Lines of red poinciana flowers light up the roads in this northern city! Hai Phong appears to be the “hottest” city of Vietnam in the summer, not because of its temperature, but because of the color of the roads under your feet. There are many things to do in this surprisingly large city very close to Ha Long Bay. If you are in the area, do not miss it, if anything explore Hai Phong for just an afternoon or give it an entire day if you can. Its pleasant vibe and soft-spoken locals will not disappoint.
A Short History of Hai Phong
Located over 100 kilometers to the Southeast of Hanoi, Hai Phong city sprawls over 1,527 square kilometers. Due to its strategic geographic feature, the important national marine port, Hai Phong has been a very important political pawn since the feudal times. Hai Phong literally means coastal defense. Since the 19th century, under the Tu Duc reign, Hai Phong started to develop into a sizable commercial port.
When to Go to Hai Phong
You will not want to miss Hai Phong when the summer warmth seeps into the city. It is a very good time to enjoy sunbathing on the beach, or to leisurely walk the streets covered with red flowers. I recommend the interval from April to October (the temperature is around 25 to 37 degrees Celsius). The cool sea breeze dominates the region in the remaining months, so make sure you prepare proper scarfs and warm clothes if you choose to go during that time.
How to Get to Hai Phong from Hanoi
From Hanoi, you can take the bus to Hai Phong, which takes roughly two hours and allows you to sightsee when you cross Ha Long Bay. If you are flying from Ho Chi Minh City, you can take a flight directly to Cat Bi domestic airport.
What to See and Do in Hai Phong
Which Places to Visit
The greatest attractions in Hai Phong are either the natural landscapes or historical relics. Below are several best places that you cannot miss!
Nguyen Binh Khiem Temple
If you are a culture seeker, this temple should be on your must-see checklist. It was built in 1586 to honor the Scholar Nguyen Binh Khiem – also known as Trinh Master. He was born in Hai Phong, and is famous for not only his intellect but also his predictions that were later revealed to be true! On visiting this historic site, you will also have a chance to enjoy local culinary culture, including the special Trinh wine.
Address: Trung Am village, Ly Hoc commune, Vinh Bao district, Hai Phong city
Trang Kenh Cluster
This beautiful cluster of limestone, caves and rivers comprise the peaceful landscape known as Trang Kenh. This is one of the most remarkable natural sites to see in Hai Phong. On your adventure to Trang Kenh, spend your time visiting the Trang Kenh temple cluster that leans against the mountain. From there, look to Bach Dang river, and contemplate the place that has seen three historic victories against invaders. The very first one was when Ngo Quyen defeated the Chinese forces, setting stone for a brand new chapter of the independent Viet Kingdom in 938. The second defeat was in 981, when general Le Hoan won the battle against Tang invaders. The third defeat was the incredible victory over the Mongol dynasty, led by the honorable general Tran Hung Dao in 1288. This is a historically rich and hopeful point of view over these locations, take it in while pondering the natural beauty around you.
Cat Ba Island
The scenic gem of the Gulf of Tonkin belongs to Hai Phong city! It is here that you can dive deep below the sea surface, refresh your eyes with the pure landscape of the Cat Ba National Park, and spend a peaceful sunset in the rustic Cat Ba town. This island is 30 kilometers from the city center. You should combine your trip to Cat Ba Island with visiting Ha Long Bay.
Which Outdoor Activities to Choose
Tien Lang Hot Springs
Tien Lang is one of the five hot springs in Vietnam that is recognized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as being very mineral rich and great for a health retreat. You can choose different bathing packages to enjoy the 54 degree Celsius waters with very fair prices (60,000 VND ~ 405,000 VND).
Address: Bach Dang commune, Tien Lang district, Hai Phong city
Do Son Beach
Hai Phong is not just remembered for the sound of huge boats zipping back and forth as they enter the port. It is also a beautiful coastal city with a lovely seashore that promises a good pina colada! Along the red sandy beach of Do Son, you can always find a nice spot to stop and enjoy local seafood.
If you visit Do Son from the eighth to the tenth of Lunar February, you will witness a significant festival named Dao Dau, in which people sail to the islands for worshiping ceremonies and praying for a year of peace. If you are here on the eighth of Lunar June or the ninth of Lunar August, you can attend the well-known Buffalo Fighting Festival.
What Local Foods to Try
Crab Brown Rice Noodle
This is the most well-known, mouthwatering local dish of Hai Phong city. A typical bowl includes brown flat noodles, spring rolls, fish balls, unshelled shrimp, mantis shrimp, swamp crab, water dropwort, and fried onion. Think about adding a little chili, it’s not necessary but it does add a kick to the dish.
You can try this dish at:
- 195 Cau Dat street, Ngo Quyen district, Hai Phong city
- 38 Lach Tray street, Ngo Quyen district, Hai Phong city
Spicy Fish Noodles
Fish noodles are available in any coastal city, yet in Hai Phong, the fillings have their own style. You will find your bowl topped with crunchy fried fish, fish intestine, fish sausages, colocasia gigantea, along with several other optional vegetables. Don’t forget to add chili as you enjoy your dish, this time it should be considered a main ingredient!
Several good places to have a good bowl of spicy fish noodles are:
- 153 Le Lai street, Ngo Quyen district, Hai Phong city
- 66 Le Loi street, Ngo Quyen district, Hai Phong city
Plain Rice Pudding
This pudding is served with kohlrabi, mushroom, papaya, fried shrimp and meat filling. The fish sauce cleverly combines the sour taste of vinegar and sweetness, which particularly enhances the flavor of the dish. It is at 186 Cau Dat street, Le Chan district that you can find a 27-year-old stall selling this signature dessert! It costs only 10,000 VND for one very big serving!
Sui Din – A warm dessert from the Chinese
This dessert includes rice balls sunk in hot sweet soup. After a bite of the rice balls, you will discover the warm aromatic taste of ginger and sesame melting in your mouth. You can try the very good version of Sui Din at 34 Ky Dong street, Hong Bang district.
I need not mention that snails and seafood in general are the signature of this coastal area, the variety of choices is endless.
You can have a very tasty meal at one of these well-known local restaurants:
- 30/263 Lach Tray street, Ngo Quyen district, Hai Phong city
- 96 street 208, An Duong district, Hai Phong city
Where to Stay
Located in the center of Hai Phong city, the 12-floor Level Hotel provides you with rooms and apartments fully equipped to international standards. You can enjoy a high class dinner at their elegant restaurant. And it is only a ten minute-drive from the airport.
Address: 71 Lach Tray street, Ngo Quyen district, Hai Phong city
Price: from 800,000 VND/ night
Website: Level Hotel website
Manoir Des Arts Hotel
This beautiful three-star European style hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, a garden and a lovely terrace! Not only will the elegant space enchant you with its classic interior, the location which is 500 meters from the Opera House, is a big plus.
Address: 64 Dien Bien Phu street, Hong Bang district, Hai Phong city
Price: from 1,500,000 VND/ night
Website: Manior Des Arts Hotel website
Somerset Central TD Hai Phong City
Located in the high-end shopping mall TD Plaza, Somerset Central TD Hai Phong City brings you a wide choice of comfortable accommodations. Apart from many hospitality services provided by the hotel, you can easily access the hypermarket, movie theater and retail outlets on site.
Address: Tower A, TD Plaza, Lot 20A, Le Hong Phong street, Ngo Quyen district, Hai Phong city.
Price: from 2,300,000 VND/ night
Website: Somerset Central Hai Phong website
In the Area: Hanoi
If you took a flight directly to Cat Bi airport, there is high chance that you have yet to visit Hanoi. In that case, you should spare at least a day or two to visit such a culturally-rich city! Walk the streets of Hanoi and you will feel what it means to blend softly into modernity even though you’re walking streets that have withstood trying times. While the city is growing dynamically, old spaces are preserved with real effort to reveal the breath of the previous honorable generations. Hanoi’s central districts are where you will find historic architectural sites, some speak the languages of the glorious feudal dynasties and some tell the painful stories of war. Meanwhile, the suburban areas are home to traditional handicraft villages, where amazing and authentic handmade products have been crafted on a daily basis for hundreds of years.
If you are a fan of culinary culture, Hanoi will not disappointed you. Its wide range of signature foods, treasured old cafes, and a lot of comfortable restaurants grow like mushrooms in town, promising an abundance of specialties. If you have already decided to spend two days in our capital, we have a well-prepared schedule here.
In the Area: Quang Ninh
Locals think of… coal when Quang Ninh is mentioned. But no, we’re actually talking about Ha Long Bay, a highly-recognized natural wonder of the world that is only over an hour drive or sail from Cat Bi airport. Spread over 150,000 hectares in the Gulf of Tonkin, the bay houses almost 2,000 islands and islets, Cat Ba being one of them. Hardly do people realize that this bay has been inhabited for 20,000 years, making it an invaluable archeological site.
Apart from its many pristine islands that really challenge your adventurous sense, Ha Long Bay is well known for its cruises which are built to an international standard. Kayaking, scuba diving, cliff climbing, dining in a cave, or practicing Tai Chi will be on your itinerary if you book a cruise. Find more information about Ha Long Bay here. But hold on, in which season will you be visiting? Different times of the year show you different faces of this wonderful bay, and we cover parts of the experience in this article for you!
While most international travelers do not tend to choose Hai Phong as a travel destination, this city offers more local taste than you may think. Thus, once you have had enough of Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Ha Long Bay, and Sapa, you should circle around to Hai Phong, and make the most out of your trip in the city of red poinciana flowers.
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