Our third and final week started with us flying to Hanoi from Hue. We flew with Vietnam Air and it only cost £100 for the three of us, seemed so cheap that we couldn’t refuse really, not when the alternative was £40 for a 14 hour train journey anyway!

Hue airport is tiny, but everything ran perfectly on time and the planes were similar to what you’d expect from one of the budget airlines back home, it was comfortable enough and a short enough flight that there was no time to get bored!

Hanoi airport is quite a way outside of the city though, so it’s quite a pricey taxi ride from the airport to the old quarter (cost us around £14) and takes around an hour with all the traffic. We were staying in a hotel in the Old Quarter of Vietnam, it’s a quaint little part of the city full of old buildings and a catholic cathedral, all surrounding a big lake. It’s as pretty as it is busy, people everywhere, street sellers everywhere and a pavement is just somewhere to park a motorcycle!

We spent the afternoon wandering around the streets of the old quarter, looking at potential souvenirs to bring home. We only had one backpack between the three of us, so we were having to leave any purchases until we were in the last place. The bustling streets of Hanoi were full of little shops selling tea sets, coffee makers, chopsticks etc, but the problem with them all is that without any prices on anything, you have no idea whether you’re being ripped off or not!

We had lunch at a little street food vendor by our hotel, and then found a lovely little Korean restaurant for dinner. I was a little bored of noodle soup, so insisted on finding something different 🙂

Ha Noi Old Quarter

Ha Noi Old Quarter

Ha Noi Old Quarter Vietnam

An early night was needed, as we were being picked up first thing in the morning for a 3 day cruise on Ha Long bay. They picked us up dead on time (as all of the tours seemed to do), and we survived the 4 hour drive relatively incident free (Jessica was a little ill, but Lizzie was quick with plastic bags!). You’re forced to stop at this weird, giant souvenir shop for half an hour. It really is quite bizarre. Full of things you could in no way take home with you, huge ornate chairs and tables, massive paintings etc. The shipping alone would’ve cost a fortune for anything in there! And we didn’t really want to stop, we just wanted to get where we were going.

When we eventually got there, we were all escorted to a little boat that would take us out to the boat we’d be sleeping on. We knew we’d made the right decision to do this cruise the moment the boat left the harbour, Ha Long Bay is absolutely stunning. Amazing scenery whichever way you look and so serene! The boat we stayed on wasn’ t huge, there was only 8 people on it, but our room was nice and big, a double bed plus a single, and an en-suite shower. Perfect for us.

The food they served us on the boat was amazing as well, especially considering they must have had limited equipment to cook with. After lunch we arrived at a small fishing village, which the little day boat took us to, then a local girl rowed us around the village on a bamboo boat. All of the houses float on rafts, and some have fish living in nets underneath the buildings. It looked idyllic, but I imagine life there would have actually been pretty hard, especially if bad weather rolls in.

We transferred back to the main boat, but only for half an hour before we got to Ha Long Pearl Farm. I had no idea they were farmed like that! The inside of a clam is scraped clean and formed into a “pearl”, then this is implanted into a living clam, as a basis for it to create a new pearl from. Then the clams are kept in bags and boxes suspended beneath the water for the pearl to farm. Some of them are kept like this for 10 years, in order to create the biggest pearls. They said that only 25% of the clams that they farm will result in a saleable pearl, so no wonder they’re quite expensive! It was really interesting though and there was some really pretty jewellery there. Lizzie didn’t come with me on this part of the trip as Jessica had fallen asleep on the main boa and with her not feeling too well we thought it was best to let her sleep!

Ha Long Bay Pearl Farm Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Pearl Farm Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Pearl Farm Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Fishing Village Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Fishing Village Vietnam

The next day we were supposed to be going to see some caves and then going for a cycle on an island, I was planning on putting Jessica in the back carrier for the cycle ride, but they told us that instead of that, they’d arranged for us to transfer to a 5* star boat! We were thinking they were just making out it was 5* at first, until we realised we had a jacuzzi in our room… It was a real bit of luxury, especially on a boat. Although, I think everyone else there looked a lot smarter than we did! We didn’t really bring anything too smart with us since we were backpacking up the country.

The caves we walked through were stunning, but it was incredibly hot walking up all of the stairs to the entrance, tried to take some photos, but the caves were just too dark and too badly lit. They were enormous though, it was like the whole island was hollow. The lighting was done relatively tastefully, not too many bright un-natural colours that some of these places seem to like going for!

After the caves, we found a quiet little bay and took some kayaks out around the islands, there were some small caves that you could paddle through, I wouldn’t have wanted to go swimming though, the sea was full of jellyfish. Lizzie and Jessica had a little swim just off our day boat, but I didn’t dare, I’m not very confident in the water if I can’t touch the bottom and you couldn’t even see the bottom here, so no way I was going in, no matter how warm the water was!

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Vietnam Shop Boat Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

The last day of the tour was unfortunately just all spent travelling back to Ha Noi, it seems to be the same on all of these trips, the third day isn’t really part of the tour, it’s just travelling back to the pick up point. At least the scenery is stunning though, so it doesn’t feel too bad!

The last few days of our honeymoon were spent just chilling out in Ha Noi, we found a weird little playground for Jessica, it was obviously lovely at one point, but had decayed to the point it was like a post-apocalyptic wasteland. But she still enjoyed it. The rides were powered by massive fans rather than a motor, which was unusual. And Jessica managed to get covered in mud, but I think that’s standard for a 3 year old!

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Then after a couple of days in Ha Noi, we just had the long slog home! 24 hours of travelling is never fun, and it’s taken me a while to adjust to being back here.

All that’s left to do is plan our next trip!

Originally posted on Andy Dane Wedding Photography