Vietnam motorbike diaries – Day 1 (Hanoi to Ninh Binh)

First intercity day with Phoebe, after 9 days in Vietnam.

From: Hanoi

To: Ninh Binh

Distance: 130 kms

It was a fun ride. Phoebe runs at 60 kmph comfortably and could go up to 80. I liked riding her between 50-60. Can sound like a helicopter though. Haha. These Vietnamese bikes are barely reliable, let’s see how it goes in the future.

There were some good views on the way:

I came across this temple as well:

My hostel in Ninh Binh has spectacular views:

City looks cool:

And I had the best vegetarian food I’ve had in Vietnam. It was tofu in tomato sauce and tasted really good. Sometimes food in Vietnam can be colourful but lacks in taste, but not in this case. And this was just 25k dong or 1$ for so much food:

Still a long way South and I already feel time is less ;)

Halong bay, the non-touristy way. 

Halong bay ❤

This is the only place that was in my things-not-to-miss in Vietnam list before coming here and I managed to go here for 3 days and 2 nights. 

When you are in Hanoi, all the information centres or hostels are flooded with tours for Halong. They range from single day to 3D/2N tours. 

One thing that I’ve seen amongst travellers is how much they loathe organised tours! I fall in this category. So instead of spending 90$ for 2 days or 135$ for a 3D/2N trip, I decided to go on my own. It ended up being much cheaper. 

Hoang Long bus company has an all transfers inclusive bus to Cat Ba islands which is the biggest island in Halong. This costs roughly 9$. This takes away the hassle of bus+motor bike+boat+bus being booked separately and at the same time is pretty much the same cost. 

On the islands I stayed at Cat Ba central hostel which was an epic fucking hostel for 5$. The free breakfast was easily worth 2-3$. And look at the view from the dorm:

2 nights at the hostel cost me 10$. 

I rented a scooter for a day and drove around all of the island. It was 6$ with petrol and the best way to see some amazing views. Behold:

Some of these places had entry tickets which were 5$ in total. 

On the third day when coming back I chose the option to come back via Halong City instead of Hai Phong. There is a 4 hour tour of Halong on a ferry that is run for which the price is fixed by the govt. Usually people take cruises. I didn’t end up taking it though, because I got up late and didn’t see the point to the tour since I got good views on the boat back. My independent bus+boat+bus journey back was 11$. And I got some of these classic Halong views:

41$ in total, along with having immense independence to explore and see things I liked. 

Hanoi culture. 

4th day in Hanoi and one of the better ones. 

I had a wonderful lunch today. Tofu in tomato sauce, sauted cauliflower, and rice. Yum. My Couchsurfing host made this:

I then hung out with 2 other Couchsurfers. Aga from Poland and Vuong who is a local here in Hanoi. 

Riding around my motorbike was fun and we did explore the Vietnamese way of living life slightly on the edge. 

After Aga joked about a mid road selfie, we ended up taking one. Her expression says it all:

I then found out then during the weekends (Fri-Sun), the road surrounding Kiem lake (one of the popular ones here) becomes a walking street and people just hang around and chill. There were old ladies dancing, people playing leg-badminton(?), folk songs being played, small children driving cars, ice cream shops and so much more. All by a beautiful lake. This made me wonder why people in Bangalore don’t do this? Why is there no concept of just hanging out at some place in the city and doing a bunch of random things? 

Till today I thought Hanoi seemed like maybe a slightly better version of Bangalore. Better in terms of maintaining  lakes and having a history and places to see, similar in terms of traffic. But this option of hanging outside definitely beats options in Bangalore. 

I also noticed that people here don’t easily lose temper on the roads. There’s a lot of traffic and it’s a sea of motorbikes but people understand that with this crazy amount of traffic,there are bound to be some small incidents. So instead of shouting off on the top of their voices and being ready to pick a fight and being frustrated, they just carry on like nothing happened. Yesterday a guy lost control over his bike and the bike was almost vertical in front another bike. But 2 minutes later the street was same as before. 

And bland food contest for dinner: