I was woken on day 2 of our cruise through Halong Bay with Orchid Cruises by music coming from the roof of the boat. The morning Tai Chi session was taking place which I may have woken up for if there was the chance of a gorgeous sunrise, but in the chilly, overcast weather it didn’t appeal. I think only 2 people on our boat actually made it up in the end. We did get up in time for breakfast though which was a fairly swift affair because we had to leave to go to a floating village pretty early. From here a couple of locals rowed us in their traditional crafts under a cave which was very scenic.
Back on the main boat we had brunch laid out for us which was more substantial than the breakfast and was a lovely way to finish the trip. All too soon we were making our way back onto the minibuses and driving the few hours back to reach Hanoi.
Halong Bay truly is beautiful and it is understandable that it is recognised by Unesco World Heritage. The colours are so striking (and I guess would be even more so in good weather) and there is a gorgeous photo opportunity around every corner. Orchid Cruises are such a luxurious and comfortable way to explore the area, if not the most budget friendly. The food is varied and delicious and the rooms are incredible (for info on these see Day 1 of the cruise). I knew it would feel a bit rushed when I booked but we only had a limited time in Vietnam so we had to choose the 2 day option (which in reality only gives you 24hours on the boat) but this is certainly not long enough in the area and I don’t feel their 3 day option would be either but if you are on a restricted itinerary then Orchid Cruises are the perfect, 5 star option.
Back at our hotel, the Light Hotel, in Hanoi we had to spend some time contacting home as we had to complete on our new house so we were thankful for the good reception for the Wi-Fi. When this was sorted we went to use another of the facilities- the rooftop pool. This had great views over the city and would have been an ideal place to watch the sunset, except we didn’t have one as it was obscured by the clouds.
After a quick dip we went back out for a drink at the Railway Café to celebrate buying a house and to watch the train squeeze past us and to our delight two trains actually passed. It was surreal flattening ourselves to the walls of peoples’ houses as the local train made its way within inches of us. Before it passed life was just going on as normal, then it stopped momentarily, and then continued as if nothing had happened, it is just part of daily life here but it is pretty cool for anyone visiting- just make sure to find a suitable spot to observe and don’t be the idiot that tries to get too close and almost gets hit.
By this point we were ravenous so we hit up a Banh Mi shop opposite our hotel called Banh Mi Pho because we had both enjoyed the one we had on our food tour so much. The queue was fairly long, filled with locals which we thought was a good sign, and it turned out to be an awesome choice, our sandwiches were amazing.
We then wandered in towards the night market through the Old Quarter. At night stalls pop up along the street, Hang Dao, and the area is pedestrianised, except for mopeds, no one and nothing can stop them! There was all sorts on sale here much like any good night market in South East Asia. On our walk we passed countless street performers and interesting buildings and all around this area is extremely pleasant to just meander around and soak up the sights and sounds.
Our final destination of the day was the Giang Café where we had discovered two days earlier. We had to go back for more egg chocolate and this time I also tried the cold version and Fraser had one with rum in it. I wish I knew how they made it because the hot egg chocolate is one of my new favourite things, I seriously wish I could drink it all the time.
On our way back to the hotel we had to pass Hoan Kiem Lake which was beautifully lit up at night and was where people were just ballroom/ latin dancing or singing karaoke in the streets. Hanoi really is one of the coolest cities I have ever been to and I was super sad to leave.
Please tell me if you have any favourite hotels with rooftop pools, I want to stay in them all?! Is there any food/ drink that you have discovered whilst travelling that you absolutely loved?