Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sapa: Topas Ecolodge Stay

When I went to Topas Ecolodge and posted the photos, so many friends asked me about it on Facebook. Actually the first time I found this place was from Irina's instagram. She is a Singaporean blogger which I really like and the photos she took was breathtaking. 

Topas Ecolodge added an infinity edge pool since my visit, which made it so much more worth visiting.

Disclaimer: If you have motion sickness, I will not advise you to go there at all. The car ride up the mountain was seriously that bad to the point where my boyfriend and I who don't have motion sickness suffer from dizziness when we reached the top. 

How I booked this place?
I booked it from Elegance Hospitality website. They are a hotel which also acts as one of Topas's agents. The price they offered me was cheaper so I went ahead and confirmed it with them.
However looks like they don't offer this service anymore.
So please head over to to book. They offer various packages including hiking, romantic getaway etc. 

What's included?
My package includes 1 night stay + Topas Mountain Express ride from Hanoi hotel to Topas Ecolodge. Also, the van includes Wifi which is the most important thing for all of us. Haha.

Oh, and breakfast is also included. See pic below. Heh. 
Their breakfast was really good and tasty. Wide range of selection considering we are at the top of the mountain with no access to anything else. 
The usual Vietnamese cuisine like Pho was available along with western breakfast (eggs, toast, bacon, mushrooms). 

You will be staying in an entire hut and it comes with a balcony. I will caption those photos which I took right from our hut's balcony. The view is stunning in the morning. Also there are two types of huts, one with air con and one without. Please check availability early because they sell out fast. 

- bring snacks & cup noodles so you have something to snack on at night if you are hungry.

- be careful with the locals around Topas. They are not allowed to enter the premise but they will come at you once you step out and get onto your van. They will ask you to buy their souvenirs and if you buy from one, the rest will come after you as well. This is repeatedly being reminded on TripAdvisor so you be the judge.

- bring panadols or take motion sickness pills in case you feel sick after the car ride up the mountain.

This was the lunch we ordered the next day. 
It was good but slightly pricey compared to food prices in Vietnam. 

 This larger hut on the right is the "lobby". You can chill there, hangout there, get lunch, drink tea. 
Oh and you will only get wifi there. No where else. 
I'm not sure if it's still the case now but it's good to get away from wifi in your own hut just for a day. 


In the room

 See the huts on left and right? You will be staying there.
It's pretty limited that's why I said book fast! :)

View from room's balcony.
 The next 5 photos are taken from my room.


This was taken early in the morning.

Evening snack. lol. 


Various places to hang out in the lobby as I said.

 Came out to use wifi. hahahahah
There's nothing much to do up there but chill, hike, swim (since the new addition).
But it was nice nevertheless.

Some kungfu aura shots.

Some ahjumma shots after checking out.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Hanoi Trip - Bai Tu Long Bay (Halong Bay) Indochina Dragon Pearl Cruise

If you ask me to choose the favourite activity we did, it was this.
The 2 day 1 night cruise through Bai Tu Long Bay.

We did so much research on which is the best cruise to spend our precious time. 
So many horror stories about cheap cruises.
We ended up deciding on the pricier but worth every single dollar Dragon Pearl Cruise from Indochina Junk.
It was rated as the top 1 cruise company on trip advisor at that point of time and the reviews sold it to us. They still are Top 2 and 3 on Trip Advisor with the most reviews (check out the link below).

After we went on the cruise, we further confirmed that our decision was so right because not too long after we started cruising, we left the 100 other cruises behind and we were the only cruise cruising through the bay with the other sister cruise of Indochina Junk. Their selling point was that if you want to go off the beaten track, this is your choice.

Based on my research, not all cruises go into Bai Tu Long Bay and because this bay is protected, not every cruise has the license to overnight there. 

Our cruise stopped in the middle of nowhere in the bay during the night, and that feeling was indescribable. It's like nothing else exist apart from us and our cruise, oh and the moon in the sky.

Crowd?: One thing that you should take into account when choosing the cruise is "how many people do you want to be on the same cruise as you". The cheaper options are usually more crowded. 
Including us, there was only 18 tourists on our cruise. Which was nice because we did not have to suffer waiting for everyone else before activities and we fit just nice into a small motorboat. 

They offer various junks (cruise) which you can select from. The difference is the luxury and exclusivity level - meaning the more expensive it is, the lesser strangers on your cruise. 

Food: One of the reasons why I chose this junk is also because of all the raved reviews about the food they serve. If you are going to be stuck on a boat for 2 days 1 night, you definitely need good food. No disappointment as I felt the best food I had in Vietnam was on this cruise. lol.

Activities: 90% of the other cruises offer spring roll making lessons and taichi on the cruise - which to be honest sounded so lame to me. And this was also why we chosen this particular cruise. 
The kayaking was the activity that I enjoyed the most. 
We were also brought to Thien Canh Son cave with a beach outside which was so private, not crowded with tourists at all because we were the only people on that small island (Pics below). 
Of course, if you want to visit the mainstream cave which is visited by hundreds of tourists everyday, then this cruise will not bring you there. 
To me serenity and peace was so important so this was a huge plus point for me. 
We also visited a floating fish village and did some cruising on a small boat around the islands. 

Transport from Hanoi: So normally when researching you would realize that all cruises offer a pick up from your hotel. Now, whether this pick up is a bus or luxury van would also make a difference to your entire experience. Ours was literally a luxury van with WiFi, leather seats, drinks and TV. lolol. 

I'm not paid by them to write this post but after speaking to friends about their experiences in Halong Bay compared to mine. I really feel that it's so important to make the right choice when you are probably only going to go once in your life. 
Also, if you don't want to have other cruises in your Bay photos then you should probably choose cruises like this where you will be brought further into the bay and not at the main bay.

How many days?: My bf and I both regretted for not doing a 3 days 2 nights cruise. Tbh, this was so much better than Hanoi. 
And if you are looking for relaxation, I suggest you to cut 1 day from Hanoi and go for this. Hanoi was so chaotic it gave me headaches for just trying to cross the streets. 

Ok now cut the crap and onto the pictures! 
I took so many and it was so difficult to filter down because this post is already so long...

Told ya, no other cruises around.

Our top deck.

The luxury van. Haha. It was about 4 hours ride? If I remember correctly so this was perfectly comfortable.

This was the private beach I spoke about.
And the only other cruise that came here was the other Indochina Junk with 4-8 passengers only (the more expensive one. haha)

Kayaking was awesome. Not so for my bf because he said he was the one paddling the whole time.

Thien Canh Son Cave.You can't really tell from the photos but it was hugeee.

Otw to the floating village.

The view otw was spectacular.

Eating to this view, how can you resist.

Look at the menu. Just look at how many courses we have.
It was so so good.

Our cruise and tiny motorboat we get on to go places. 


View from outside our room

Dinner. Once again, awesome food. 

They also showed us some carvings the chef made.

The second day breakfast. Pho and/or western breakfast.

This is a place where I want to bring my family.
It was so peaceful and it made me realize how small my problems are in this world.
The quietness at night makes you think a lot.
Also, how often will you be able to stand in a place where there isn't anyone else within a 5km radius.
That feeling was just amazing. Even thinking about it make me miss the place so much.