a travel journal by Guillermo Torres


We arrived in Hanoi from San Francisco and were immediately struck by it's chaotic streets. But once you start getting used to the swarms of Motorcycles and their incessant honking, you start peeling away the chaos and start realizing that it is actually a very intimate, laid back city. People are happy to sit for a while drinking coffee on the sidewalk or eating some delicious street food. Other than eating, I enjoyed walking around the lakes the most. Particularly Truc Bach Lake.


I have always loved vietnamese food. Which is why it had been a dream of mine to go to Hanoi and have some real street food, and oh how I indulged!! I pretty much ate a bowl of Pho every day. The first one was the most memorable of course. When we first arrived Caley and I woke up and headed straight to the market to explore the street food and have some Pho for Breakfast. As you can see from the picture bellow, I was not dissapointed.

During my stay in vietnam we would walk, see something intersting on the street and ask myself "Is my belly full? Have I tried it? Are other people eating it?", then I put it in my mouth. Most of the time I would figure what they were, like the delicious Bánh bao, other times we had to go online and find out what betel leaf was.

The most memorable meal we had in Hanoi was at State Run Food Shop No. 37. In Truc Bach Lake, this restaurant tries to evoke the communist history of Vietnam when you had to order food with ration coupons. Normally I tend to shy away from themed restaurants, but this place was done very well and the food was really intersting.

We ordered frog legs and snails, because I thought it would be the right time to be adventurous. Then ordered the fried crab to have a safe dish, just in case. The surprise was that we had orderd crabs (plural), tiny crunchy crabs that farmers get from the rice fields.


We took an overnight train to Sapa, a mountain town surrounded by villages of ethnic minority tribes perched opposit of Fan Si Pan, Vietnam's highest peak. We walked around these villages for a couple of days, exploring their craft and enjoying some nice hikes.

The town itself is not much too look at, other than the scenery. But the villages are beautiful. If I were to do it again I would try to do a home stay in one of the villages. There are a lot of activities to do in this town, most of which can be book right then. Or you can explore it by yourself.


The most impressive part of Halong Bay is how big it is, with 1,600 islands and islets it is a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. You only realize how big it is if you take the 2 night tour which takes you to Cat Ba island and a smaller bay with less traffic. Halong Bay proper is beautiful, but it is also overcrowded and with tons of trash. It was hard to take a nice picture without it.

The tour took us to Halong Bay proper first with most of the junk boats. We went to a beautiful, though overcrowded, cave as well as a beach. In the afternoon we went kayaking to a cove that had a few monkeys. After that we docked in Halong Bay where we slept.

The next day we sailed to Cat Ba island, just getting there was amazing. You really get a feel for how massive this place is. Most people just get to see the main part of Halong Bay, which is rather small. Once in Cat Ba Island where we had a wonderful hike.

Monkey Island

We had decided at this point to abort the tour and keep going on our own. We are not tour people and were getting fed up with the pushy tour guide. We asked to be dropped at Monkey Island instead of sleeping on Cat Ba island with the rest of the group. Great decision! As soon as we hit the island and we left the tour behind, we felt so relaxed. The resort and the island itself are really beautiful, the food was excellent and so was the service. We kayaked around the island and the next day explored the fishing village close by. The island sat on the edge of the archipelago, which meant that the water seemed clean enough to swim. We ended up staying one extra night there. Finding our way back to Hanoi was easy enough.