My A to Z Travel Challenge: H is for Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, Vietnam🇻🇳

Hanoi

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, where we spent four days a few years ago.  Hanoi was not a place that interested me as I had heard it was quite industrialised due to the influence of communism.  However it was somewhere where Anthony wanted to visit, and I can’t always have my own way!  After checking into our hotel and going for a wander, I realised how wrong I had been.  The architecture was amazing and the restaurants were some of the best we had eaten in.  It is easy to see the French influence in the buildings and especially the food.  There’s nothing tastier than French food with a Vietnamese twist.

The view from our room at the Hotel Nikko

Over the next two days we walked around the city going to the Old Quarter and also the Citadel.  We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some schoolgirls graduating.

A heavy load for this small bike!
St. Joseph’s Cathedral in the Old Quarter.  Built in 1866 and resembling Notre Dame de Paris. 

Hubby trying out a buyer’s load

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Graduation inside the Imperial Citadel

The Imperial Citadel was built in the 11th Century and many of the old structures are still standing.  The Imperial Japanese Army used it to imprison 4,000 French colonial soldiers in 1945.  

Expertly manicured bonsai trees are found all around the Citadel. 

Restaurants

I thought I would mention some of the restaurants we ate in as they were all so good.

La Place: A small cafe opposite St. Joseph’s Cathedral.  If you sit upstairs you can see the Cathedral from the window.  Cute cafe serving Vietnamese food.
Pots and Pans: Sadly this is no longer in operation.  Such a great find as they trained staff on the premises and the service and food were excellent.
La Verticale: Fine French dining in the old French Quarter.
La Badiane: Another French restaurant with excellent service.  Try and book downstairs, where there is more atmosphere.

Just a couple of the dishes we enjoyed!

Ha Long Bay Cruise

After three nights in Hanoi, the next day we were setting off for Ha Long Bay for a 1 night/2 day cruise.  I think most people break up their stay in Hanoi by doing this.  We actually cancelled this trip due to a typhoon forecast to hit Hanoi the day before.  Luckily we were able to reinstate this trip as it was and has been one of the best trips we’ve ever done.  It’s the perfect break after the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. We had booked with Aphrodite Cruises.

Our Itinerary – Day One

7.30 am: We were picked up from our hotel by the tour’s small bus and then went onto pick up other passengers around Hanoi.  During the four hour journey we slowly got to know some of them who would be joining us on our mini cruise.  The journey seemed endless especially as we had a 30 minute obligatory stop at a restaurant/souvenir type of warehouse.

11.30 am: Arrived at Ha Long Bay.

12 pm:  Everyone boarded the ship and we were taken to our cabins and told to meet on deck to have lunch and also meet the fabulous crew.

This ship features just 17 luxury cabins and is served by a five star crew.

On the top deck where cocktails would be served

1 – 2 pm: Lunchtime.  A gourmet delight and so well presented.

3 – 5 pm After lunch we sailed onto Thien Cung Cave. A sprawling natural grotto with intricate stalactite & stalagmite formations & colourful lighting.

From outside and inside the cave
The bottom left looks like a giant pair of hanging legs with boots on!

5 pm onwards:  The time from here was filled with a cookery lesson, how to drink saki and enjoy a cocktail or two on the top deck.  Then dinner was served on the dining deck.   It was amazing how many other cruise ships were out in the bay with us.  I think the whole area is in great danger of being overpopulated with cruise ships.

 

Day Two

I woke up to the sound of running water and when I got out of bed found it was coming from our bathroom!  The bidet hose had come loose and was gushing upwards like a fountain.  I opened the cabin door and shouted for help and as two or three crew members came running in the room, I had no choice but to jump back into bed with hubby while they tried to fix the problem.  They managed to stop the leak but emerged from the bathroom soaking wet!  We were offered a change of cabin but as we were packing up that day it seemed pointless to move.  Luckily not too much damage was done.  From then on it was all go, go, go!

First a quick snack before breakfast and then onto a smaller boat to be taken to a beach for swimming or a walk.  The beach was on Ti Top Island.  We were only allowed one hour there as so many other cruise ships were waiting for their turn.  The sea is so crowded that it’s impossible to actually swim.  Anthony decided to walk to to the top of the island, but even that was a struggle as many people were coming down as others were going up.   Back to the ship for another fabulous meal.  Then it was time to pack up, sail away and say goodbye to our fantastic crew.

At the beach!

Relaxing on the way home

If you ever go to Hanoi I highly recommend taking a cruise to Ha Long Bay.  It was one of the highlights to our trip.

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As always thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed this post! 

 

 

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