So I was going through my files one day and I “unearthed” this folder of photographs from my trip to Vietnam way back in 2013. I had meant to write about this Vietnam trip right after publishing my Cambodia posts since I visited both places right around the same time. Somehow this one never materialized.
I have to admit many of my memories of Hanoi have become hazy. The fact that we spent a very short time there makes me feel like I don’t have much of substance to share with you. Add to that, as I looked through my photographs I realized I didn’t do a very good job at capturing Hanoi at all. I was very green back then I suppose– Not that I’m an expert now, but I’m glad to note my pictures have improved!
The reason I decided to do this post anyway is because I found some photos that actually do invoke some fondness for Hanoi in me. Plus, meeting a new Vietnamese friend during my Wow Korea Supporters Trip helped me gain a renewed energy to finally make this post. Coincidentally, he is from Hanoi, except that we met three years after I went on this trip haha! 😀
My knowledge about Hanoi was very limited before I came here. I knew that it experienced more seasons than Ho Chi Minh which I visited years before. I also knew it was where you could find the famous Halong Bay. That was about it though.
In any case, I’m sharing a few of my favorite snapshots plus a travel video of the places we visited in Hanoi. There aren’t a lot since going there seemed almost like a mini detour on the way home.
We had some quick stops at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Trấn Quốc Pagoda. Taking a stroll along West Lake was nice. I also enjoyed listening to a musical performance at the Temple of Literature on my way to pay homage to Confucius. I caught a glimpse of history during a visit to the Presidential Palace and the adjacent buildings that have been converted into museums. You can see more about these places on the travel video I made.
The two locations that have their special headings below I would consider as the highlights of the trip. Alongside the Hanoi Old Quarter, these two locations are what I feel you shouldn’t miss on your Hanoi trip:
Tam Coc River
One of my favorite experiences during my Hanoi Trip was this river cruise. There was something so utterly calming about floating along this seemingly unending strip of water, but the calm gets shattered by the persistent hawkers who try to sell you their wares. (It’s okay to say no!) For the most part, you get to enjoy some peace while the music of nature plays in the background. It’s a mix of water lapping against the paddles and the various ducks you meet along the way.
It was really fun seeing the unique way the boat-rowers used their paddles, because they actually grasped the handles with their feet rather than their hands! You can see it more clearly in my travel video. 🙂
Every time we rowed through the dark caves and came out on the other side, it felt as if I was seeing the view for the first time over and over again. The limestone karsts here are very imposing but lovely to look at.
Thank you to our boat-mistress for her hard work in rowing us through the whole course for over half an hour! She used her hands instead of her legs, which was surely more exhausting. I felt bad about not buying anything from her when she tried to sell us some souvenirs near the end of our boat ride, so I ended up getting a little something.
Probably one of Hanoi’s most famous tourist attractions is the Halong Bay, and for good reason. Gliding through the lovely emerald waters is a peaceful experience, as the waters are occasionally framed by various limestone karsts and isles that have grown lush with time. Just thinking about the fact that the limestones here have gone through 500 million years of transformations is mind blowing.
Taking the cruise in a tourist boat typically includes a meal of fresh seafood. Before or after the meal, you are free to roam on the deck of the boat to watch the lovely sights as you sail by. I highly recommend it. Apart from the limestone figures in the distance, you’ll get to see various other tourist boats, as well as a floating fishing village.
The residents of this village sail out to peddle freshly caught seafood, and surprisingly, some of them have a bunch of fresh fruit. They even put their children atop their rafts and the kids know to stay put and behave. So cute!
When you finally reach the port to whichever grotto you’ll be visiting for the day, you’ll find the outside much more picturesque haha! We visited the Thien Cung Grotto and while the stone formations were fascinating and the lights were very carefully placed to highlight its shapes, I really like the wide open land-water-sky view even more.
As a little extra to this post, I wanted to give you a little peek at the lovely Vietnamese handicrafts I found myself fascinated with. As an artist myself, I suppose I am drawn to these kinds of things. These souvenir places are typical stops on a packaged tour, but Hanoi offered me some behind-the-scene looks! Some of these handicraft shops employ persons with disabilities to give them an artistic outlet and a chance to earn some money despite their handicap, and I think that’s quite a valiant thing.
Well, this was undoubtedly my least wordy travel diary. I hope you enjoyed looking through the pictures. I’ve been bitten by the wanderlust bug lately but haven’t found any holes in my schedule to plan a trip, so I guess I have to be content with reliving my own past trips through my own old photos. I do have a pending travel post about another country to write about so stay tuned for my next travel diary! 🙂