It was a couple of days before New Year celebration when we arrived in Hanoi. However, there were few traces of decoration on the street. Eventually we found out that in Vietnam, people traditionally celebrate Lunar New Year, which is often one month later than the Western holiday. Therefore, it seemed that, apart from some “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” signs and ornament on the door of restaurants and shops, the street looked almost the same as always. The weather felt a little chilling, but totally pleasant. At about 6p.m, we meet our local guide, Mr. Tuan, who would be leading us in this 14-day trip across Vietnam, operated by Asia Tourism Holiday, a professional travel company based in Hanoi.
Mr. Tuan was born in a countryside village. He moved to Hanoi for higher education and finally, began his job as a professional tour guide. Although we had just known each other for a little more than one hour, we already liked him. He seemed to be a nice man, knowledgeable, English fluent, and indescribably humorous. He gave us some useful travel tips about the dos and don’ts in Vietnam.
After a 1-hour meeting, it’s time for our first dinner in Vietnam. We were taken to a nearby restaurant called KoTo, short for “Know one – Teach one”. There, extremely delicious Vietnamese food was served. Judging from other customers’ smiles, it seems like they liked the food too, not to mention that the price was reasonable.
According to the schedule, we were off to Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island the next day. When we get to the car park, the tour guide and driver were waiting and we started the trip. After 2 hours driving, we arrived at the first stop. It was a humanity center, where handicrafts, souvenirs were sold. There were refreshments on the shelves, too. The souvenir stuffs were a bit expensive, but we bought some anyway, ‘cause if our money could go to help the needy, then it’s worth it.
We boarded on Bien Ngoc boat No.2 at around 12:15. The cruise boat was in good condition and the decoration was lovely. Also, it was big enough for the 16 of us.
Australian couple enjoying Lunch onboard
Halong bay landscape
Wonderful seafood lunch amidst the grand Halong bay and its beautiful rock formations
New Year Eve party in Green Mango restaurant
The night was still young, so we went to Cat Ba club for karaoke singing and a couple of pints. It seemed that the club was one of the finest in town, serving numerous kinds of drink, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, along with great rock and DJ music. With just 25,000 VND for a bottle of Tiger beer or 40,000 VND for a whiskey, you can sit at the bar and enjoy yourself.
This bar called Rose is very popular as a socializing spot, especially to Westerners.
On the first day of the year 2013, we said goodbye to Halong bay. The time here was so terrific I already thought about revisiting the place. 30 minutes bus riding to the wharf, one hour ferry riding, 4 hours driving, and we were back to Hanoi. Lunch was served on the way back.
Once in Hanoi, we visit Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, which is located in Ba Dinh Square. It was an interesting experience, learning a part of Vietnamese history relating to president Ho Chi Minh.
Group photo taken in front of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The next day, January 2nd, was a day of great experience. We learnt more about the history of Vietnam during a visit to Army Museum. After lunch, we had the chance to enjoy a water puppet show, the traditional art of Vietnam, which I must say, is truly phenomenal. Mr. Tuan advised us to grab some snack for dinner as we would spend the night on the night train to Hue, the starting point of the central Vietnam part in our trip which will be described in the next report. Please visit C-VIETNAM for further information.