Traveling Ha long Bay and Hanoi Vietnam

A Memorial To Ho Chi Minh in Ba Đình Square in Hanoi Vietnam.

A Memorial To Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi Vietnam.

Hanoi Vietnam or Vietnam, in general, has always been fascinating to me. As an avid historian, I have always wondered how this tiny southeast Asian nation was able to fend off not two but three super powers.

Of all the super powers they were able to fend off, their war with the USA hit the closest home for me and I knew someday if the opportunity presented itself I would like to find out what Vietnam was really about.



As fortune would have it some friends of mine were planning an Asia trip with Vietnam on the itinerary. I was asked if I wanted to join the trip. Although I was hesitant at first, as soon as I found out Vietnam was on the itinerary, I agreed to join and was advised by my friends to start preparing to get my Vietnamese visa if I was going to come along.

How To Secure A Vietnamese Visa

The Main Square in Hanoi Vietnam

The Main Square in Hanoi Vietnam

Unlike Thailand or other Asian countries where you can deal with visa requirements upon arrival, if you are traveling to Vietnam from the United States, Canada or any other western country, you will need to obtain a visa in your home country before arrival.

Also, you need to make sure your passport is valid for at least six months at the time of your visit to the country. After paying a visa processing fee and a fee for the visa itself, I secured a visa and was set to go on the trip.

For more information on securing a Vietnamese visa, you should visit the website of the embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in America or the embassy of Vietnam in your country of origin.

First Impressions Of Hanoi Vietnam

The main form of transportation in Hanoi is the scooter.

The main form of transportation in Hanoi is the scooter.

On arriving in Hanoi Vietnam I was shocked to see the number of scooters and motorcycles that buzzed around the city. In my opinion, Hanoi should be renamed “scooter city”, because of the dizzying array of motorcycles that were zipping around the city without fear or caution. I was further astounded by the total disregard for traffic rules while the riders rode around the city.

Scooters riding through the streets of Hanoi Vietnam.

Scooters riding through the streets of Hanoi Vietnam.

This can make it dangerous for any tourist who tries to follow in the footsteps of the locals and decides to hop on a motorcycle to explore the city. To avoid any riding mishaps, my advice would be that you just hire a taxi from your hostel or hotel to take you around the city.

The Ho An Kiem Lake in Hanoi Vietnam

The Ho An Kiem Lake in Hanoi Vietnam

Visits To Museums In Hanoi Vietnam

A harrowing sight from one of the Museums in Hanoi.

A harrowing sight from one of the Museums in Hanoi.

Like any other curious American, who had heard one too many tales about the war in Vietnam from the American side, I wanted to see what the Vietnamese perspective on the war was like and as I suspected it was not pretty. I visited two museums while in Hanoi namely the B52 Victory museum and the Vietnam military history museum and both left me hoping that mankind would learn from the errs of the war and never engage in such base barbarity again.

A booby trap from the vietnam war

A booby trap from the vietnam war

 

A downed American aircraft on exhibit.

A downed American aircraft on exhibit.


A collection of war planes shot down by the vietnamese

A collection of war planes shot down by the vietnamese

 

The People In Hanoi Vietnam

Hanoi has a population of about roughly 8 million people as of the time of this writing, the people we encountered seemed just as curious of travelers as we were of them.

A few people approached us to take pictures with us and some even came over to take pictures of us like we were props or exhibits. It was all in good gesture so if you happen to experience this just take it with a grain of salt and have a good laugh.



There is also a growing expatriate community especially in the Westlake area of Hanoi but for the most part, English is not as widely spoken as some of the other Asian countries I visited.

In all, I would say most of the Vietnamese people we encountered were very welcoming and respectful. It seemed like as long as you treated them with respect and courtesy you were treated likewise.

Where To Stay In Hanoi Vietnam

The Westin Westlake in Hanoi Vietnam.

The Westin Westlake in Hanoi Vietnam.

Hanoi has some of the most affordable accommodation in south east Asia and a quick peruse of booking.com or hostels.com should give you a good overview of prices and options on where to stay while in the city. I managed to get a reservation at the Westin in Westlake and my stay there was perfect.

Things To Do In Hanoi Vietnam

There are lots of things to do and see during a visit to Hanoi and apart from visiting some of the museums in the city one would find Hanoi to be a foodie’s paradise. There is also a decent nightlife scene in the city from what I was able to gather even though we didn’t get to indulge. If you are into pub crawls, there are several hostels in the city that organize a few and If you are a shopaholic there are malls and kiosks in the city where you can buy goods from local craftsmen. Most people who come to Hanoi Vietnam end up using it as a jump-off point to exploring the world heritage site of Ha Long Bai or Halong Bay and that is exactly what I ended up doing.

My Trip To Ha Long Bai Vietnam

Limestones rising from the water in Hanoi Vietnam.

Limestones rising from the water in Hanoi Vietnam.

After spending a couple of days exploring Hanoi Vietnam, it was time to head to Ha Long Bai. To get to the port of sail, I had to go on a 3-hour bus ride with a couple of pit-stops on the way.

On arrival at the port of sail, we boarded a boat that made me take a gulp of nervousness because of how old it was but I was reassured by the captain of the boat who said I should refer to him simply as “Z” that there was nothing to worry about. Once all the other passengers were on board we departed the port and began our two-day sail around Ha Long Bai./p>

Sailing Ha Long Bai

Several boats sailing in Ha Long Bai

Several boats sailing in Ha Long Bai

Ha Long Bay is truly a sight to behold and a blog post about it would surely do it no justice. During the trip, we were constantly surrounded by limestone pillars emanating from the water which made the sail seem otherworldly and surreal. Ha long bay attracts most of its visitors during the peak season of January to March and between May and August so picking a tour during those dates might be a good idea.

Last Impressions About Hanoi

French Colonial Vehicles parked outside a hotel in Hanoi Vietnam.

French Colonial Vehicles parked outside a hotel in Hanoi Vietnam.

A few people have complained about being scammed or ill-treated during their trip to Vietnam. I have to report that the reception I received was quite the contrary. Vietnam is still a developing country and you can tell that years of foreign meddling and intervention have taken a toll on this small but mighty country.



The Vietnamese government wants to catch up with its Asian neighbors and tourism is one front where they intend to focus their efforts. I would definitely recommend Vietnam as a must visit destination because of how affordable and authentic I found it to be. I had a great time while I was there and I honestly hope I get to return to Hanoi Vietnam again someday.

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Dante

Content Contributor at The Partytrail
This article was written by Dante, a Chemical-petroleum engineer by study. He is a nightlife aficionado, an avid traveler, and a culturephile. | To get into touch with Dante please email him at contact@partytrail.com or Follow Him On Facebook and Twitter
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