While Hanoi is a beautiful, bustling city with great food and people, the Old and French Quarters can get pretty overwhelming at times with the crazy road traffic and winding streets. It is no wonder, how relieved and pleasantly surprised my family was to be able to escape the noise for a few days as we took short road trips to the outskirts of Hanoi. There, we were able to soak in the beauty of their untapped nature as well as appreciate the slower pace of life.
Tam Coc is located just a 2 hour drive away from Old quarters in Hanoi. Here, there are a few current temples that are pretty well known and iconic for being palaces in the Vietnam war. Aside from that, our day tour allowed us to borrow bicycles, and cycle into the residential areas of Tam Coc to reach this paddy field where we actually saw some locals working. It was a pretty rocky ride through winding streets and we had to follow our guide closely because if we got lost, we'd be clueless.
The paddy fields were absolutely stunning and reflected how beautiful nature can really be. I was so glad I made it there- especially without breaking any bones (I'm not a great cyclist but the bike was not helping). By the time we arrived, it was already late afternoon and the sun was shining brightly, though not glaringly. It was golden hour with a beautiful warm glow. Unfortunately, my best photo of the day turned out blur......lol. I also lost my sunglasses on the way back but it was all worth it. Honestly, what an experience.
Hoang Long River
Before our mini cycling tour, we also managed to take a bamboo boat ride (just like the sampans I used to fold out of origami paper when I was younger!) down Hoang Long river! The whole ride was almost 2h long and the lady rowing the boat was doing it with her legs! It was an interesting experience and also very relaxing despite the scorching noon sun. At the midpoint of the ride, there were also vendors on other boats selling fruits, snacks and drinks. We bought and ate some pineapples while we enjoyed the beautiful mountaineers sights around. It was also great bonding time for my parents and I as we talked and laughed about everything under the sun (literally!).
Tip: Be prepared with some tips as the guides rowing the boats will definitely ask for some. Our guide got us to buy her some snacks and tried to sell us some fabrics on the boat as well. Their job is honestly really tiring and physically demanding so we were happy to give, but do be wary!
Side story- On our way back to Hanoi, our driver stopped for a short while and got off. We were wondering where he went and when I looked out of the window I saw that he was buying lychees from a lady selling it by the roadside. I laughed on the inside at how random that was but seeing how it was already after 7pm, I assumed he was going to buy it to snack on or for his family back home. When we were near our location however, we had a break and he actually came to the back of the bus and started to give us bunches of the lychees he bought. I was so surprised I just held up my two hands as he placed them on and some even rolled over onto the floor. He did it so happily as well, I remember him beaming at us all as he distributed them.
Even thinking about that scene now kind of makes my heart melt and feel all warm inside. Crazy how we were the tourists with the money and the time, yet we don't think about simple things like this to just buy our drivers a drink or a snack. We even get calculative when it comes to tipping and are always so wary of getting scammed. But here, our driver who spent hours bringing us to and fro, waited for us to do our activities and reach home late, can have the heart to show us some love through these small acts of kindness. A small yet firm reminder of how much better of a person I can be.
Ha Long Bay
Halong Bay is not a new name to many people who has been to Hanoi. In fact, it is very common for people to take 2-3 days off the main city of Hanoi for an overnight cruise along Halong Bay. My family decided to do that another time and instead took a day trip. Our day trip included a meal on a boat as well as a short half hour bamboo ride along the bay. While I enjoyed the views, I do think it was too short of a ride and not as exciting as I anticipated. Comparing between the day trips to Tam Coc and the day trip to Halong Bay, I definitely preferred the one to Tam Coc and would highly recommend that.
However, I have a couple of friends who stayed on the deluxe cruise for 2-3 nights in Halong Bay and thoroughly enjoyed it. The cruise is said to be beautiful and the activities fun as well. So perhaps, you should consider that instead!
A short post this time with only a few places and activities mentioned, but I hope you enjoyed reading nonetheless. Hanoi and Vietnam has definitely been one of the more memorable family trips for me and it has been a while that we went to a place where the environment is so different from Singapore. I'm looking forward to heading back and also exploring other parts of Vietnam in the years to come!
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