A 9-Day trip to North Vietnam

Tripoto
5th Oct 2019

Viet Nam

As a heritage and an offbeat place lover, I always wanted to visit Cambodia and Vietnam, of which Vietnam became my first International destination. After checking out all the itineraries from various travel organizations, I chose Wandermile as I was happy and comfortable with the experience they had given in earlier trip. Also, I don’t want to stress myself planning on my own in advance. Visit to Vietnam was special to me as I haven't learned so much about culture and history from any of my previous travel destinations. Here I have written my experience at Vietnam rather than an itinerary that will make you wanted to visit the country.

Street of Old Hanoi Quarter

Photo of Vietnam by Shobana

Hanoi

Day 1

It was the first day at Hanoi, I reached first before joining other travelers returning from Cambodia trip. I was already excited as I was about to explore a country outside India for the first time. They say Vietnam is famous for its food among the South East Asian countries and so for the first meal on day one, I was given a lot of choices for breakfast and I chose to have Beef Noodle soup at the local restaurant in Hanoi Old Quarters after which slowly I started falling in love with Vietnamese food and got comfortable in eating with Chopsticks. I even bought one wooden pair of chopsticks while returning so that I can replicate the feeling of having Vietnam food at home although any taste will not match the goodness of Vietnamese food.

Breakfast at Hanoi Old Quarters

Photo of Hanoi, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam by Shobana

During the trip, A traveler from other country told what she liked about Vietnam, "Vietnam is a place where you could experience both solitude and socializing with people around as you wish" and that was true when I got to experience of both. During the evening of the first day, I planned to walk on the streets of Old Quarters alone. It had all kinds of shops from souvenirs to restaurants. Having the list of must try Vietnamese food in hand , I got to taste Egg Coffee watching the famous Old east gate opposite to the Cafe, it was one of the solitude moments I had enjoyed on the trip. Then walking around the local market, there was all kinds of meat and seafood like snails to Shrimps being sold which was an unusual scene for me as I have always seen in markets where vegetables take a lot of shops than meat.

Egg Coffee - Traditional Drink of Vietnam

Photo of A 9-Day trip to North Vietnam by Shobana

As the night was approaching, the streets started to get the colors of festival, vehicles were not allowed in some streets, tables and chairs were put out on the road for people to come and taste the local dishes. Dance and music performances on stage were hosted for the public to enjoy while people were enjoying food seated in the low height tables and chairs that gives a feeling of being more connected to the person near you as well as the food.

Night Life at Hanoi

Photo of A 9-Day trip to North Vietnam by Shobana
Day 2

Hanoi City Tour

Next day was Hanoi city tour, We went to a 6th century Tran Quoc Pagoda situated in the middle of the lake. When it comes to religion, only 5% of Vietnamese are religious following Buddhism and Christianity, otherwise it is also known as Atheist country where people go to temples for wishing luck or for any special life occasions. We saw people making offerings by letting the little turtles free into the lake and also free birds out of cage wishing for luck. There was a traditional wedding photo shoot also going on where the bride was wearing Ao Dai (Vietnamese traditional long dress).

Tran Quoc Pagoda

Photo of Hanoi, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam by Shobana

Later, we visited Vietnamese Lacquerware outlet, where Artist exhibits their skill of making paintings using eggshells, sand, gold papers, etc which is known for its durability. The art work's life would be more than 50 years. The importance given to their traditional artworks were really impressive.

Lacquerware artwork using eggshell

Photo of A 9-Day trip to North Vietnam by Shobana

Just like Thailand, Hanoi also has its own train street as major tourist attraction where you could see all kinds of photo shoots and selfie lovers on the train track. People spend time socializing in the cafes alongside of the train track with the same low height tables and chairs to watch the train pass by.

Train Street of Hanoi

Photo of Hanoi Train Street, Trần Phú, Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam by Shobana

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the main attraction of Hanoi, this is one of the places where you can witness the respect shown by the people of Vietnam for their beloved leader Ho Chi Minh, on the other hand you can feel the respect when the tour guides and people take pride while talking about their leader. At the Mausoleum, there is a massive queue to visit the preserved body of the leader. And also, we got to see the ceremony of changing guards in the mid noon.

Guard Changing at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Photo of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hùng Vương, Điện Biên, Ba Đình, Hanoi, Vietnam by Shobana
Day 3

Ha Giang

On the third day , we started travelling northernmost part of Vietnam. During the journey from Hanoi to Ha Giang, the landscape and weather started changing, it became colder and greenish mountains with corn fields started appearing. We reached Quan Ba heaven gate also known as UNESCO Global geopark which is located at an altitude of 1500m, it truly leads to paradise of Valley with colorful fields. My most favourite thing in North Vietnam apart from the beautiful landscape is the Vietnamese food, the cuisine entirely changes from South to North with its unique taste. It was also a pleasant weather with drizzle, riders were enjoying the drive in the rain through the loops of Ha Giang.

UNESCO Global Geo Park

Photo of Hà Giang, Ha Giang, Vietnam by Shobana
Day 4

Then we visited the traditional house of Hmong people which is adaptable for extreme weather conditions. The landlord of the house greeted us with tea and the local guide with us played the traditional musical instrument called H’mong Pen Pipe. Mong is the name of the ethnic group living there. As the journey continued, a different landscape we witnessed in Lung cam is a place where it looked like lava is spread all around and small towers, cones connected by common base. A place just to stop and relax. Later, We took the happiness road looking at the youth monument which talks about communism through its sculpture. Ma pi leng panorama is a view point where you can see the curvy path of River Nho Que flowing in between the mountains. The beauty of the river is the color of water is green but slightly stands different from the color of the mountains. At night, we reached a homestay where a rich dinner was served with wine in a traditional cutlery and had good interaction with the local people with the help of google translator. Next day morning, visited a nearby waterfalls which is not so popular but still it was in a closed surrounding of greenish mountains.

Meo Vac Panoramic view point

Photo of Mã Pí Lèng, Mèo Vạc District, Ha Giang, Vietnam by Shobana
Day 6

Next day, we still have the beautiful mountains on our way and visited the weavers place at Lung Tam village where clothes are made up of Vietnamese hemp fabric by Mong. We witnessed the whole process of cloth making from the hemp fibre which is mould resistant.

Handlooms made up of Hemp

Photo of Lùng Tám, Quản Bạ District, Ha Giang, Vietnam by Shobana
Day 7

Ninh Binh

The day at Ninh Binh started with visiting a temple called Hoa Lu temples of the Dinh and Le Dynasties, where the tour guide explained about the history of wars and the advantage of Vietnam landscape which protects their land. The temple was surrounded by ponds and the mountains with a statue of the King and his sons inside. It is a place for history lovers.

We took a bicycle ride to explore the other part of Ninh Binh and returned for lunch, Cycling is a of the relaxing ways of exploring Ninh Binh, I learned how right side of driving works since I’m used to the left side of the driving in my country.

Hoa Lu temple

Photo of Ninh Bình, Ninh Bình Province, Vietnam by Shobana

The other relaxing way of exploring is taking a boat ride in Tam Coc which will take you through the limestone caves surrounded by mountains. Special aspect of the boat ride is the boats are paddled by locals with their feet rather than the normal way of rowing boats using hands. Tam Coc was one of the places where I got beautiful locations to make wonderful pictures.

In the evening, we hiked a hill of 500 steps for the 360 degree view of Ninh Binh from Mua Caves. The sunset was a cherry on the cake of the day. You can see the birds telling goodbye and flying from one side to the other side of the mountains. At night, the place was very quiet, people were sitting together to watch Vietnam Vs Malaysia football match in restaurants and when Vietnam team won, all we could hear was only the cheering sound in a chorus. One shopkeeper was completely into football that he even forgot to return the change during currency conversion which showed how much they like football.

Boat Ride at Tam Coc

Photo of A 9-Day trip to North Vietnam by Shobana
Day 8

Halong Bay

Halong Bay is a perfect place for a beach vacation in Vietnam. It is one of the places where we get to meet people from many parts of the world along with their families and friends as it is a popular tourist destination with 1600 limestone islands and also recognized by UNESCO. An overnight Cruise stay will take you to sight seeing places like Sung Sot (Surprise) Cave where we took a slow walk from one end to the other end of the cave along with hundreds of people, Ti Tov (Titop) island is another place where we can witness the sunset on the bay with the reflection of the sun rays on the sea. The next morning, the cruise took us to another place where we did kayaking for sometime and saw the process of how pearls come out of the sea shell. The Halong Bay trip came to an end by learning to make spring rolls together with everyone in the cruise and having the same for lunch. The strangers on the cruise were from different countries and we didn’t have anything common among us except that we were in the cruise together having fun and make short conversations with each other.

Night view of Cruise at Halong Bay

Photo of Halong Bay Vietnam, Bai Chay, Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam by Shobana
Day 9

Bye to Hanoi

Usually people start exploring Vietnam from Hanoi and end it at Ho Chi Minh but we returned to Hanoi to relish the weekend once vibes again. It was the time for shopping and enjoy the street shows once again, this time it was a different organizer so the public performances were also different. There was nothing much to do but looking at the people around hanging out during late night and the music shows at the restaurants kept us entertaining for the whole night. By this time, I had enjoyed different kinds of weather and different kinds of food throughout the journey, although it was one country with one language.

Street near Hoàn Kiếm Lake

Photo of Hanoi, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam by Shobana