi was go to the Musileum, which also had an information centre, this was really interesting and we got to know a lot more about the history of Vietnam.
The second main thing we did was go to watch a water puppet show, this was on the recommendation of Laura who we’d met in Fiji and gave us a tonne of tips for Asia, thank you Laura!
And then last but definitely not least…….Hanoi was where we fell in love with Egg coffee, life will never be the same! and if anyone knows where we can get it in the UK. Please tell us!!