Vietnam: Hanoi and Halong Bay
Fly in/out: Hanoi Vietnam, Noi Bai International Airport (HAN)
Recommended ages: 8 and up
Best Season: October-April
Currency: Vietnamese Dong
Currency: CST + 12
DAY ONE: Fly in to Hanoi Vietnam, Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) take a taxi and check in at the Hanoi Elegance Ruby Hotel a boutique hotel in the old quarter.
DAY TWO: Take a morning walk around Hoan Kiem Lake for a peaceful and serene setting watching tai chi. Walk around bustling and lively old quarter and shop for made-to-order clothes. Visit the many fine art galleries nestled in the alleys and streets including a favorite, the Apricot Gallery.
DAY THREE: Enjoy a Vietnam “History Day” and visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum, the Vietnam Military History Museum ( aka Army Museum), and the Hoa Lo Prison. In the evening, experience the Thang Long Water Puppet show. Book tickets when making reservation with hotel.
DAY FOUR & FIVE: Emeraude Cruise picks you up from your hotel and drives 2 to 3 hours for a two day/one night cruise in breathtaking Halong Bay.
- Hanoi, ranked as one of the most attractive cities, is renowned for being Vietnam’s cultural center with music, dance, history museums and puppetry.
- Walking through Hanoi’s bustling Old Quarter might feel like you’re engaging in a running with the bulls but with scooters not bulls, but this quintessential neighborhood will feel like a combination of a high end shopping square, art district and a colonial french quarter all wrapped up into one. The beautiful sites in the old quarter include the Opera House, St. Josephs’ cathedral, Hoan Kiem lake and many temples.
- Our “History Day” touring through the Ho Chi Minh Museum, the Vietnam Military Museum and the Hoa Lo Prison was a great ½ day learning about the history of Vietnam. We have history buffs in the family who were fascinated with the military information provided in these museums. We were not able to view Ho Chi Minh as the body was on display at another location at the time.
- We thoroughly enjoyed our Emeraude Cruise because of the unbelievable views and experience in Halong Bay. The bay is located just 80 miles outside of Hanoi, has many limestone pillars, Karst topography, islands with dense vegetation, enormous caves and floating villages of fisherman. We were able to kayak and explore caves including the wonderful “Surprise Cave” and soak in the beautiful scenery.
Taking a cruise in Halong Bay was a definite highlight of this trip. We were very happy on the Emeraude as it is a larger ship with more upscale amenities. We visited Surprise Cave, kayaked near some of the floating villages, enjoyed a Vietnamese cooking demonstration onboard, and just enjoyed the scenery.
Places to stay
- There are many great restaurants in Hanoi featuring Vietnamese Cuisine. Try for lunch “cha ca”-a fish and noodle dish served at “one dish” restaurants that offer only this dish. Also “pho” which is noodle soup with beef or chicken and bean sprouts.
- We enjoyed the authentic Vietnamese fare at Quan An Ngon, near Hoan Kiem lake.
- For other great recommendations for Vietnamese cuisine in Hanoi, read this NY times article.
- Getting around Hanoi with children is a little chaotic. They are building more pedestrian walks and closing streets to cars in the evening to try to make it easier to explore Old Quarter, but is is certainly not for the faint hearted. For the major intersections, it’s mostly the scooters who seem the most threatening, but they are experts at swerving around pedestrians.
- When we needed a taxi, we arranged one through the hotel as other independent taxis can try to scam you.
- Halong Bay is beautiful, and if one has more time, spend more than one night there. While on the cruise, the staff at the Ruby kept most of our luggage for us so we didn’t need to bring all of our luggage on the cruise which was helpful.
- When you’re travelling with kids to Vietnam with a 10-12 hour time change from the US, it can be a little challenging. If your flight arrives very early, it’s worth booking the hotel for the night before just so you can check in as soon as you get there. This allows you to catch up on whatever sleep was lost during the 24-30 hour flight. Take a full 24 hours to get adjusted to arriving to Asia. And remember, stay hydrated.
Before You Go
In order to enter Vietnam, you will need a valid passport with at least six months validity remaining and a Vietnamese visa.