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Hanoi, Ninh Binh & Halong Bay, Vietnam (Sneak Peek)

Xin chào Vietnam!

Three years ago, I went Vietnam for the very first time and spent a week in Ho Chi Minh City alone. Although it was my maiden visit but this beautiful yet chaotic country was so fascinating and captivatingtremendously intrigued me to explore more. At that point of time, I always looking forward to visit the rest of Vietnam's cities such Danang, Hue, Hoi An and Hanoi.

Cut the long story short, I was lucky to grab the airfare to Hanoi last year within my limited budget from one of my favourite airlines, none other than AirAsia for as low as RM290 for return flight,. How could I ever resist this? One year passed in the blink of an eye and without realised here we are, landed in Hanoi, the capital city and second biggest city of Vietnam. 

Vietnam 01 - Hanoi
#1: Red Huc Bridge of Hoen Kien Lake  

Vietnam 02 - Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
#2: Thang Long Water Puppet Theater 

Admission Fee: 60,000 dong for normal seat and 100,000 for VIP seat
Schedule: Daily at 3.00 pm, 4.10pm, 5.20 pm, 6.30 pm and 8.00 pm

Initially, our plan was to go Sapa which takes about 9 hours by train but we changed our last minute plan to Ninh Binh, which only took two and half hours by train instead. In Ninh Binh, we're given a choice to visit either Tam Coc or Trang An, and so we decided to choose the latter one which is renowned for boat cave exploration. 

#3: Travel on their local train is what I always want to experience and now I had accomplished it

By Train:
From Hanoi to Ninh Binh: 79,000 dong for airconditioned soft seats and schedule at 6 am, 9 am, 1.10 pm, 7.30 pm, 8.10 pm and 10.00 pm
From Ninh Binh to Hanoi: 68,000 dong for airconditioned soft seats and schedule at 1.06 pm, 2.30 am, 3.21 am, 9.56 am, 1.14 pm and 5.27 pm

The journey from Hanoi to Ninh Binh takes about two and half hours. 

Vietnam 04 - Ninh Binh
#4: Trang An is also known as "Inland Halong Bay"

Last but not least, Hanoi trip is incomplete without a visit to one of New Seven Natural Wonders of the world, Halong Bay. We even signed up for the two days one night package where we got to experience the amazing and spectacular overnight cruise. Trust me, it's way better than Star Cruises which I experienced early of this year.  

Vietnam 03 - Halong Bay
#5: Junk boat along the Halong Bay

Vietnam 04 - Halong Bay Papaya Cruise
#6: Papaya Cruise booked from Agoda. Thanks to Jeff Chuah for recommended this

Of course, every trip of mine couldn't avoid with all these non-stop fun-packed gastronomic delight.

Vietnam 05 - Hanoi Food
#7: Banh Mi (the best baguette I ever had), Pho, fresh spring roll and legendary egg coffee 

Summary of My 6D5N Trip
Day 1: klia2 to Hanoi 
Day 2: Hanoi to Ninh Binh by train (US$12 for a single trip but it is advisable to purchase directly from train station as only charge 79,000 dong)
Day 3: Ninh Binh back to Hanoi (68,000 dong for one trip by train)
Day 4: Halong Bay cruise
Day 5: Back to Hanoi around 4.30 pm
Day 6: Goodbye Hanoi 

The exchange rate: US$1 = RM4.358 and 5,000 dong for RM1
We may not cover as many places as we want but still, travel independently is definitely way more fun than joining the organised tour operators. 
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Taiwan (2013) Day 4: Jiufen (九份), An Old Charming Township

Date Visited: 29th November 2013

Located not far away from Taipei, Jiufen (九份) is no longer a strange name for most of the visitors. Once a prosperous gold mining town, now it has becomes one of the most favourite destination to visit in Taiwan. Jiufen radiates its own rustic charm and deserves for another remarkable visit. I went before but the trip was short, fast, rush and hurry - that's the downside of joining organised tour group. 

For this time around, I decided to stay overnight at one of Jiufen's bed and breakfast - Sunny Room. Check my previous post on Minshu (民宿)  I Stayed in Taiwan

Sunny Room Jiufen 04
#1: The theme of our room - Dark Chocolate 
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Taiwan (2013) Day 3: To Shifen (十分) From Taichung

Date Visited: 28th November 2013

After spending three days two nights in Taichung, it's time to say goodbye and move forward to another destination, Shifen (十分) in Pingxi District. From Fengjia Business District, we took taxi to HSR Taichung Station and from there onwards, we took HSR train back to Taipei. Because we purchased the ticket directly from the counter instead of pre-booking, thus we unable to enjoy the early bird discount. The normal fare for a trip cost NT$765 and it takes less than an hour to reach Taipei station. 

Fengjia Business District
#1: Breakfast at our favourite 24 hours convenience store, none other than 7-Eleven

Summary of How To Get To Shifen From Taichung
1. Take HSR from HSR Taichung Station to Taipei Station (Normal fare NT$765; less than an hour journey)
2. Upon reaching Taipei station, make way to Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) to purchase  northbound train ticket to Ruifang Station (瑞芳) for NT$49 each.
3. Then from Ruifang Station, purchase One Day Pass at NT$54 for unlimited rides along the Pingxi Branch Line or a single trip at NT$20. 

Pingxi Railway Route: Sandiaoling >>> Dahua >>> Shifen >>> Wanggu >>> Lingjiao >>> Pingxi >>> Jingtong. 

Shifen Station 01
#2: Shifen Station 

Shifen is a quaint little town but rich in both culture and history. Besides being well-known for lighting up the sky lanterns, this old street is manicured with souvenir shops, grocery stores and restaurant on the both sides of the railway. It's my first ever trip here and I glad to make this trip far along together with my Boyfie to enjoy its nostalgic and relaxing ambiance. By travel independently, definitely both of us able to enjoy all these precious moment without any rush and hurry. 
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Taiwan (2013) Day 2: Travel from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake (日月潭)

Date Visited: 27th November 2013

Rise and shine from Taichung. Cause we stayed in cheap minshu with no breakfast provided, thus we went and looked in the immediate vicinity. There were only few food stalls available and majority occupied by the young students seeing that Fengjia University is just somewhere around the corner. We joined them by having quick and light meals such as sandwiches and milk tea before started to kick off the day. 

What To Do in Taichung?
Generally, there are plenty of things to do and see in Taichung. You can engage a local driver for a day tour with a standard charge of NT$3,000 (approx. to RM400) for a maximum of 4 people per vehicle. Most recommended places to visit are:
  • Lavender Cottage (Admission Fee: NT$200)
  • Rainbow Village 
  • Carton King Creativity Park (Admission Fee: NT$200)
  • Swiss Garden (Admission Fee: NT$120)
  • Cingjing Farm
But then, we decided not to engage any local driver but travel by our own instead for a day trip to Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County. Sun Moon Lake is largest lake in Taiwan and became one of the most popular tourist attractions among both local and foreign visitors. The journey from Taichung Train Station to Sun Moon Lakes takes about two hours by taking Nan Tou Bus. Hence, plan your journey earlier.

Taichung Railway Station
#1: Taichung Railway Station from far away 
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Fengjia Night Market (逢甲夜市) of Taichung, Taiwan

Date Visited: 21st December 2010 
26th & 27th November 2013
11th March 2015

Fengjia Night Market 01
#1: Splendid and bustling Fengjia Night Market (逢甲夜市)

Once is never enough. And this apply to Fengjia Night Market (逢甲夜市) in Taichung County which I went five years ago. With only an hour given by the organised travel agent to explore and venture this splendid and bustling night market, it was indeed short and rush visit. Couldn't enjoy as much as I want, hence I decided to go again for the second time. Turned out, I went back again for third times this year. Third time to Taiwan, third time to Fengjia Night Market (逢甲夜市). 

Night market in Taiwan is not mainly about shopping for trendy clothing, shoes, accessories and so on but what attract visitors to here is ultimately for street food hunting. Claimed to be the largest night market in Taiwan, there are wide selections of food and local snacks to enjoy in Fengjia Night Market. Most of the vendors start their business as early as 5 pm to as late as 1 am. Therefore when come to choosing where to stay in Taichung, I would prefer to stay nearby this market instead of nearby Taichung Railway Station.   
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Taiwan (2013) Day 1: From Taoyuan International Airport To Taichung

Date Visited: 26th November 2013

Five years ago, my family and I joined travel agent for our very first trip to Taiwan and honestly to say, it was awfully bad experience. It was last minute decision and plus, planning to travel independently may seems to be a little difficult for me cause there were not many travelogues relating to Taiwan back then. Therefore, I always looking forward to plan another trip to Taiwan and travel independently instead of following travel agent. And three years later, my mission has been accomplished with Boyfie and his best friend tagged along for this trip.

So far, there are only two airlines serve direct flight from Kota Kinabalu to Taipei, Taiwan; Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. Of course in terms of cost saving, we chosen AirAsia for this trip. 

Day 1 - 01 AirAsia KK To Taiwan
#1: Aerial view from my favorite window seat

We booked the earliest flight at 7.10 am and three hours 15 minutes later, finally we reach Taoyuan International Airport. It's the main getaway to Taipei and Northern Taiwan. From Taoyuan, it takes roughly an hour to reach Taipei and accessible by wide variety of public transportation.

Day 1 - 02 Taoyuan International Airport
#2: 你好 Taiwan! I'm back again to this sweet potato shaped country and also the homeland of Asus & HTC after three years. 
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