On our tour to Hanoi earlier this year, we booked a day trip to visit the more touristy area at Trang An and Bai Dinh Pagoda.
These day trips can be booked while you’re at Hanoi via various agencies, or you can do it online and have everything arranged ahead of time. We did the latter, and sure enough on the day of travel, our tour guide appeared at the lobby of our hotel at 7 in the morning to pick us up.
The small tour bus then rounded up the rest of the visitors before heading to our first destination – Bai Dinh Pagoda. It was a journey of about 100 km that takes some two hours. The transportation infrastructure at Hanoi isn’t exactly superb, but at least it was paved roads all the way.
After stopping at the front gate, you have to purchase an “electric car” ticket to get to the actual pagoda/temple area, so we did just that, hopped on the extended cab golf cart, and went on our merry way.
The temple complex was huge. The main area houses some pretty impressive Buddha statues wrapped in gold, and there’s even a 22 meter giant bell tower that’s said to be the biggest in Vietnam. Unfortunately you don’t get to bang the bell though.
Additionally, there’s also this super long corridor (longest in Vietnam) that has various stone statues of Buddha’s students along the way.
All in all, this portion of the tour made for a good morning walk, and luckily the late winter temperature of 20 Celsius was quite conducive for such exercise.
After Bai Dinh, we stopped by for a somewhat forgettable buffet lunch before heading to the second half of the tour package – the river boat tour at Trang An.
While Halong Bay gets a lot of publicity and tourists for its beautiful scenery and rock formation, Trang An is often touted as the Halong Bay of land, so instead of out in the sea, you get a very similar view inland, and instead of big cruise ships, you get to be on a small boat.
The advantage of being on a small boat is that you do get a lot closer to the nature than being on a cruise ship with way too many other tourists. The boats can take up to 4 person each, and usually paddled by a local lady, resulting in a very quiet and serene tour that I thought was very soothing. You’re also welcomed to help paddle the boat along.
Other than the beautiful landscape, there’s also Kong’s island to check out, which is actually whatever that was left over of the movie set for Kong – Skull Island movie that was released in 2017. I thought it was quite cool actually, they even have some locals who play dressed up that you can take photos with, and nope, I did not participate in those kinda stuff.
Overall it was a pretty decent day of tour, we got back to the city by evening, and I would recommend anyone who is planning a trip to Hanoi to check it out.