Day 1: We arrived in Hanoi at 8am and had a driver pick us up from the airport to take us to the hotel. I can not imagine having to get to the hotel on our own. Traffic was crazy and it was quite a drive (50 minutes). Our driver was nice and we got safely to our hotel and checked in (they allowed us early check in!).
We then spoke to a staff member who helped with tours and site-seeing. He suggested a few places to visit and places to eat lunch. He was wonderful and very very helpful. He made the trip much more enjoyable and safer for me! Anyway, we looked at our room briefly and went out to explore the town.
We had lunch at a French restaurant, which reminded Moe and I of France! We explored the tiny roads and walked around Hoan Kiem Lake. We then took naps as we were quite tired from travelling. Later we went and saw water puppets, which is one of the things Vietnam is very famous for. We had dinner at a fancy Vietnamese place that was delicious. I had beef in a red wine sauce with rice of course.... mmmmm-mmmm, it was good!
Day 2: We got up very early for the 3 hour bus ride to Ha Long Bay. The countryside was beautiful. Rolling plains of rice fields, small villages and towns, mountains here and there, were beautiful. When we arrived to the port we got onto a small boat, put on life jackets, and then rode to our cruise ship. I was joking with Moe pointing at the largest boat saying, I hope that one is ours.... and IT WAS!! It was so fun to board the ship.
First we got served lunch, settled into our room, and explored the boat. The rooftop was the best with lounge chairs and beautiful views of the scenery. I will never be able to fully explain how beautiful the limestone islands are. It was majestic gliding on the water through these enormous islands of rock and trees.
Just like any cruise, we got off the boat at a few places to explore. We explored Surprise Cave, which was truly a surprise for how vast it was. It started very small and then opened up to this giant chamber. It was beautiful. Then we went to Titop Island where we climbed to the top, 430 stairs :(, to see another panorama view. Again, beautiful, but tiring. By that time we were ready to head home for dinner, a 9 course Vietnamese dinner. It was a nice thing to experience but definitely not our favorite meal. We played cards and went to bed.
Day 3: We woke up early again for an amazing international buffet breakfast. Moe ate until his heart was content and found a new passion for buffet breakfasts. We got off the boat again and went to a small fishing village. People actually live on the water, in the middle of no where. We got to ride in a small paddle boat past houses and see how people lived. We rode under arches made from the islands and got to feel how large these islands really were. Again, breathtaking experiences.
We then got back on the boat, packed up, and went back to the marina. We boarded our bus for the long 3 hour drive back. I read, Moe slept, per usual. We got back to our hotel safely ready for another nap! When we woke up we went souvenir shopping and explored the town some more. We had dinner across the street from the hotel, recommended to us by the hotel. We ended the night with hot stone massages at our hotel. It was glorious!
Day 4: Moe woke up with food poisoning :( It was awful. We went upstairs to the 8th floor for continental breakfast and Moe got sick again up there. The staff was all so kind to him constantly asking if he needed anything or bringing him their concoctions of fixes. We went back to the room and waited to see if he would get better.
By 11 he was still not better so I ventured out on my own (in the area that I knew) to shop a little more and find some lunch for me. When I got back to Moe he was sleeping but seemingly not much better. He insisted that I continue to explore the city, because we had saved a lot to do for this last day. I was nervous about exploring without him. I talked to the amazing staff man (I dont know his name or position) and he said I would be fine and ordered me a taxi. He gave me a phone number to call for a new taxi and told me to show them the map and they could get me here. He made all my fears go away.
So, I went to the Ho Chi Mihn Mausoleum and the Temple of Literature. I saw the Flag Tower, the One Pillar Pagoda and other places that I forget. I felt brave and adventurous for doing this alone but truly enjoyed my time. I wish Moe could have seen it with me though. The Temple of Literature was by far my favorite. Maybe because I am a teacher, but still. It was the first official school in the area and had relics of clothing and tablets and all kinds of things. There were statues of Confucius and other gods. It was also very much Chinese which was new for me and fun. After the Temple, I grabbed a cab that was right outside the entrance and headed back to my love. We had a small dinner and went to bed.
Day 5: We woke up early again for the trip to the airport for our 8am flight. Again, the hotel took us safely. We were so blessed by them. Because we scheduled our 2 flights at different times we did not end up home until 9pm. It was a long day of travel but we enjoyed it.
Our trip was great. We will never forget it! Thank you for all who thought of us and helped us on this journey.