Hanoi / Halong Bay / Sapa, Vietnam

This was my 2nd visit to Hanoi. The 1st time was in the year 2008, and it was a package tour with my mum. And indeed, to have a good travelling experience, a good travel mate is very important. My 1st trip to Hanoi didn’t leave a very deep impression on me, partly due to it being a full package tour so not much freedom, and partly due to my mum who dun really enjoy travelling, and hence every tourist spots seem boring to her, and indirectly influenced me too 😦

My 2nd visit to Hanoi was a more positive one. My friend enjoys travelling as much as i do, and we had a lot of fun exploring Hanoi by ourselves, despite our poor sense of directions. We signed up a local package (via internet) each for the Halong Bay and Sapa trip, which made the transfer from one place to another easier with a well planned itinerary. We felt so well taken care of throughout the trip 🙂

Hanoi Elegance Hotel -> 2 nights stay in Hanoi + 2D1N Halong Bay Package:
http://www.hanoielegancehotel.com/emerald/emerald.htm
http://www.paradisecruises.vn/our-cruises/paradise-luxury_cruise1.html

Halong Sapa Tours -> 3D4N Sapa Trekking:
http://halongsapatours.com/tours/cat/21-sapa-tours.html

1-2   1-1
Hanoi Elegance Emerald Hotel – excellent room and service, highly recommended to all friends who are going to Hanoi

2-1   2-2
Our first meal in Hanoi, as recommended by the hotel staff -> Bún Chả

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Exploring Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as the Lake of the Returned Sword. The legend is about a tortoise returning the sword to the Dragon King.

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Wandering around the Old Quarter. Anyone who has been to Hanoi would deem crossing the roads as the biggest challenge.

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Dinner at Green Tangerine.. delicious but a bit overpriced though.

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Excitedly looking for our 5-star Paradise Luxury Cruise after a 4-hr coach ride from Hanoi to Halong Bay.

6-3   6-4
Our cabin for the night with a nice view from the window.

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Our friendly and professional cruise manager, Jimmy, introducing his crew members and the safety onboard before our sumptuous buffet lunch.

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7-2
Halong Bay seems so mysterious thanks to the mist. It’s like in a wuxia or martial arts movie, suddenly I hope I have qinggong.

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Going up to Hang Sung Sot or the “Cave of Surprises”, a cave filled with unusual rock formations, which are highlighted by colored lights.

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You can do some kayaking at Halong Bay too

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After a short rest in the cruise, we proceeded to Ti Top Island, which displays a beach shaped like a crescent moon. It was named by President Ho Chi Minh, after the Russian astronaut, German Titop, on the occasion of his first visit to Halong Bay in 19629-3
The view from the peak is definitely worth walking 400+ steps up.

9-4
Most from our group preferred to stay at the beach for a soccer match.

10-1   10-2
Our Tai Chi session and breakfast the following morning.

11
Beautiful sunrise despite the mist.

10-3   10-4
Rowing to Luon Cave. Passing the entrance, we are welcomed by a beautiful lagoon, surrounded by lime-stone island and tropical forest.

12-2   12-1
First thing back to Hanoi is to look for… teabreak!

 13-2   13-1
Dinner is Cha Ca, Vietnamese turmeric grilled fish with dill, which has become my favourite dish in this trip.

  14-1   14-2
Sightseeing in Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Temple of Literature

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Lunch at KOTO (Know One, Teach One), a social enterprise that trains and supports underprivileged youth in Vietnam

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Took a cyclo to the Museum of Vietnamese Revolution.

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Early dinner at a local food eatery before been sent to the train station.

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Our 10-hr train ride from Hanoi to Sapa.

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Reached the Sapa Eden Hotel after an hour of coach ride from the Lao Cai Station. The hotel staff going through our itinerary and trekking paths after our breakfast.

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A group of ethnic minority ladies waiting outside the hotel early morning.

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We started our trek at about 10.30am. We are supposed to trek 10km today to visit 3 villages of different minorities.

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Quite a few of the ethnic minority ladies are carrying their babies or a basket of goods while trekking with us.

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Some water buffaloes and wild pigs along the way.

1504-15
A simple lunch but all of us are famished!

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The trek is such a breeze on flat grounds!

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Love the awesome sceneries 🙂

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Reached our homestay! The 2nd storey is a dorm with lots of mattresses.

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The owner of the house who sings and performs for us while we are having our dinner.

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The 1st storey is the dining area. Our breakfast next morning is banana pancakes.

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We continue our trek today for about 12km to visit 2 villages of the Red Dzao and H’mong people.

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The sceneries are just as awesome!

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Our trek guide, Sol, who is just 18 years old, demonstrating to us some handicrafts while taking a rest.

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Back to our comfy Sapa Eden Hotel room, with a nice view from the balcony.

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Our teabreak and lunch… the food portion is too huge!

1704-2   1704-3
Visiting the local markets.

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Colorful postcards and skirts for sales.

 1704-6  1704-6-1
A nearby church with beautiful stained glass.

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Teabreak at Baguette & Chocolat, another social enterprise.

1704-15
Love the awesome sceneries outside our hotel!

1804-01
Our last meal in Hanoi by the roadside before flying back to Singapore.

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