One of the great boons of Hanoi is the ease with which you can get out of town. In fact, the city can be overwhelming, and a weekend excursion can be a necessary antidote to the urban compression of Hanoi’s busy streets.
Halong Bay is one of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world. It’s the classic and most relaxing escape you can make from Hanoi—after the two-hour trip to Halong Bay, you can spend 2 or 3 days floating on pellucid green water surrounded by hundreds of craggy limestone islands rising precipitously into the sky. Dozens of tour operators in Hanoi can help you arrange a package that includes transportation to Halong Bay and two or more days on a houseboat out in the bay. Packages include food and drinks, and can be arranged for private trips or with groups. The houseboat crews are invariably friendly and safety-conscious, and if you have children they’ll love the environment, especially playing on the water and beaches you will discover.
Sapa is a hill station 370 km from Hanoi but worth the trek. The mountainous landscape is lush and gorgeous, and it’s home to many minority tribes. Local markets are full of tribal textiles and H’mong and Dao people dressed in clothes of myriad colorful embroidery. You can arrange train tickets yourself from the Hanoi train station, or book a trip with everything included from a tour operators. Children will love the open space, trees, and wild costumes of the local people.
Tam Dao is a quaint hill station that was established by the French as a place to retreat from the summer heat during colonial times. It’s only two hours from Hanoi by car or taxi, making it the perfect place for a quick escape. Several hotels are clustered at the center of town, and hiking trails and an old pagoda can be found in the surrounding hills. Most of the year accommodation is no problem, but book ahead in the summer months when the place fills up with local and expats. For Tam Dao transportation and hotel reservations try:
78 Ma May, Tel: 04 926 2828
Mai Chau, about 100 km from Hanoi, is a haven situated in a lush tribal valley where history, culture and nature converge. The Mai Chau Lodge is a luxurious resort offering “the ultimate in natural relaxation.” There’s gorgeous hiking to be had in the valley, as well as the cultural experience of Mai Chau’s minority tribes. At the resort, swimming pools and a variety of leisure facilities provide something for everyone, making it a great place to unwind from the pressures of Hanoi.
Hanoi Office of the Mai Chau Lodge:
6th floor, 94 Ma May Str, Hoan Kiem District, Tel.: 04 3926 3125
Tuan Chau is the perfect place for a beach break–it’s a tiny island off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea, with an international resort providing luxurious accommodation and service. Double rooms with sea view run from $75 to $125, with transportation arranged by the resort. Check this website for promotions, prices, and reservations: