From Hanoi to Ha Long Bay

By Evan McCurdy

In a search for a country where cheap beer is as ubiquitous as the beautiful landscapes, Jenna and I found ourselves heading to Northern Vietnam. Touching down in Hanoi marked my first time in Asia and I couldn’t have been more excited to navigate a city of seven million motorbikers. Our time spent in Hanoi was solely dedicated to drinking cold beer to survive the heat, and bouncing from one street food stand to the next, eating our way around the city.

There is something amazing about any city that can provide you with pho, noodles, bbq’ed skewers, and coffee within any given 100 foot radius. We spent days exploring the many lakes, night markets, coffee shops and temples of Hanoi. I also gained a new level of confidence in my ability to walk through intersections filled with hundreds of motorbikes, just assuming they will find a way to spare my life.

After eating a lifetimes worth of street food in just a few days, we hopped on an overnight train that took us further North into the mountains of Vietnam. We trekked through Sa’Pa’s rice fields and stayed with a local H’mong family. The next day we continued up towards a tiny village outside of Lao Cai, just along the Northern border of the country. We stayed with a local family for several days to explore the rural mountains, motorbike through rice fields, and eat traditional Vietnamese dinners with our host family.

We took a train back down to Hanoi and made our way out to the coast to see Ha Long Bay, known for its impressive rock formations. After hours of different ferrys and boat rides, we arrived at a floating fishing village in a remote region of the bay. The tradition of floating fishing villages goes back hundreds of years for families that live on Ha Long Bay. Every day we would kayak around the maze of islands, beaches, fisherman, and floating houses. At night, we came back to home cooked seafood, rice wine, and long games of Uno, the national pastime of Vietnam.

I have never felt more like Anthony Bourdain than I did during those two weeks in Vietnam.