A trip to Hanoi, Vietnam is a journey unto itself, and one that will provide lasting memories. However, many tour groups often overlook some parts of Hanoi and surrounding areas that really delve into the nooks and crannies. There are many of course, and they are offered by many different companies. However, Vietnam Awesome Travel in the Old Quarter of Hanoi was easy to communicate with from the States via email, made reservations over email as well, was quick to respond, and didn’t require payment until we met in Hanoi. They offer a variety of tours, but here are three locations to consider offered in two different excursions that many US tours do not include. I went to Vietnam with Overseas Adventure Travel on their trip Inside Vietnam, and they do explore other fantastic rural areas as well. But my four luscious days in Hanoi prior to starting the tour allowed me to discover even more and add to what became a fabulous travel experience.
A food walking tour of Hanoi takes you into the nooks and crannies of the Old Quarter in away that conventional tours do not. This tour does not expose you to street food, but rather food that is consumed in family owned restaurants frequented by locals, and the food is well cooked. Try some unique specialties such as their famous coffee with condensed cream and an egg, Pho, a variety of rice paper pancakes, and of course their famous French bread. Learn about “beer corner” and sip on a pint before the corner fills up with locals. This tour really gives you the flavor of Vietnam, and is perfect for your first day in Hanoi.
This is the first half of the Hoa Lu- Tam Coc Tour. The bus drops you and your guide off to the village of Ninh Binh, about 60 miles south of Hanoi. A walk through that village is a walk back in time, and it is more than remarkable to be the only one making the stroll. Local village homes dot the landscape on one side, and rice fields are abundant on the other with a stunning backdrop of limestone mountains.
After walking through the village, arrive at Hoa Lu, the site of the 10th century capital of an ancient Vietnamese Kingdom called Dai Co Viet. This area was eventually enclosed by the citadel you will visit. Aside from the site of the ancient citadel, there are also two temples to visit before leaving the area. There are also goats in abundance ,since they are served for lunch. A good culinary tip here is on pass on the chewy goat meat and focus on the wonderful spicy tofu, spinach and rice.
Also ,if your tour of Vietnam includes Hanoi, Hue and Saigon, a visit to Hoa Lu will round out your stay and you will have visited all four of the capitals of Vietnam. This area is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ninh Bình Province, but for some reason many organized multi -week tours of Vietnam do not include it.
This is the second half of the Hoa Lu- Tam Coc Tour. After lunch this full day tour brings you to Tam Coc, also referred to as Halong Bay on land, and Three Caves. Local Vietnamese villagers wearing blue paddle the boats (in one case with their feet, which is amazing). Those three caves felt more like ten, but were amazing to glide through. The roofs of the caves are low, so all passengers need to duck down. The limestone caves are reminiscent of Halong Bay, in the south of Vietnam, Phuket, Thailand, and Guillen, China. The geography is very similar, and the experience is stunning.
Also ,wear very good walking shoes. There is a mob scene trying to get onto the boats. People push and shove, and the authorities do nothing to prevent it. So be prepared for a madhouse trying to board the boats. Once on board however, it is a gratifying experience. The entire day is a treat.