A highlight of my entire time in Vietnam was an overnight stay on a junk boat in Halong Bay.
The photos speak for themselves (although I seem to have misplaced the rest of the shots I took!) and the landscape here is really one of a kind.
Vietnam’s capital Hanoi is the perfect place to base yourself for a trip to Halong Bay and I have to say I preferred the vibe here over the much busier Ho Chi Minh City.
Our hotel’s street
We stayed in the Old Quarter which has heaps of dining options at its door and at night time this area hosts a popular night market.
In regards to sightseeing our guided tour began with a visit to the Temple of Literature, which was a definite must see.
Dedicated to Confucius, the temple dates back to 1070 and is the site of Vietnam’s first university.
Today you can walk around its tranquil gardens and learn about the scholarly life which went on here while observing some lovely traditional artefacts too.
I particularly love the design of the Đông Sơn drums
Make sure you check out Hoan Kiem Lake while in town where people from all over hang around the focal point of Turtle Tower, the small structure which stands alone in the middle of it.
Ho Chi Minh’s masoleum is also located in Hanoi and quite impressive to behold.
To cap off our busy day we viewed a traditional water puppet show, a form of entertainment dating back to the 11th century.
Besides the wooden puppets the best part of seeing the show is the live Vietnemese music played alongside the display – it’s simply beautiful to hear.
While I saw the Hoa Lo Prison (Maison Centrale) from the outside, if I’d had more time I would’ve liked to have returned for a tour inside the building which was used as a prison for Americans during the Vietnam War and also held Vietnamese under French rule.
This isn’t unique to Hanoi but I especially noticed it in the city – there seems to be an unhealthy amount of electrical wiring when you turn your eyes upwards.
If you’re visiting Vietnam a trip to the north to see both Halong Bay and Hanoi is well worth the journey.
Next time I’d like to add Sapa to the itinerary too!