The best day trips from Hanoi; a new Journey Count series.
-because everyone needs a bit of daily adventure.
Hanoi is a lot of fun but we believe that you never fully understand a place until you get rural, so with Oli’s $350 motorbike we’ll be taking as many trips out of the city as we can to explore all that Northern Vietnam has to offer. From the little research we have done it seems that there are some fantastic gems just a few hours from Hanoi, so we’ll be focusing on day trips and overnighters. We’ll then venture further afield when we have friends and family come to visit (which is literally this week with Oli’s parents arriving on Thursday!).
And what an incredible day trip Chua Tram was.
Our day trip crew consisted of myself, two expat friends and a friend of theirs whose last day it was in Vietnam, which made the trip that bit more special.
With Oli’s parents coming to visit, and him picking up some new exciting web design clients, Oli sadly sat this one out to stay behind and work.
Our destination? The favourite day trip spot of another friend who quite literally travels Vietnam for a living… It was destined to be epic.
Chua Tram is just under 30kms from Hanoi along the QL6 and in one hour of riding, plus a right hand turn or two, you’ll find yourself approaching a lonely, rocky outcrop surrounded by small villages and farmland.
Stone masons hug the hillside, advertising intricate shrines and an array of Uncle Ho statues ready for proud display, and a lovely old gentleman (who enjoys a good handshake) will be on site to usher you into the car park.
Just like in Ba Vi and Ninh Binh, the place was wonderfully empty (these Sunday-Tuesday weekends are pretty great!). We approached the entrance of the first cave, dramatically dark beside the sun-filled temple complex, and stood in excited silence as our eyes adjusted to the dim.
The cave was much larger than I had imagined and statues lined the walls leading through to a beautiful shrine, lit by soft lights, candles and shimmering beams of sunlight.
The care put into these shrines, in temples, on street corners and in caves such as this, always amaze me. The fresh flowers and the fruit offerings and the smoking sticks of pink incense.
We wandered around, Jay climbed up into the ‘rafters’ and caused my favourite mood-lit picture of the day, and we found some not-so-hidden passages deeper into the caves.
We never found out much about the rooms inside the cave- when they were built or what purpose they served -but they were fascinating nonetheless and we had a lot of fun climbing through them, all alone like the discoverers we wish we were.
A lot of references to The Hobbit were made and it was especially fun when a local teenager found us and began shrieking and scampering through the tunnels.
He then showed us a path up to the rocky peak, and that was unexpected and amazing too.
We could see a smoggy outline of Hanoi from the top and the peak itself stretched out beautifully in all directions, small but littered with hiking trails and climbable rocks.
We stayed until our hunger defeated us and took awkward and adorable group pictures.
There wasn’t too much around but we managed to find an open Bia Hoi (left for a km or two from Chua Tram) in which we ate some seriously good com rang and toasted our incredibly successful escape into nature.
Chua Tram was the perfect day trip from Hanoi and I cannot wait to go back with Oli and hike every inch of that beautiful hilltop. Next time, we won’t forget to bring snacks.
So, where have you been day-tripping lately?