A Break From Hanoi: 3 Easy-To-Get-To Destinations

Written by Kim Gordhan.

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Ninh Binh

How to Get There

Ninh Binh is a close, convenient option for a quick getaway and opportunity to breathe in some fresh mountain air. It is only 88 kms South East of Hanoi, so the trip shouldn’t take you more than 2.5 hours. There are three direct ways to get there; the cheapest would be to drive your motorbike, the quickest would be the train (VND 100-200k) and the most luxurious is by car or shuttle (aka limousine), which is recommended for groups.

How Many Days Should You Spend There?

Ninh Binh can be done in a day trip from Hanoi. However, staying for 2-3 days will allow you to really enjoy the scenery and the peacefulness that Ninh Binh has to offer.

Temple in Ninh Binh

Photograph by Kim Gordhan

Where to Stay

There are two popular areas in Ninh Binh; Tam Coc and Trang An, although they offer similar experiences, Trang An gives you a little extra. It is slightly further away, therefore more tranquil, and you are less likely to get scammed as a tourist.

What to Do

Both Tam Coc and Trang An offer the well-known paddleboat tour down the river with views of rice paddies and hills along the way, however the Trang An river takes you through 7-9 caves and the duration is 3.5 hours, where as Tam Coc river has only 3 caves and is an hour shorter. Other highlights in Ninh Binh include, but are not limited to; Hang Mua, Dai Binh and Bich Dong Pagoda, Hoa Lu Ancient Village and motorbike or cycling tours and plenty of local specialties to try.

Ha Long Bay

How to Get There

Ha Long is a little further than Ninh Binh, however, this 140km drive should take you approximately 2.5 hours as well. Rather ditch the bike and take a car for this one that will drop you off at the harbor. It’s a quick journey to a magical part of Vietnam where you wander through the 1999 islands in this UNESCO World Heritage site.

How Many Days Should You Spend There?

Cruises can be achieved through day trips, although 1-2 nights on board are available and recommended. Staying overnight on the ship will definitely be worth your while and allow time for chilling on the deck with dreamlike views of the islands as well as activities on land, in the water and through caves.

Where to Stay

Cruises vary from luxury to low budget, there are tons of options and a good chance that you’ll find one to fit your needs. If you’re travelling with friends and looking for more of a party scene, the junk boat is for you. It offers a great value for money option and could cost you around VND 3 million to stay for one night and two days. If you’re interested in something more private and classier, the luxury cruise lines start at about VND 4.2 million per person and provide a more comfortable stay with excellent service.

What to Do

Ha Long bay, also known as Bay of the Descending Dragons has spectacular natural scenery that can be observed from the comfort of your bed from the boat, from a kayak, a bamboo boat, by swimming or on-foot. Some highlights include Song Sot (Surprising) cave, Ba Hang Floating Village and Titop island. Aboard the cruise ship you can experience cooking demonstrations, Tai Chi on the deck at sunrise, gourmet local dishes and buffets.

Hoi An

How to Get There

Hoi An is a quick one-hour flight from Noi Bai airport. You will arrive in Da Nang and a 30km drive to Hoi An. If you’d prefer a more affordable way of travelling, there is an overnight bus option.

How Many Days Should You Spend There?

It is pretty easy to stay in Hoi An for a week, but at least 3-4 days should be enough to take-in the beauty of this delightfully colourful town. If you’d like to stay a few nights in Hoi An and a few nights in the main city of Da Nang, it is very possible, however, staying in Hoi An and doing a day trip to Da Nang is advisable.

Where to Stay

Hoi An can be split up into two areas, the quaint Ancient Town and An Bang beach. Depending on the type of holiday you’d like to have, you can decide which would best suit your interests. Bear in mind that Hoi An is a small place and you can easily scoot around on your bike to the different areas.

What to Do

Exploring the Ancient town is best to do at night when it’s less crowded by the large groups of tourists and you can really see the full effect of the lanterns. An Bang beach is 4km long with plenty of shady umbrellas, mattress-like beach chairs and restaurants and bars, making it easy to spend the entire day here.

Other than these two highlights, you can take a boat to Cham islands, explore the Marble Mountains, twirl around in a bamboo basket boat and eat your way through the diverse nationalities of food that Hoi An has to offer. In Da Nang, you can walk along the famous golden bridge at Ba Na Hills, pay your respects to the 67m tall lady Buddha and discover the lush My Son sanctuary with hidden paths and secret beaches.

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