My plane took off from the Tan Son Nhat Airport a lil bit later than expected. Though my flight was with VietJetAir, I went to the Hanoi’s center by the JetStar bus. I checked in the Hanoi Sports Hotel (the one I stayed on the last trip to Sapa and Tam Coc) and took a leisure walk around the Old Quarter while waiting for my sis’s flight to come. She booked the tickets late so her flights didn’t depart at the same time with mine.
While walking around, I found out that I never set foot into the Bach Ma Temple (because it might have been it was closed before). This time, I saw a couple of Westerners walking inside so I followed them.
I was starved when my sis came to the hotel. I had chatted with a friend from HCMC who happened to be in Hanoi too, so the three of us met for “chả cá Lã Vọng” together. To my great disappointment, it appeared that this fish paste dish was worse and more expensive than before. The environment was bad, either.
We stopped by Hang Bac Temple and luckily, they let us in (at 9:30 PM or so). They were so nice.
Then we headed to the night market, and had some “nem chua rán” near the hotel before going to sleep.
After breakfast at the hotel, we took the bus at the Sword Lake to the Uncle Ho Mausoleum at Ba Dinh District. Then we had lunch separately (one of us had rice while the rest ate “bún chả”). Taking a long rest, we checked out of the hotel around 4 PM and had an early dinner at a sidewalk. Then we took a taxi to the VietJetAir bus stop.
And then, the Noi Bai airport was where we had a lot of problems. There was something wrong with the check-in system. We were supposed to depart at 8:45 PM but there was two long lines around 8 PM at the 2 check-in booths.
Our baggage weights were not the same, but in total there was no violation of transportation rules. The time we spent to take the coats out and put them back at the check-in booth and customs control gate (due to a fake warhead that made us nearly miss the flight). Luckily, everything was fine and we could depart Hanoi on time. And around 11 PM, we were home safe and sound.
We came back to Hanoi very early, so we stayed at the train station for a while before catching a taxi back to Hanoi Sports Hotel.
We walked to the Sword Lake and enjoyed seeing people exercising for a bit, then searched for the place where a bus would wait for us. Around 8 AM, we started for Ninh Binh province where we would visit Hoa Lu (the old capital of Vietnam under Dinh, Tien Le and Ly dynasties) and Tam Coc (which is dubbed the Ha Long Bay on land).
Hoa Lu architecture looked like Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam to me, so I wasn’t so interested. But Tam Coc was exquisite beyond description. I preferred the Ha Long Bay on land to the real Ha Long Bay.
All of us loved the boat trip on Tam Coc. What a majestic scenery!
And I also liked the buffet with local specialties.
Back to Hanoi, after dinner, we went to Dong Xuan night market very late. Then we found the delicious sweet treats on a sidewalk to enjoy before we called it a night.
It was raining in the morning which prevented us from going outside early as we expected. However, we were lucky that the rain stopped around 9 AM. We headed out to rent 2 motorbikes at a nearby hotel, then straight to the Ô Quý Hồ peak.
We passed “Thác Bạc” (Silver Waterfall) but then we didn’t stop long because all the beauty could be seen from outside. I heard that “Thác Tình Yêu”(Love Waterfall) was more beautiful, but someone didn’t stop on the way to the peak. So we reached the peak at around 10 AM. We took so many photos here because my lil bro always wanted to reach the top of the highest place of Vietnam where a bike is accessible, of course.
We went back to “Thác Bạc” for a salmon lunch. The price was quite okay, and we had a square meal with 3 dishes (salad, roast an hotpot) of 1.5 kgs of salmon.
Following a local or tourist advice, we went back to “Thác Tình Yêu” (Love Waterfall) for sightseeing. Someone opted out as he was too full to walk. The 3 of us (my siblings and I) could only walk to “Suối Vàng” (Golden Stream) because we were afraid of a possible rain.
We went back to Quoc Thai Inn, checked out then walked back to Auberge Dang Trung Hotel for dinner. We caught the coach there to the Lao Cai train station.
We did nothing while on board the train tonight. We silently went to sleep early.
We had breakfast and checked out of the hotel. The trek to Cát Cát Village started at 9:30 AM. The village was quite far from the center of Sapa as we leisurely walked for about 45 minutes to reach the place where the guide had to buy tickets. Around 11 AM, we reached the waterfall after passing through many ethnic display and sale points. I loved the place though it was fully exploited for the benefits of tourists. I was standing very close to the famous rice terraces of the Northwest.
It was blacked out in the morning, and when we were back, there was no electricity. I asked the hotel owner and he said it would be back around 4 PM. What a town!
At noon, we had lunch and then left Auberge Dang Trung Hotel for Quoc Thai Inn. I called it motel because it seemed you could bring your bike or even a car. But I wasn’t so sure. We took a rest.
In the late afternoon, we went out to visit the Sapa market and shopped a bit. Then we went to the Hàm Rồng Mountain area for a barbecue dinner. As there was another black out when we finished the meal, we went to a cafe called T-Bone Steak House which has a balcony overlooking the Cầu Mây Street. A very relaxing time for us all!
Then we went back to sleep early as we expected to wake up early for the Ô Quý Hồ Mountain Pass the next morning.
Around 5:30 AM, we reached the Lao Cai train station. Even though there’s a person to pick us up, we had to wait for about an hour for the coach to Sapa to depart (maybe because the hotel needed to pick up passengers for another train which left later than ours).
We checked in and had breakfast at Auberge Dang Trung Hotel (I loved their crepes) then hiked the Ham Rong Mountain near the hotel around 9 AM. Turned out the walking made us very tired, especially on a sunny day like this. Some steps were quite steep, so we only made it to the top around 11 AM (with many stops on several places below to take photos).
Around noon, we went back and had lunch at the hotel. It was quite a square meal with white rice and many dishes.
Because my siblings wanted to take a nap and it was quite cold in the hotel rooms (due to the natural air conditioning system :P), we could only leave the hotel around 4 PM also. We visited the Sapa stone church then went back to the hotel for dinner.
Around 10 PM, we went out for some foot massage, and then headed back to the hotel to sleep. I needed to use some foot massage for my aching legs, but it didn’t work out well enough.
Because the VietJetAir plane to Hanoi was delayed several hours, we landed at Noi Bai airport quite early in the morning. We only reached the Hanoi Sports Hotel around 3 AM. We were all too tired and went to sleep right away.
The alarm woke me up around 7 AM. We headed downstairs for breakfast. Around 9 AM, we walked to the Sword Lake. After visiting around for a while, we took the electric car for a 35-minute trip around center districts (should have picked option no. 1 around the Old Quarter instead).
We checked out the hotel and wheeled our baggage to the Highlands Coffee near the lake. We had lunch and spent almost the afternoon there. It was quite sunny outside.
Then around 4 PM, we wheeled out baggage to the Hanoi railway station. The streets were so terrible for walking that we all sweated out a lot (should have taken the taxi instead). So we decided to rent a room for taking shower before we got on the train. There we called KFC for dinner. (The chicken had a lot of fat and tasted worse than in Saigon).
We checked out of the hotel and went to the station on time to take the 8:30 PM overnight train to Lao Cai. We spent the evening playing cards. Often I was lost, but today I won. So lucky! Then we called it a night around 11 PM and went to sleep. (We booked a 4-berth cabin with soft sleepers so we felt quite comfortable.)