Motorbikes in Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam

I must say, this particular vacation was full of challenges from start until end. Let’s begin at pre-departure. Mere 8 days before my flight, I have acquired an infection which I had to nurse for 2 straight weeks. And 5 days later, I fell ill due to some digestive complications which required me to be on heavy medication (6 different pills taken daily!) for 7 full days. Fortunately, it wasn’t grave enough for me not to be allowed to travel. So that’s a great relief.

The challenges didn’t end there though. For the past few months, it had been continuously very hot, temperature going as high as 37-degree Celcius. So I thought this was perfect for traveling as expecting a rain was unlikely….not quite. Just hours before I left for the airport, a heavy rain suddenly poured! This caused so much traffic jam. But good thing I left 5 hours before my flight. So despite an almost 2-hour traffic, I finally arrived at the airport. Intact. And most importantly, dry.

Rain and traffic. Great.
Rain and traffic. Great.

Minutes after I arrived at the airport, the rain had stopped so I figured there won’t be any more troubles with my flight. Nuh-uh. I was supposed to fly at 10:30 pm and guess what? My flight was delayed for 3.5 hours! This was the first time ever I have encountered a flight delay. So you can imagine how upset I was of the situation. Instead of arriving in Hanoi at 1:30am, I ended up getting there at 5 am!

I arrived in Hanoi pissed, upset, sleepy, groggy and hungry. Not the best combination for sure. I got to my hotel at about 5:30 am. I had a planned Halong Bay overnight cruise and I was gonna be picked up at around 8 am. So I pretty much only had at most 2 hours of sleep. I did set my alarm at 7:15. And guess who didn’t hear the alarm go off? Thankfully, the hotel staff woke me up when the tour bus arrived. I didn’t have time to fix myself up so I just simply changed clothes, brushed my teeth but didn’t bother taking a shower anymore.

Good morning, Vietnam!
Good morning, Vietnam!
Our tour bus
Our tour bus

The trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay is about 5 hours. I took that opportunity to sleep and get some of my energy back. The mini-bus was comfortable enough. However, the roads were not smooth though. Mid-way, we stopped at a place that sells local products that are done my disabled people. There were just so much beautiful stuff in there. But I didn’t wanna buy anything and carry them all the way through the tour. Plus, they were not cheap as well.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

After 5 long hours, we finally arrived at the Halong Bay port. Did I tell you that this whole vacation was full of troubles? Well, the moment we got off the bus, all excited, the government of Hanoi phoned in and just announced that all overnight cruises are cancelled due to an incoming cyclone! Naturally, all of us were pissed! This was the part of the vacation I was really looking forward to. I wanted to experience at least once to sleep overnight over water. But no, the universe has other plans.

Oh, cyclone. Why couldn't you have come at a later time?
Oh, cyclone. Why couldn’t you have come at a later time?

Instead of an overnight cruise, all of us were made to choose either to go back to Hanoi right away or go for a day tour for 4 hours that included a visit at the paradise cave Dong Thien Cung and rowing. Though completely upset, I wanted to make the most of the trip and opted to join the day trip. And I’m glad I did.

Arriving at Động Thiên đường - Quảng Bình (Paradise cave in Quang Binh)
Arriving at Động Thiên đường – Quảng Bình (Paradise cave in Quang Binh)

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Port of Dong Thien Cung
Port of Dong Thien Cung

Dong Thien Cung

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View on the way out of the cave
View on the way out of the cave

After the cave visit, we went to cruise along Halong Bay for awhile and head out to the floating village and the rowing/kayaking area. I’ve tried kayaking before and it didn’t work out so I opted to join a rowing boat [it should be noted how amazing it is that all of the rowers are women.] We went through two small tunnels and into a little paradise circled by magnificent karsts. Hard to get a good perspective shot of the place when you’re on the boat. Better viewed from above. And best experienced first hand.

Slowly cruising in Halong Bay
Slowly cruising in Halong Bay
Cruising along Halong Bay
Cruising along Halong Bay
Halong Bay
Halong Bay

Halong Bay

A floating house in Halong Bay
A floating house in Halong Bay
The floating village in Halong Bay
The floating village in Halong Bay where we went rowing

Vietnamese flag in Halong Bay

Rowing towards the first tunnel up ahead
Rowing towards the first tunnel up ahead
Approaching the tunnel in Halong Bay
Approaching the tunnel numero uno
About to enter the tunnel
About to enter the tunnel

Tunnel in Halong Bay

Rowing in Halong Bay

Rowing in Halong Bay
At the far right was the same tunnel we went in earlier

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Rowing in Halong Bay

Vietnamese woman rowing in Halong Bay
Racing on to the next tunnel!
Rowing in Halong Bay
Entering tunnel numero dos
Rowing in Halong Bay
The sunset beam illuminating the tunnel

Rowing in Halong Bay

Sunset in Halong Bay
Sunset in Halong Bay
Sunset in Halong Bay
Sunset in Halong Bay
Beautiful sunset cruise in Halong Bay
Beautiful sunset cruise in Halong Bay

So after more than 4 hours of cruising, we were sent back to the harbour. We had to wait for some more passengers to fill up the bus and around 7 pm, we were already driving back to Hanoi. Everyone was dropped off in their respective hotel. And guess who was the last one who got taken to? I finally arrived at my hotel at around midnight, tired, both disappointed and happy, and hungry. Sadly, there were no more restaurants open at this time so I had to just sleep off my empty tummy.

My first day in Vietnam was spent 10 hours on the road alone barely getting enough sleep and hardly able to have a decent meal. I was so exhausted I woke up past 2 pm the next day. I decided I was gonna take it easy this time and just walk around the vicinity of my hotel. It was a relatively cloudy day. Best condition to do some city walking if you ask me. I was also surprised to learn that the famous Hoan Kiem Lake is only a 10-minute walk from my hotel.

Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake

An artist painting the famous Red Bridge of Hoan Kiem Lake
An artist painting the famous Red Bridge of Hoan Kiem Lake
The Red Bridge of Ngoc Son Temple in Hoan Kiem Lake
The Red Bridge of Ngoc Son Temple in Hoan Kiem Lake
The Red Bridge of Ngoc Son Temple in Hoan Kiem Lake
The Red Bridge in Hanoi
Ngoc Son Temple in Hoan Kiem Lake
Ngoc Son Temple in Hoan Kiem Lake

Hanoi, Vietnam

View of the Hoan Kiem Lake
View of the Hoan Kiem Lake
Park at Hoan Kiem Lake
Park at Hoan Kiem Lake
Victory Day Vietnam 2013
Victory Day – April 30 is an annual holiday to commemorate the fall of Saigon in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War.
Vietnamese woman biking along Dinh Thien Hoang street
Vietnamese woman biking along Dinh Thien Hoang street
Cycle rickshaw aka cyclo of Vietnam
Cycle rickshaw aka cyclo of Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Hanoi, Vietnam

This area is about to get even more chaotic in a few hours....
This area is about to get even more chaotic in a few hours…
Crazy night in Hanoi
…wait for it…
Hanoi at night
…TADA! Crazy night in Hanoi!
Streetside eateries - a common sight in Hanoi
Streetside eateries – a common sight in Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam

A street in Hanoi mainly selling toys
A street in Hanoi mainly selling toys
Busy night in Hanoi
Busy night in Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam

An old Vietnamese man serenading a crowd in Hanoi
An old Vietnamese man serenading a crowd in Hanoi

The next day, I continued with my city tour. I was lucky to have met an Aussie fella who was so kind to let me hop in and join him in his city tour on his bike. Unfortunately, there was some special event happening and no tourists were allowed to enter the Ho Chi Minh Museum and the grounds of the HCM mausoleum. Nevertheless, it was a great day touring the west part of Hanoi and back in the Old Quarter for some more sightseeing.

On to the motorbike and off to see the rest of Hanoi!
On to the motorbike and off to see the rest of Hanoi!
Ho Chi Minh mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh mausoleum

Hanoi, Vietnam

The Presidential Palace of Vietnam
The Presidential Palace of Vietnam
These purple flowers are everywhere in Hanoi
These purple flowers are everywhere in Hanoi

The Presidential Palace of Vietnam

Quan Thanh Temple
Quan Thanh Temple
West Lake park in Hanoi
West Lake park
Tran Quoc Pagoda in West Lake, Hanoi
Tran Quoc Pagoda in West Lake, Hanoi
Vendors sitting by the Truc Bach Lake
Vendors sitting by the Truc Bach Lake
A Vietnamese lady selling flowers
A Vietnamese lady selling flowers
The Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature

Walls of Temple of Literature in Hanoi

A barbershop at the wall of the Temple of Literature
A barbershop at the wall of the Temple of Literature

Hanoi, Vietnam

Motorbikes in Hanoi

A temple in Hanoi

Streetside eatery right next to the temple
Streetside eatery right next to the temple
The Flag Tower
The Flag Tower

A tank in Hanoi

A Vietnamese woman on a bike selling food
A Vietnamese woman on a bike selling food
Little Italian food in Hanoi
Little Italian food in Hanoi
Everywhere you look, you will spot a Vietnamese woman carrying these on their shoulders.
Everywhere you look, you will spot a Vietnamese woman carrying these on their shoulders.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

A street in Hanoi that only sells footwear
A street in Hanoi that only sells footwear
A tourist with a huge camera riding a cycle rickshaw aka cyclo
A tourist with a huge camera riding a cycle rickshaw aka cyclo

A temple in Hanoi

Temple in Hanoi

Mr. Gangnam Style in Hanoi!
Mr. Gangnam Style in Hanoi!

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnamese hat and motorbikes in Hanoi

Snake wine in Hanoi
Snake wine, anyone?
Cleaning products easily available in the streets of Hanoi!
Cleaning products easily available in the streets of Hanoi!
Young Vietnamese army men having early dinner
Young Vietnamese army men having early dinner

Shops in Hanoi

Streetside eatery in Hanoi

Old Vietnamese men

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Metro-aide Vietnames woman
These Vietnamese women do all the work!

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Your Hotel - a rundown hotel in Hanoi

A family of 5 riding a motorbike in Hanoi
A family of 5 riding a tiny motorbike!
Vietnamese lady on the phone while driving!
Vietnamese lady on the phone while driving!
Pho Hang Ga
Pho Hang Ga – the street of my hotel
These things are everywhere in Hanoi!
These things are everywhere in Hanoi!

Lanterns in Hanoi

O Quan Chuong gate in Hanoi
O Quan Chuong gate

O Quan Chuong gate in Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is a mix of the old and the new. It’s the city of motorbikes accounting perhaps 90% of all modes of transportation there. And it’s definitely chaotic and noisy with the non-stop honking of the horns. The city is pretty cheap as well. I was bummed to be finally ending this vacation. But it has to end, sadly. This time, however, I wasn’t optimistic that my flight home will be any smooth. And yep, just when my taxi arrived, it rained heavily! There was some flooding on the roads because of this. And I had a crazy driver. I got to the airport exactly 1 hour before my flight. I was all the while very worried I was gonna miss my flight. But can you guess again what happened? Yep, my flight got delayed for 2 hours! It was also my first time to fly while it was raining. Not the most comfortable feeling for sure.

Raining on the way to the Noi Ba Airport
Raining on the way to the Noi Ba Airport
It's raining and we're flying. Not a comfortable thought!
It’s raining and we’re flying. Not a comfortable thought!

My Hanoi trip (April 27-May 1) was definitely full of memorable experiences that included a lot of firsts. And this was my  5th time traveling solo overseas. Despite all the challenges I had to overcome, I really, really enjoyed my vacation – a break I truly needed from the real world.

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3 thoughts on “Hanoi, Vietnam

  1. Nice photos Parvis! Took me straight back to Hanoi when I was there last year! Actually making a blog photo book about the honeymoon, so have been revisiting the photos! Have to say, looking back, Hanoi was not my favourite city in Vietnam, but it was an experience!

    1. Not my most favorite city as well. It reminded me of our area here in Manila called Ermita and I don’t like that place AT ALL. However, the vacation itself would be forever memorable to me. Lots of not-so pleasant firsts! But they are just fond memories now 🙂

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