The Travelling Series
We travelled to Hanoi last Saturday and had a couple of days exploring the city before going on a two night trip around Ha Long Bay.
This is my first time in Vietnam and so far I think it's very effing cool. It's not as developed or commercialised as Thailand so it has a much more laid-back, authentic feel to it. The scenery is often hazy and washed out, like it has an Instagram filter, but still oh so pretty.
There's a ridiculous amount of motorbikes though! You can't move for them (literally, as they're parked on the pavement if they're not being rode around) and I certainly wouldn't want to ride one myself as the roads are chaotic! Getting across the streets can be a chore, but I think I'm getting better at it. You just have to go and trust that you won't get run over or else you'll never get across!
We stayed in Central Backpackers hostel in Hoan Kiem which is a 5 minute walk to the lake. The area is made up of a series of back streets which are compact and extremely easy to get lost in! But you can also find some absolute gems of places in terms of shops and cafés. There was the cutest little coffee shop, called Joma Cafe, right next to our hostel so we spent quite a bit of time there! They do the best vanilla lattes that I've ever tasted - and I've had a lot of vanilla lattes in my time!
The best thing about the Central Backpackers hostel is the free beer hour in the evening - nothing quite brings people together like free beer. We got chatting to quite a few randoms from all around the world which is always so fascinating to me.
We'd heard that Ha Long Bay is a must do trip so we booked a 'party cruise' through the hostel. The whole thing, from start to finish, was so much fun!
Ha Long Bay, for those who don't know, is a series of rocks, islets and islands in the middle of the sea off the North East Coast of Vietnam. There are many travel companies that offer overnight boat trips for tourists and it's something that everybody should see if they get the chance because it's gorgeous.
The first day of our trip we went to the caves and then kayaking around a fishing village in the middle of the bay. This was only my third time kayaking so it took me a while to get into the flow of it but I thought it was so good!
We then watched the sun go down from our boat and some people were brave enough to jump off the top of it, five metres high, but I'm too much of a wuss and instead settled for a leisurely swim. This was a great bonding exercise for all of us on the boat before we headed into an evening of drinking games and debauchery.
There were 14 of us in total - four Austrians, two Dutch men, a French couple, a couple from Singapore, a solo French man living in London, us and our fantastic Vietnamese tour guide. I'd never played an international version of Ring of Fire before but it's a moment that will stay with me forever! One of the Austrian boys, Victor, taught us how to play 'Jimmy, Jimmy' as well and it was pretty special as people kept forgetting the rules and their numbers. We were all quite drunk by then as well which made it even funnier!
Everyone got on fairly well but there were only eight of us, and the tour guide, who stuck around for the second night - the Austrians, the 2 Dutch men, Kane and I.
We were all a bit hungover from the party on the second day so only a couple of people did the rock climbing that was on the schedule before we travelled to a private island just across from Cat Ba for our final night of drunkenness.
The island was so stunning that I can't put it into words. We had a bungalow on the beach, which we shared with the two Dutch men, and the view was absolutely breathtaking.
Another slightly louder, wilder and generally more lairy tour group were also on our beach for the night. We found it amusing just watching them to begin with, as they clearly had been drinking way before us, but not before long we were joining in with their craziness!
It was a great laugh and us four Bungalow buddies ended the night with a cheeky little midnight swim.
Then the next morning we had to wake up super early after 3 hours sleep, 7am to be exact, to travel back to Hanoi. Everyone felt like death and the final bus we were supposed to get on had a flat tire which made for an interesting day!
The Dutch guys, Jan Willem and Sebastiaan, were staying in Central Backpackers 2 down the road so they came for the beer hour that night as a final hurrah before we all went our separate ways.
Kane and I found that we were able to bond with these guys incredibly easily as they were funny, up for a good time and genuinely nice people. Just thinking of them now makes me sad - I'm going to miss them so much as we got to know them pretty well in the 3 days and spent a lot of time together.
But it's time for us to leave Hanoi onto our next adventure. We did want to go to Sapa, a village built by the French in the mountains, as we hear that's also fabulous. Unfortunately we don't have enough time though.
As we speak, I'm travelling to Hue on a 13 hour train journey as a pitstop before Hoi An. It's such a long trip but how can I complain when I'm sat next to the window watching the beautiful Vietnamese countryside fly past right before my eyes?