Intro and overview:
Until now Vietnam hasn’t been ruined by travellers and money. If you plan to travel in north Vietnam (Hanoi, Ha long bay, Sapa) this itinerary can boost your stay! With over 1600 islands, Ha long bay is declared by UNESCO as one of the world heritage, and as a veteran traveller it is also one of my favorite places on earth.
Land in Hanoi and transfer to your hotel by taxi or better ask from the hotel to pick you up. Warning: make sure you know the hotel name and address, because taxi drivers can take you to a different hotel because they receive payment from that hotel, I know it sounds bad but just pay attention and be very strict if you feel that you are mislead. I strongly recommend staying at charming 2 hotel, the staff is amazing, they have pickup service a and they can book for you the rest of your trip. Go and check out charming 2 hotel on Bookings.com’s page.
If you a arrive on the weekend you can go to the evening market (7:00pm – 11:00pm, Friday-Sunday). You can buy clothes, sun glasses, games, watches, souvenirs and more at a very cheap price, you should negotiate!
Ha long Bay: pick up from the hotel at around 8:00am. The ride to h Halong bay is 4 hours (165 km). Embarking on the boat at 12:00pm and the fun starts. I recommend booking the trip with Bhaya cruise, most hotels can book it for you. It cost around 180$-200$ a person for everything: transportation, food, activities and room. You have to pay for your drinks and spa services 🙁
On the boat a buffet lunch is served on deck and then you receive the key to your room. The rooms are amazing and it’s like a 4-5 stars hotel. The itinerary includes visiting the floating village using a 4 sitting small boat with one of the locales as the driver.
Then you have some free time to swim around the boat or rest on deck and eat dinner.
After a light breakfast you will go to see some caves in the area and then you’ll have real breakfast and at noon you’ll arrive back to the pier.
Then you will be transferred back to your hotel in Hanoi, arriving at around 5:00pm. Now you have two options: Take the night train to Sapa or stay another day in Hanoi and then go to Sapa. I suggest to stay the night at Hanoi because the trip to Sapa is not a picnic. If you decide to stay then I recommend after taking a shower go to “Namaste” restaurant, although not cheap, but great Indian food and very nice atmosphere.
Hanoi is a typical Asian city and there are many places to visit: Hue chi min grave(ma mausoleum hue chi min museum, the water puppet show, temple of literature, temple of the lake. You can visit all or some of them.
If you are a veteran traveler I guess that site seen will not amaze you, but this is the check list of Hanoi. Tip: Before you go make sure that the mausoleum is open, there is a period every year that they do reconstruction work.
Another fancy restaurant i recommend going to is Essence cafe, also not cheap but great food ( try the mango salad from the appetizers).
Ok so at around 7:30pm you should be ready to leave your hotel and get to the train station to get to Sapa, you can book the trip from your hotel.
There are 4 beds in each cabin and you have electricity and personal night lamp. The trip takes around 9 hours And you arrive at 5:00 am.
If you book everything through the hotel someone will pick you up from the station to your hotel in Sapa, it is a 40 minutes drive up the hills.
I recommend staying at hotel Eden. The hotel is clean with free wifi and amazing views from the room and restaurant.
After eating breakfast, unpacking, showering and resting you will go on a trip with a local guide to the villages down the hill. Tip: you can rent boots for the trip from the hotel, I strongly recommend to do that, you will thank me 🙂
You will need to walk for 3 kilometers so don’t wear fancy clothes and bring only essential stuff like camera, umbrella and water. The way up is a little bit difficult but you can also pay a small fee and get back to Sapa on a motorbike. After coming back you will have free time to rest and walk around the town. Tip: You can find very cheep North Face products around the city. I think that north face produce there products in Vietnam, that’s why you see a LOT of stuff all around the town. You can negotiate with the sellers and e easily take 30-40% off from there initial price.
You can take a longer trip in the villages (around 7 kilometers). The views are amazing and the places are very authentic. This trip takes around 5-6 hours including eating Vietnamese lunch in a local restaurant.
At around 5:30pm you should be ready to head back to Hanoi. A transit car will pick you up and take you to the night train. The trains leave at around 8:30pm.
Arrive to Hanoi at around 5:30 am. If you are lucky you will get a room to rest. If you have time until your flight you can walk in the streets of Hanoi , you will notice that there are streets for shoes, games, bags and more.
The trip to the airport is 40 minutes.
You can stay another day or two in Ha long bay, and the same for Sapa. If you go south to Saigon and you don’t have a lot of time I suggest that you will skip day number 4 and get back from Ha long bay at 5:00pm and go straight to Sapa on the 8:30pm train.
Don’t forget to send me you feedback and have a great time.