Hanoi, Halong and the highest mountain in Vietnam!
Take me back to Nam! Yep, it's me with the cap on the picture - on the way back from north Vietnam in April '17. I am 9 months at the time and was carried, pushed and sat - in buses, boats and trains all over Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay. I might be little, but I have been very excited to tell you all about this family trip with my brother, sister, mum, dad and grandmother - an adventure in the city, at sea and way up on the higest mountain in Vietnam!
Inspired by Christopher Juul Nyegaard I Written by Mathilde Moyell Juul
We first arrived in Hanoi, busy busy Hanoi, where you have to run for your life - or really, the others had to run for mine in order to avoid the cars, scooters and - bicycles.
We stayed at the Apricot Hotel, in fact almost 3 times, as this was the destination we kept coming back to inbetween our ventures North and East. Philip, Sienna and I loved Apricot - for after a hectic day with so many people in street and a case of vomit down myself and getting washed by a street zink, it was wonderful light place and surprisingly quiet although centered by the busy lake in Hanoi.
"We" walked a lot and although my stroller was hard to fit on the pavement,
we slowly got used to the hustle and bustle and started to enjoy the life, the houses and temples that we met on our way.
We did a lot of crazy things in Hanoi, we went on these little cars on the road by Hoam Kiem lake, that were only for kids:
I did try, but preferred to eat ice-cream with my grandmother as I was wobbling a bit despite them being quite slow. One thing I did try - just across from our hotel though, was the water puppet show - apparently not the original one, Municipal, but as that was sold out, we were told this was equally good, check it out:
Although walking in the streets could be a bit chaotic, both me and my brother and sister were quite entertained by the all colours in the street and all the weird things that shops would sell - like fake LEGO and fake flowers:
Another thing we did, was look at the old things. Vietnam had a horrible war where many people died, and before this, a very famous leader, called Hoh Chi Minh.
So, you won't believe this, but we saw this former president in the flesh, but.... he was dead! I'm not kidding - we waited in a long line outside this Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex for 2 hours with thousands of other people and then, we walked past this body, that looked like he was asleep. Apparently when he died in 1969 they used this balm, that makes his skin stay fresh, so we won't end up like a sceletal like other people.
Vietnamese people have had a hard time, we realised. Over 1 million people died during the war, and may were put in prison.
In the Hoa La Prison Museum, they had created these wooden dolls, so you could easily imagine what it would be like to live with your feet cuffed day and night and staying in cells with nothing but bare walls. My brother felt so sad about it, that he made a prayer for all these people and their families:
It was a lot to take in and Hanoi is quite hectic for little kids like us, so we did love to come back to the hotel, lie by the pool, look at the view and for me - getting all the street grub off in my daily bath!
After 3 nights in Hanoi, it was time to move on and up north to the mountains. We had arranged a mini-bus service with our hotel in Sapa, Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa, that took us 5,5 hours in a really nice coach from door to door. We arrived at 1pm and had a nice walk around Sapa, which at the time was going under some expansion and a lot of building work going on. Our hotel was on the top of the hill and a friendly place for us kids.
Our first trip from Sapa, went even higher up. We took the brand new Fansipan Legend cable car and had it all to ourselves so we could move around, see the view - and I - touch the glass!
See our ascent here and you can see how much I love it!:
When we got to the top, we thought we were there, but we had a little to go. You could choose to walk it, or do it the lazy way like my brother and mum. Although, if you ask my brother, walking might have been a better option! Watch him here:
You wouldn't believe it, but I was asleep through all this, so my parents did the trip in turns and..... I.... didn't get to go to to the top! ...Hmft. Anyway, Philip made it and see how proud he is:
It was of course a 'tad bit' easier than the 'real' 3 days climb, and perhaps the flags and the selfiecorners were a little too much. But hey, now babies and kids can see the amazing view with their families at the highests mountain in Vietnam -and no doubt there are other mountains left for the 'real' mountaneers.
It was hard to beat our first day in Sapa, but having now seen it all from above, it was time to walk in those terrased hills we had seen from the cable car.
We went to a local waterfall and took a walk through a village, Ta Van, 10 min. drive from our hotel, and although we were not the only one who had that idea, we got to walk in the beautiful scenery - partly just us. My brother and sister were complaining a bit about the walk, but i was sweet, comfy in my stroller, watching the world go by! For example, to see how the villagers used water as a motor for crushing seeds (Philip was meant to comment on that - but stayed quiet until the second part of the video):
YES! We were taking the night train back from Sapa to Hanoi, first with a lovely luxury mini-coach from the hotel to the station, and then the 10pm-5am rumble in the jungle!
As you can see, I was pretty content in mummy's bed, but what I did'nt know then, was that I was going on the floor for most of the night! Worrying about what might happen to me, meant that my mum didn't sleep much, and the noise from the train's stop and go's didn't help. But us kids loved it - and at 5 am, we arrived back to Hanoi and stopped for breakfast at Apricot Hotel for a couple of hours, before we were off again.
In luxury mini-bus we were transported to Halong Bay. Apparently very lucky x 2: We had chosen a company, that had a boat leaving from a different harbour than the classic one, meaning only 2,5 hours travel rather than 4-5. And on top of that, the motorway to this harbour had just been finished, making it possible - and fast - to there! The trip was very baby-smooth too, and on arrival we were happy to see, that the boat made us 3xlucky! It was a beautiful and brandnew 'junk'-boat by Orchid Cruise that was modern and sleek like it was designed by a Dane! We had a double room, for the 6 of us, all with a little terrase out on the deck.
As you can see, I had the best view in the family from my bed, but Sienna and Philip were also very excited, especially as there were other kids on the boat that they could play with.
We did a lot of fun things in Halong Bay and on the boat.
The only thing that made my parents mad, was that our beautiful boat that we had been looking forward to having as our home for 48 hours (2 nights), was going back to pick up people at the habour every day. This meant that we had to embark on a smaller (and obviously not as nice) boat for most of the day and also meant that our route was limited to a stay in the vicinity. But, luckily that vicinity was away from most of the boast by Viet Hai and Cat Ba. We saw very few boats and had beatiful weather, so apparently we were 5xlucky and 1xunlucky, not bad.
My family went kayaking twice and this meant that they could get around all the beautiful islands properly. And at night Sienna and Philip did a 'cooking course' where they were taught to do spring rolls, while the adults were having a drink . There was always something to do on and off the boat - I mainly chilled in my stroller or my-bed-with-a-view or saw things up and high in the baby carrier.
One of the days we went off the boat and on one of the islands:
Me, Sienna and mum drove in a little buggy and Philip, dad and grandma on bike! It was quite the trip, where we visited an organic farm, a little school and an abandoned retreat, that had been stopped by Vietnamese authorities, before it was finished. My sister complained a lot about some of the walking at first, but said she'd still had a good time.
We sailed and sailed, loved the boat and the staff, and never got bored looking at the 1600 islands in Halong Bay.
Halong Bay was very good to us - and as you can see, I wasn't complaining!
Our trip back went smooth and we had one more and last night in Apricot Hotel to look forward to, our base throughout the stay. The last 24 hours was spent in Hanoi, and a Friday night by the lake didn't leave us bored! Check out the video of al the crazy street stuff that we walked past:
Thank you Hanoi, Sapa & Halong for my first Vietnam experience! I'm glad I told you all about it - as chances are, I might not remember it so clearly in a couple years!
TRANSPORT: Flight from Singapore - Hanoi return.
REASON: A location with amazing history and culture (Hanoi), incredible mountain scenery (Sapa) mixed with one of world's most beautiful cruises (Halong Bay). Also the variety in transport makes a somewhat strenuous trip, entertaining for kids.
ITINEARY: Singapore-Hanoi by plane (3 hrs). Hanoi.
Coach (5,5 hours) to Sapa.
Overnight train (7 hrs) from Sapa to Hanoi. Mini-bus Hanoi-Halong Bay (2,5 hours).
Mini-bus Halong Bay-Hanoi - 2,5 hours.
Hanoi-Singapore by plane (3 hrs.)
PRICERANGE: Being a costly 3 adult and 3 kids, we had the advantage of being able to spread ourselves in 2 rooms only. Because of the travel with baby and grandmother, we operated in a comfortable and higher range accomodation, but this trip can be done on most budgets. Howerver, Halong Bay cruises is a splurge, and if you want an experience away from the crowds, you will need to add to the spend.
STRETCH: 9 nights, 3 nights+1 in Hanoi, 2 nights in Sapa and 2 nights Halong Bay. - April 2017.
CHRIS: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (a lot of transport for a baby)
MATHILDE: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (a lot of transport for a mother with a baby)
Hanoi: Apricot Hotel: http://apricothotels.com
Halong Bay: http://www.orchidcruises.com
If you want to read more about Vietnam, check out: https://www.tripsbykids.com/vietnam
See all our videos's at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9aocrtqH-ED1DBF0T1X8FQ/videos