After a peaceful sleep 😴, we got up and got ready for our trip to Bai Dinh and Trang An. Bai Dinh is the largest Pagoda in Vietnam. Trang An is a beautiful cave complex with stunning vistas and scenery. We booked via Klook. I can’t recommend Klook enough, I have always compared the rates with the rates offered by the local vendors/hostels and Klook doesn’t just undercut them but also guarantees a good service.
Tour link – Majestic Trang An Klook
On booking the tour, you will receive an email confirmation and someone from the team will get in touch with you on either your number or WhatsApp giving you the approx. pickup time and location for the next day.
Please ensure that you enter your mobile no, hostel address & emails correctly for a hassle free experience.
Tip – Even when booking on Klook, check the tour ratings first. I have done more than 20-30 tours/activities with them and not once had a complaint.
Bai Dinh and Trang An
Depending on your hostel/hotel location you might either be picked up from your location or asked to meet at a particular location. In our case, we were asked to meet at Opera House, Hanoi at 8:30 AM. We had a quick breakfast at the hostel and left at 8:00 AM. The hostel is VFM (value for money), you can read the full review here – Buffalo Hostel, Hanoi Review.
After reaching Opera house, I texted the tour guide that we had reached. Since the bus still had 15-20 mins to arrive we did some photography. Once the bus arrived, we quickly set off south to visit Bai Dinh Pagoda. Our guide Jerry was an amazing personality. He was super very friendly and patient. He did his to keep everyone happy and cheerful by cracking jokes and ensuring everyone had a good time.
Stop at the souvenir shop
As with almost all tours whether local/private a stop to the souvenir shop is mandatory. I believe there is nothing wrong in promoting local talent and craftsmanship. We had fun going around the souvenir shop but did not buy anything as such, because I like to travel light and generally keep my shopping to the last few days unless there is a kind of souvenir that I won’t in other parts of the country.
Bai Dinh Pagoda
Bai Dinh Pagoda is the largest pagoda in Vietnam and one of the biggest in South East Asia. The complex is huge and we were explained in detail by the guide about some of the significant events that took place and how Buddhism flourished in the country.
At the entrance you have to pay 60000 VND/person for the electric bus to take you to the main entrance of the complex. You can walk as well but won’t recommend it, as it does get hot and its not a short distance by any means. The main entrance will give you an idea about the sheer size of this complex.
Most of the important information given by the guide is lost to me now. Since the temple complex is huge and it wasn’t crowded, you can feel a sense of calm and serenity throughout the complex. We visited various sections of the complex like the main temple, bell tower etc.
After the complex visit, we headed straight for lunch. It was a regular lunch buffet with more focus on variety than taste. Lots of dishes, but we feasted on the fried spring rolls and some soup. Drinks were extra.
Trang An – Boat Ride
After the lunch, it was time to move to the highlight of the trip – Trang An. Trang An is a UNESCO heritage site and rightly so. The Trang An Landscape Complex is a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, many of them partly submerged and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. The property also contains temples, pagodas, paddy-fields and small villages. It’s beauty is difficult to explain in words, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking here.
Tip – Carry an umbrella/cap & sunglasses.
There are 3 different routes and all of them have varying duration and price. We went on Route 3, that covered 3 caves and 3 temples which I think is a good enough time to cover the complex. We also rowed for some time and had a good time. It’s actually a very labor intensive job and hats off to the rowers (almost 80% of these were women). Kudos!!!
Point to be noted, my lord!!
The only thing I didn’t like was that the boat lady asked us to fill a feedback form just 5 mins before the end of the trip, which had a question if the boat lady asked for tips. All of us answered NO to it because she hadn’t. However, as soon as we returned the form she asked us for the tip. We did tip the lady 50000 VND just as we had planned.
We understand that it’s a hard job and we were going to tip her anyways, but this behaviour made me feel tricked. The feedback form is a good measure by the government to ensure that tourists are not troubled. I would encourage you to answer the tip question with a YES even if you have not been asked for the tip yet, because eventually they will.
After that we came to the bus and headed back to Hanoi. We reached approx. 7PM and this time I asked our guide Jerry to drop us somewhere near our hostel (to which he gladly obliged). I really regretted that I couldn’t tip Jerry. He was a young jovial guy and he had really kept us all happy throughout the trip. However, I had only 100$ bills with me and no one in the bus had any change. With a heavy heart, I could just give Jerry a hug.
But if any of you guys do meet Jerry, specially from India; tip him on my behalf. I’ll gladly Paytm/Gpay you the money.
Back at the Buffalo hostel
Once back at the hostel, the free beer option was available. We again met a lot of wonderful people including an American doctor who had met her Italian husband at Hanoi 15 years back. I also met a very kind British girl, who helped us get some extra refills post the cut off time of 8 PM.
We decided to eat in the hostel itself and had a very cheesy pizza and a burger. As per the plan, Day 3 was meant for Halong Bay cruise. Klook had a lot of good Halong Bay cruises, but we were specifically looking for just a day cruise. And all day cruises on Klook had a catch – They were 4 hour cruises (half-day).
Basically these are full day tours from Hanoi but the amount of time, you actually spend in Halong Bay is only 4 hours (12-4PM). Remaining time is spend traveling. We wanted to go for a 6 hour cruise which included the sunset. (This cruise lasts from 12PM-6PM). So I visited local tourist office right outside the hostel and they gave us an amazing deal of 35$/person which included pickup from Hanoi, 6 hours on the boat with lunch, sunset snacks & drop back to Hanoi). As the pickup time next day was 7:30 AM, we cancelled the pub-crawl plans.