Hanoi is more toned down than Saigon. In addition to Ha Long Bay, be sure to check out the water puppet show in Hanoi. It’s quite touristy, but it is truly a unique show that is a part of the culture there. Also, there are some small temples that are worth looking into as well. Note that the food in Northern Vietnam is not as good as the Southern cuisine (reflective of the Mekong Delta’s bounty down south.)
Enjoy your trip.
i have a project and have to descibe what a water puppet looks like. can anyone tell me in words.
Try Sapa. It’s 10 hs away from Hanoi by train but definitely worth the trip. It’s an unique mountain environment and you get to meet the local tribes.
I wish I could help you out. I spent my 3 weeks time in the south. DaNang & Hoi An were are far north as I got. Looks like you got some good wisdom above. Have a great time!
All the hotels and tour companies have those two or three day boat tours aroung Ha Long bay thats the way to do it….but you are hearded like cattle. My advice is dont take a package where you sleep on the boat and bring lots of food with you because they feed you but its the same bland rice and spring rolls every meal for those few days.
We did a package tour of Halong bay. Apparently we got a good one. The group was nice we made friends along the way and slept on the boat one night and the hotel another. The hike on the island was good too. In Hanoi see the water puppets as well as the museums. Do the one where you get to see Ho Chi Minh himself. That is cool. There is a fabulous outdoor restaurant on the backside of the natural history museum. My wife’s favorite food. I don’t know the name or exact location, but it is well worth it. All the local white collar workers eat there at lunch. See our web page for all of what we did in Vietnam including Hanoi. http://www.kirkanddonna.com/rtw/Vietnam03.htm Note, Vietnam was one of the first very different asian cultures I visited, so my opinion of the shop keepers etc, may be different now.
Thankyou very much everyone. Thats some great advice.
I’ll tell you how it all goes.
Don’t under estimate how beautiful Halong Bay is and how enjoyable it is to cruise through! I had a great trip through the bay with Handspan travel, on the Dragon’s Pearl junk. This is pricier than many, but is a stunningly beautiful boat, and the food was out of this world (think 7 course dinner). This remains a top highlight of all my travels through south east asia. See www.handspan.com
For a unique high-end experience in Halong Bay, book passage aboard the Emeraude — a copy of a French steamer that once plied these waters in the early 20th century. Certainly the largest boat at 55m (180 ft.), the elegant Emeraude has 38 cabins, a fine-dining outlet, and plenty of room to stretch your legs. The luxury trip comes with a price tag, of course, but the 2-day, 1-night cruise is well worth it.
Leaving Hanoi at 8am, you’ll check in at the private Emeraude pier and be shuttled to the boat. Before checking in to your cabin, you’ll enjoy welcome drinks and a quick orientation. Compact, as ship cabins always are, onboard rooms are decked out in hardwood, with nice fixtures like air-conditioning, a private reading lamp, slippers for shuffling about the decks, and a tidy, compact bathroom area with toilet, shower, and a separate room for a small sink stand. Everything onboard is retro, which means pleasing hardwood, brass, and fine linens. The oversize wicker chairs on the top deck are cozy, and you’ll find shaded areas as well as sun-worshipping space. A casual, friendly atmosphere pervades, especially when the corks start popping.
Dining onboard is a delicious buffet, and most guests find themselves sharing a meal with new friends. Lunch on day 1 is followed by a stop at the Surprise Cave, then an afternoon of cruising and great views of the islands. The boat docks in a quiet harbor and guests have an opportunity to, on their own or with a guide, explore nearby Trinh Nu and Hang Trong, the Virgin Cave and the Cave of the Winds, or take a dip in the bay. The back of the boat is low in the water and there is a sturdy ladder making it easy to get on and off (the adventurous will join the crew for dives off the upper decks). Dinner is a sumptuous affair of fine local cuisine (heavy on seafood) and good Western options. Enjoy drinks on the upper deck as you watch the moonlight glisten off the bay.
Day 2 starts with tai chi classes on the sun deck as a brilliant sunrise paints its colors on the arching canvas of high limestone peaks jutting from the glassy waters. Blissful. After your exercise, tuck in to a hearty Western-style breakfast. The boat returns to the dock by 9:30am, and a direct transfer finds you back in Hanoi by lunchtime. The trip is quite memorable, and a ride on this retro ship, outfitted to the nines, is unique to Halong Bay. The price for the overnight cruise is $290 for a luxury cabin for two and $490 for the one-suite room, but discounts for larger groups are available. Transfer from Hanoi costs $100 for a four-seat vehicle. Check the website at www.emeraude-cruises.com or call the offices at the Press Club in Hanoi (tel. 04/934-0888; fax 04/934-0899).
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