"Welcome to Vietnam" Vietnam by funky_pigeon
Vietnam Travel Guide: 12,417 reviews and 30,516 photos
We passed through the Vietnam border quickly and got a lift on a bus going to Hanoi. The bus dropped us off 20km south of Vinh, so we got another lift on a bus which was passing through Vinh - free of charge. Once arriving in the city of Vinh it was obvious to see that Vietnam is going to be very different to what we had experienced so far! We were hassled by motorbike taxis straight away, and "no" was definitely an answer that they didn't understand. We retreated into a posh hotel to get some peace and quiet and directions to where we needed to be.
Soon we were in a taxi heading to the bus station, which will take us to Hanoi tomorrow. We got a hotel near to the bus station for the night. The accommodation is more expensive than what we have been used to spending but we have now got the luxury of TV for the first time in 3 months.
We caught a bus from Vinh at 5:30 in the morning to travel the 230 Km from Vinh to Hanoi. The bus journey was fairly quiet, I think it was the speed that the driver overtakes at! (There is one thing we must explain here – The driving is not of a gentle nature, it is erratic and aggressive, if you can overtake at 80km an hour on a single track road, you just indicate to the other driver with your horn and do it. Through towns and countryside there is no regard for safety and its really quite scary – you seem to question your life almost daily!) Anyway, our driver miss judged the space between one lorry and an oncoming lorry, and our bus got slightly scraped against the rear lorry. The lorry driver was not amused and soon there was fighting on the streets of Ninh Binh, just outside Hanoi. Once this had been resolved we were on our way again.
Once arriving in Hanoi just trying to cross the road, goes against all that your mother has told you in crossing the road. You get instructed to either stick to the locals who are crossing, or cross slowly looking at the drivers of the bikes, buses and lorries and never stop in the road as this will increase the risk of you getting seriously hurt! See picture for an example of the road!
Hanoi is fantastic and there is a little area of the town for everything. If you want padlocks then there will be a street selling padlocks, if you want balloons there will be a street dedicated to balloons, makes shopping quite easy. There is a wide range on food on offer and all of it is really tasty.
Whilst we were in Hanoi there were a couple of things that we wanted to see. We visited the oldest temple in Hanoi, and walked around lake Hoan Kiem, which has an old history with tortoises and there is an embalmed giant tortoise, as an example of what lives in the lake.
We went for a walk to the Temple of Literature, which was one of the first Universities in Vietnam and the Students had their Doctorates written in stone and placed on Giant stone tortoises, to honor their achievement. One the way back we walked passed the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. We weren’t able to visit as he has been sent to Russia to be rejuvenated.
One thing we definitely wanted to do in Hanoi was take a trip to the World Heritage site that is known as Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay is very beautiful. It is like nothing we had ever seen. Thousands of huge limestone rise out of the sea, ghost-like against the sun. Some of the islands are quite large and there are small alcoves with sandy beaches where swimming is possible Ha Long bay lies in the northeastern part of Vietnam and is 165 Km from Hanoi.
The way that you get to travel around the islands is on big boats that you get served dinner, and breakfast the following morning. We had also elected to sleep on the boat for the one night in the 2 day tour.
One of the first events of the tour was to visit a grotto that was found by a fisherman back in 2000, and for the first couple of years he was allowed to claim profit from the tourist for the cave. The cave is now owed by the government and has developed into a large tourist site, with the cave formations lit up in various neon colours to emphasis the rocks. This is then followed by a second cave which is a lot older than the first cave and has suffered under the amount of people visiting.
We then headed for our swimming spot and this took about an hour through the limestone formations, passing a fishing village, where you could pick up fresh catch for dinner, and we saw a giant turtle caught in the nets. While we went through the villages, the women in boats come up to sell fresh fruits which look stunning against the backdrop of the water, as you can see by the picture!
Once we were anchored in between the formations we took the opportunity to go swimming in the sea, whilst it was still daylight. We had a shoal of flying fish pass by, almost got us in the head! The current was quite strong and it never felt that we had got any distance away from the boat.
The following morning we were up early and had breakfast on the boat and then we headed back to Ha Long Bay to disembark after seeing fantastic scenery and recommended to anyone who goes into North Vietnam.
- Pros:Lots to See, Good Tours, Friendly People
- Cons:Large Distances, Busy Roads
- In a nutshell:Must See Halong Bay
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