Words and photos by Jennifer Tham
Vietnam has always been on my bucket list so it’s liberating to have it crossed off last month.
Of many parts of Vietnam that I wanted to go, Hanoi was my choice because I was told that Halong Bay is not to be missed.
So yes, it was a 5D4N trip to Hanoi – a trip of natural sceneries, old charms and most importantly, food.
We booked ourselves a cruise tour as it was the easiest way to get to Halong Bay. Our accommodation, admission tickets to attractions and food were taken care of.
The shuttle bus picked us up from our hotel in the Old Quarter, it’s like George Town of Penang where the colour and culture are.
It was a 3.5 hours ride from the Old Quarter to Tuan Chau Marina. We then boarded our cruise and off we go on Halong Bay.
Having seen photos of the bay since I was a kid, the beautiful emerald sea and fascinating limestone islands were mesmerising.
We got the best view when we were on top of Surprise Cave overlooking the bay, it’s even more stunning when you’re up there.
Surprise Cave was indeed, a surprising eye-opener. The last time I visited a limestone cave was 15 years ago, so the experience was refreshing.
Our friendly tour guide (included in the cruise tour) got us on a stalagmite hunt in the cave where rock formations that looked like the shapes of dragons and tigers.
We were then given a choice to kayak or sail across Luon Cave on the bamboo boat, my choice was the latter because I didn’t feel like working on my arms at all.
Sunset party on the cruise deck was a moment to remember for me. With the blasting of music at the back, my mind was too deeply lured by the soft waves of the emerald sea and the sun that was bidding farewell for the day. We saw so many jellyfishes in the sea which made me bowled over like a kid.
The next morning, we went to Titop Island where most of them hiked all the way up while I sat by the beach.
We were then sent back to our hotel in the Old Quarter, where we spent most of our time shopping, eating and more shopping at the night market.
The thing I enjoyed the most would definitely be the food. Being a Vietnamese food lover myself, I was impressed by how good a simple dish such as Xoi Xeo (yellow rice with mung bean paste) could be so enticing.
One thing not to miss would definitely be their coffee. Among the many varieties that they offer (coconut, passionfruit, alcohol), I went for the popular one which was the egg coffee at Cafe Giang and yoghurt coffee at AHA Cafe. I was sceptical at first of the strange combination but I was proved wrong.
The food in Hanoi is very affordable where a typical bowl of pho (Vietnamese noodle) would costs RM8 and a typical ‘Good Morning, Vietnam!’ t-shirt at the night market was selling at RM5 a piece.
Do note that the hotel and restaurant charges are in USD while the rest are in Vietnamese Dong so you will need to have two currencies while you’re there.
Before I went on this trip, I read on the internet that there are scams everywhere and people would hurt you if you don’t tip them.
Not sure if I was lucky or those were just lies, neither of the ‘warnings’ happened to us. If you have Vietnam on your mind, hesitate no more!