Exploring North Vietnam – Hanoi, Halong Bay and Tam Coc
The breathtaking bays, magical landscapes and stunning rice terraces of Vietnam made me wanted to visit this wonderful country again. I’ve been to Vietnam twice in the past but it was in the southern part, particularly in Ho Chi Minh. The northern part boasts some of the most unbeatable sceneries and amazing tourist attractions. That made me interested to go back to Vietnam. It was also my long overdue dream to visit Halong Bay – so I was really keen on travelling to this country. Good thing, I had the opportunity to make it happen when there was a long weekend in the Philippines. I took the chance and flew to Hanoi. I spent 5 days and explored North Vietnam including the places like Halong Bay and Tam Coc.
Flight to Hanoi from Manila via Cebu Pacific
With a late night departure from Manila, the schedule of Cebu Pacific makes it the perfect flight to take when flying to Hanoi. The flight takes an estimate of 2 hours. If there would be no delays, the plane will arrive in Hanoi before dawn. This mean I could have time to rest before starting my day in Hanoi to get around. The downside though of arriving after midnight is the available transportation options to go to the city. There were only taxis and Grab at Noi Bai International Airport when I arrived that time. It wasn’t cheap but found it the most reliable and convenient for me to get to the city.
One Day in Hanoi
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam. The city is one of the most ancient capitals in the world where tourist can find centuries-old architecture, colonial buildings and historical museums. Hanoi is also known for its delectable cuisine and rich culture that has influences from Southeast Asian, Chinese and French.
Hanoi is also the gateway to explore North Vietnam where it is home to some of the most majestic mountain ranges and wonderful natural attractions. But before I went on an adventure to explore the beauty of North Vietnam, I spent a day in Hanoi first. I went around to see some of the city’s important landmarks. Here are the places I visited in Hanoi:
- St. Joseph’s Cathedral – This is the oldest church in Hanoi. It was built in 1886 by the French colonial government. The church, which has a Neo-gothic style, looks like a mini replica of Notre Dame in Paris.
- Hanoi Opera House – This is Hanoi’s most famous cultural and architectural monuments. It is an iconic landmark that stands right in the heart of the city. The Opera House hosts several performances, orchestra concerts, bamboo cirque and other cultural shows.
- Hoan Kiem Lake – A fresh water lake located in the historical center of Hanoi. It serves as a spot for tourists and locals alike who enjoys people-watching and other recreational activities. The lake also surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, which is a pagoda sitting in the center on a small island.
- Temple of the Jade Mountain – One of the most visited places of worship in Hanoi that is set in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Other places to visit in Hanoi
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- One Pillar Pagoda
- Tran Quoc Pagoda
- Temple of Literature
- Thang Long Imperial Citadel
- Hanoi Train Street
- Long Bien Bridge
Halong Bay Overnight Cruise
A part of my itinerary for North Vietnam that I was really excited about was the Halong Bay overnight cruise. This was one of the activities on my bucket list – and it took years for me to finally be able to experience it.
Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s biggest attractions. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its stunning limestone mountains and sparkling emerald waters. This place also offers spectacular scenery that captivates thousands of tourists from around the world.
It was the next day after I went around Hanoi when I joined a group and embarked on a cruise tour. Our group spent exciting two days on a boat sailing at Lan Ha and Halong Bay. During our journey, we were able to relax and have fun at the same time. We did a lot of activities like kayaking, swimming, cooking lesson, and biking. To read more about my Halong Bay overnight cruise experience, you may visit this link.
The Beautiful Town of Tam Coc
My visit to Tam Coc was a last-minute decision before going to Vietnam. I was torn between Sapa and Tam Coc. But after a few thoughts and some things that I considered, I chose the latter. A small and peaceful town, I spent my last two days of my North Vietnam trip in Tam Coc.
I went here after the cruise tour by riding a bus, ferry and another bus. The journey was almost about 4 hours in total. I arrived in the town late afternoon. Using the map on my phone, I pinned my accommodation, which is by the river, and followed the direction to get there. It was drizzling when I arrived in Tam Coc so I just spent the rest of the day in the resort.
Tam Coc is a popular destination in North Vietnam. It is famous for its natural caves, the scenic river, and limestone karst. To explore the town, I rented a bike in the resort. I was hoping to visit as much as many places in Tam Coc, but I ended up just biking around the town and appreciating its natural charm and the serenity. I also planned for a cave tour and a boat ride but ended up not doing those things since I haven’t able to find someone to share the expense. The next day, I took the bike again and went to a popular tourist spot in town, where one can have a stunning view of the rice fields, the river and its surrounding mountains. The place that I was talking about is the view point at the Mua Caves.
Getting to the top wasn’t easy though most especially if you decide to climb in the middle of the day. It has 500 steep stone steps to get to the lookout. The climb was a total killer but absolutely worth it for the incredible views. Let the pictures below give justice how breathtaking the scenery is from the viewpoint.
North Vietnam Itinerary
Here’s my 5-day itinerary for North Vietnam, visiting place like Hanoi, Halong Bay and Tam Coc.
Day 1 Hanoi
- Old Quarter
- St. Joseph’s Cathedral
- Hanoi Opera House
- Hoan Kiem Lake
- Temple of the Jade Mountain
- First day of Halong Bay overnight cruise tour
- Kayaking, cooking lesson
- Second day of Halong Bay overnight cruise tour
- Visit Viet Hai Village
- End of tour
- Go to Tam Coc
- Explore Tam Coc by bike
- Climb to Mua Cave view point
- Bus to Hanoi
- Shuttle to Noi Bai International Airport
- Flight from Hanoi to Manila via Cebu Pacific
Here are the places that I stayed when I was doing my solo trip in North Vietnam:
For other other for accommodation in Vietnam, please check and compare using the Agoda search box below.
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