There are approximately 8 million people in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi. During rush hour it feels like every single one of them has a motorbike. As I weaved my way through the streets of Old Town I dodged motorbikes, street vendors, taxis, tuk tuks, and the occasional farm animal. Each time we returned to the peaceful oasis of our hotel it felt like we’d cheated death. Traffic laws or sidewalks for pedestrians were nonexistent. Any extra sidewalk space not occupied by parked motorbikes was dedicated to tiny sets of plastic tables and chairs set up by food vendors tending pots of fragrant noodles and meat.
We found a bit of calm by walking around this lake near Hanoi’s Old Town. As it was the week before Lunar New Year we also witnessed some local customs like people releasing goldfish into the water to appeal to the Kitchen God and carrying home fruit blossom and kumquat trees on their motorbikes for prosperity and fertility.
After surviving two days in Hanoi, including riding around on the back of motorbikes ourselves with Hanoi Food Tours, we escaped the city for a tour with Ethnic Travel to Bai Tu Long Bay. Most people travel to Ha Long Bay, famed by instagrammers and travel bloggers everywhere. My travel planner for this honeymoon, AKA husband, opted for the lesser known and more authentic experience at Bai Tu Long Bay to avoid the crowds. I’m so glad he did. We drove past Ha Long Bay on our way to the tour and saw dozens of tourist cruise boats in the polluted water. The scene behind some beautifully edited photos isn’t always what it seems. We didn’t pass any tourist boats in Bai Tu Long Bay, just fishermen and oyster farms in the middle of the endless limestone formations that rise out of the bay.
The calm of Bai Tu Long Bay was a welcome change from the chaos of Hanoi. It was the perfect yin and yang experience for our first trip to Vietnam.
Know Before You Go:
- We liked our stay in Hanoi at L’Heritage Hotel. Such great customer service and good breakfast to fuel up before venturing outside.
- This was our 2 night 3 day tour with Ethnic Travel to Bai Tu Long Bay.
- Home Restaurant in Hanoi was my favourite meal.
- All of our transactions were in local currency (Vietnamese Dong), although we took US dollars just in case.