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Thursday, February 26, 2015

5D4N Hanoi, Vietnam.

with Daniel, Judson, Ian and Le Roy.
on the 12-17 February 2015.


Fourteen days ago at this time, we just checked in at Hanoi. 


Fourteen days later, I am here trying to remember everything that we did so that I can put them down here. This is not an easy task but I will try my best to give you as much information as I can squeeze out of my brain.


Here goes.



NINETH OF OCTOBER ONWARDS

Daniel created a secret group in FB called 'We need a holiday!'. At first, it was either Hanoi or Hong Kong. We chose well obviously Hanoi because the airfare to Hong Kong is just too much. Since both the OZ boys were going to come home for a few weeks, we thought that it would be really good for us to get out to somewhere together. Missing one member though: Sarah Khor because of obvious reasons.

On the last day of this month, we confirmed our flight option and issued out Malaysia Airlines tickets for 5 pax. It costs about RM700 per pax for return flight from KL to Hanoi. 



NOVEMBER


We started looking into all types of accommodations. All the factors that we were looking at: price, location, cleanliness, reviews etc. Ian did most of this survey stuff because he's the free-est of all. Heh. It was quite difficult to find a hotel that we all like because we really want to get a room that can fit all 5 of us. Yes, I don't mind sharing a room with all boys because I'm an adult and I can have a bed to myself. Besttt :)


DECEMBER


Two months left and everyone started to get even more excited for the trip. All the 'Top 10 things to do when in Hanoi', 36 Hours in Hanoi' and etc. Discussions about what we should do and all the brainstorming happened in FB and somehow I managed to just let the boys decide since I am the minority here. 


JANUARY

WE GOT A PLACE TO STAY FINALLY! We decided to stay in the Old Quarters because.. errmm I'm not very sure why we decided to stay there. I think it was recommended by Ian or Daniel's friend, I think. There are two Hanoi Legacy Hotels at the Old Quarters. One in Hang Bac and another one in Bat Su where we stayed because the former has no window. Ian did all the communication with the hotel and they offered us a very good hotel package with other tours. So why not? 



This is what we have for the price of US$210 which is about RM760 per person:

  • THREE nights stay at Hanoi Legacy Hotel with daily international breakfast.
  • ONE night stay at Galaxy Cruises, Halong Bay with meals.
  • ONE day tour to Hoa Lu - Tam Coc with lunch.
  • TWO bottles of mineral water daily.
  • Return airport transfers.
  • Return transfers to Halong Bay and Hoa Lu- Tam Coc.

Yes, we all felt that it was really cheap to get this package at that price. Win!

A lot of things happened this month because well, it's less than a month away that's why! 

Everything from the flight tickets, hotel and tour arrangement has been confirmed and good to go then we realized that we did not actually plan and finalize on our transport from PEN-KUL-PEN! Perfect timing that MAS came out with a promo and we got our PEN-KUL tickets for only RM65! Then, we paid RM41 for our KUL-PEN via Plusliner.

From then on, everything went quiet in the secret group. 


FIRST - ELEVENTH OF FEBRUARY

This is it! I started this month with so many things marked on the calendar. To be honest, I was so busy that I didn't even have time to pack for the trip till the very one night before. That's like 8 hours before the flight only because we flew to KL at 6:40am. So yeah.

That explains why I really didn't throw any jackets into my suitcase and only brought 1 super thin Zalora's cardigan and all the summer dresses and shorts and t-shirts. Smart Sarah, smart.

Photo credits to Daniel, Judson, Ian and of course myself :) Le Roy usually just take Instagram-worthy kind-of-shots-and-take-forever-to-post-them-up so yeah. Heh. Kidding!

Anyways, I think I shall go according to the days instead of putting it randomly. 



TWELVETH FEBRUARY

6:40am - MH1133 - Penang to Kuala Lumpur (refreshments onboard) - 45 minutes ride - Distance of 323km.

After spending about 2 hours at Old Town White Coffee, we went onto the next flight. While we were queuing up, we noticed that there were a lot of Vietnamese boarding the same flight and one thing all of them have in common was they were all holding/wearing a winter jacket. Not just any plain jacket. WINTER JACKET. 



That's when I knew I was in trouble. Ian confirmed after checking the weather forecast but I kept telling myself that it's not going to be that cold when we get there lah. I kept telling myself that. 

The story was that days prior to this trip, I saw photos of a few friends who just got back from Hanoi in shorts and t-shirts so I thought that it's not that cold there hence no winter jacket whatsoever.

9:45am - MH0752 - Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi (lunch provided) - 3 hours 25 minutes ride - Distance of 2,100km.


Upon arrival at Noi Bai International Airport, we were greeted with a placard that says 'Ian's Family!'. Penang is one hour earlier so we all adjusted our time to the local time. I noticed that it wasn't a 'I-need-a-winter-jacket-kinda-cold' so I thought that should be alright for me. Wrong. Heh. More on that laterrr.



It took us about 40 minutes to the hotel because Hanoi is just packed with motorcycles everywhere and cars and humans. No need to mention their noise pollution is 150% more than anywhere in the world okay! Non-stop honking. NON-STOP!

At first, we were like, 'Wow so busy har here' and 'Whoa, they really honk a lot hor'. Days after that, we were like, 'WHAT'S WITH ALL THESE MOTORCYCLISTS!?' and 'WALAU WHY THEY CANNOT STOP HONKING WEI!'

It was hilarious. Angry till one point we just kept laughing and beep beep them all the way. Good times. 

 Our one foot balcony, literally. We should be thankful since it's not a window. They gave us a balcony instead! Hah. Also where we 'enjoyed' the honking till after midnight. 

We rested a while in the room and then walked to the end of Bat Su street and ordered Pho for each. It was one of the best ever. I don't know if we were just too hungry or what, but seriously it's good. First Pho in Hanoi costs about 45,000 dong (RM7). 



We spent the entire evening walking around the Old Quarters and taking lots of photos of street hawkers and motorcyclists of course. They just really don't care about you. They don't and you can't just stand there and wait for them to stop for you so that you can cross the road. NO SUCH THING. You just need to close your eyes and cross! Okay, maybe not close your eyes lah. Just need to be bold and keep walking. These Vietnamese has special skills of avoiding you or honking you hundreds of times to let you know that they coming and you better get out of the way. 




We also walked to Hoàn Kiếm Lake where couples, friends and families hang out. It's like Gurney Drive here. Quite happening place. We walked for a bit, then stopped. It was quite a torture because it was starting to get really cold. 


What's with me and bird poop, seriously! The last time I got a bird poop on me was when I was in Chiangmai for the mission trip on a moving vehicle! This time, when we were posing for the camera. It looked like bird poop but no smell so.. Hmm..

This was the night when winter hit me, literally. In my face, hands and my entire body. SO COLD OKAY! We went and look for cheap winter jacket that I could get for this trip since I didn't bring any but all so expensive so in the end, I just suck it up and challenged winter back in her face. Heh. 

I relied solely on my cardigan for the next few days. Crazy how I managed to do that. Thank you, fats of this body. 

THIRTEENTH FEBRUARY



We woke up at 6:30am. 


No wait. I mean I woke up at 6:30am. Actually more like 6:45am because Jud surprisingly got up before all of us. He must be too excited since this is his first trip ever overseas. We have a hashtag name for him but it's not nice to put it up here. Heh. You might hear us calling him that though once in a while. His other name is Fanny. That we can make it public no problem! :)


So, we had a good breakfast on the top floor of the hotel and rushed down to the lobby for our ride to Halong Bay. We went down at 8:15am and the driver was a bit annoyed with us already. Hah.




Then, we slept on the bus, talked, laughed and make fun of Fanny. It was a fun 4 hours ride, except that the seats were a little too not comfortable. Heh. We stopped at a rest stop and the boys bought the world's most expensive and prolly the worse coffee they have ever tasted. 

This is confirmed by another Caucasian lady who were standing beside me when I was making the payment. She said, "You've gotta be kidding me. This is the most expensive coffee!"



I giggled and looked at the boys as they were taking the first sip to see if it was going to be worth it. Nope, not at all. 

US$4 for one pathetic small cup of tasteless coffee, check.

Since I was the only lady, I became the CFO of the trip. Everyone gave equal amount of dongs to me and I make all the payment in regards of food, drinks and whatever that I feel like paying for. Hah.


We reached Halong Bay's pier at around 12:30pm and realized that I left my travelling hat in the lobby of Hanoi Legacy Hotel. SO SAD OKAY! I was worried that I might not be able to get it back but wrong. I did. The hotel kept it for me :)


My colleague warned me before the trip that it was gonna get really boring in Halong Bay because there's nothing much to do when the boat is out there and you're stuck in it for one whole day. So, Ian brought a board game called The Power Grid just in case we really have nothing to do.


But when we got there, our Tour Guide gave us the itinerary and it seems like we have got our time covered pretty well.


Our 24 hours or so at Galaxy Cruise, Halong Bay:

  • 1 hour kayaking.
  • Squid fishing at night.
  • Cave exploring.
  • Surprise Judson with a birthday cake.
  • Lie on bed and talked about random things and laughed our hearts out.
  • Karaoke session that lasted less than 10 minutes without the microphone.
  • The Power Grid lesson.
  • Soaking in the winter on the top deck.
  • Take lots of photos.
  • Cooking class : Vietnamese spring rolls.

So, basically there wasn't any time that I actually feel like it was being wasted. It was quite relaxing to slowly do things at our own pace. 

If I can give my 2 cents, please don't go to Halong Bay in their cold season. It's too misty to take jaw-dropping photos like the ones you see when you google. Go during the summer and you will love the HD. I enjoyed my time here because it's cold and I didn't sweat one bit, but the whole purpose to Halong Bay is to really capture this kind of image *points below*


But instead, we got this.. 

We took the smaller boat to go to our cruise. It was drizzling a bit at that time and the temperature keeps dropping on me. Brrr.

Upon booking confirmation, they gave us 2 rooms but when we got there, they gave us 3 rooms! So, I've got a room all to myself! Best upgrade ever!

The top deck of the cruise ship. It's not a huge ship so it felt really private and special. At this point, it stopped drizzling already.

And then, it came back.

So misty I can't even.

Mister-I-don't-want-to-get-wet-at-all.

Love this one from Judson!

Loved their boat rides. No waves, no motion sickness.

Squid fishing. So many swam around our rod but none was dumb enough to be hooked. 

The other ships.

Our handmade Vietnamese spring rolls. 

Blessed twenty-seventh, Jud! :)

We were all lying in the room, just talking about stuff and laughing really loudly when our Tour Guide, Huan came in and asked what we were doing and if we want to join the karaoke session. He left the room because we were like so reluctant and came in again after 1 minute and surprised Jud with a cake! We were also surprised okay!

First question we asked him was, "How did you get the cake to this boat? And when?"


Many more birthdays with us, Judson Lim! I know you had a blast being our Fanny :)



FOURTEENTH FEBRUARY

I didn't really sleep well that night I don't know why. One thing I know was I woke up to the most amazing view ever right next to my bed. It's insanely so gorgeous that I almost had tears in my eyes. No joke. It was surreal.

Breakfast was at 7:30am and when I went to the boys' room 5 minutes before, they were all still asleep! Boys. 


We had a simple breakfast on board and then went to explore a cave and spent some time chillaxing on the top deck, until of course it started drizzling again and the boys went inside. I stayed back because a little rain couldn't hurt me. Hear that, boys? Heh.



One of the cave where humans from the earlier years stayed and only feed on snails.

Quiet time like this works for me all the time!

It was super cold and misty on the morning of our departure. Although it was painful, I decided to sit outside and absorb every bit of the moment I can because I know it's going to be sad saying goodbye to this. The boys? They all went it because too cold for them. 

I will be back, Halong Bay. Next time, hopefully with my lover.

Can never get bored of this. We had unlimited supply of Skittles, which I will explain later on. 

It started raining when we were leaving the boat and it got even heavier when we reached the pier. We were all given one plastic raincoat each and boy, it's so fun to put them on. At least that's what Daniel and I agreed on. Heh. 


We loved those raincoats so much that we bought one each so that when it rains in Hanoi, we can just put them on and walk like a boss on the streets. Manatau, no rain after we buy. NO RAIN AT ALL. Hah.




When we got back from Halong Bay, we hurried ourselves to dress up so that we could have a fancy-schmancy dinner at Green Tangerine. The restaurant offers French food with Vietnamese twist and is very expensive. Fine dining what right?

Jayne (my colleague) told me that it's better to do a booking before we go but when we asked our receptionist, he mentioned that there is no need to book when you want to eat in restaurants in Hanoi. So, we decided to do what we need to do and off we went.

Ian was our main navigator person. He's our Waze so we always get to the place correctly. Ian, you rock! :) We got there and because we DIDN'T CALL TO BOOK, they only have a table available for us one hour later. One hour in the winter night is not a good idea. Furthermore, we just got back from a 4 hours bus ride and we were all so hungry. 

We decided to go to another local shop, recommended by Daniel's friend. SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO DANIEL'S FRIEND! He's a Vietnamese so he knows where are the shops that the locals go to and that's where we want to go to!

We ended up at Xuan Xuan. It's a lot like Seoul Garden in Penang. Cook your own meal kind. The only difference is their beef and pork is marinated with don't know what and it tasted so so so so good! Insanely finger licking good! 


Happy Valentine's Day from the land of Pho! These heart-shaped-balloons vendors DO NOT care about life okay. That's them standing right in the middle of the main road. Cars just go in between them like no one's business. Crazyy.

After dinner, we walked around for a bit and decided to crash early. Next day, got another full day tour at Hoa Lu - Tam Coc.



FIFTEENTH FEBRUARY

Rise and shine! Another cold bright morning and another bus ride to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc! This time only about 2 and half hours. Not so bad. 


Quite many people don't know about Hoa Lu and Tam Coc tour when they go to Hanoi. I didn't even know until my colleague told me about it. One of the perks working in a travel agency. Heh. Anyways, we were warned that it might rain and this whole experience will be a disaster, so better to cancel it or replace with another tour. 


We all risk takers so we decided to go ahead.


When we arrived at the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, it was sunny and it was quiet. No more beep beep. We visited the temples of King Dinh and King Le. I remembered the stories to be quite scandalous, but not interesting enough for me to pay attention the whole way through. Hah.

Trying to get a unique #ootdonlywhenitravel shot.

Then, we went to Tam Coc and had our first bleh/mehh lunch. Not yummy whatsoever. After that, we went on our 2 hours boat trip through the caves and in between those huge paddy fields. 


The little sampan has one person navigating/rowing it and two passengers in front. It's a very small and long boat. 



Since there were 5 of us, we asked if one boat can have 3 persons. Yes they said since I'm so small and light. Judson and Ian went on one boat and three of us hopped onto another one.


The lady went for quite a distance already then she was asked to row us back. We were clueless at first, don't know what was happening since everything said was in Vietnamese. We got back to the wharf and the person pointed at Daniel and asked him to come out. 

Turns out, there was a French lady who's gonna be on a boat alone and they don't allow that apparently so Daniel accompanied her. She's the prettiest French girl everr. Anyways, then it was just me and Le Roy. How interesting. Hah. Kidding. We had quite a good time catching up on each other's life :)


Okay, so here is a shot from Google on how this Tam Coc supposed to be like. What we were expecting really. 

This is what greeted us. Winter at fault again. All the paddy is still at the baby stage. But it was the nicest tour I've ever gone through. Loved how the boat goes through three caves which by the way is what Tam Coc means and the weather made it even more perfect!

Yes, we went underneath that cave. So cool.

On our way back to send Daniel to the French lady :)

Seriously, too obsessed with my red flats. Just gotta have red when I travel. Weird obsession.

After the boat ride, we had a biking session at Bich Dong on country road! Around the paddy fields and in this cooling temperature, besttt. No need to sweat. Everyone chose their bicycles and it was my turn. I had some trouble with that because all the bicycles were too high for me there is no way I'm not going to fall. 


I told the man that I need lower. He seems like he understood me but just doesn't bother. The tour guide also very useless. He's supposed to be the translator what. But he took his bicycle and just waited with the rest of them while the rest of us still without a bicycle struggling with the grumpy uncle who obviously doesn't speak English. 




I ended up had to follow someone and that someone is Daniel. He seems to be comfortable taking someone with him so why not. 


We practiced on the road and all seems fine. Not until when we got to the dirt road kind and everything then was so hilarious I can't even. He was trying his best not to lose the balance and it was just funny how he moved his hands left and right and left. 


Then there was a slope. The ever-famous-trail-of-death-slope. We looked at it and thought, 'Oh this is okay. We can do this one!"

WRONG!

We went down and it felt like we were on full speed and because the road was so rocky and just different, Daniel literally moved the bicycle left and right and left for a good what felt like 10 minutes. Of course it's not that long.

I remembered knowing that we were gonna fall for sure. I was trying to hug his DSLR so tightly because I wouldn't want to crack it when I fall. I also remembered laughing so hysterically because it was so funny to see how he swings his body left and right and at the same time let out a constant same note shout, "Ahhhhhhhhhh"

Le Roy saw the whole incident from behind and he thought for sure we will fall also. And everyone else was laughing their backside off at us. There was this Thai lady in our group that laughed so loud and so differently that Daniel and I at one point was just laughing at her whenever she laughs. It was such a too-much-laughing-already-moment. 

We survived.

This was directly after the slope! My backside hurts so badly you have no idea. Look at Daniel's face still very much traumatized. Hah.

Hanging onto dear life.

The view was spectacular. Too bad I don't have the eyes of a photographer to take really nice shots. Both Daniel and I because famous instantaneously because of the slope. Everyone laughed at us okay! Good times!

After all that fun, we went home and showered and walked to Green Tangerine. Judson took the bill that night because he's the boss. Haha. It was such a unique eating experience because it's fusion right? So, it's very different. Quite nice but really expensive. We had great wine, , great music, great food and great company. What can be better?




No more sleep early tonight because it's our night here so we shopped. Actually, we don't have much clue on what to get. We kinda walked and stopped when we see what we like. Daniel and Judson got a few art painting stuff for a very good price I feel.



This is my favorite piece and the man wrapping it up for Jud.

The artist himself. All his artwork very pretty. I shall be back.

I didn't get anything big. I just kinda go to their grocery shops and grabbed all the foodstuffs that I don't see in Penang. All the local products. 




This is one of the worse feeling: having to pack to go home. I was so tired and lazy to do anything but to lie down and sleep. Of course cannot because I don't want to wake up early to pack. So, have to do everything first. The boys even have time to play The Power Grid. I was out already. 


Trying to get my flats dried up before stuffing them into the luggage.

In the meantime..




SIXTEENTH FEBRUARY


1:10pm - MH753 - Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur (lunch provided) - 3 hours and 30 minutes ride - Distance of 2,100km.


Good bye Hanoi. 


Do you know that Hanoi is the CAPITAL CITY of Vietnam? I bet you thought it was Ho Chi Minh or another name Saigon!


Although Ho Chi Minh had bigger a population rate, it still loses to Hanoi in being the capital city.


Now you know, you're most welcome :)



The skittle story! Daniel got this from OZ for Le Roy and it has seen became our drug. Everytime someone opens it, all our hands sure take. So hard to say no I don't know why. Everyday sure take at least more than 20. Sugar overloaded.




Szechuan fish that tasted nothing like szechuan style.


SEVENTEENTH FEBRUARY


12:00am - Plusliner - Kuala Lumpur to Penang - 4 hours and 15 minutes ride - Distance of 332km.

That was it. The five days of good times made with people who matters. Irreplaceable memories made. We are planning to make this kind of thing an annual one. I miss you guys already. Now everyone is back to their own life and yeah. 




TOTAL MONEY SPENT
For 5 days and 4 nights at Hanoi, Vietnam for 1 (one) person


KUL-HAN-KUL airfares via Malaysia Airlines : RM700
AIG travel insurance : RM36
Hotel + tour package of Halong Bay and Hao Lu - Tam Coc : RM760
PEN-KUL airfare via Malaysia Airlines : RM65
KUL-PEN bus fare via Plusliner : RM41
Vietnamese dongs used : RM220
(A bowl of Pho is about 30,000 - 45,000 dongs - that's about RM5-8)

[Note: 1,000,000 dongs = RM170 and US$10 = RM36 (as of 28th February 2015)]

RM1822

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Here are some of the FOOD items that you must try when visiting Hanoi. All the recommendations are made based on our hotel location at Bat Su, the Old Quarters. Sadly to say that we didn't have time to try them all. Next time then :)


Bún Chả (rice noodles with Vietnamese grilled pork)
  • Hang Manh street. It's at the corner of Hang Manh and Hang Non street.
  • Phat Loc lane. Things you need to try at this shop are rice noodles and fried tofu, bun cha, grilled shrimp cake (cha tom) and rice noodles with fresh water crab (bun rieu)

Phở (flat rice noodles with beef/chicken)

  • Au Trieu lane (ngo Au Trieu). It's close to a famous Cathedral. Try also the grilled pork cake.
  • 49 Bat Dan street. It's a very famous Pho restaurant in Hanoi. However, it is self sevice based.

Banh My / Banh Mi (the baguette goodness!)
  • You can find any stalls along the street and give it a try. There are two types of banh my: Banh My Pate (can choose your meat) and Banh MyTrung (egg). Proud to say I tried both and love the Banh My Pate! 

Egg Coffee (cà phê trứng). It is also known as 'liquid tiramisu'. Vietnamese coffee prepared with egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and robusta coffee.

  • Go to Hoàn Kiếm Lake and you will notice a tall building right in the centre on the main street. The building is called Ham Ca Map. The shop if not mistaken is called Highlands Coffee.
  • Giang Café. It is located at 39 Nguyen Huu Huan street. Walking distance from hanoi Legacy Hotel at Bat Su.
  • Cafe Pho Co. It's along Hoang Ngoc Phach street. It's quite hidden and you will have to walk into a small area alley like route. 

Vietnamese style Grilled Beef/Pork

  • Xuan Xuan at 47 Ma May street. Grill the Vietnamese-style marinated pork/beef/chicken on a hot metal plate and eat them with the baguette. The shop is quite foreigner friendly. 

Tràng Tiền Ice Cream (Kem Tràng Tiền)
  • Located at 35 Tràng Tiền street. It's a Vietnamese ice cream and not the gelato type.

Rice Noodles with Fish Cake
  • Cha Ca La Vong at 14 Cha Ca street.

Eel Vermicelli 
  • Located at 34 Yen Ninh street.

Pork Bun
  • You can find them anywhere along the street. It's different from the Chinese style steamed bun. They are called Banh Bao Nong (hot bun).

Xôi Xéo (sticky rice served with mung bean, fried onion and steamed chicken).

  • Xoi Yen along the street of Nguyen Huu Huan. It's quite near to Hoàn Kiếm Lake.

DON'T EAT THE YELLOW MELON
  • It's a type of Chinese product marinated with lots of unknown substance to keep them 'fresh' longer. They looked very weird too actually. 

LIME POINT

One last thing that I love about the makan-makan there is the fact that they don't cut out the entire top of the lime to keep it fresh and juicy. And it looks so cute like it's got a hat on them. Hanoi 1, other place 0.


There you go peeps. Everything about Hanoi that I can squeeze out of my memory! It's all gooood :) It's a city worth visiting. I will for sure go back there again :)

2 comments:

  1. Hi Sarah.

    Can u send me which tour are u taking for the hotel and tour package?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Li Ching!

      For this tour, my friend planned the entire thing when he was in US (I think) so I'm not too sure of the details as much. However, I went to Hanoi again early this year (http://www.sarahkhooyw.com/2017/03/4d3n-hanoi-gortage-hotel-travel-at.html) and some information is in there.. Do help yourself.. and Hanoi is super nice!

      Delete

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