The first solo trip since Ecuador in 2017. Oh boy, I was excited to be exploring on my own again! If there is one word to summarise my holiday to North Vietnam, the word is cold. Wintry cold.

Wintry Cold in Hanoi

Travelling at year-end, people warned me about the cold in North Vietnam during the winter season. That said, I was not expecting it to be THAT COLD! The cold was even an unexpected one for the locals.Checked the weather forecast a few days before my holiday and the temperature was between 13°C to 16°C. When I arrived in Hanoi, the weather plunged to 10°C and it dropped to 9°C with an overcast sky the following day!

Shops that were selling winter wear, such as North Face (imitation or not) were seeing a spike in their sales during that few days from these unprepared travellers who turned up in their summer clothes!

Hanoi

I had Vietnam’s signature, the chaotic traffic that welcomed me to the Old Quarter. For a moment, I felt like I was “out of practice” crossing the traffic. It took me a few road crossings to get used to crossing the roads slowly and confidently.

The cold did not deter me from exploring this chaotic capital! My utmost priority apart from food hunting was to visit the mausoleum to see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh. I thought to be able to see his body was kinda cool and now I have checked it off my bucket list.

Ho Chi Minh's House
Ho Chi Minh’s House

It was awesome to reunite with friends from #soyeleasia. There was plenty to catch up on. It was great fun for them to guide me to all the delicious food, impressive temple of literature most of all, allowing me to get the adrenaline rush commuting in the most local way possible – on a motorbike.

#soyeleasia

Sapa

Sapa, located at the mountainous north of Vietnam was colder than Hanoi because it was further up north and at a higher altitude. When I arrived, it was between 2°C – 3°C. To top it off, it was wet and foggy too.

Rice terrace at Sapa
Hiking between the rice terraces

I had an initial plan to wing Sapa, meaning I would get myself on a one-way sleeper bus there. I would get myself a guide and look for homestay accommodations once I arrived. However, I was advised against the idea as there will be a lot of locals celebrating their new year in Sapa.

Looking back, I am happy I heed their advice and went ahead to secure my tour before I leave for Sapa. I encountered people who were unable to get bus tickets back to Hanoi in time which means it ended up affecting their forward plans. There were also people who overpaid for their tours or somehow their tours or accommodations were not well-coordinated.

Like all other years, I spent my new year overseas. Unlike all other years, instead of choosing to be in the city where I could countdown on the streets with fireworks, this time I chose a low-profile way of welcoming the new year. No fireworks, no big celebrations. I was nicely tucked in my mattress with 3 layers of duvets fast asleep when the clock stroke 12.

Homestay in Sapa
Tucked into bed before 12 midnight

The wet and muddy hike with visibility of less than 50m was definitely memorable. It was not the most ideal time to hike but at least there are no lurking mosquitoes ready to suck my blood.

Halong Bay

If hiking in Sapa was considered roughing it out, the cruise out to Halong Bay was definitely a luxury.

It was wonderful to be able to relax, enjoying nature’s beauty and going for activities such as visiting the oyster farm, kayaking and exploring caves.

Kayaking in Halong Bay
Spotted a monkey!

With many different nationalities of travellers on board the cruise, I could activate my multilingual “ability” speaking all the 3 different languages to people. It was a good way to work on that part of the brain.

Despite the fact that certain parts of Halong Bay can get very touristic and crowded, this UNESCO World Heritage is definitely worth checking out for its stunning nature, interesting formations of limestones and the emerald green water.

Wintry Vietnam

Statistics

Travel period: 29 December 2018 – 6 January 2019

Country: Vietnam

City/ Towns: Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay

Expenses

Overall expenditure was under S$900, S$877.81 all-in to be exact with the breakdown below.

Transportation: S$304.48

Accommodation: S$23.63

Insurance: S$23.26

Food: S$67.29

Personal/ Services: S$35.95

Tours/ Activities: S$423.20

My accommodation looked grossly cheap because it was only the cost of my 3 nights in Hanoi. Those accommodations in Sapa and Halong Bay were covered under the Tours/ Activities as they were part of my tours.

The main expense for this holiday was the 3D2N all-inclusive Halong Bay cruise, it costed more than my air tickets. But hey, no regrets!

Highlight

Sharing a meal together with the local home-stay family in Sapa was something that warmed my heart. The food was simple yet delicious, definitely the Asian taste that I am familiar with. We also had some home-made wine which well, you might have guessed, kept me happy too!

homecooked meal

Lowlight

I caught the flu bug days before I went on the holiday and being sick on a trip is not the best condition one would hope to be in. That did not stop me from eating anything and everything. I only had to be mindful of using the communal or another set of utensils to get food and one set for eating.

Conclusion

Spending the new year of 2015 in the South of Vietnam, a summer getaway to Central Vietnam in 2016 and now with North of Vietnam under my belt to begin 2019. I can now say I covered most parts of Vietnam.

There is no secret that Vietnam is my favourite country in South East Asia with friendly locals, delicious food and the fact that I blend in quite easily.

Despite covering the major regions, I know there are so many places I have not explored such as Phu Quoc, Mui Ne, Dalat, Hue and many more! Most importantly, I do not want my relationship with delicious pho and banh mi to ever end!

Cheers to my forever love for banh mi

I don’t know when I will go back again but I am definitely looking forward to the next time!

Before I sign off, here is a simple video I made for the holiday. Enjoy!


Would you like to explore North of Vietnam? Be it summer or winter season, you can trust Asiatica Travel, a travel agency based in Hanoi, Vietnam who have been organising tours since 2001. Customise your own private tour to Vietnam based on your interests and needs with their online consultation team of travel experts. Click here to find out more about the Vietnam Tour Packages!

Pamela Loh

Pamela, born and raised in Singapore. She is a dreamer, explorer, traveller and local tour guide.

A perfect day for Pam would be being on the road, having beers and endless of great conversations that shape a wider perspective.

Come say hi!

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