This one night while I was browsing my Insta, I came across a beautiful picture and got stuck. It was love at first sight - it was Halong Bay! Of course, I couldn’t just stop at that one pic and started googling more about it and by now I was head over heels with this beautiful location and promised myself to go there soonest.
We all know how it goes when we start googling about a place, we can never stop at that. I realized that Vietnam has soooo much more to offer. The country from north to south has different landscapes and is a total package to visit. So I started researching more & more about it and jotted down places I surely can't miss.
Fortunately, I was able to visit this country this year, however, for a short span (9 days) and experience the magic. So here, I would like to pen down my experiences and findings of this gorgeous country.
We planned a trip for 9 days, not enough to cover the whole of Vietnam so the idea wasn’t to go all the places, but go to a few and experience that place in total. The trip goes as Hanoi-Halong bay-Phong Nha-Hoi An-Hanoi.
We flew down to Hanoi - our first destination.
Starting from the start, we landed in Hanoi by 12 pm and completed the immigration process. There is a visa on arrival for Indians. You have to apply for Visa approval letter online on their website, fees for which is about USD10. Once applied, they send the approval letter on your email within a day or two. This approval letter along with one passport size photograph, passport, and visa application form is required at the airport to obtain the visa. The stamping fee is USD25 which needs to be paid in cash at Hanoi airport. The procedure is pretty hassle free and quick.
Transportation - There is a shuttle service from the airport to any place in Hanoi every 10 minutes, which is the cheapest way to commute from the airport to your hotel/hostel. But if you are lazy like us, opt for a private cab which is 10 times the bus fare but hey, we were tired after a 12-hour long flight.
Where to stay - Old quarters is the place to be. Everything is around and the streets are lit. I would suggest staying in a hostel as the vibe is a whole different and exciting than staying in a hotel with room service but no random conversations with other travelers.
We stayed at The Chein hostel, which was right next to St. Joseph Cathedral and walkable distance from the lake. The private room costs USD20 (accommodates 2) and dorms cost USD7 for a night.
We headed straight towards the lake post-sunset which happens by 5.30-6pm here.
Hanoi is NOT TO BE MISSED on a weekend, the streets around the lake which are also the highlight of Hanoi is closed for vehicles which gives the locals an opportunity to enjoy the weekend their way and buoy they certainly do that. The street comes alive with people skating around, dancing, painting, playing, singing etcetera. You look around and there are so many things happening at the same time, it's amusing! The vibe here is amazing and puts up a smile on your face which mind you will stay for a long long time :)
You can dance along on the streets with the locals, groove to the music played by those talented musicians, play Cau with the kids, chug a beer which is quite cheap and tasty, eat street food or just sit there and absorb the vibrant atmosphere around.
Hanoi also has amazing pubs to party but my preference was to be on the street than get drunk in a pub and dance which we get to go back home anyway.