GETTING THERE: We flew into Hanoi via Vietnam Air from Siem Reap, and driver that we reserved in advance through our hotel. The airport transfer was $22 per trip for a 7-person vehicle. You can also take a bus to old quarter near Hoan Kiem Lake (bus #17) or to western Hanoi near the historical centre (bus #7).
WHERE TO SLEEP: We stayed at the beautiful Meracus Hotel 2 near the historical centre. There is a Meracus Hotel 1 which is older, cheaper and smaller, but we needed a larger room since we had 4 people. We reserved the ‘Family Triple Room,’ with an extra bed for a total of $87/night including breakfast, service charges and VAT. You can book via email: email@example.com, Skype: sales.meracus2, or phone: +84 977 866 724. http://meracushotels.com/me2/
VISA REQUIRED: Vietnam requires a visa which you can obtain through pre-approval here https://www.vietnam-evisa.org/visa-fee.html. The cost for a single entry 30 day tourist visa is $44 total. First, you pay $19 online for the approval letter, and another $25 in-person for stamping fee). You must have $25 in-person upon arrival as you will have no access to an ATM, nor your checked baggage. The line was rather long with frustrated people scrambling for ways to get the cash, so beware. Muti-day, longer period of entry, and rush services are available for extra cost.
CRUISE THROUGH BAI TU LONG BAY / HA LONG BAY: We booked a 3-day, 2-night junk boat cruise through the less touristy part of Ha Long Bay via the Dragon’s Pearl junk boat cruise. The cost for 2 bedrooms for a total of 4 people was $315/per person of which $100/per person is a refundable deposit. We also chose to add $110/per person for the Yen Duc Village tour. All of this can be paid for online. They picked us up from Meracus at 7:40am and we arrived about 4 hours later at 12pm at Hong Gai International Harbor. http://www.indochina-Junk.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
TO DO: Kayaking through caves, laying out on the sun deck, jumping off the top of the boat, canon balling of the deck, swimming, playing on the beaches, dinner in a cave, visiting a floating village, and the pearl farm village with gift shop.