While I enjoy Hanoi’s old world architecture and bustling city streets. Sometimes the crowd and constant noise of speeding cyclos can get tiring especially when one has to deal with the daily routines of urban life and work. A change of pace and a new environment is a welcome change to recharge and find solace in a hectic environment. Just an hour away from Hanoi is the province Vinh Phuc where the Flamingo Dai Lai Resort is located. I may not live in Hanoi, but as a tourist, I found this immense resort with well-maintained gardens, established pathways, scenic lakes, elegant villas and top-notch staff and ideal peaceful getaway near the city.
“Please don’t call it a junk! It doesn’t sound good. We call it a cruise ship!” our Vietnamese guide with a British accent, Duc, politely corrected me as I got accustomed to call those large wooden ships cruising Ha Long Bay as “junks” similar to what they call it in Hong Kong. From Halong Plaza Hotel, we were headed to the port for a Ha Long Bay day in this UNESCO Heritage site in the province of Quang Ninh, Vietnam. It is popularly known for its thousands limestone karst picturesquely dispersed on a bay off Ha Long City.
How about a panoramic view of one of Vietnam’s top attraction, the Ha Long Bay, either from the room window or a few steps away from its lobby doors? Halong Plaza Hotel, our home in Halong, Vietnam during our Cebu Pacific Air familiarization tour, has just that. This 4-star hotel is located at Bai Chay, Ha Long City near the Bai Chay bridge and fronting it is a small promenade where guest can have an unobstructed view of Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Six years is quite a long time to return to a place. Hanoi was such a favorite destination of mine back then. Yes I’ve treaded the streets of the Old Quarter before, went to an overnight cruise at Ha Long Bay and even enjoyed the misty coolness of Sapa Valley during my first visit in Northern Vietnam. But I don’t mind going back to see what has changed that’s why I didn’t think twice when an invite for a familiarization tour of Hanoi, organized by Cebu Pacific Air and Stratworks came in the email. There’s the certain comfort of stepping back into the familiar and also a certain anxiety to see how things have transitioned from now to then.
“A clever man can see the world from a cave much better than a stupid man can from the top of a mountain!”
I thought this shot has nothing spectacular in terms of composition, nor am I a fan of the multi-colored lights this Heavenly Palace Cave or locally known as Thien Cung Cave of Halong Bay has. The cave itself though, a huge chamber, with winding pathways really has impressive stalactites and stalagmites. What made me choose this photo of the Heavenly Palace Cave has more to do with Nikon D7100’s high ISO capabilities. I wasn’t able to bring my tripod inside the cave and had to rely on the camera’s high ISO to get steady shots. This photo I took hand-held is already at ISO 8063 (and extended ISO mode) and it still has very impressive detail.
2008 has been blessed with so many travels. I actually had a very very hard time deciding the best-of-the best on all the destinations visited on 2008. While each destination offers something unique on its own, each decision is based on my deep experience which characteristics resonates most on the place. So this ‘best-of’ is based on my personal opinion but feel free to share what you think. So here goes….
Here’s another summary from this year’s major travels, Backpacking Northern Vietnam. Northern Vietnam offers variety of scenic areas from the UNESCO heritage site of Ha Long Bay to the Old Charm of Hanoi’s Old Quarters and the wondrous treks in the highlands of Sapa Valley. Here’s our basic summary and some tips from this backpack travel.