I admit it’s only my 3rd solo backpacking experience and I chose to travel in Hanoi, Vietnam mainly because it’s for my birth month and it’s just 3 hour trip away from my home country which is the Philippines. My first solo backpacking trip was in Bantayan Island, Cebu, Philippines last May 2015 and then followed by Melbourne/Adelaide/Sydney/Canberra Australia last April 2016.

At first, I was hesitant to push through with this trip because Vietnam is not an English speaking country and I was traveling alone. I was afraid I could be lost or will be ripped off along the way but good thing I have a very close friend Deanna, a certified digital nomad and a jet-setter, who inspired me to do it. Check out her blog here. She’s been to Hanoi and she likes the place, food, people, and culture very much. So there, I booked my return flight 3 months before my trip so I could get a cheaper airfare. I prepared for it and read a lot of travel blogs and viewed several YouTube videos. Unlike with my friend who just went for a Hanoi City Tour, I chose to explore Ha Long Bay instead which is recognized as UNESCO World Heritage. The bay presents countless limestone islands in different shapes and sizes.

Below was my itinerary for my 5-Day Birthday Trip. I traveled August 2016. Note that for every Philippine Peso (Php) 1 is equivalent to Vietnam Dong (VND) 480.160 . For easier computation I’ll give you an example, if the price of the goods or services let’s say Taxi Ride worth VND 200,000, just remove the last three zeros and multiply the remaining numbers by 2, so with the given example, VND 200,000 will yield an approximate amount of Php 400. Easy!

Day 1 (August 12)   

  •  Arrival at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam
  •  Went straight to Long Bien Bus Station via taxi. Shared the taxi ride with a solo traveler who’s also going to the City. I paid half of the fare only VND 200,000.
  •  Booked a bus trip going to Hai Phong Terminal which costs VND 75,000
  •  Did a car pool along with 3 British travelers. We were actually on the same bus and asked them politely if I could join them going to Cat Ba Town. I paid VND 50,000 instead of VND 200,000
  • Booked a Boat Trip to Cat Ba Town for VND 200,000
  •  Arrived in Cat Ba Town around 1:00 PM and went straight to Cat Ba Ventures, a travel tour agency, to book my boat trip to Lan Ha Bay and Ha Long Bay the next day. I paid USD 26.
  • Checked in at Mr. Zoom’s Backpacker hostel for USD 5 per day. I stayed there for 5 days
  • Strolled around Cat Ba town, very peaceful and laid back town.

Day 2 (August 13)

  • Arrived at the meeting place 8 AM. We were 22 travelers and most of them are Europeans. I was the only Filipino there.
  • Explored Lan Ha Bay first then Halong Bay. I’m glad that we were guided by an English Speaking  Vietnamese who was very enthusiastic and passionate with his job.
  • We did kayaking and swimming activities. We had a sumptuous lunch mostly sea food paired with cold beers and sodas.
  • The tour was finished at around 6pm.
  • Dinner and Cocktails with my newly found British friends.

Day 3 (August 14)

  •  Swimming at the nearby beach coves. 10 minute walk from hostel.

Day 4(August 15)

  •  Rock climbing and hiking at Cat Ba Cannon Fort with my Spanish hostel mate.

Day 5(August 16)

  •  Trip to Hanoi for a quick city tour

Day 6(August 17)

  • Bound to Manila, Philippines at 1:15 AM