Five reasons why you should visit Hai Phong

Hai Phong you may ask? Where is that? Mind you, it is not one of those famous cities in Vietnam that everyone goes to, like Hoi An, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Hue (just noticed that every city starts with an H). But that does not mean that Hai Phong is not worth a visit.

Hai Phong is located in the north, approximately 2 hours away from Hanoi. It is the city where my parents and grandparents grew up in. Not too long ago, the city was secluded from all sort of tourism, and when my sister’s very Swedish boyfriend came with us, he was literally the only tourist in town. But ever since the tourism in Vietnam has boomed, there has been more and more tourists coming to Hai Phong, and gone are the days when it was surprising to see a blonde person wandering the streets.

Although I am quite bias, I do believe that Hai Phong has a lot to offer (although not as much as Hanoi). Here are some of the reasons why I think Hai Phong is worth a visit if you are in Vietnam:

1. Authenticity

Since the city has been relatively untouched by tourism, many people say that Hai Phong is how Hanoi was some years ago, when foreigners still hadn’t found their way there. It is surely an interesting city to visit, and life is slightly slower here than in the capital city. You won’t find many souvenir shops here, but you will instead find markets where the Vietnamese goes shopping. If you are looking for a city that will show you a more authentic side of Vietnam, you should come here.

2. Close to Halong Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay In Ha Long
Bai Tu Long Bay In Ha Long

Hai Phong is one of the more common departure cities if you want to go to Halong Bay. It is approximately 75 kilometers away from Halong Bay and you can easily reach it by bus, ferry or taxi. Within two hours time you will be in one of the most popular and beautiful places in Vietnam. Immerse yourself in nature and take some days off from the busy city life.

3. Prices are relatively cheaper

Banh Da Cua - Must-try Noodle in Hai Phong city
Banh Da Cua – Must-try Noodle in Hai Phong city

I know. Vietnam in general is cheap, so how can it possibly be even cheaper? But that’s what I found when I traveled from Hai Phong to Hanoi – how the prices climbed a bit. We all know how travelers like to keep their budget as low as possible so they can travel for longer – and what better way than to go to a city that will make sure you do so.

4. It is more calm than in the bigger cities

This does not mean that there aren’t an abundance of motorbikes. But life here moves in a slower pace and you will see many people sitting around their stores, walking around the lake or teenagers sitting in the cafés and chatting. Even if it is Vietnam’s third biggest city, it offers a good mental break from Hanoi. There are museums in the city, plenty of markets to visit and parks where you can sit and take in the atmosphere. Even if the centre is relatively calm, there are still much to see in this fascinating city.

5. Hit the beach when the weather becomes too hot

Do Son Beach in Hai Phong
Do Son Beach in Hai Phong

Fortunately, the beach is always close by when you’re visiting Vietnam. Head to Cat Ba Island with a speedboat, which is one of the most beautiful islands in Vietnam. There is also the option to go to the beach Do Son, which is more local and busy. Here you will see many Vietnamese families playing in the sand and eating seafood by one of many local restaurants.

If you are a street photographer, then Hai Phong is the perfect destination for you. There are many beautiful spots to photograph, everything from old colonial architecture to the bright flower markets. Hai Phong has something to offer to everyone – it is just a matter of time before people will discover this gem.

Before you go to Vietnam, make sure that you apply for an E-Visa or Visa on Arrival if you intend to stay for more than 15 days. Vietnam currently offers this to 46 countries throughout the world. If you’re not sure if your country is on the list, ask your embassy.