We finally hit the road, and arrived in Vietnam after a long flight. Picked us up at the airport that night was our super friendly guide, who quickly became our local friend in this corner of the world. That was our first trip to Southeast Asia, my husband travels to Asia quite often but Vietnam was totally new country to both of us. We ended up having a great trip, so I just want to share this to everyone, hope it helps build up the list of honeymoon ideas which I was actually searching for.
Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi
We stayed the Apricot Hotel, a modern hotel well decorated with Vietnamese contemporary art, and it has the best location in the city.
Our Canvas Lake View room was awesome, it looks over to Hoan Kiem Lake in front, the French Quarter on the right, view on the left was Old Quarter with thousands of motorbikes parking on narrow streets.
Our Canvas Lake View Room at Apricot Hotel, Hanoi
Day 2: Hanoi Half Day City Tour – Street Food Tour
In the morning we got a half day city tour with our guide, he took us to some of the city highlights including Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Presidential Palace, One Pillar Pagoda, and the Temple of Literature.
We then got a four-hour street food tour in the evening, which was fabulous and we learned so much of the local ingredients. We well ate the famous banh my (the Vietnamese sandwich), Pho Bo (beef noodle soup), Banh Khuc (sticky rice and mung bean cake), the Hanoi egg coffee, the Bun Cha (grilled pork noodle soup) … The walking along the narrow streets and siting on the sidewalk to eat as the local was an awesome experience to both of us.
An Ingredient Shop in Hanoi's Old Quater
Hang Be Street, Hanoi
Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup) at 49 Bat Dan Street, Hanoi
Day 3: Drive from Hanoi to Sapa
Today we drive from Hanoi to Sapa – a former French hill station in the northwest of Vietnam. The drive was 4.5 hours, but the highway was good and the scenery along the way was nice so we enjoyed it.
In Sapa we stayed at the Victoria Sapa Hotel, it was cozy with its fire set in the lobby and the restaurant.
Day 4: Drive from Sapa to Bac Ha’s Hill Tribe Market
It was Sunday when we were in Sapa, so after breakfast we were driving to Bac Ha Market. My guide said it is the largest and most colorful market in the area, as it gathers different ethnic minority living on the surrounding mountains – who have been waiting the whole week to attend this Sunday market.
When we arrived at the market, we were so impressed with how big it was, and many different ethnic people are all beautiful in their own color. The Flower H’mong, the Phu La, Black Dzao, Tay and Nung minorities… they are all amazing on their traditional dresses, selling their local products. We found almost everything there, ranging from embroidery, tobacco and rice wine to farmyard animals such as chickens, pigs, horses and water buffalos.
The market is also a gathering point for everyone to catch up and meet friends and hangout over a bowl of corn wine.
On the way back to our hotel in Sapa, we stopped by a small village of Tay people where our guide took us to a family and introduced the local living style. The boat trip following the village was amazing, the breeze was really a big treat to me.
Lacqured Coconut Bowls at Bac Ha Maket, Lao Cai
Flower Hmong Ladies Selling "Ngoc Cau" Medicine, Bac Ha Market
At Animal Market - Water Buffalow on sale, Bac Ha
Day 5: Hiking from Sapa to Cat Cat/ Lao Chai/ Ta Van Villages and Night Train back Hanoi
After the breakfast this morning, we got picked up and transferred off the town to hike down to the bottom of the Muong Hoa Valley. On the way we visited Cat Cat village where we saw many houses of the Black Hmong. There was a beautiful waterfall, small though, in the village. We also got some fun talking with the local people including the Red Dzao. My guide showed us an old hydroelectric power station build by the French since 1925, which provided power to the French villas on the top of the hill.
Followed our guide we hiked on a dirt trail that winds through the mountain along a narrow river, there was spectacular scenery of terraced fields, vegetable patches and verdant hills as we arrive at the Black H’mong village of Y Linh Ho. People in that village were hanging their traditional clothes made from hemp cloth dyed a deep indigo blue and decorated with batik flowers. We saw more of terraced rice fields when we reach further down to the valley of Muong Hoa. We were so lucky visiting the area when rice crop was not harvested yet, so the yellow-brown color of rice was covering every mountain loops. Lao Chai and Ta Van villages of the Black H’mong and Zay people were two other stops that we got, it was a beautiful hike.
That night we took a night train back to Hanoi, the train was a bit old style but the Victoria Hotel Sapa rented several coaches from the state-owned-train and made them deluxe coaches for their own guests. We slept well on the train that night.
Rice Terraces in Sapa
Day 6: Drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay for 2-night cruise
The train arrived in Hanoi around 5h30am, we drove to a traditional Pho restaurant for breakfast. Our guide showed us his favorite coffee shop, and treated us a real local coffee with some condensed milk, in the old quarter before we drive to Halong Bay.
We boarded a traditional Vietnamese junk in Halong Bay at noon, then got an enjoyable lunch on the deck. Halong bay was so beautiful, and in fact it was much more amazing that what I had read about before. That afternoon, we visited the mysterious limestone cave called Tien Ong – where in 2007 some Vietnamese archeologist conducted an extensive research and discovered human bones and artifacts dating to 8,000 years BC (we found no bones left, but impressed with the cave). We then cruised to Cua Van floating village and took many pictures of that serene floating village.
The Viloet Cruise, Halong Bay
Day 7: Cruise & Kayak & Fun in Lan Ha Bay
Crews on boat started their day really early, when I walked up to the deck for sunrise they were already serving tea and coffee to welcome their guest to Tai Chi.
That day we spent whole day kayaking and cruising in Lan Ha Bay. The area has long been famed for its unspoiled and magnificent natural beauty, and its intense concentration of pristine limestone mountains.
Following breakfast, we cruised down to Ho Ba Ham (Three Tunnels Lake) where our guide showed us the tunnels with clear and blue water. The lake comprises three wide and round pits, linked together by narrow and meandering tunnels. The silence is disturbed only by the sounds of the fishing boat’s oars.
During our kayaking route on the second afternoon, there were so many pristine white and sandy beaches, rocky out crops and giant blue lagoons filled with labyrinth of limestone cliffs rising out of the ocean. Wildlife sightings are also frequently seen in this area, from golden-headed langur (Cat Ba Langur) to ospreys soaring over shorelines.
Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay, Halong Bay
Day 8: Drive back to Hanoi to Fly to Danang and Hoi An
On the third day, we visited a limestone cave before heading back to the shore. The cave is called Sung Sot (Cave of Surprises) - one of the most beautiful cave in Halong Bay.
Sung Sot is about 30 meters high from the seawater, was formed by dissolution. Dissolution begins when acidic water reacts chemically to the limestone bedrock and being absorbed by the soil into the ground.
On the way traveling down, acidic water keeps reacting chemically with calcium carbonate in the rock, which result a space. When the space becomes larger and larger the water can flow through, as it flows it erodes. Physical erosion washes away rock and sand then forms an underground stream. Finally, over hundreds of thousands of years, the cave was formed.
Day 9: Half Day Hoi An Walking Tour – Learn Calligraphy with Mr. Nhan Do
We explored Hoi An on day 9th, our tour guide said Hoi An got famous as a port town since 15th century. The town used to be called “Faifo” and known as the most prosperous trading port, attracting Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish ships amongst others. Today, Hoi An has become a UNESECO World Heritage Site for it well-preserved architecture, pedestrian-only streets and distinctive local cuisines.
We visited the private home of Mr. Nhan Do, an elderly man with passion for Vietnamese Calligraphy for a cup of tea. We learned from him that calligraphy is not only a mean of communication, but also a mean of expressing one’s inner word. He showed me and my husband how to write calligraphy in Vietnamese.
In Hoi An we stayed at the Fusion Maia.
Day 10: Cycling Triem Tay Hidden Village
We cycled to Triem Tay bamboo village, which was a peaceful village with the romantic natural scenery and ultimate experience of idyllic lifestyle. Located not too far from Hoi An ancient town, Triem Tay lies beautifully on the Thu Bon riverbank, off the city lights of Hoi An so the charm of the riverbank countryside still remains untouched. The village is home to 147 households with the population of about 700 people, most people earn living on weaving mats and growing rice. We got lot of fun cycling around the village and talking to the local people here.
Day 11: Fly from Danang to Saigon for Connecting Flight to Nha Trang
We enjoyed our free time at the hotel and then took a short flight from Danang to Saigon, then to Nha Trang.
Day 12 + 13 + 14: Beach in Nha Trang
We were enjoying our time at Six Senses Ninh Van Resort. Book the hill top pool villa for a great view over the Ninh Van Bay and you can always enjoy your own pool.
The Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Nha Trang
Day 15: Nha Trang – Saigon – Ben Tre – Can Tho
After deplaning from the flight from Nha Trang back to Saigon, we took a 1.5 hour-drive to Ben Tre – a province in the heart of the Mekong River Delta. For many years I have heard so much of the beautiful rice paddies in Vietnam, I was so happy immersing myself into the lush rice paddies and fruit farms.
At a local pier, we embarked on a fascinating motor boat excursion passing stilt houses, fish farms and scenes of countryside living. At the Turtle Island, a local family offered us their lovely and freshly picked fruit and coconut milk, they were so yummy! We also toured a family-run coconut candy workshop which utilizes Ben Tre’s famous coconuts. There was also great experience rowing a sampan boat through the typical canals of the regions, enjoyed honey tea and traditional folk performance before lunch in the small town of My Tho and drove for 2 hours to our hotel – the Victoria Can Tho.
Day 16: Can Tho – Saigon
This morning we were riding a local boat, which usually used by local people to transfer their fruits to the nearby floating market. When we arrive at the Cai Rang floating market, there were dozens of boats laden with fruits, vegetables and fish from all over the Mekong Delta. It was first so funny to me seeing whatever for sale on the top of many bamboo pole so that people can see from faraway.
Our hotel in Saigon was the Park Hyatt.
Day 17: Saigon Departure
It was bit hard for both of us to pack our luggage to get ready to travel back home when we got to know about the country well, when we know about the food and the people.
Our honeymoon in Vietnam with Incense Travel was awesome experience, we got very personal guides and friendly drivers. We learned so much about Vietnam and its people. We have no hesitation to introduce this to world travelers.