After fleeing the typhoon and flying north to Ha Noi, seeing that it was dry was the biggest relief in the world.
We stayed with our amazing friends Steve and Tamara who teach in the city. They put up with us for 10 days and we had such a crazy time. It was so nice to have some home comforts such as a sofa to chill on, a washing machine to use and most importantly some familiar faces to explore the city with. They showed us some fantastic restaurants, the food scene in Hanoi is up there with the best! They do western food extremely well (especially breakfast) and cater for veggie/vegan needs really well.
The old town is home to some great local restaurants and street food, the shopping is really good but get ready to haggle your heart out. You can get some unbelievable trainers which look exactly like the real deal for less than £10. Head to old town “Bia Hoi Corner” for the cheapest beers I’ve ever had. It’s 5,000 (30,000= £1) a beer with live street entertainment at the weekends. It’s a must do if you want to soak up the local atmosphere, but be warned they will keep bringing you beers until you make it obvious you need no more hahaha
On my birthday we decided to ride down to Ninh Binh from Hà Nội and of course it happened to be the hottest weather we had felt in weeks. The ride was amazing, once we found the correct roads. Some major motorways don’t allow motorbikes or scooters, so plan your route accordingly. It took us around 3 hours to make it down to Ninh Binh, the only way to describe it is like a Hà Long Bay inland. It’s just stunning! Huge limestone forms shooting out of the ground with rivers flowing in-between. We went to Trang An to get our rowing boat after recommendations from Steve and Tamara. It was quiet and the routes were amazing. If you watch the videos you will see the crazily low caves we went under, I honestly thought I was going to be knocked out at one point. The boat was 200,000pp and lasted 3 hours. We got slightly sun burnt but it was worth it. The chilled row was a nice change from the chaos of Hà Nội and the views were spectacular.
We timed our ride back to Hà Nội a bit badly and hit Friday rush hour traffic. We got stuck for maybe an hour and a half just 2km from where we were staying. Absolute nightmare, but I can tick off driving in a stupidly busy city (roads 20 scooters wide and 30 deep at every traffic lights) with my girlfriend on the back.
The next day we hit up the sparkling brunch at the Hilton, for 800,000pp (yes expensive for Vietnam but it was my bday). You get unlimited food and booze for 3 hours 12-3pm. The food was unbelievable with an incredible selection. Cold cuts and cheese room, fresh seafood and meat cooked to order, lobster brought to your table without asking, waffle and crepe room, local cuisine freshly prepared, everything you could ever want plus free unlimited booze including prosecco, beer, wine etc.
After enjoying 4/5/6 courses it got heavy on the booze. 3pm came and we headed to the sports bar within the Hilton to carry on the festivities. After this was a blur and the next day was a complete write off, but what an incredible birthday. I would like to personally thank Steve and Tamara for their hospitality, it made our time so enjoyable. There’s go pro footage of the brunch and after events but I don’t think it will be published online haha.