Blog, Vietnam

Vietnam: Hanoi, Halong Bay and Da Lat

Hanoi

We seek glimpses of different lives, adventure and the excitement of being alive as we travel. Although not our usual remote destination, the streets of Hanoi still provided all of these things.

With a population of around 8 million people in a city were everyone rides a motorbike, that makes for some chaotic, loud, bike-filled streets. Honking means a friendly ‘hello I am coming past’ on roads where everyone is passing someone. The only way to cross on foot is by confidently stepping in front of the traffic, walking calmly and slowly across as bikes and cars swerve to avoid you. You must not stop, hesitate, step back or change direction, this surprisingly organised chaos hinges on your movements being predicable. Crossing any street is a mini adventure which fills you with the excitement of being alive.

The streets of Hanoi are an interesting, eclectic mix of old and new, where East meets West in a beautiful fusion. Cone hatted women ride basket laden bikes of tropical fruit through narrow French streets. Plants and flowers hang from the antique railings of balconies, skimming the spiders web of electrical cables.

Delicious, hot baked baguettes are cooked beside steaming bowls of noodle soup, fresh juices and strong aromatic coffee, all served directly on the street. Some from cafe fronts, some from bikes which have carried both the stove and ingredients to be cooked to order wherever space can be found on the street. Many vendors only make one dish but boy do they do it well. Having chosen your meal, you perch on one of many 1ft high plastic stools and watch in wonder as the streets of Hanoi pass through your pavement dining area. Bikes are not limited to the road here so watch your toes.

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Train’s still pass through this narrow Hanoi street, within inches of market stalls and homes. The government have closed the area off to tourists but a local cafe owner managed to persuade the security guard we should be allowed in for a coffee. Coffee is the life blood of Vietnam.
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A trip to the war museum and prison created a sobering day and gave us a more in depth understanding of the horror behind the initial meetings of West and East in this area. Walking around the streets of the safe but bustling metropolis of Hanoi, it would be easy to forget that Vietnam has only recently emerged from almost continuous war stretching back to the 1800’s.

Ha Long Bay

From Hanoi we took a bus and boat tour to the Ha Long Bay area, 2 hours out of the city. It would have been wrong to be this close and not see the limestone islands this area is so well known for.

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Vietnam is not currently open to foreign cruising yachts and areas like this are heavily restricted even to local boats. A tour boat and kayak are the best freedom you can get in these waters.

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Big brother, Sam and girlfriend Charlie

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‘small’ brother, Joe and girlfriend Quyên

There is no denying the area is beautiful, however as the water was not clean enough for swimming and there are limited places to get ashore, we all agreed one day here was enough.

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Da Lat

Our final days in Vietnam were spent around the city of Da Lat in Vietnam’s southern highlands. Here we enjoyed the unbelievable value of a very luxurious £12GBP hotel room with breakfast and took some two wheeled day trips out around the city.

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Elephant falls, a short motorbike ride out of Da Lat
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The Linh An Pagoda, near Elephant Falls. You can climb the stairs to the top inside this giant Buddhist statue.

With much warmer temperatures than the northern highlands, Dal Lat is a major domestic tourist destination with a surprisingly French feel. The climate is well suited to agriculture so it’s a major producer of flowers, vegetables and coffee.

Arabica coffee is well suited to the climate and higher latitude of the area. It is a much more expensive variety of coffee than the typical Robusta as it is much more labour intensive but results in a sweeter, softer flavour.

Da Lat is a very nice, enjoyable place to be, however the 100 photos we took here  compared to the 600 taken in the north speaks volumes for where we left our heart in Vietnam.

Quality brother time was made even better for the experiences we shared in this beautiful and interesting country. Stepping on the plane back to Florence in Malaysia was bittersweet and required both the promise of future adventures with my brothers and a return to Vietnam one day.

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Florence was tucked up in Straits Quay Marina, Penang in Malaysia while we were in Vietnam. Unfortunately for foreign boats like us, Vietnam falls under the “too expensive and too difficult” category which prohibits the majority of cruising yachts from visiting. It would also require another season in SE Asia for us to sail to Eastern Malaysia, tempting but not on this lap…

 

 

3 thoughts on “Vietnam: Hanoi, Halong Bay and Da Lat”

  1. Again, we were there before you! In 2015, when we took a (big boat) cruise from Bangkok to Cambodia, Vietnam and Hong Kong. We loved Hanoi’s streets, stalls, food vendors and mad motorbikes, the boat trip in Ha Long Bay and also a day in the lovely old town of Hoi An. Lovely to see your photos, bringing back happy memories.

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  2. We can definitely ‘feel’ the difference in writing between north Vietnam and this part. But still the time spent with family is special and precious.
    We. Loved reading it and we also have to look into your remark about cruising to Vietnam as that is something we were considering.
    To be continued….
    Warmest regards, Ingrid and Alan

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