With only 4 days in Ha Noi, Vietnam, I thought I would save myself time and effort by throwing myself into the sheep-herding tours. Some did make my life more convenient and some weren’t worth the trouble. The ants in a row like feeling can crumple the adventurer’s spirit, but I was surprised to find people of various ethnicity in all of my tours. I spoke every bit of every language I knew, and that was exciting.
The first day I walked around Hanoi City. I had read both about muggings and people safely going around with their DSLR cameras out. As I took off for Hoan Kiem Lake, the streets were crowded with both tourists and local people, some who had been on my flight. Overall, I felt quite safe walking around by myself.
The second day I took a tour to Ha Long Bay. I recommend taking a tour, because it will be unavoidable in the end. Even if you travel all the way to the port by your own means, you will have to join a tour boat anyway. One pro-tip: Make sure you have everything you paid for written down on the receipt or else people will try to charge you double for things like canoeing around the bay, special lunch.
The third day I traveled to Tam Coc. Floating under caves was nice, but I think if I were to do this again I would avoid the tour. It wasn’t bad per say, it would just be more fun to do by yourself. The highlight for me was riding a bicycle around the area and getting chased by a dog when a German couple and I ventured into private property by accident.
The last day I took a tour to Perfume Pagoda with a tired of traveling in Vietnam couple from Spain and an older couple from France. For some reason, I had a very romantic image of the Perfume Pagoda. I imagined women in traditional clothes rowing us down a beautiful river towards a staggering cliff. High above almost impossible to climb stairs was the Pagoda, rich and sacred. It wasn’t exactly how I imagined, but I can’t deny the beauty of the area.