Manic City / Mysterious Caves

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

From Chang Mai we flew to Hanoi in Vietnam. We opted to stay at Chien Hostel in the city - which was a brilliant find! We arrived fairly late but were greeted by the friendliest, warmest staff ever. We got a free cup of iced coffee on arrival and were showed to our dorm, which was easily one of the coolest dorms I've ever stayed in - me and Craig got our own double bed bunk! Chien provided free breakfast and free beer, which to Craig's delight we arrived just in time for. After serval beers and an AWFUL shot of snake infused rice wine (Craig, not me) we headed to bed to get some well earned rest for a day of exploring the following day.

Hanoi itself is a manic Asian city! The traffic is mad and it's impossible to walk about safely as a pedestrian! Pushing this fact aside, Hanoi is home to some beautiful French colonial buildings that are so instagramable! Plus the city itself has such a unique buzz.

Our first day in Hanoi consisted of having a wander, soaking up the sights, trying our first veggie ban mi (traditional Vietnamese baguette) and visiting the Vietnamese Women's Museum - which was brilliant. It was astonishing to learn about Vietnamese women's role in society and to see just how relentlessly they worked. It was also fascinating to learn about marriage, fashion and childbirth within Vietnamese culture. On top of all the educating, the museum itself was also a really pretty building.

Not only is Hanoi rich in culture but the food is pretty awesome too. We enjoyed copious amounts of Pho and even found an amazing little cafe called The Hanoi Social Club which did great coffee and yummy French toast. Craig had a burger and it was huge!

The following day we did what most tourists do when visiting Hanoi - a trip to one of the seven wonders of the world, Halong Bay. Sadly we didn't have the money or time to do the usual 2 days 1 night sailing trip most travellers do - so we opted for a day trip. The journey to the harbour took around 4 hours from Hanoi, and wasn't the best journey as we were cramped inside the smallest minivan you could imagine! After arriving and feeling rather rung out we piled onto the boat and got served an 'okay' lunch (the veggie options weren't too inthralling). Halong Bay itself was really beautiful - deep indigo blue waters with dark stone grey islands standing proud covered in lush tropical greenery. Kayaking through the various caves was probably the best part of the day. Sadly the entire trip felt very rushed and we didn't get to see as much as I would have liked, plus the staff on the trip weren't great. I would definitely recommend a longer stay at Halong Bay to fully appreciate it. With that said it was still great to see it!

After Hanoi we travelled via the notorious night bus to Phong Nha. I will quickly add that the open bus ticket from Hanoi to Saigon is probably the best and cheapest way to travel Vietnam. It worked really well for us as we only had 14 days to see the entire country! Anyway onto Phong Nha. This magical little place was probably my second favourite place in Vietnam. Quiet and rural in comparison to hectic Hanoi, it was lovely to relax and see a more chilled side to Vietnam. We stayed at a cute little homestay called Duong - the guy who ran it was lovely and the free breakfast was great! Below is a pic of the view from our room...

We didn't have a lot of time in Phong Nha (only 2 days) but to be honest you don't need more than around 4/5! There isn't too much to see and do - the caves are what Phong Nha are famous for and they are a must when visiting! We saw Phong Nha cave and Tien Sun cave - both easy to get to and reasonably priced (£10 for two people). Phong Nha was so mysterious and magical. We sailed through the cave and instantly the temperature cools and you're surrounded by crazy shaped rock formations. We then got to walk about the cave and explore some more which was great fun! We then walked over to Tien Sun. Be prepared for the millions of stairs, it's knackering but well worth it! The cave was pretty much empty when we were there which made it even more exciting to explore, the cave is massive and full of cool little hidey holes! Controversial I know, but I think I preferred Phong Nha to Halong Bay.

I must also mention an amazing little restaurant we ate at called Nguyen Shack Art Cafe - the ginger and coconuts tofu is soooo good!

Thats it from Vietnam so far! Keep your eyes pealed for my next post where I'll be chatting about our favourite, the stunning Hoi An.

Elly x

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