Lives in London, United Kingdom
Since Aug 2008
50-64 year old male
I do not have a particular style when I travel and some places are irrelevant to any style. Usually I would try to avoid generic hotels or crowded resort towns. During my travels I believe that I have covered all styles and If I am to choose luxury, then it has to be “Intelligent Luxury”
Historic Walking Areas, Historic Sites
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Bodies of Water
Sacred & Religious Sites
Escape from the busy capital and take a short cruise to the Gulf of Tonkin, and visit its labyrinth of 1,600 spectacular islands and breathtaking limestone pinnacles. This designated World Heritage Site is a place of outstanding scenic beauty and a must on every Vietnam visit. There are numerous outlets offering short cruises of Halong Bay including transfers (3-4 hours) to Halong Harbor. On board a traditional junk boat you will be able to see the greatest of Halong’s wonders, visit some caves, swim in forgotten bays, and explore some of the islands.
The Cuc Phuong National Park is 120km southwest of Hanoi. It’s the oldest National Park in Vietnam, and boasts enchanting scenery, a rich eco-system, and valuable archaeological vestiges. I would suggest an overnight stay — on the first day, visiting the Endangered Primates Rescue Center and, after lunch, check in for one night at the National Park Head Quarter’s Guesthouse. In the afternoon, discover the Park’s flora and fauna, and visit the 1,000 year-old sequoia tree, and the cave of Prehistoric Man. After breakfast, leave the Cuc Phuong to visit Kenh Ga — take a boat trip along Hoang Long River through rice fields and karsts limestone mountains and enjoy the beauty of this natural landscape. Later you can visit Kenh Ga Hot spring and Van Trinh Cave, before returning to Hanoi after lunch.
An alternative to Cuc Phuong National Park is to head back to Hanoi in the afternoon and join a special cooking class at the Hoa Sua Cooking School, or The Hoa Sua restaurant - part of a training school where disadvantaged Vietnamese children and teens are educated in cooking and restaurant skills. The cooking teachers bring their excellent skills to you in a fun environment and they speak good English. After your class, you can taste the dishes you have prepared.
The art of water puppetry is a North Vietnamese tradition which originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area, and dates back to the 11th century. The shows here are performed in a waist-deep pool, and the puppets are made out of wood, and then lacquered. Under the water large rods support the puppets, which are used by the puppeteer hidden behind a screen. The puppets appear to perform over the water depicting traditional legends and historical tales.
Take a drive to Duong Lam’s ancient village, 50km west of Hanoi on the north Red River Delta. In this typical rural village you will find some well-preserved hundred-year-old houses. Visit the hamlet of Mong Phu, with its intact village entrance gate and temple. Experience Vietnamese farming life and stop at the two biggest ancient houses, built 200-400 years ago. Continue to Ngo Quyen and the Phung Hung Temple and Mia Pagoda, built in the 15th century and featuring a collection of 287 statues of various materials, before you head back to Hanoi.
Thanh Chuong Palace is a 50-minute drive from Hanoi and is the home and studio of one of the most celebrated painters in Vietnam. Explore Thanh Chuong's studio, filled with antiques the artist has painstakingly collected over the course of his life. Ceramics, statues, art, and sculptures fill the awe-inspiring ‘House of the Auspicious Clouds.' Surrounding the structure is a perfectly-preserved 100-year old stilt house from the Muong hill tribe, a simple earthen house, and other antique structures, which offer fascinating insight into Vietnam's cultural legacy.
Walk through the Old Quarter, past the old O Quan Chuong east gate to Thanh Ha wet market. Along the way you will find many delicacies and strange food items on display — this busy market is crammed full with Vietnamese culture. Continue through to Dong Xuan market to sample some local treats, such as 'pho tiu' and 'bun dau,' or stroll up ‘food alley’ to see other dishes on offer. Continue to Hang Than Street to see the ceremonial cake stalls and taste French-influenced desserts before you return back to the Old Quarter, via Hang Cot Street, to check out the specially treated seasonal fruits.
This prison was used by French colonists during the Vietnam America war for political prisoners. Most of the prison was demolished in the mid 1990s; however a small portion remains and is now a museum. Whilst the museum depicts that the inmates were well treated, memoirs and journals from past inmates suggest otherwise. Take a haunting tour through the museum, which amongst many artifacts, shows the interrogation room and guillotine room!
If you'd prefer an out-of-town itinerary for day 2, depart in the early morning and take a two-hour drive through rural countryside to Hoa Lu, Vietnam's first capital. Mount your bike and cycle to the Dinh and Le temples dedicated to King Dinh Tien Hoang and King Le Dai Hanh (968-1009). Continue cycling for one hour to Tam Coc through stunning limestone karst valleys surrounded by picturesque fields and villages. Have lunch at a local restaurant before boarding a sampan for a short cruise to see the enormous limestone karsts jutting out from the green rice fields giving rise to Tam Coc's other name, 'Ha Long on Land.' Disembark and after a short cycle reach the Bich Dong Pagoda on nearby Ngu Nhac Mountain, dating back to 1428. Late in the afternoon return back to Hanoi.
Integrate yourself with the locals one morning by starting early (around 6am) and make sure to take your camera as it's the perfect time for photography lovers. Start from the Nghi Tam Flower Market — one of the few remaining ones in Hanoi — where you will see the beginning of a working day and the many activities of the market. Remember to check out the traditional signification of each kind of flower. Continue to downtown Hanoi, watch the locals doing their morning exercises lakeside, and finish with a pleasant walk and a coffee near Hoan Kiem Lake.
Take a pleasant drive through typical Vietnamese countryside 25km southwest of Hanoi to the Tay Pagoda. The pagoda is dedicated to the famous 12th-century Buddhist Master Tu Dao Hanh. Besides its unique structure and serene atmosphere, over 100 statues fill the prayer halls, as well as two 15th-century bridges, and an outdoor water puppet stage. Continue to Tay Phuong Pagoda (20 minutes by road); famous for its valuable collection of 18 Arhat statues coated with lacquer, a Tay Son era masterpiece dating back to 17-18th century.
Got one final night to play with? Make an overnight trip to Mai Chau to enjoy gorgeous scenery dotted with limestone mountains and vibrant rice paddies. Stop en-route in the small villages of Thai, H’Mong, and Dao people. Descend on a steep mountain road into the stunning valley of Mai Chau and reach the quaint village to spend the night at a home-stay to experience the rich culture and tradition of the Thai people. The next morning, hire a bike for two hours of easy cycling through the verdant rice paddies and the villages of Chieng Sai, Na Phin, Nhot of the ethnic minority people. After lunch return to Hanoi.