Vietnam: Halong Bay & Hanoi

About Vietnam

Vietnam is a southeast Asian country on the South China Sea known for its bustling cities, picturesque beaches and vivid history. Hanoi is the capital city and at its heart is the old quarter where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade amongst the french colonial architecture. Halong bay in northeast Vietnam is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rain forests. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1994.

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Getting there

You can fly from Dublin to Hanoi however we flew from Manila which was only a 3 hour flight. When we got to Hanoi we had organised a car to drive us straight to Halong Bay. We arrived at 5 am and absolutely fell into the bed in our hotel. We stayed in Halong Bay for 3 nights and got the same car back to Hanoi where we stayed for 3 nights before flying home.

 

Accommodation

Halong Bay is absolutely filled to the brim with hotels however there’s not much else there in the the city itself. Looking back, I would recommend anyone to just go down to do the boat tour and then leave again. We stayed in the Halong Palace Hotel and it was fab but the restaurants were expensive inside the hotel and there is not much around in Halong itself. We stayed a night on the Castaway boat tour which was great craic. Then in Hanoi we stayed in the Splendid Boutique Hotel in the old quarter it was very small but clean and in the perfect location.

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Halong Palace Hotel

What we did

  • The Halong Bay Castaway tour. We did the two day one night trip and to be honest it was enough. It includes kayaking and free alcohol so what’s not to love?
  • Visit Hoàn Kiêm Lake and Ngoc Son in Hanoi.
  • Explore the Old Quater.
  • Visit the Dong Xuan Market.
  • Hoan Kiem Bia Hoi. This is the street bar scene in the old quater where you can sit and drink some of the cheapest beer in the world. A bottle will cost about 15 cent.
  • See the Long Bien bridge over the red river.

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Hoan Kiem Lake
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The red bridge at Hoan Kiem Lake

Food

Halong Bay:       Halong Palace Hotel
1958 restaurant
Café Nam Phong
Hon Gai restaurant
Hanoi:                 Hanoi Taco Bar
Marvellous hotel
Splendid boutique hotel
Giang Cafe (try the Vietnamese Egg Coffee)
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Egg Coffee
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Honestly, I wish we had more time in Vietnam to explore the rest of the country such as Sapa and Nha Trang but I guess that just means we will have to go back lol. It is such a beautiful country filled with an immense amount of culture and history so if you plan of travelling through Asia put Vietnam on your list!

Mini Mint x

 

California Road Trip

Hiya! So last summer I was lucky enough to travel the west coast of America with my sister and we had an absolute BALL of a time over there. Some stories are for us to know only. (Aoife never forget how we got home from the wedding, you owe me!) For the most part though I want to share where we went and what we did with all of you.

Los Angeles

We landed in LAX after our 9 hour flight and we were super tired but we still had to sort out our rental car and drive to Redondo Beach which was our first stop. We got to our hotel and passed out. We based ourselves here for 5 days and in those days we travelled to Hollywood, San Diego and Downtown Los Angeles. Yes, we took all those cringey tourist pictures but we had steller sushi, went on an adventure to the Hollywood Sign and learnt how to paddle board in San Diego courtesy of our cousin. (Shoutout to him for throwing us off our boards, you the real MVP) After this we travelled to Hermosa Beach for two nights which is by far one of the funkiest hotels I have ever stayed at. From here we went on to the famous Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier which are both gorgeous and so full of excitement and life. I mean it is the end of route 66. 10/10 would recommend for the photo opportunities as well and celebrity spotting.

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Santa Barbara

We left LA exhausted because we crammed so much in but managed to drive to Santa Barbara. We stayed in a pretty basic inn but it had free breakfast. We stayed 3 nights in Santa Barbara and here we rented cruiser bikes and travelled the whole coast on them. Note to readers: wear suncream. We also did a spot of shopping here but overall there is a really chill vibe with not much of a nightlife. Perfect place to relax among the palm trees in the middle of your journey to recharge the batteries.

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Gilroy & San Francisco

After this we travelled the most beautiful 4 hour car journey to Gilroy. The whole purpose of this trip was to go to this wedding between our two American friends and let me tell you it was a serious culture shock. A gorgeous ceremony with plenty of craic but completely different to an Irish wedding. It was a great day, we made a lot of friends and bust some serious moves on the dance floor. We stayed for two nights before we continues to our last stop which was San Francisco. We have both been to San Francisco before so we weren’t too bothered about doing all of the tourist things. That didn’t stop us from cycling to the Golden Gate Bridge though and taking a few cheeky snaps. We saw the fireworks on the Fourth of July down at Pier 39 and they were incredible. Truly, words cannot describe how mesmerised I was for that night. After spending a drunken night in Berkeley with one of my friends at a frat house I can safely say this was one of the best trips I have ever been on.

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California ticked all the right boxes but the one thing I will say is that you would definitely need a car due to everything being so spread out. All accommodation we stayed at are listed below.

Mini Mint x

 

Accommodation List

  • Redondo Beach Crowne Plaza
  • Hotel Hermosa
  • Avania Inn
  • Nikko Hotel San Francisco

Note: We stayed with friends in Gilroy and San Francisco but we stayed in the Nikko last time and it was amaaazing.