Travelling is more than just breathtaking landscapes; it offers hard-to-forget experiences and no destination looks alike. Each neighborhood features its own beauty and story, depending on the way we travel. We, a group of three single girls in a Vietnam tour package from US, have our own story as well. Vietnam went truly beyond my imagination, and this beautiful haven captured our attention with its travel allure. Fabulous, gorgeous, and affordable are three words to describe our Hanoi – Cat Ba trip. It was quite an experience in our long Vietnam story.
Day 1: Hanoi
Our first stop was the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, a fascinating and well-rounded city. It’s an amazing hub of northern Vietnam and the best jumping-off place for visits to Sapa or Ha Long Bay. We had an action-packed day in this neighborhood, which made our Vietnam tour package from US have a delightful warm-up.
After a 17-hour flight, all of us felt a bit jet lagged, so we immediately grabbed a cab from Noi Bai airport to our hotel which was located in downtown. My first impression of this city through the taxi window was the traffic, which is awash with motorbikes. This means of transportation appeared in almost every corner and alley way.
Bun Cha was our very first meal in Hanoi. It instantly melted in my mouth right after the first bite. This dish includes is a plate of vermicelli noodles, a bowl of broth with grilled pork and thinly sliced papaya, and a basket of fresh herbs. It also comes at an insanely cheap price. If you are on a Hanoi day tour, don’t leave without trying the capital’s most loved dish.
Vietnamese egg coffee (Source: Internet)
After that, we moved to Hoan Kiem lake and took a stroll around this haven. Fortunately, we visited Hanoi on a Saturday, when this area turns into a walking street. This was a great chance to soak up the local vibe as tons of locals, of all ages, gathered to enjoy the large open space. Finally, we stopped at an old-fashioned cafe, on Dinh Tien Hoang street, named Dinh Café, at around 3 pm. The drinks on offer are varied, but we opted for the high-rated one, which is egg coffee. It has two layers, a pleasantly sweet whipped egg on top and coffee below.
En route to West Lake, we had a quick visit to Tran Quoc pagoda. This haven offered a sense of tranquility and sacred atmosphere. It is a nice island-like site and is worth resting a while to watch the world go by, especially when the sun goes down. Sunset on West Lake was an absolute masterpiece.
At dusk, we returned to our hotel and had dinner at a restaurant nearby. Afterwards, we made our way towards the cluster of beer streets and stopped at an eatery on Ta Hien street. The abundance of backpackers as well as young locals gathered here, combined with the loud music pouring out from bars and pubs makes this neighborhood very animated and lively. We ordered 3 cans of Hanoi beer, sat here for a while, and left soon to have a quality sleep.
Day 2: Cat Ba
We woke up the next day around 8 am and had breakfast right in the hotel. We packed our bags and checked out quickly in order to be at the station in time for the 11.20 a.m. coach to continue our Vietnam tour package from US. Outside metropolises like Hanoi, public transportation is fairly limited, especially en route to far-reaching destinations. That’s the reason why most overland trips are usually carried out by private bus companies. Our passage lasted roughly 4 and a half hours.
Ben pha Got (Got ferry terminal) (Source: helloVietnam)
We found a high-rated hotel offering a double room for 20 dollars per night, named Vu Binh Stilthouse. It lies directly on the main road, 3 km from the center of Cat Ba, an ideal haven to escape from the hustle and bustle of town. This guesthouse is backed by a cliff and offers a spacious bar and a loveable outdoor swimming pool perched atop the cliff. We had a serene afternoon here, and enjoyed a jaw-dropping view overlooking a picturesque landscape of the cove with a cup of freshly squeezed lime juice. When it was getting darker and the sun was gently hiding itself behind the mountain, it was the most poetic sunset I had ever seen in my life.
Sunset on top of Vu Binh Stilthouse (Source: helloVietnam)
We left the rooftop bar at dusk, got ready and hit the town for dinner. The staff of the hotel ordered a taxi for us which dropped us off at a seafood restaurant downtown. This restaurant was full of tourists and was kind of pricey, but the food was great!
After dinner, the three of us wended our way across town, and stopped at the cafeteria of a hostel named Lepont Bungalow. It’s located in a perfect spot overlooking the whole bay and town. It also has a ship-like shape, which somehow delivered a feeling of being on the sea for their guests. We had a great time here and went back to our guesthouse at around 10 pm.
Day 3: Viet Hai village
We checked out and transferred to the ferry around 9.30 am. We then rented an old-fashioned wooden motorboat to go boating around Lan Ha bay and kick off our truly fascinating day in this neighborhood. The sound of the engine was so loud that it was hard to communicate to each other. However, this offered a chance for us to personally soak in the experience and enjoy the unrivaled view ourselves. The smell of seawater mixed with the breeze from the ocean was soothing for me, a child born in a coastal region.
Lan Ha bay (Source: helloVietnam)
The boat took us through plenty of islets and finally cut off its engine when it was coming into dock at Viet Hai village, the highlight of our Cat Ba excursion. We rented three bikes and cycled through the village from the quay. The scenery en route to Viet Hai commune was breathtaking. All around us was a verdant valley and lush forest. After roughly 30 minutes of biking, the serene village came out in front of our eyes.
Life in Viet Hai village (Source: helloVietnam)
Biking to the ending point of the village, we made a stop at a stall and met a relatively friendly female seller in her middle age. Thanks to her, we knew of an off the beaten track destination worth discovering. We had a great surprise hike starting right in the back of the women’s house, and were rewarded with a magnificent view overlooking the entire Lan Ha Bay. This immediately beat my tiredness and hit the highlight of my Vietnam tour package from US.
View from atop the hill (Source: helloVietnam)
This hiking tour was also the last stop on our Cat Ba journey. We finished off the excursion with a mixture of feelings. Not only did I feel small in the majesty of nature, but I also gained a sense of perspective. I realized that not everyone is as fortunate as we are, but they are still just as happy.
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