The Vietnam Diaries: Hong Kong to Hanoi

The colourful shipping yards whizzing by on the way to the airport

Day 1 – Beginning a Journey

My flight to Hanoi was a rather relaxed affair, leaving in the early afternoon meant I could double and triple check I had everything I needed for the month ahead. I had normally taken only the airport express or Ubers to the Airport, but since time wasn’t an issue and finances were tight I decided to save a little money and take the bus instead.

Tip: Take the bus into town if you’re a first time visitor to Hong Kong instead of a taxi or the Aiport Express as it’ll give you the best sense of the city and some great views on top of that

Once we’d arrived it all went fairly quickly: go through customs, sit at the gate, board the plane, and eventually we were off the ground and I was heading for Vietnam. The same degree of efficiency could not be said for Vietnam’s border, having left the plane and arrived at the terminal building I had to wait for 2 hours before I got my Visa signed off and could go collect my baggage from the carousel.

My bus stop in Hanoi’s Old Town

The bus journey was thankfully a lot smoother and I made it into the hustle and bustle of the Old Town with very little problem. Although I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of mopeds flying around at lightspeed in all directions I made it to my Hostel where I was booked in for the next week or so safely.

Cầu Thê Húc – A local landmark the red-painted bridge leads to a shrine

Settled into my temporary accommodation and having had a lovely local dinner I decided to go for a wander through the Old Town to see some of the cities highlights at night. Since both the temperature and the sheer number of people didn’t seem to have abated in the few hours I’d spent inside, I didn’t stay outside for very long. I also wanted to get some rest in so I would be ready for a full day of exploring tomorrow

Day 2 – Rain and a Guided Tour

I woke up on day 2 raring to go, but one look at the weather report dampened my spirits: thunderstorms all day! But I hadn’t flown all the way to Vietnam to be stopped by a little rain, so I donned my raincoat and the most waterproof shorts and shoes I had and went to see Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and One Pillar Pagoda armed with my phone to snap a few quick shots.

Vegetable Seller in the markets

I spent the best part of an hour or two wandering around the Mausoleum and surrounding area which, due to the rain, were basically deserted but I did eventually decide it would be for the best to just head back to the hostel to dry my clothes off and have some lunch before the free guided tour at 3 PM

And boy am I glad I did! While heading home the weather did decide to clear and the rain wouldn’t bother me really for the rest of my trip. If you ever get a hostel in the centre with a free tour go on it! I saw so much I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t gone: from local temples to rail bridges you could walk across the river on, to a village for the homeless on the river banks. Local knowledge really is the best kind when exploring

The tour concluded in Hanoi’s Train Street where we all sat down, had some food, some egg coffee and enjoyed this tourist hotspot! What remained of the day was spent chatting, editing, and enjoying the excellent free beer that’s available in lots of hostels

Day 3 – Exploring Hanoi

Day 3 was as eventful as the rest, a morning spent inside editing gave way to an afternoon walking through the Old Town properly, visiting all the sites that it has to offer: Cathedral’s, Temples and Pagodas. Starting off my day as most days in Hanoi did by wandering towards, and then around, Hoan Kiem Lake where I ran into the lovely Lam who was visiting Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh.

A smiling Vietnamese man with a cap in front of a lakeside and a blue sign on the right side
Lam from Ho Chi Minh

After that lovely chat, and grabbing a few pictures of him I continued onwards towards St Joseph’s Cathedral, a place crowded full of tourists, and although I didn’t go inside it was a very impressive piece of architecture, seemingly very out of place in this very prototypical Asian City.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

A short walk from this bustling Cathedral is the Temple of Literature, a beautiful and serene place in the hustle and bustle of the big city. The Temple even features on one of the Vietnamese notes, I spent a good hour wandering through this amazing island of calm, taking pictures, taking in the beauty, and even buying some postcards which now adorn my wall

After I had explored every little pathway the temple had to offer I decided to try and go see the One Pillar Pagoda and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum again, it was beginning to get late at this point and people were returning home so I hoped I could see these iconic places more or less devoid of people again but this time with slightly less rain

It was now beginning to get properly dark so I started to walk back to the Hostel for the night, to try and get a free beer and maybe run into some people to while away the night with until it was time to hit the sack, as I had a big day tomorrow! (Read more about that excursion here – not out yet)

Day 6 – Back in Hanoi

After my quick trip to Ha Long Bay, I was now back in Hanoi, and with the chance to go explore more of this amazing city for one last day before I was off to Ninh Binh for a couple days

I spent the day as before exploring more of Hanoi, I made my way again to the train street to enjoy an egg coffee and to see the train go through, what an amazing experience!

A very close, very fast train

After that excitement had abated, I decided to go explore some more of Hanoi’s History by visiting the Thăng Long Imperial Citadel, although not particularly exciting it was cool to see and learn some of the discoveries being made still about Vietnam’s history

After that slight let down, and with time against me, I decided to go to one more place before calling it a night: Walking over to West Lake, the biggest lake in the Capital, for a quick look at the Tran Quoc Pagoda and the view over the lake

And with the sun setting, I got on a bus and made my way back to the hostel for a nap, dinner, and some more socialising before it was finally time to say goodbye to Hanoi.

See you next time 🙂
– nikmaxott

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