1 Trip, 3 Destinations. How to tackle Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa in 5 Days
Ah, Vietnam, the land of Pho. Drowned in flavourful hot broth and served in a bowl chock-full of meat, varieties of herbs and rice noodles, Pho dish encapsulates the beauty of Vietnam. Filled to the brim with amazing sights and a mishmash of culture, this is a country you would want to visit soon!
Follow us as we uncover Northern Vietnam and let you in on how you can check the ticks off all major destinations in just 5 days. From the limestone grottos along Ha Long Bay to the highest peaks in the Indochinese Peninsula, Fansipan, we’re prepping you for the adventure of a lifetime.
Day 1: First Stop, Hanoi
Flying into the capital of Vietnam, you will first arrive at the Noi Bai International Airport. The flight takes roughly 3 and a half hours from Singapore and we recommend taking the first flight out to make full use of your time!
One of the best ways to get around Hanoi is by Grab. The convenience and time you save will be much better spent exploring the city. If you’re looking for a light and speedier way of transport, Grab Bike is the way to go. The motorbikes swiftly dodge the congested traffic and bring you to your destination in no time.
Even if you’re carrying large-sized luggage, you can still Grab a normal car even though you might get stuck in a jam! We recommend that you avoid metered taxis as you are more likely to get cheated on the fares that you are supposed to pay for.
When you enter the city, there are Cyclos (a merger of bicycles and trishaws), an inexpensive transport option to traverse the small alleys and buses available. But ensure you know where to alight as there is a lack of English signage and clear directions.
The Capital of Vietnam, Hanoi
First up, some local food to fill your grumbling stomach:
While Singapore is famous for our chilli crab, Vietnam’s nem chua be (crabmeat rolls) stand as one of the most popular street food. Each bite overflows with fragrant minced crab, pork, mushrooms and various spices. And when in Vietnam, eat like the locals do by dipping your crabmeat roll in nuoc cham, a signature Vietnamese dipping sauce.
- Recommended: Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim at 67 Duong Thanh Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi
Glass noodles with fried eel
If you’re an adventurous foodie who is always on the search for something new, the mien xao luon will be your next best find. A hearty plate of glass noodles stir-fried in an eel-based broth is topped with crispy eel, fried shallots, egg and a variety of greens. As we usually see restaurants serving grilled eel, this is a refreshing take that locals truly adore.
- Recommended: Dong Thinh Nha Hang Mien Luon at 87 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Banh Cuon (Rolled rice cake)
For something a little lighter, try banh cuon, the Vietnamese version of our local chee cheong fun. The rice flour sheet is steamed and stuffed with a combination of ground meat (chicken, shrimp or pork), minced mushrooms, onions, Vietnamese ham and other vegetables. While the Singaporean version is typically steamed in a soy-sauce, the banh cuon is dipped in nuoc cham sauce for a deeper depth of flavour.
- Recommended: Banh Cuon Gia Truyen at 14 Hang Ga Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi
Immerse yourself in the agility of life in the capital of Vietnam as the next few days will be spent in basking in nature’s greatest wonders.
Day 2 & 3: Next Stop, Ha Long Bay
We highly recommend that you do your research before booking for Ha Long Bay as there are simply too many activities, travel options and accommodation types to cover. Also, due to the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag, Ha Long Bay now have strict restrictions on boat routes and timings. But don’t let that spoil your excitement for Ha Long Bay will still be one of the most memorable places you will ever visit!
Planning Your Ha Long Bay Trip
You will want to book your tour before the trip and the best options are often available on Klook, Viator or KKday. Prices and tour options are pretty much similar across, and you simply have to choose the one you prefer most!
A highly recommended way to spend your time in Ha Long Bay is via a 2D1N cruise tour. This will cover all major attractions within the bay area, namely the limestone karsts, kayaking and visiting the Pearl’s Farm.
The waters are calm and the cruises hold steady so you don’t have to worry about seasickness. Most cruises also have multiple decks and viewing areas, so there’ll be sufficient space for rest if you happen to feel sick. For adventure seekers, you can look for cruise trips that offer snorkelling, kayaking or even ones with private beaches!
Here’s where you can book your cruise tour:
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Staycation within a Vacation
If you simply cannot stomach being on a boat for a long period of time, Ha Long Bay also has so much to offer on land. The best place to go to for anyone wary of water is Cat Ba Island which is the largest island within Ha Long Bay.
You will need to take a bus or private transport from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, followed by a short 10 minutes boat ride to Cat Ba. Get around Cat Ba with a rented motorbike and book a hotel for as cheap as S$20/night!
Here are some attractions you can visit in Cat Ba Island:
- Cat Ba National Park Hike (UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve)
- Cat Ba Beach
- Seafood by the port!
- Cat Ba Rock Climbing
- Bioluminescent Plankton at the Beach
Once you are done with Ha Long Bay and have taken enough selfies or National Geographic-like landscape shots, it is time to head back and prepare for Sapa!
Day 4 – 5: Sa Pa, the town of mountains and waterfalls
Travelling back to Hanoi from Ha Long Bay will take roughly 3-4 hours. We recommend taking the rest of Day 3 off so you’ll be well-rested before you board a sleeper train to Lao Cai, the last stop of your trip.
Tickets for a round trip cost around S$60 to S$80 and each way lasts approximately 8 hours, sufficient to get some sleep. And considering how active you’ve been for the past few days, sleep will come easy.
The train will stop at Lao Cai, and from there, you can take a minibus or rent a motorbike to Sa Pa Town. Famous for its terraced rice fields and the highest peak, Fansipan, Sa Pa boast one of the coldest weather in the region. There was a history of snowfall in Sa Pa, so do bring along warm clothing and proper shoes!
The first attraction you need to head for is Fansipan. Reaching the summit will be a breeze via a 30-minute cable car ride. Over 3000 metres in altitude, the air will be thin and piercing to those who are not used to high altitudes. Remember to bring along some altitude sickness pills in case of an emergency.
You are only granted a day in Sa Pa Town if you wish to make it within your time limit, so once you are back down from the mountain, grab a meal and hop on a bike to the waterfalls around town!
The Love and Silver Waterfalls are a magnificent sight to take in and you’ll want to spend a good day there. You can reach by car or rented motorbikes. Road conditions are quite rough, so take it slow and you will reach there safely. You can choose to scale the waterfalls, granted, your legs may be giving out by now due to Fansipan and all the tripping so we suggest simply taking photos from the bottom. You may also find yourself rather limited by time as you will need to take a sleeper train back to Hanoi by midnight. So make sure you make it back to Sa Pa town for a quick rest and meal before heading off back to Hanoi.
Day 5: Departure
Sadly, it is time to go! If you are following this itinerary, you should get a flight in the noon or evening, this will give you ample time to prepare and pack up before you leave. If you need to cut the trip short by a day, we suggest skipping Sa Pa or dropping the overnight stay at Ha Long Bay!
Have a jolly great time in Vietnam!
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