Vietnam 2019

We visited north Vietnam before going back to Japan briefly over Thanksgiving. After spending a day in Hanoi, we went on an overnight cruise to Hạ Long Bay and one-day trip to Ninh Binh.


Click on the thumbnails below to see the pictures. Or, if you only want to see the photos and videos, go to Smugmug for our photos. and Kuula for 360° photos.

Hạ Long Bay

Hạ Long Bay

Hạ Long Bay ("Bay of Descending Dragon") is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with thousands of small islands (islets). Instead of driving all the way to Hạ Long Bay, we took an overnight cruise from Hải Phòng port (limo service between Hanoi and the port is included). We enjoyed the relaxed cruise, gorgeous view of the bay, bamboo boat ride, cave tour, and delicious Vietnamese food on board.

Our cruise boat Mon Cheri 2 Cruising around Hạ Long Bay following dozens of other tour boats Drone shot of Hạ Long Bay Drone shot of Hạ Long Bay Bamboo boat ride in Hạ Long Bay Merchant vigrously following our boat trying to sell stuff Dusk in Hạ Long Bay Many cruise boats staying overnight in Hạ Long Bay Sunrise in Hạ Long Bay Limestone cave in Cát Bà Island Our guide lived through the war by hiding in this cave Hạ Long Bay

Ninh Bình

We booked a day tour to Ninh Bình Province, about two hour drive from Hanoi. In the Múa "Cave" (Hang Múa) area, the highlight is actually the Hang Múa Peak that is 450 steps above ground with a spectacular 360° view of the entire region (including the Tam Cốc valley that we visited later). There is a shrine and a statue of dragon at the peak. Bích Động features a large pagoda that was built inside a cave. Visit to Tam Cốc ("three caves") included a two-hour ride on a small boat along the river.

Hang Múa Peak Hang Múa Peak Hang Múa Peak Hang Múa Peak Hang Múa Peak View of Tam Cốc from Hang Múa Peak Bích Động Pagoda Bích Động Pagoda Cave behind Bich Dong Pagoda Tam Cốc boat ride Tam Cốc boat ride Tam Cốc boat ride


The city is seemingly chaotic but surprisingly smooth, organic, and lively as represented by the constant flood of scooters on the road. (We quickly got used to crossing the street and enjoyed doing that toward the end.) Temple of Literature built in the 11-th century is vast and the details are amazing. The recently-opened Lighthouse Sky Bar with a great view was recommended to us by a fellow passenger on the cruise (thanks!).

Hanoi Opera House Street in Hanoi Thăng Long Imperial Citadel Scooters, bikes, cars, and more scooters ... Trains run very infrequently.  Other times the track becomes like a street with shops and cafes. Trains run very infrequently.  Other times the track becomes like a street. No skyscraper in downtown Hanoi but the city is surrounded by a forest of super high-rise apartments. Temple of Literature Temple of Literature Temple of Literature Temple of Literature Lighthouse Sky Bar


Video is available on the Youtube playlist.

Travel Guide

Cruise and tour

For Hạ Long Bay, we booked 2-day-1-night trip by Mon Chéri Cruises in advance. The service included transportation from the hotel in Hanoi to the port (Hai Phong), a two-hour van ride each way.

For Ninh Bình, we talked to the travel desk at the hotel and asked them to book a day tour (we forgot the company's name). A driver, a guide, and a van for $204 (+ tip) for two persons from 8:30 to 20:00.

Overall, we opted for relaxed trips rather than aggressive. In Hanoi, we purchased Hop-on Hop-off bus tickets from Vietnam Sightseeing ($14.50/person) and went around the city a couple times.

Vietnam Resources


We used Google Maps,, and as always. Refer to Norway 2019 Travel Guide for details.


Here is the Youtube playlist with the videos we watched before going to Vietnam: Vietnam Resources playlist