Sequoia is called a hiker’s park and rightfully so as it’s covered with trails! The thing that I loved most about this natural beauty is…
Let me just start by saying how much everyone that I traveled with on this trip–myself included–absolutely LOVED Hanoi! There is plenty to see in this capital city of Vietnam and if you can spend more than our mere three days in the city, definitely go for it.
Hanoi has a pretty wild feel while somehow remaining elegant and culturally sophisticated. You’re never sure of when to cross the street, you’ll hear the continuous ruckus of horns blazing and motorcycles zipping by, and you’ll find the streets covered in low-rise plastic tables and chairs with the locals socializing and eating away on the local cuisine. Time seems to have its own pace in Hanoi. You’ll find locals rushing about to get to work while others take naps in public on top of their motorcycles. Everyone is everywhere, yet at the same time, there is no sense of urgency to be anywhere. Alas, this is the beauty of having a hardworking modern city teeming with rich French colonial history steeped deep in the northern part of the tropics–there are wonderful paradoxes to be hold just about everywhere.
Whether you’re spending a week or just two days in Hanoi, you can take this itinerary into bits and pieces and i’m certain you will have a memorable experience.
Where to Stay: Hilton Garden Inn
Staying at this hotel is all about the location. It cost us less than $100 a night, including breakfast–which was our favorite part about the location! There’s nothing like waking up and having fresh-made pho with a ton of lemon at this spot. Slurp your favorite style of pho with an iced Vietnamese coffee = heaven!
If you’re looking to stay at a more ritzy property, consider the Hanoi Hilton Opera House.
Day 1 Hanoi: Hoa Lu and Tam Coc Biking and Boat Tour
This is a FABULOUS tour!
You start your day by being picked up by the tour group to head towards the Le and then Dinh Dynasty temples. You can purchase typical Vietnamese hats from the locals for the equivalent cost of $1 outside of the temples. There will also be photographers near this temple that will take your photo, have it printed, and sell it to you for $1–a valuable way to support the local economy.
After touring these two impressive temples, we moved on to taking a hike. This hike was more of a walk up some stairs – you will get hot during this trek so dress appropriately. But never fret–the views are 100% worth the climb.
Once you’ve soaked up these breathtaking views, you will have an idyllic, delicious lunch nearby a cave. They will “teach” you how to make spring rolls here. PRO-TIP: add the pineapple to your roll.
After lunch, you will head down towards the Hoa Lu Delta, where you will get to relax and enjoy a one-hour ride along the river.
We purchased the small group tour which is $68 per person and included a visit to the Hang Mua Cave. So after the Delta, we took a bike ride over to the cave. It was cool seeing the cave, but wasn’t worth the extra $34 from the original ticket price. Plus by the time you see the Caves, you will be exhausted and ready to turn back!
Dinner: Quan An Ngon
If you went to Hanoi and didn’t eat here, you’d be doing yourself a disservice! This is a can’t miss spot in the city. It is bustling with excitement, local language, and vibrancy.
It doesn’t hurt to make a reservation, but they turn the tables pretty quickly so it shouldn’t be much of an issue waiting for a table.
Day 2: Full Day Ha Long Bay Tour
Yes, it is possible seeing Ha Long Bay in ONE day! If you’re unfamiliar with this Bay, it is famous for massive volcanic terrain, amazing greenery, and plate tectonics, and stunning encounters between the sea and mountainous islands:
Before booking this one-day trip, I was advised to spend at least two days in Ha Long Bay due to the reasonable length of the drive there from Hanoi. But due to limited time, that wasn’t feasible and i’m glad I got to see it in one day on this tour, and felt it was worthwhile!
This one-day tour will pick you up around 7:30 am from your hotel in Hanoi and take you on a four-hour journey eastward to Ha Long Bay. Once you’ve arrived at the Bay, you will be served a Vietnamese lunch on the boat and have the option to purchase champagne. Because why not toast to being in such a uniquely gorgeous place?!
After lunch, you will get to sail around the bay and enjoy a beach for some time.
You will make a stop as you head back to a giant tourist trap that is full of snacks too for the road. Make sure to pick some up along the way because there won’t be dinner. We got back to our hotel around 11:00!
For $64 – you can book this tour here.
Day 3: French Quarter
Early Lunch: Bun Cha Houong Lien – this is the famous restaurant that President Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate at in the show Parts Unknown. Which therefore, naturally makes it as a can’t miss. This is a hole in the wall type of dining experience where you will continue to be surprised as to how many floors the place owns and how many people are packed in it. Tables turn quick so no need for a reservation. We ordered the Obama special of course!
Your food will come quick and you will finish quick!
Activity 1: Coffee Break: Tranquil Books & Coffee
If you haven’t had the chance to try the Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk, this is your chance!
Activity 2: Free Walking Tour of the Old Quarter and French Quarter
Pick up at: Hanoi Hilton Garden Inn, 20 Phan Chu Trinh
First off, our tour guides were two college students so eager and excited to be with us. It was not only a heartwarming walking tour but filled with so much laughter and joy. We learned and saw plenty along the way! One of my more memorable walking tours – and that’s saying something as I’ve done several!
Make sure to sign up for this free walking tour ahead of time. The guides will pick you up depending on how close you are to the city center. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Hanoi which again, came in clutch for the location.
Activity # 3: Aperitivo at The Summit Lounge
On the rooftop of the Pan Pacific Hotel sits the Summit Bar overlooking the city of Hanoi and the French Quarter. This is the move for your afternoon aperitivo!
Address: 1 Thanh Niên, Trúc Bạch, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Dinner: Banh Mi Mong
We decided to stop by Banh Mi Mong, a cute cafe styled sandwich shop to get some Banh Mi’s for the road. Because alas, it’s not a trip to Vietnam without having a Banh Mi sandwich! Sandwiches cost less than $5! We picked some extra for the road.
Address: 36 Hàng Thùng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam