Hanoi & Ha Long Bay

We visited southeast Asia in September and October.  Other than a brush with a typhoon in Hanoi, the weather was superb.  This itinerary used Hong Kong as the gateway city with a series of one-way flights from Hong Kong to Hanoi to Luang Prabang to Siem Reap and then back to Hong Kong.

Day 1: Hong Hong

Our Delta flight arrived at 9 p.m. in Hong Kong.  By 10:30, we were checked into the Ritz Carlton, the highest hotel in the world. We went upstairs to briefly people watch at the outdoor bar on the 102ndfloor before returning to room and falling asleep.


View from Our Room

Day 2: Hanoi

We had a leisurely breakfast in the hotel’s club and did a little shopping before heading to the airport for our flight to Hanoi.  It left at 2:30, arriving in Hanoi at 3:30.  The Metropole Hotel picked us up in their 7-series BMW (worth the extra charge) and by 5 p.m. we were sitting outside at the Metropole’s La Terrasse bar.

After an early dinner at La Terrasse, we walked along the lake to the Water Puppet Theater for the 6:30 p.m., hour-long show.  This is a traditional form of entertainment that tells various myths using puppets that are manipulated under the water.

The Water Puppet Theater is a very popular venue, and tickets should be arranged through your hotel well in advance.

We had a private guide (arranged through the Metropole concierge) meet us after the puppet show. He took us on a three-hour walking tour of the Hanoi night markets, explaining the history of various locations in the Old Town.


Scenes from the Hanoi Night Market

The tour concluded with him returning us back to the Metropole.  We had a night cap at the Metropole bar, where a jazz band was playing.

Day 3: Ha Long Bay

The star attraction of the Hanoi area is Ha Long Bay, a bay of hundreds of tall islands that create mazes of waterways.  We departed in the Metropole’s cushy BMW at 8 a.m. (once again, a worthy splurge).  On the way to Ha Long Bay we stopped at a pearl farm and an arts and crafts center. Both are primarily souvenir shops but offer the additional opportunity of seeing how they are made. The Metropole concierge had arranged for us a private charter of a traditional boat named the L’azalee.


With the L’azalee

The L’azalee cruised through the hundreds of islands, offering spectacular scenery. The first stop was an island with a large cave.  We disembarked and hiked through its caverns.


The second stop was a secluded cove, where we anchored while the crew cooked us lunch.


We arrived back at the Metropole around 7 p.m.  After freshening up, we enjoyed dinner outdoors at the Metropole’s Spices Garden restaurant.  The dinner was excellent.

Day 4: Continue on to Luang Prabang, Laos

We had a white knuckle flight from Hanoi to Luang Prabang—compliments of a typhoon making landfall that day to the southeast of Hanoi.  We sat on the runway for an hour as winds shook our ATR turboprop.  When the weather broke, it took off and then bounced violently through the outer bands of the typhoon before getting out of the system.

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