Vietnam: Hanoi and Ha Long Bay

After the three of us had finally met up in the final few days of our time in Siem Reap, we were ready to start Vietnam together. After waiting for more than an hour to get our visa sorted in the airport, we were finally ready to set foot into Vietnam. Side note: If you are from the UK and are travelling to Vietnam for more than 15 days you will have to pay $25 for a visa.

Before we started our Asia trip, we had researched what were the best things to do in Vietnam. We found 3 activities which looked awesome; trips to places called Ha Long Bay and Sapa, and a weeklong venture called The Buffalo Run, which takes you down the coast from Hanoi to Hoi An. We did all of these with a group called Vietnam Backpacker Hostels, who organise various expeditions as well as running five top quality hostels in different cities in Vietnam.

Our adventure started in Hanoi, where we had one day to spend before heading off to Ha Long Bay. We stayed at Downtown Vietnam Backpackers Hostel and we would highly recommend this hostel for anyone looking to have a good time (particularly a good night). What made this hostel so good is that they made it easy to organise different trips to anywhere in Vietnam. They made your stay convenient as well as fun, with a happy hour of free drinks and a great pub crawl.

sapa walk

During our one day stay in Hanoi we went on the free walking tour that the hostel offers. The free walk was okay, nothing special, but it was free and it was a way of experiencing the city quickly. The tour was also a good way to meet some people before we left to Ha Long Bay. During the night time, we went around Hoàn Kiếm Lake which is where Hanoi comes alive. Here, there are plenty of street performers and games for everyone to get involved in. We partook in and won a tug of war consisting of over 50 people! When we got back to the hostel the free pub crawl was very tempting, however, as we had to wake up early for Ha Long Bay we decided to give it a miss. Nevertheless, we would recommend this bar crawl as so many people said they had a great time and an easy way to find all the best bars and clubs.

The journey to Ha Long Bay wasn’t the shortest of our travels; the two buses and two ferries took about five and a half hours in total, setting off at 6:30am. Luckily, Vietnam Backpacker Hostels include a breakfast with your stay, and are up to make it before this time. The difference with booking your Ha Long Bay trip with VBH is that you get to go to Castaway Island. Here, you can explore the bay as well as have a continuous three day/two night party (if you survive through it all!). This is a must do! Not only do you get your own private island, but you can participate in activities such as rock climbing, kayaking, wake boarding, and high-speed tubing.  However, if filming with a go-pro do be careful whilst doing these activities. We give this warning as unfortunately we lost a go-pro whilst kayaking and lost 3 weeks-worth of films on it (most of Ha Long Bay). Regardless, we couldn’t let this get us down as you’re constantly meeting new people and having fun in so many ways that you soon forget about all your problems.

Additionally, the second day on the Island you get your own private ‘sightseeing tour’ (read: booze cruise), where you start the day with a shotgun and end the day wasted.  The booze cruise was so much fun and all three of us had such an amazing time. Being able to tour Ha Long Bay, with people from all over the world with a beer in your hand made you realise just how luck you were. The only down to all of this was as you can see by some of our pictures the weather wasn’t always amazing. So at the beginning of the day there was no sun and one of us decided to go on the cruise with no top on. Literally the minute as the boat lifted its anchor, the sun came out meaning that by the time we got back to the Island, someone was extremely red and blisters were already forming. Nevertheless, being able to kayak and jump off the boat into clear blue water around Ha Long Bay was an awesome experience and it is something that every traveller coming to Vietnam should check out. There is a lot of drinking, but the islands of Ha Long Bay are genuinely incredible to see. We met a lot of amazing people, some we would later meet again in Vietnam, and it was an experience that we will never forget.

View the rest of our Vietnam pictures here.