After the short flight into Hanoi I got my SIM card and looked for transportation to the city. Most airports are a little outside the city. This is no problem if there is a metro or train. Unfortunately especially in Laos and Vietnam this was not the case. So when you exit the arrival hall you see the taxis first (most expensive), than the shuttle buses (normal) and behind those are the public buses (cheapest). So on the way to the bus you have to fight of all those nice people that want to be your best friend all of a sudden. In the end the public bus took a bit longer but was the best choice.
From the bus station in the city I had to walk a couple of hundred meters to the hotel. No biggie normally but this is Hanoi and the traffic here is the craziest I’ve seen so far. Scooters just zoom around not caring about intersections or pedestrians. Since most walkways are blocked by parked scooters or just “extended shop space” most people walk actually on the streets. Although this sounds crazy it somehow works without people killing themselves. It appears they also have some kind of system where one honk means “I am coming through!” and two honks mean “You can go!” but don’t take my word for it. Needless to say you hear a lot of honking in this city. 🙂
Still I arrived at the hotel unscathed and got lucky since they upgraded me to a better room. Yay! After an off day I spent a day walking around the city and check out some parks and the local lake. To be honest there was no real highlight here but it was still nice to just stroll around and discover how the people live. I took the last picture from the breakfast area of my hotel.
One big highlight in Vietnam is Hạ Long Bay which is ~3 hours east of Hanoi. It is possible to only do a day trip but I choose an overnight cruise. The research beforehand drove me a bit crazy because of too much contradictory information online and in the end I just walked to an tour agency and booked a boat where I read mostly good reviews about.
The cruise started the next day with a pickup relatively early in the morning. On the way to the harbor we stopped for refreshments. Besides shitty souvenirs and some food there also were a lot of stone sculptures ranging from small fountains to this hilarious big Buddha. For a smallish fee they would ship this monstrosities directly to your villa or castle. 🙂
Two hours later we arrived at the harbor and got on the boat. The boat looked a bit “classy” but the cabins were really nice. I had a double bed with big bathroom! No comparison to my small bunk on the cruise in Galapagos. The food was really high quality but a bit on the fishy side for my taste. Time to make some new experiences. The wine and beer was good though and I met some fun drinking buddies.
On the first day we made an excursion to a local fisherman tribe that lives on floating devices in the bay. This reminded me of the indigenous people living on Lake Titicaca. They gave us a small tour with a row boat and showed us their pearl farm and obviously the connected store. 😉 We finished the first day with some chill time at a beach, some sunset pictures from the boat and a big seafood dinner.
Because of reasons I skipped the early Thai-Chi activity on the second day and went straight for breakfast. After this we went for some caves in the stone formations. Most pictures turned out horrible so that pillar has to suffice. Back at the boat we got a nice lunch before we headed back to Hanoi.
Looking back I really enjoyed that cruise and nature surprised me yet again with its beautiful diversity. Those stone formations were really amazing.
I stayed in Hanoi one more night. My plan was to take the train south the next day but they were fully booked so I flew again.
Arriving in Huế I checked in and had some chicken with a weird fruit sauce at a nearby restaurant. Not the best choice I made especially since they also had peanut sauce! The next day I rented a scooter and drove – very carefully – around the city to visit the local temples along the Perfume River. Huế is a bit notorious for bad weather but the rain caught me only during the end of the day. So I cut the trip a bit short and to mix it up a bit and also as a reward for surviving the scooter day without any injuries I went for some expensive but delicious Mexican food.
The next part of my journey south was very scenic so I made sure to get the train tickets. And oh boy as it worth it. I really regretted not stopping along the way. The landscape was amazing and I am sure there are some hiking tracks along those amazing mountains.
Instead I spent over 12 hours in the train until I reached the famous vacation spot Nha Trang.