Room at J W Marriott in Mumbai
Room at J W Marriott in Mumbai
Hanoi in 5 days
I identify with this so much. Every time I intend to travel, a lot of the joy is in the planning.
Where do we go? Where do we stay? What do we do?
Who has the best deals? Which flight schedule suits our travel and is cheap? Who has the least painful visa process?
My love for planning a trip is so true that I even do it for friends and family for trips I will never be taking!
The anticipation of a trip is a happy experience too! So keep planning, keep anticipating and keep dreaming!
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Below is a travel itinerary for Hanoi in 5 days. This is what we did in January 2014. I will also share some tips with you at the end.
Arrive at Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi. The drive to Old Quarters took us 90 minutes. It can take you up to 120 minutes to reach Old Quarters based on traffic. In the evening you can walk around the lake and explore some local cuisine.
Breakfast at hotel. The hotel can help you select and book daily tours. We chose the 1-day Ha Long Bay tour. The tour starts at 8.30 am and ends at 7.00 pm. In the evening you can visit bars around Old Quarters.
Breafast at hotel. Explore Hanoi by foot. The hotel will give you a map that will help you navigate the many streets in Old Quarters. You may do this at your own pace. Ideally have a few things that you want to see. This will help you plan your route.
Breakfast at hotel. We did a 1-day tour and visited Hoa Lu and Tom Coc Caves in Ninh Binh province. The tour starts at 8.30 am and end at 6.00 pm. We used the evening to walk by the Opera House and try some street food.
Breakfast at the hotel and check out. Depart from Noi Bai International Aiport to Hong Kong.
1. Visa for Vietnam can be applied on arrival. However, you will have to ask your hotel for a visa letter. Golden Sun Villas provided us the letter for US$ 5 per person which was cheaper than other hotels.
2. An overnight stay at Ha Long Bay is suggested. But if you are doing a short trip like us a 1-day trip is not a bad option. Make sure you schedule this trip at the start of your stay as the journey is long and can be tiring.
3. It is advisable to pre-book your tour especially to Ha Long Bay. It also helps you communicate to the tour operator about any special needs.
If you need any other advice just ask me.
Cycling around the the village in Ninh Binh
The boat ride at Tam Coc in the Ninh Binh province was one of the reasons I wanted to visit Hanoi. The images I had seen online were so naturally beautiful that it was an experience that had to be had.
The trip definitely did not fall short of my hyped expectations. The wait to get on the boat is a bit long but with over 1000 boats it is not too bad. What I liked was that they do not group you with strangers. So Tarun and I got the boat to ourselves along with the woman who rowed us with her legs and her daughter.
The boat ride is almost almost 90 minutes long and you go under 3 caves and between many many paddy fields. On a sunny day I suggest you have your sun tan lotion, sun glasses and a cap or an umbrella with you. Also there are many boats that do not carry passengers and instead try to sell you snacks and drinks. We were told by our tour guide to ignore them. At the end of the ride tipping your boatman is the unspoken mandatory rule. Trust me after you see them pushing the oars with their legs and taking you on a pleasure boat ride for that long…you will want to tip them!
One thing to be noted is that if you are a very tall person then the boat is a tad bit small to accommodate you and the ride may be a little too cramped if you are more than 2 people.
Tam Coc caves is a less spoken about attraction around Hanoi but definitely worth the trip and I highly recommend it!
Hoa Lu was the first capital of feudal state of Vietnam, Truong Yen Commune, Hoa Lu Distric, Ninh Binh Province. It was the first stop on our second day trip in Hanoi. We reached this location in about 2 hours from our hotel. Here you can see some temples and a tomb. Nothing spectacular but it was a part of the tour to Tam Coc which is what I truly wanted to see.
Old Quarters in Hanoi is probably a nightmare for photographers - not due to the dearth of subjects but the actual opposite! Everything I saw walking around Old Quarters seemed picture worthy. Maybe it is because travelers over the years have created a romanticized image of Vietnam; be it the lake or the food stalls or cycle rikshaws or the traffic. It is hard to not be shutter happy.
I would advise you to keep the cameras away and just spend a day walking in Hanoi to soak in all that surrounds you. In many ways Hanoi did remind me of an Indian city - the general chaos is a very familiar feeling and I loved it.
All hotels will give you a simple map of the Old Quarters with the roads, restaurants and sight seeing spots marked. This is a great tool to help you know where you need to go. Do not depend on it because Hanoi is a city that is worth getting lost in.
Our walk took us to the Vietnam Military History Museum, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh Museum, One Pillar Pagoda, several embassies in old heritage buildings, a stop for some Ca Phe Sua Nong and lunch at Green Mango.
We also visited a few stores that were open to pick up some souvenirs from our trip. Later in the evening we visited Ngoc Son Temple at Hoan Kiem Lake.
Most tourists also do the cycle rikshaw tour around the lake, but I skipped that. I am sure it is fun, but I was not very comfortable making a skinny Vietnamese man cycle me around the lake.
Another evening we also visited the Opera House which is on the other side of the lake. This part of Hanoi is more upmarket with luxury brand stores and broader roads. But that does not mean you can escape the food stalls. So we finally decided to experiment. Being a vegetarian I stuck to some milk shake while my husband tried some meat.
As walking around the city is such an important part of the visit it is best if you go during the winters or spring. Also, Tet is not the best time to visit Hanoi if you want to shop. Most shops are closed for at least three days to celebrate the New Year. On the other hand, Hanoi is less crowded and that could be a good thing…but remember it is measured in Hanoi units!
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We visited the Thien Cung Caves as a part of the day trip. This is the most popular cave and usually included in the day trip. If you stay overnight you could visit some other, less crowded caves.
The stalactites and stalagmites are beautiful, minus the gaudy lighting used in the cave.
Kayaking at Halong Bay, Vietnam