Xin chào, from sunny side up Vietnam!
This summer I had the opportunity to visit Hanoi, the northern region of Vietnam. Hanoi is known as the more traditional side of Vietnam, and is well known for their beautiful handcrafts and scenic nature attractions.
My journey began at the North East of Vietnam, the beautiful Ha Long Bay. There are many ways to get there, but this time I chose to join a tour package with APT Travel. And boy, I’m glad I join this group! Our group was a melting pot of different cultures, meanwhile our tour guide was an adorably bubbly and hardworking girl who constantly threw sarcastic jokes during her narration – love it!
After about three-hours of bus ride from Hanoi, we finally arrived at the tourism harbour. Our tour guide bought the entrance tickets (included in tour package) and strictly reminded us to not lose them on the way, or we will be in big trouble. She said “warning: deportation!?,” but who knows maybe it’s a joke.
Traveler’s tip: check with your AirBnB host or Hotel for tour discounts. This time I stayed at Atrium Hotel in the Old Quarter District, and with the host’s help I was able to get 15% discount and save up to 240,000 VND / US$10 for the tour package.
Shortly after, we board on our boat and cruise through the limestone islands on the open emerald waters. The short 30-minutes bamboo boat ride exploring Ba Hang (Three Cave), cave tunnels, and sea lagoons was one of my favorite parts of this whole trip. I wish it was longer, and better yet, I would’ve loved to do the kayaking myself. Kayaking might seem like a hard work and you will risk getting wet, but in exchange you’ll get the chance to sneak in between the cracks of arching rocks and get closer to the edges of the island.
Next stop, the Heavenly Cave a.k.a Thien Chung Grotto. The whole grotto was not as huge as I imagine it to be, but nonetheless it was still magnificent and impressive. The use of colorful light bulbs to decorate the cave was genius. These rainbow color lights definitely bring the attraction to another whole level of awesomeness.
While I enjoyed the view, I was most impressed by the legend and the sort of forced story-telling that our tour guide has prepared. I especially get a good laugh about the part where the bride (of the couple who supposedly got married in this cave) left behind one of her breast in the cave to help the husband raised their many children. Legend says if you wish to have a son, tap once on the ‘breast’ stone; or tap twice for a daughter.
The rest of the cruise was smooth sailing. Afterwards, we hoped back into the bus and headed for Hanoi. But before the tour ends, we made a final stop at Ha Long Tourist Wharf for restroom break and more shopping. The shop was filled with snacks and handcrafted souvenirs. You can see local craft-men and women in action at the other-end of the shopping area.
::Quotes of the Day:: ~because I can’t decide on one