There’s a buzz of excitement in the air as we prepare to board SQ176 to Hanoi, fresh off an amazing 6 nights in Paris. We’ve walked through Changi Airport many times but this transit is made extra special as we start the second leg of our #squadSQ adventure. We settle into our seats, pop on a movie and eagerly await the meal service. In three and a half short hours, we’re touching down at Noi Bai International Airport and making our way into Hanoi, the heart of Vietnam.
We’re whisked away in the comfort and luxury of a brand-new Jaguar, pulling up to the Intercontinental Landmark 72 feeling like a couple of bosses! As we step inside the junior suite, our jaws drop. The room is absolutely huge, complete with its own entry-way, living room, two bathrooms, a huge bed and the best views of Hanoi either of us has ever seen.
After a quick freshen up we’re out the door and onto the streets of Hanoi’s French Quarter to meet our tour guide. We’re greeted with a big smile and a sudden torrential downpour of rain! Refusing to miss out, we pull on our ponchos, climb onto the back of two vintage vespas and set off through the streets of Hanoi.
Our tour guide is amazing, taking us to visit local markets, a B52 wreckage, stunning pagodas and St Joseph’s Cathedral. Energised by an amazing first day, we decide to cap the night off with dinner and drinks at the Diamond Sky Bar, an evening perfectly accompanied by the bar’s iconic 90’s hits playlist, featuring a stirring rendition of Careless Whisper.
We wake the next morning to find the rain has settled in, dark clouds looming in the distance. But there’s no way we’re letting the storms ruin our adventures or our appetites because it’s Matt’s birthday and the perfect day to get our feast on. Linking up with another scooter tour we spend the entire day feasting on some of Hanoi’s very best bites including the very same Bun Cha enjoyed by Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain.
With a tropical storm sweeping along the coast, our plans to visit Ha Long Bay are put on ice and we venture south to Ninh Binh for a day trip. Our guide promises us it is, ‘The Ha Long Bay on land.’ We are both sceptical but curious. Turns out, he is right! After riding bicycles through rice paddies, befriending three water buffalo and taking part in a cooking class we find ourselves on a boat tour.
Four of us sit inside the row boat, expertly steered by a local woman. Jagged cliffs tower all around us, bouncing their reflections off the bright emerald water. We pass through tight caves, scrunching down to avoid scraping the top and pausing at three different islands to take in the awe-inspiring temples and villages.
As we rise on our last day we’re treated to blue sky and sunshine, our signal to get out and onto the streets for a final day of sightseeing. We visit the Temple of Literature, Imperial Citadel, Ngoc Sun Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake and wander through the streets of the Old Quarter, ending the day with ice-cold beers and a spot of people-watching.
At Noi Bai International Airport, as we wait to board SQ175 bound for Singapore, I realise the wild weather of this past week has been a reminder that each adventure is what you make of it. We can spend a lifetime making plans, waiting for the perfect time to go or we can just jump right in and make every moment count, come what may.
Check back soon to follow the squadSQ adventures from the beginning.