And Finally, Hanoi!
After a month in Chiang Mai, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world when you first touch down in Hanoi. You’ll see sheer chaos. But the frantic energy of the city is what makes it such a fascinating place to explore. There will always be something new to see, like a man transporting a tree on the back of his motorbike, women practicing Tai Chi at sunset, a pair of children playing badminton by the side of the road, or businessmen and goateed grandfathers battling it out on a chessboard overlooking the lake. It’s the capital of a country that’s been through some tough times in recent history, and has come out the other side not only in one piece, but very much thriving. Vietnam has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, which perhaps explains the unbridled energy of its capital.
As well as being a delight to explore in itself, Hanoi is close to some stunning natural landscapes that are simply a must visit. Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site that is unique in its beauty. Sapa is a hill station to the north west of Hanoi which has similarly stunning scenery of plunging valleys, soaring mountains and lush green rice fields.
Things to Do:
Explore the Asia of yesteryear
If there’s one city in the whole of South East Asia that epitomises the region, it has to be Hanoi. It ticks all the boxes: Millions (literally) of motorbikes filling the city’s thoroughfares to bursting point, check. Vendors of every item imaginable lining the back streets of the Old Quarter, check. Hangovers of colonisation from a foreign power, check. Delicious street food at concerningly low prices, made in even more concerning kitchens, check. Street markets with every item under the sun being sold by some of the most wily salesmen you’ve ever come across, check.
Every nook of this city has something new for your mind to try and absorb. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time to a bi-gone era, where with enough courage and hard work, anything is possible. You could spend a lifetime wandering the streets of this fascinating metropolis and never get bored.
Float through Halong Bay
Majestic and mysterious, inspiring and imperious, Halong Bay’s 3,000 or more incredible islands rise from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Designated a World Heritage site in 1994, this mystical seascape of limestone islets is a vision of breathtaking beauty.
Halong Bay is easily explored on a two night tour from Hanoi that includes a couple nights on a boat, kayaking through wave-eroded grottoes and maybe even a cheeky party on a private beach!
Trek the hills of Sapa
Perched on a steep slope, Sapa overlooks a plunging valley of cascading rice terraces, with mountains towering above the town on all sides.
Surrounding this French Hill Station are the Hoang Lien Mountains containing Vietnam’s highest peak. There are dozens of trekking routes available up into these mountains, through the Tram Ton Pass, to the Silver Falls, or across the Cloud Bridge. It’s understandably Vietnam’s premier trekking hub.
Sapa is well worth an excursion from Hanoi. Nine hours by train makes it at least a couple day trip, but you’ll definitely appreciate stretching your legs on a hike in the fresh mountain air.
Culture and Communism
Hanoi is the heart and soul of Vietnam. The cultural capital of the country is full of historically significant landmarks, none more so than Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. Visiting this great monument to “Uncle Ho” and the number of other culturally significant museums scattered about the city will give you a true insight into the proudness of this nation which has been through so much in the not so distant past.