Arriving to Hanoi Airport after a short flight with Vietjet.com from Bangkok brought us into a different world. We never had been in Vietnam before, so we didn’t really know what to expect. Driving from the airport to our hotel in the old quarter of Hanoi was an adventure in itself. Whoever thinks traffic in Bangkok is busy obviously hasn’t been in Hanoi :-).
Traffic is mental; traffic lights are just there for decoration.
Scooters, bicycles, cars, busses and lories are everywhere. Although we had our transport arranged up front, the minivan driver had to drop us just a couple of hundred meters from the hotel because during weekends the old center area is a solely walking area, so the roads around our hotel were all blocked.
Luckily the hotel’s bellboy was waiting for us at the drop off, so no problem.
‘The Space Hotel’ is just in the middle of the old quarter, which is great, it’s close to the lake, and it’s close to all kinds of lovely small restaurants, close to the shopping area. The only time we took a cab was to drive us to the temple of literature, which really is a must do for everyone visiting this great city. We really liked the hospitality and the atmosphere of Hanoi. Of course there are a lot of salesmen and women but they’re not really that pushy. In fact the Vietnamese are friendly and very service minded in general. We had great food, superb noodle soups, delicious spring rolls and wonderful stir-fried dishes in all sizes and flavors. Our 3 nights in Hanoi passed so quickly we almost regretted we had to leave for our next stop, Nihn Bihn or Tam Coc to be more precise.
Ninh Binh – Tam Coc
Our fist train ride ever in Vietnam, took us 3 hours, more or less. Hanoi to Tam Coc, near Nihn Bihn, is only 100 kilometers down South but the scenery is completely different. Although the trains are fairly well organized in Vietnam, they are not that punctual. Eventually you’ll get to your destination in reasonable conditions, but don’t plan you journey to sharp. Tam Coc is well known for it’s lime stone rocks and caves and it’s boat tours around the area. Again we had arranged a pick-up from the train to our resort. Luckily this time because our resort was so new, only open for 2 months, that most taxi drivers didn’t know how to find it yet.
Being a little out of the center, in the middle of nature and really besides a big rock formation is awesome, except when is rains all dayJ. During the few dry moments we had in Tam Coc we hiked to a small temple further down the road and took a boat trip on one of the small boats on the river. The boat drivers row the paddles with their feet. To be honest, our boat driver, a tiny Vietnamese lady was ‘screwed’. Having two heavyweights in her flat boat was hard work. Nevertheless it started raining halfway our trip, we really enjoyed every second. The landscapes and the sceneries are magnificent, birds, ducks and mountain goats in the wild. Lotus flowers, rice fields, all are just so peaceful.
The very last evening in Tam Coc, a really bad thunderstorm hit the valley, rain was pouring down from the sky very heavily, and all hell broke loose.
A strike of lightning put our resort without electricity for an hour or so. Wind and rain were blowing through the lunch and dining area which had no walls or windows, but hey live goes on and after the first shock, food was served as any other day, only this time it was by the light of multiple smart phones LOL.
- Hanoi is a great city, certainly in the weekend. If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, try to stay in the Old Quarter: there is so much to do, experience and taste … all on walking distance. We can highly recommend the Hanoi Space Hotel!
- Although you can find great food everywhere in Hanoi, we had two favourite restaurants. One the first night, we accidentally ended up in the Blue Butterfly Restaurant, a posh restaurant with a very good kitchen. Expect white table clothes with bottles of wine on the table, we were served by the super friendly James. Not the cheapest in Hanoi, but more the fine Vietnamese cuisine.
- The second foodie tip is New Day Restaurant: not so fancypansy, but very good food, for a good price! Don’t think too fast that it’s full when you are walking by, there are much more places inside then you would expert. And they always find a spot to fit you in! We loved the Pho, hotpot, spring rolls (off course!), stir fried chicken with cashew nuts, …