Vietnam Day 1

We travelled from KL to Hanoi on an early morning AirAsia flight. Took us roughly three hours. The visa process is actually a two step process, the first part is you need to apply for an online e-visa application through any of the agency portals. We booked through It cost us $35 USD for my wife and i. Within 2-3 days you would get an e-confirmation on your visa grant which would allow you to travel to Vietnam. Once you land you walk to the visa counter and pay an additional $60 USD per person for the paper visa which is stuck on your passport. The multiple entry visa costs a bit higher. Since we were travelling domestic, we applied for the single entry. Our hotels and Halong bay tour was pre-booked. We were staying at the Hanoi LaSiesta in the old quarter. The price included stay for 2 nights at the hotel in Hanoi and another nights stay on the Paradise Luxury cruise at Halong Bay. I will cover that in the next post.

The Hanoi LaSiesta is in one of the busy streets in the old quarter but within a stones throw from the Hoan Kiem Lake and the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. The deal we got included tickets for the water puppet show, complimentary hot stone massage, airport transfers and also transfers to Halong bay. The hotel staff were extremely friendly and they took really good care of us. They were mindful of the little details such as leaving us a hand written note upon our return asking us if we enjoyed the trip. They gave us free laundry service as well as the mini bar was complimentary during our stay. What more could we ask for. If we ever plan another trip to Hanoi, this would definitely be the place we would stay at.

Since we reached early, our rooms were not going to be ready until lunch so we decided to freshen up in the lobby and then headed out to do a bit of sightseeing. We were warned well in advance of the faulty meters in the cabs. The hotel helped us with a legit cab to take us to the Temple of Literature. It was originally built as a university in 1070 dedicated to Confucius, scholars and sages, the building is extremely well preserved and is a superb example of traditional-style Vietnamese architecture. This ancient temple offers a lake of literature, the Well of Heavenly Clarity, turtle steles, pavilions, courtyards and passageways that were once used by royalty. Visiting the Temple of Literature you will discover historic buildings from the Ly and Tran dynasties in a revered place that has seen thousands of doctors’ graduate in what has now become a memorial to education and literature.

We took a cab onwards to the Hoa Lo Prison or “in”famously known as the the “Hilton Hanoi”. The prison’s displays focus on the sufferings of Vietnamese revolutionaries who were confined (and sometimes executed) here when the French were the masters of Vietnam in the early part of the 20th century. A stay in the Hanoi Hilton was no picnic. From day one, Hoa Lo was horrifically overcrowded – while its maximum capacity was 600 prisoners, over 2,000 were confined within its walls by 1954.

We returned to the hotel after the prison tour for a short nap. The early morning flight meant we had to cut short our sleep the previous night and my wife really loves her sleep and this meant she had to compensate by sleeping at noon 😉 After a good rest, we headed out to the Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake side was beautifully illuminated and the temple in the centre of the lake looked beautiful in shades of red. We walked along the lakeside to the Thang Long Puppet Theatre. We were greeted by a packed house. The traditional content of water puppet performance shows daily life of Vietnamese farmers such as cultivating, tending buffalo, catching fishes, etc. They also show entertainment such as a swimming contest or dragon dancing. The tickets usually sell out fast and its advisable to buy the tickets early. The performance is a must watch during ones trip to Hanoi.

Click on the links to see the detailed itinerary and images :
Day 2 & 3 : Hanoi – Halong Bay – Overnight on Paradise Cruises, Hanoi Night Market, Food Tour
Day 4 : Hanoi – Saigon – Notre Dame Basilica, Saigon Central Post Office, War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market
Day 5 : Cu Chi Tunnels – Ben Duoc, Saigon – KL