Exploring Hanoi in 8 Days: A Memorable Family Journey Through Vietnam’s Heart

Explore Hanoi in 8 Days

As Singaporeans, we’ve always been drawn to the allure of travel, and this time our compass pointed us to Hanoi, Vietnam’s storied capital. For eight days, we will dive into this bustling city, a place where history whispers from every corner and modernity buzzes in its streets. It’s a city that, much like Singapore, is a tapestry of the old and the new, but with a distinctly Vietnamese flavor.

Opting for a tour group – a choice spearheaded by my wife, who loves the blend of structure and discovery it offers – we set out to explore Hanoi’s nooks and crannies. This isn’t just a recount of where we went and what we saw; it’s a slice of our life, a tale of immersing ourselves in a culture so vibrant and diverse, yet so strangely familiar, capturing the essence of Hanoi through our Singaporean lens.

Join us as we recount our journey through this captivating city, from Sapa, Haloog Bay and ancient temples to its pulsating markets and street food that gives our local hawker fare a run for its money.


Overview – Hanoi Trip

1Upon arrival at Noi Bai International Airport
transfer to Hanoi for check in Hotel,
HanoiThe Light
2Transfer to Sapa (4.5 hours)
Cat Cat H’Mong Village
Sapa Minority Market
SapaAzure, Sapa
3Fansippan Cable Car Station for an amazing ride to the
“the Roof of Indochina”- the highest mountain Fansipan- 3143 meter
Rong May Glass Bridge
Heaven gate at O Quy Ho, Silver
SapaAzure, Sapa
4Ba Dinh Square, outside of
Mousoleum, Palace,
One Pillar Pagoda.
Water Puppet Show
Joseph Cathedral
HanoiThe Light
5Halong Bay
Bamboo Boat Tour
Halong Bay La Regina Classic
6Halong Bay to Hanoi
HanoiThe Light
7Hanoi To Trang An
Sang Cave, Toi Cave, Ba Giot
Cave, Nau Ruou
Trang AnThe Light
8Breakfast & Back to Noi Bai International AirportHanoi

Our journey so far has been nothing short of amazing, and filled with unforgettable memories. The only slight downside has been the weather, particularly in Sapa. We were looking forward to the stunning views there, but the persistent fog somewhat obscured the beautiful scenery.

However, it’s a small hiccup in an otherwise fantastic trip. Our stays at the Light Hotel and Azure Hotel have been delightful. Both places stood out for their cleanliness and convenient locations, making our exploration of the surroundings easier and more enjoyable. Despite the foggy moments in Sapa, the trip has been a wonderful experience overall.

Day 1: Arrival at Hanoi

We touched down in Hanoi around 5.30 pm, just in time for dinner. Our guide, ever so prompt, whisked us off to a local restaurant right after we landed. The flavors were a delightful introduction to what Hanoi had to offer! Post-dinner, we checked into The Light Hotel, our cozy base for the Hanoi leg of our journey.

AH Restaurant in Hanoi
AH Restaurant in Hanoi

With the evening still young, we took a leisurely stroll around the Old Quarter. It’s amazing how the area buzzes with life at night! But we didn’t wander for too long; we had to rest up for an exciting trip to Sapa lined up for the next day. The adventure was just beginning! 🌃✨🍜

stroll around the Old Quarter
stroll around the Old Quarter

Day 2 – Heading To Sapa and visit Cat Cat Village

Woke up early and headed out from our hotel around 7:30 am, feeling the refreshing chill of Hanoi’s morning air, about 17-18 degrees – quite a cool change from back home in Singapore! We were all geared up for the journey to Sapa, knowing it’d get even cooler there.

cosy morning in hanoi

The bus drive was going to take us about 4.5 hours, so we set off early to make the most of the day. Along the way, we stopped for lunch at this cozy Chinese restaurant – a nice warm-up before heading up into the mountains.

on the way in the bus ride
heading to sapa , mountain
Heading to Sapa

Upon arriving at our hotel in Sapa, we were greeted by the kind of wet and misty weather that’s pretty typical of the area. We’re staying at Azure Hotel, which is quite cozy.

After sorting out the check-in formalities and dumping our luggage in our room, we set off to explore Cat Cat Village, home to the H’Mong people. I must say, there was quite a bit of walking and a fair share of stairs to tackle, but it was worth it!

Walking to Cat Cat Village
Buffalos spotted at Cat Cat Village
Buffalos spotted at Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village, nestled in the picturesque valleys near Sapa, is a charming and culturally rich destination that offers a glimpse into the traditional lifestyles of the H’Mong people.

rustic wooden houses,
rustic wooden houses in the cat cat village

As you wander through the village, you’re greeted with rustic wooden houses, the vibrant colors of the H’Mong traditional clothing, and the tranquil sounds of nature.

This village is not just a visual treat with its stunning terraced fields and lush greenery, but it also offers an authentic experience of rural Vietnamese life.

H’Mong traditional clothing

Local handicrafts, from intricate textile work to handmade jewelry, are on display, showcasing the incredible skill and artistry of the villagers.

too misty in cat cat village
too misty in cat cat village

The journey through Cat Cat is as much about scenic beauty as it is about connecting with a way of life that maintains a harmonious balance with nature and tradition.

cat cat village map
cat cat village map
Lots of steps in Cat Cat Village
Lots of steps in Cat Cat Village

The scenery was simply stunning, with every step offering a new and beautiful view. Here are some photos captured.

beautiful scenery in cat cat
waterfall in cat cat village.

After exploring the city, we made our way back to the heart of Hanoi, where I treated myself to a refreshing ice-cold beer at a local café – just what I needed after a day out. Later, we hopped into a tutu car to get back to our hotel for dinner.

These tutu cars are quite the experience; they can squeeze in about 9 to 10 people! The fare’s pretty reasonable too – it’s around 10,000 Vietnamese dong per person if your group has more than 5 people. But if it’s fewer, like less than 5, then it’s 20,000 dong each. It’s quite a bargain and a fun way to zip around the city, especially after a long, exciting day.

Overall for day 2, lots of walking which clocked more than 12,000 steps for that day.

Day 3 – Fansipan Mountain, Rong May Glass Bridge, Silver Waterfall and Sapa Minority Market

On the third day of our adventure, we set out early in the morning, heading towards the majestic Fansipan. The weather was cool and a bit wet, typical of the Sapa region, with a misty fog adding a mysterious charm to the landscape.

Despite the fog, the journey to Sunworld Fansipan Legend was surprisingly quick. Once there, we eagerly gathered our tickets, ready to explore what awaited us at this renowned attraction. The misty weather only seemed to enhance the mystical feel of the place, promising an unforgettable experience.

tickets to sunworld fansipan legend
Our tickets to Sunworld Fansipan Legend

Very foggy, unable to see the clear sky.

To the cable car ride

Cable Car Ride at Sunworld Fansipan Legend

The cable car ride at Sunworld Fansipan Legend is an experience like no other, offering an awe-inspiring journey through the clouds to the roof of Indochina. As we ascended in the cable car, the panoramic views of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range unfolded beneath us in a breathtaking spectacle.

The unique vantage point offered a view of lush valleys, terraced rice fields, and distant villages, all while gliding smoothly towards the summit of Fansipan. This cable car holds the record for the longest non-stop three-rope cable car, making the journey not just a scenic delight but also an engineering marvel. The combination of the serene natural beauty, the engineering feat, and the tranquil ride up through the misty clouds made this experience undeniably special and unforgettable.

Boarding the Cable Car & the view inside the Cable car

Boarding the Cable Car
view inside the Cable car

And here are some of the views from the cable car ride, as you can see the view is not very sky due to the weather.

Taking the stairs and tram up to the peak of Fanas

after the cable ride
after the cable ride

While we getting the ticket to take the tram to the peak of the mountain

We finally reached the peak of the mountain Fansipan- 3143 meters by the easiest way

Heading down to the cable car station by stairs for our next destination

Heading down to the cable car station for our next destination

Rong May Glass Bridge

The Rong May Glass Bridge in Sapa, Vietnam, offers a unique and thrilling experience that perfectly combines natural beauty with modern engineering. Suspended high above the lush, green valleys of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, this bridge is not just a feat of architectural ingenuity but also a gateway to some of the most breathtaking views in the region. What sets it apart is its transparent glass bottom, providing a heart-racing perspective of the vast expanse below.

Rong May Glass Bridge

Walking across this bridge feels like floating among the clouds, with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the deep valleys stretching beneath your feet. It’s a blend of adrenaline and awe, making it a must-visit for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike, offering a unique way to engage with the stunning landscape of Sapa.

Heaven Gate at O Quy Ho, Silver Waterfall

This remarkable natural landmark, one of the highest mountain passes in Vietnam, offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, making it a photographer’s paradise. Nearby, the Silver Waterfall cascades with a fierce beauty, its thundering waters creating a mesmerizing mist that dances in the sunlight.

Before heading up to 
Heaven Gate at O Quy Ho, Silver Waterfall

The combination of the Heaven Gate’s commanding views and the Silver Waterfall’s raw natural power creates an almost mystical experience, emblematic of Vietnam’s stunning and diverse natural beauty.

This area is not just a visual treat but also a testament to the majestic and untouched splendor of Vietnam’s landscapes, making it a must-visit for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

Our next destination is to Sapa Minority Market, near the city area of Sapa.

Sapa Minority Market

In the heart of Vietnam’s northern highlands, the Sapa Minority Market is a vibrant tapestry of culture and tradition. This bustling market is more than just a commercial hub; it’s a vivid showcase of the diverse ethnic communities that call Sapa their home.

Here, members of various minority groups, including the H’mong, Red Dao, and Tay, come together, each adding a splash of color with their traditional attire. The market brims with a variety of unique goods, from handcrafted textiles and intricate jewelry to locally grown produce and traditional medicinal herbs.

What truly sets the Sapa Minority Market apart is its authentic glimpse into the daily lives and artistic skills of these communities.

Sapa Minority Market

The air is filled with the sounds of bartering, the scent of exotic spices, and a sense of connection to ancient traditions, visiting this market an unforgettable experience that transcends mere shopping and delves deep into the heart of Vietnam’s rich cultural mosaic.

 Sapa Minority Market at night

Lastly, we ended the day the dinner before going back to the hotel.

Day 4 – Mousoleum, Water Puppet Show

Early in the morning, around 8 a.m., we began our journey back to Hanoi, filled with anticipation for the day ahead. Our first plan upon arriving in the city was to enjoy a local lunch, savoring the flavors of Hanoi as a welcome back.

After lunch, we were set to visit the iconic Ba Dinh Square, standing majestically outside the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, a place steeped in history and reverence.

Ba Dinh Square, outside of Mousoleum

Ba Dinh Square, an expansive and historically significant public space in Hanoi, is renowned as the site where President Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence in 1945. Dominating this solemn square is the imposing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, a grand structure that houses the embalmed remains of the revered leader.

This area, a blend of solemnity and grandeur, is a powerful symbol of Vietnamese national pride and history. The neatly manicured lawns and orderly rows of trees around the mausoleum add to the aura of respect and reverence that permeates the atmosphere, making it a must-visit site for anyone seeking to understand Vietnam’s complex and inspiring history.

One Pillar Pagoda

The One Pillar Pagoda, a historic Buddhist temple in Hanoi, is a unique architectural marvel and a symbol of the city’s rich cultural heritage. Perched on a single stone pillar, rising from a serene lotus pond, this iconic structure was originally built in 1049 under the reign of Emperor Ly Thai Tong.

lotus flower in One Pillar Pagoda

Resembling a lotus blossom – a symbol of purity in Buddhism – the pagoda is designed to appear as if it’s floating on the water. Despite its modest size, the One Pillar Pagoda holds immense significance in Vietnamese history and culture, attracting numerous visitors who come to admire its distinctive design and soak in its tranquil, spiritual atmosphere.

Interesting facts about one of the law of Karma taken in One Pillar Pagoda

interesting facts aboutlaw of karma in One Pillar Pagoda

St. Joseph Cathedral

St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi, a striking example of neo-Gothic architecture dating back to the late 19th century, stands as a testament to the city’s rich colonial history. Its towering façade, reminiscent of the famous Notre Dame de Paris, features twin bell towers and intricate stained glass windows, creating a captivating sight amidst the bustling streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi

This cathedral, not only a place of spiritual significance for the local Catholic community, also captivates visitors with its serene and solemn interior, adorned with religious icons and paintings, offering a peaceful retreat from the city’s vibrant energy.

Water Puppet Show

In Hanoi, the water puppet show is a mesmerizing experience, where traditional stories come to life on water. Seated in an intimate, dimly lit theater, we watched in awe as wooden puppets danced gracefully over the water, controlled by skilled puppeteers hidden behind a bamboo screen.

outside the water puppet show

The show was a symphony of folk music, colorful scenes, and intricate puppetry, depicting tales of rural life and ancient myths. It felt like stepping into a magical part of Vietnamese culture, where every movement of the puppets in the water narrated stories that have been passed down through generations.

inside the water puppet show building

Waiting for the show to start

Waiting for the water puppet show to start

The entire show is about 1 hour and there is English subtitles as well on the screen for those who do not understand Vietnamese.

After the show, we ended the day with our dinner and also hung around the streets in Hanoi.

Day 5 – Travel To Halong Bay

We’re on the move again, this time checking out of our hotel in Hanoi and setting our sights on Halong Bay for an overnight stay. The morning traffic in the city is quite the hustle – it’s bustling and heavy, typical of Hanoi’s lively rhythm.

on the way to halong bay

We’re in for a bit of a road trip; Halong Bay is about 160 kilometers away, meaning we have around 3.5 hours of travel ahead of us. The journey, though long, is a part of the adventure we’re embracing!

Another view

Halong Bay, with its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped with rainforests, was like stepping into a living postcard. As our boat weaved through this natural wonder, a UNESCO World Heritage site, I couldn’t help but be awestruck by the sheer beauty and tranquility of the place.

Here is the photo of when we arrived the pier or ferry terminal to board the small boat before onboard the cruise.

The cruise will be onboarding and stay for a night will be La Regina Classic

The occasional sight of local fishermen in their traditional boats added a touch of authenticity to the mesmerizing landscape. It was as if each turn brought a new, breathtaking view, making Halong Bay not just a highlight of our Vietnam trip, but an unforgettable experience that felt like a serene escape from the rest of the world.

mesmerizing landscape in halong bay

In short, here are the activities for the first day:

  1. Had our lunch on the cruise
  2. Visit Vung Vieng Floating Fishing Village with activities like Bamboo Boat or Kayaking
  3. Cooking Class – Deep Fried Spring Rolls
  4. Dinner
  5. Squid Fishing

Vung Vieng Floating Fishing Village

Nestled amidst the majestic limestone karsts of Halong Bay, Vung Vieng Floating Fishing Village is a hidden gem that offers a peek into a life that’s uniquely intertwined with the rhythms of the sea. This quaint and tranquil village, floating on the emerald waters, is not just a scenic spot but a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the local community.

rowing the bamboo boat

As you glide through the waters on a rowboat, you’re greeted with the sight of colorful floating houses, small boats tied alongside, and the warm, friendly smiles of the villagers. The charm of Vung Vieng lies in its simplicity and the timeless way of life it represents, largely untouched by the bustle of modern civilization.

fishing village at halong bay

It’s a place where the traditions of fishing and aquaculture are passed down through generations, offering visitors a rare glimpse into the authentic and enduring culture of Vietnam’s coastal communities.

Able to see the simple yet peaceful life of the fisherman

Able to see the peaceful life of the fisherman

Enjoy Kayking activites in Halong Bay

Enjoy Kayking activites in Halong Bay

Bamboo boat and kayking activities

Bamboo boat and kayking activities in halong bay

They also brought us to a place to showcase the pearls and understand different type of pearls and how they are extracted.

showcase the pearls in halong bay
pearls market in halong bay

Making Spring Rolls & Enjoy Coconut Wine

During the night before the dinner, the chef surprised us with a delightful invitation: a chance to try our hand at making one of Vietnam’s traditional dishes, the spring roll. It was an unexpected and thoroughly enjoyable experience, allowing us to dive hands-on into the rich tapestry of Vietnamese cuisine.

Next, the cruise manager added a delightful and educational twist to our journey. He shared fascinating insights into the history of the region, captivating us with stories that seemed to bring the bay’s past alive. But the highlight was his demonstration of coconut wine, a unique and intriguing aspect of local culture.

Night scenery

Squid Fishing

Finally, the last activity at around 8-9 pm was the squid fishing. Can see that the kids enjoy alot.

Day 6 – Halong Bay – Discover Thien Canh Son Cave and back to Hanoi

Our first morning activity was supposed to be an early Tai Chi session on the sun deck at 6:30 AM, but the rain had other plans for us. So, instead of starting our day with some relaxing exercises, we kicked it off with a light breakfast.

Morning view in halong bay

The weather might have put a damper on our original plan, but it certainly didn’t dampen our spirits. After breakfast, we were all set to head out and explore the Thien Canh Son Cave, eagerly anticipating the adventure that awaited us.

Thien Canh Son Cave

Thien Canh Son Cave, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Bai Tu Long Bay, is a place straight out of a fantasy novel. As we approached, I couldn’t help but be awestruck by the sheer beauty of its natural setting.

going up to Thien Canh Son Cave

The cave itself, with its mysterious and ethereal aura, promised an adventure that was both intriguing and exciting. Stepping inside felt like entering another world, a secret realm carved by nature’s own hands, where every stalactite and stalagmite told a story millions of years old.

stepping into Thien Canh Son Cave

This was more than just a visit; it was a journey into the heart of Earth’s natural artistry.

inside Thien Canh Son Cave
in the Thien Canh Son Cave

After the cave visit, we went back to the cruise and had our brunch before heading back to ferry terminal for Hanoi

back to halong bay terminal

The journey back to Hanoi is about 4 hours so after the dinner we roam around at the Old Quarter.

Day 7: Trang An

On Day 7, we got an early start from our hotel, The Light in Hanoi, right after breakfast. We wanted to beat the rush of the morning traffic, which can get pretty heavy in the city.

on the way to trang an

Our destination for the day was Trang An, a journey that, thankfully, wasn’t as long as our trips to Halong Bay or Sapa. If I had to guess, it took us less than 3 hours to get there. The anticipation of exploring Trang An’s scenic landscape made every minute of the journey worth it

The weather is perfect today – sunny with clear skies. We’re excited to embark on a boat trip that will take us through an awe-inspiring cave complex. Our adventure includes visits to the Sang Cave, Toi Cave, Ba Giot Cave, and Nau Ruou. I’m especially looking forward to the breathtaking views of the mountains and rivers as well. Here are some of the photos taken:

beautiful scenery before taking the boat

beautiful scenery before taking the boat

Taking the boat tour, I noticed there were a few different routes available and we took one of the routes. The entire boat tour is about 2 hours.

before taking the boat tour in trang an

Going into the first cave, as it indicates hang lam lam cave

hang lam lam cave

another cave – hang vang vang cave

another cave - hang vang vang cave

Nestled in the heart of Northern Vietnam, Trang An is a mesmerizing landscape that effortlessly captures the essence of natural beauty and serenity. As I set foot in this enchanting place, I’m immediately struck by its mystical aura – a tapestry of lush greenery, towering limestone karsts, and tranquil waters that seem to whisper ancient tales.

Trang An is not just a scenic retreat; it’s a journey back in time, where every corner holds a story and every turn presents a view that feels like a brushstroke on a natural canvas. It’s a place where the hustle of modern life fades into the background, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in the tranquility and majesty of nature.

Day 8: Back To Hanoi Airport

Before we headed back to Singapore, we decided to have our last breakfast near our hotel. XOFA Café caught our eye with its cozy and unique vibe, standing out invitingly among the local eateries.

The café’s cool and quirky exterior was a refreshing change and promised a delightful start to our day. It felt like the perfect spot to savor our final moments in Hanoi, enjoying both the food and the ambiance that had a character all its own.

Reached – Noi Bai International Airport

Noi Bai International Airport

Final Thoughts

In wrapping up, our 8-day adventure in Hanoi and its surroundings has been a rich tapestry of experiences, blending the charm of ancient traditions with the energy of modern life. Despite the whims of weather in Sapa, the journey was filled with warmth, discovery, and comfort, especially thanks to our pleasant stays at the Light and Azure hotels.

This trip to Vietnam has not just been a journey through places, but also a journey through a vibrant culture, leaving us with memories that we’ll cherish for a lifetime. As we pack our bags, we’re not just taking souvenirs, but stories and experiences that have deeply enriched our understanding and appreciation of this beautiful part of the world.

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