Day 2 in Hanoi is a FULL DAY Adventure of our day trip to Ha Long Bay.
Here’s a quick summary of the itinerary that my travelling companion & I chillaxed to. Read on for Day 2 of our adventures!
After a full day of romping around the Old Quarter, we decided to get a change of scenery and head out to Ha Long Bay (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Most day trips setting off from Hanoi starts off early in the day, with the tour buses heading around the Old Quarter picking up tourists. Hence we woke up early and had a good hearty Pho breakfast in the hotel lobby, and a random chat with a British tourist travelling around Vietnam for a few weeks.
We were soon off on our bus tour, when our slightly grumpy guide swung by the hotel to pick us up and a couple of tourists from a backpackers hostel down the road. Our minibus filled up quickly with tourists from various hostels, and countries.
It took a long journey of about 4 hours, with a quick toilet stopover in between, before we finally reached our destination at the Ferry Terminal!
Hungry and cold, we were quickly shuttled onto one of the many look-a-like junk ferries (i.e. that was pretty much when we figured there was no difference between a low/middle/luxury tour). Lunch was served promptly, and boy were we happy to see food of any kind. I was pretty surprised by the quality of food – possibly because I had prepared myself for the worst (good travel tip: never set overly high expectations!)
Happily satiated with food, we started exploring the ferry and the gorgeous surrounding landscape. Cruising through the supposedly emerald waters the guide pointed out interesting shapes in the limestone backdrop – dogs, dragons, phoenixes etc.
Before long, we arrived at the first activity destination: A floating village in the middle of the Bay where you either got to 1) Kayak with a partner or 2) Enjoy a leisurely ride on a bamboo boat all whilst exploring the caverns and grottos within the limestone outcrops. In the cooling weather, it was a pretty relaxing and enjoyable activity, and for moments I really felt like a condor was going to swoop down on us haha.
Next up, the ferry took us to a THIEN CUNG cave (also known as the cave of the heavenly palace – famous for its stalagmites and stalactites in the shapes of dragons, phoenixes, tigers, symbols of the Chinese Imperial Family). I was thoroughly mind blown by the huge chambers adorned with stalactites and stalagmites of all kinds. The guide’s passionate blow by blow commentary of how the cave came about to be, while we explored the cave was a very Nat Geo moment for me.
The hike down from the caves was so much more enjoyable when I found steamed sweet potatoes selling at a tiny store on my way down. With that we continued to enjoy this relaxing cruise on the way back to Ha Long harbor and also a longggg journey back to the city centre where for the most of it we were completely out of it.
After a long hard day (who are we kidding), we thought to reward ourselves with some good food and what better than having dinner at a restaurant with an experienced 5 star chef! The thought of good food seriously spurred us to walk a lot faster to our dinner destination, The Gourmet Corner Restaurant.
Located on the top floor of Elegance Diamond hotel, the Gourmet Corner restaurant and terrace bar boast the finest view of Hanoi from the 12th floor (although we did not manage to see much as it was relatively late at night 9pm). It was a soothing and romantic ambience for a meal (yes I noted plenty of couples in the restaurant that night) with very helpful and attentive service staff. And the food was some of the best I’ve tried in Hanoi, and very pocket-friendly too! We ordered the Grilled Pork & Vermicelli & the Bamboo Steamed Beef and a couple of non-alcoholic drinks which amounted to about 380,000 dong (SGD 24).
The kind service staff helped us to get a taxi back to the hotel, but due to some miscommunication, we were brought on a long ride to the other end of town (fortunately I had the sense to check google maps and inform the driver he was taking us further away).
And with a long roundabout journey, we finally made our way back to the hotel.
Read more about Day 1 (Exploring the Old Quarter) & Day 3 in an upcoming post soon!
MAJOR TRAVEL TIP!!!
Prior to this trip, I have always arranged my must visit places on an excel spreadsheet, and printed it out to bring along. But I had a major ephipany this trip, and discovered this AMAZING function on google maps that lets me plot my places on the map, and save it as a separate guide! OMG! To save you the work, I’ve uploaded my version here, so feel free to use it for your trip to Hanoi too! 🙂