Trip to Hai Phong: what to explore, what to eat, how to get there…


The northern port city of Hai Phong is home to a well-preserved “French Quarter”, a UNESCO-recognized biosphere reserve, beaches, caves and exceptional cuisine.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Hai Phong enjoys a subtropical climate typical of northern Vietnam: hot and humid with heavy rains in summer, dry and cold in winter.

The best time to visit the city is from March to April and from September to October, when exploring its historical remains can be combined with outdoor recreation at the beach and boat trips.

Between July and August, thunderstorms and rain are likely, but this allows visitors to see the place in a whole new light.

WHAT TO EXPLORE

In 1888, the President of the French Third Republic, Sadi Carnot, issued a decree to establish Hai Phong and began construction of a series of major buildings over an area of ​​seven hectares from Long Lake Bridge to Tran Street. Hung Dao as it is known today.

This story gives the city its great highlight in modern history, the “French Quarter” with rows of colonial houses more than a century old.

The Hai Phong Opera House is a top attraction. All the materials for its construction were brought from France and its work supervised by French architects.

The Opera brought together the elite crowd – French civil servants and wealthy locals – who could afford tickets to performances featuring famous troupes from France as well as widely recognized local talent.

Inside the Hai Phong Opera House. Photo of Le Tan

In the main performance hall, Hai Phong Opera House offers seating for 300 patrons on two floors. Its plush chairs with red cushions make the gold trim shine. The high domed ceiling adds to its grandeur.

A few steps from the Opera is Kim Dong Park, which has at its heart a multi-roofed building built in 1942 by the French. Today, it serves as the Hong Bang District Public Library.

Hai Phong is also one of the main railway stations in the north of the country, and a train ride from Hanoi to Hai Phong makes for a memorable journey.

The city also has the first local museum established in the country and is a must-visit destination for all visitors.

Built in 1919 on a one-hectare estate covered with century-old trees, the museum houses an impressive collection of local historical objects that trace the heritage of the region as well as a selection of precious stones, traditional objects and photographs. old.

Haiphong Museum. Photo of Le Tan

As part of the city tour around the “French Quarter”, a flower market on the eastern shore of Tam Bac Lake adds to the city’s considerable charms.

The flower market has five splendid vaulted-roof kiosks built in 1941 by the French to buy fresh flowers.

Also, a short walk from the lake is a massive bronze statue of wife General Le Chan, a Vietnamese hero and founder of Hai Phong.

The Hang Pagoda in Le Chan district, which is over 1,000 years old, is one of the most important Buddhist centers in the country.

About 22 kilometers from downtown Hai Phong is the Do Son Beachwhich is also home to Vietnam’s first legal casino.

What was once a popular resort for the French is now a popular weekend retreat, especially for Hanoi sun-seekers.

An ancient clay tower and a Buddhist temple on Ngoc Son Mountain are other attractions in Do Son, as is a buffalo fighting festival in September or October.

The very scenic Cat Ba Archipelago, adjacent to the Ha Long Bay World Heritage Site, has 367 islands, of which Cat Ba is the largest. A cruise tour of this place with its limestone karst mountains rising from the turquoise waters is not to be missed.

A corner of the Cat Ba archipelago in Hai Phong. Photo by Giang Chinh

At Cai Beo wharf, after purchasing entrance tickets that cost 30,000 VND ($1.27) per person, visitors can take a boat or canoe to Lan Ha Bay, located east of Cat Ba Island.

The price for renting a private boat is 2.2 to 3.8 million VND for a four-hour trip and 5.7 million VND for a six-hour trip. Each boat can carry up to 25 passengers.

A motor boat cruise costs 500,000 VND – 1 million for a group of 5-10 passengers.

An advantageous option is the combined packages at 200,000 – 350,000 VND per person, including lunch. The itinerary includes Lan Ha Bay and Cai Beo fishing village, scuba diving service and freestyle kayaking.

The The village of Cai Beo is considered the oldest of its kind in Vietnam and considered a living museum of Vietnamese fishing culture.

The floating village, with around 300 households, consists of dozens of houses that float on clear green waters.

The fishing village of Cai Beo includes dozens of houses that float on green and clear waters. Photo by Pham Huy Trung

Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay includes the thrill of traversing the light and dark caves lining Ha Long Bay.

A trek to Cat Ba National Parkrecognized as a world biosphere reserve, is a very enriching experience.

The Kim Giao – Ngu Lam trail is the most popular route which takes about an hour to reach the top.

Kim Giao is 300 meters high with rows of stone benches serving as a resting place before continuing to Ngu Lam, which is 700 meters further up. At the top of Ngu Lam, 220 meters high, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the mountainous landscape from an observation tower. It is also a great place for lunch.

For this two-hour hike, visitors must bring their own food and water as there are no shops along the route.

As the economic hub of the northern region home to several international tech giants, Hai Phong has developed a nightlife that finds favorable mention among foreign visitors.

Some popular beer bars and clubs in Hai Phong are Play House Bar, Fleur d’Or Maison Bar, King Disco, Peerage Bar, Lucky Pub and Zozo BBQ Grill Bar.

The Tam Bac pedestrian street along the banks of the eponymous river with its street food stands, bia hoi and entertainment venues is a great place to hang out at night.

WHERE TO STAY

In downtown Hai Phong, luxury hotels like Hotel Nikko, Mercure Hai Phong and Vinpearl Hotel Imperia are located near popular tourist attractions with rates ranging from 1.2 to 2.5 million from VND ($50.72 to $105.66) a night.

Vinpearl Hotel Imperia in Hai Phong is seen from above. Photo courtesy of the hotel

More affordable options are Vinhomes and Hoang Huy or Dreamland – Chihouse, Vancao Green Homestay with prices starting from 250,000 VND per night.

Hai Phong has several high-end resorts along pristine beaches, mainly in Cat Ba.

Flamingo Cat Ba Beach Resort, Hotel Perle d’Orient Cat Ba – MGallery, Nam Cat Island Resort CatbaBay and Monkey Island Resort offer luxurious living at VND1-2 million per night.

WHAT TO EAT

Hai Phong is a land of culinary gems that local authorities have highlighted by launching several food tours.

People familiar with Vietnamese cuisine will immediately identify “banh da cua” as a specialty of Hai Phong. The flat brown noodle dish cooked with crab meat, shrimp, pork meatballs, pork wrapped in the batch (piper lolot leaves), morning glory, green onions and other vegetables have a nourishing broth.

A bowl of banh da cua served at a stand in Hai Phong. Photo of Bao Ngoc

Try the dish at 143/46 Lach Tray, 2b Pham Ngu Lao, Ms. Thai’s stall inside Chu Van An Market or 16 Phan Chu Trinh.

Spicy breadsticks with a filling of “pâté” or minced pork paste and served with a special chili sauce are served at 28 Dinh Tien Hoang, 57 Le Loi and 184 Hang Kenh.

Breadsticks are best served with Hai Phong’s special chili sauce. Photo by Trung Nghia

Crab spring rolls with a stuffing of minced crabmeat, lean pork, kohlrabi, carrot, ear fungus, bean sprouts, rice paper, vermicelli and seasonings are often served with rice vermicelli, lettuce and cucumber, and a salty-and-sour dip.

A serving of crab spring rolls at a restaurant in Hai Phong. Photo by Minh Ha

Some places to try this dish are Mai Phuong stall on Cat Cut street and No.323 stall on To Hieu street.

Sui din, a cake made from pounded rice, sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut, is boiled before being placed in a bowl and dipped in a sweet and savory sauce. This popular street food was brought to Hai Phong by Chinese immigrants living in HCMC.

Another Hai Phong specialty is “banh duc tau,” a version of rice cake in jelly, served with fried shrimp, pork and papaya, all soaked in a sweet and cold vinegar sauce.

A bowl of banh duc tau. Photo of Bao Ngoc

A very popular stall serving this sweet can be found at 159 Hai Ba Trung Street in Le Chan District.

Hai Phong is also famous for dua damor sweet coconut soup and coffee with coconut milk, which can be tried at 124 Lach Tray or 100/124 Lach Tray.

The sweet coconut soup is served in glasses in the late afternoon every day. Photo of Bao Ngoc

HOW TO GET HERE

From Hanoi, the quickest way is a 1.5-hour motorbike ride on the Hanoi-Hai Phong highway.

The transport companies Hoang Long and Anh Huy sell bus tickets between 120,000 and 135,000 VND per person. A limo with drop-off service in the city center costs between 230,000 and 250,000 VND.

There are daily flights from HCMC to Hai Phong with air fares ranging from 900,000 VND to 1.5 million.

The French-built Quay Bridge over the Tam Bac River is a symbol of Hai Phong City. Photo by Giang Chinh

History of Phuong Anh, Hoang Phong

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