Planning a six day itinerary in North Vietnam – A Wrap Up

vietnam halong bay sung sot caves
Glad to have come to Vietnam, despite the various ‘challenges’ ; )

As we come to the end of the series on Vietnam, all I would like to say is that while our trip wasn’t the most life-shaking, it was an eye-opener. Although we fell in love with Vietnamese food and drink – the coffee, the baguettes and the piping hot bowls of pho, we were also exposed to what appeared to be “over tourism”, as seen in places such as Halong Bay and Sapa. I thought that our itinerary was pretty comprehensive, though not the most relaxing of all. But as I’ve had learnt from most trips, sometimes it’s not the destination, but the people you’re with that matters. Last but not least, here’s an intuitive representation of the itinerary on Justgola (an easy way to create, quote and book your itinerary).

Planning a six day itinerary in North Vietnam

Day 1 – Hanoi

vietnamese coffee hanoi
We fell in love with Vietnamese coffee, at a local ‘Starbucks’

We spent one and a half days in Hanoi, enjoying our walks around the Hoan Kiem Lake, sipping the thick brew of Vietnamese coffee at Hanoi’s very own ‘Starbucks’. In the evenings, we slurped down bowls of pho on a cold winter’s night while enjoying the cool breeze and admiring French styled street lamps. While it was a short stay in Hanoi, we did enjoy its simplicity, good food and lovely weather.

hanoi street lamps hoan kiem lake
French styled lamps, Hanoi

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halong bay ci bi red cliff rocks
Halong Bay resembles the scene of The Red Cliff

Day 2 / Day 3 – Halong Bay

The next day, we headed off to Halong Bay to see the rocky outcrops that resembled the setting of ‘Ci Bi’ (Red Cliff), an epic Chinese war film related to the Three Kingdoms. To be honest it’s not the most grandeur of all place because of the number of tourist Junks that ply the area. But it was decent enough, and a moment to remember especially while listening to stories from our tour guides. We arrived back in Hanoi around 4pm on Day 3, and prepared to set off to Sapa in the evening. The train left at 9pm.

halong bay boats chinese junk
There were just too may tourist boats in Halong Bay

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Vietnamese kids sapa minority
Cute Vietnamese kids we met in Sapa

Day 4 / Day 5 – Sapa

We arrived in Sapa at 8.30am the next morning. Accommodation was quite a pain, and we had to survive cold subzero temperatures with only a heater and some really thick blankets. A trek to the Minority Villages saw some of the guides being quite pushy, and it wasn’t the most pleasant of all experiences. We stayed for a night, and left for the Lao Cai train station at 6pm on Day 5.

sapa minority woman child
Some parts of the landscape have been cleared for development

Day 6 – Back in Hanoi

The train arrives in Hanoi at Day 6 in the wee hours of the morning (3.30am). We had more than enough time to get to the airport as our flight was at 2pm in the afternoon.

Travelling to Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa may be a little rushed if you have a five-day itinerary, but it can be done if you do a 4 hour tour of Halong Bay instead of staying the night. Would I recommend visiting these destinations? Yes, I would, but do go in the slightly warmer months from March to October. You’ll enjoy the weather and the scenery a little better.

This trip in particular, revealed many of my ‘travelling inadequacies‘. From not bringing enough clothing to stay warm, to having frostbite on my fingers, which resulted in me having to use socks as an alternative for gloves. It’s one epic and slightly embarrassing experience that I’ll never forget.

It’s also the one and only trip I did with Friend W and S. I’m unsure if we’ll get a chance to travel like this again (backpacking and freezing hostels), and it’s a memory I’ll hold close to my heart.