Hanoi Day 1 & 2

Hi all!

It was an “enlightening” start of my journey from Singapore to Hanoi as I sat behind this trio of guys (early to mid-twenties), who proclaim themselves to have a PhD in relationship. They spent the entire 4 hours (due to a delay in takeoff) drinking at least a bottle and a half of hard liquor making chauvinistic arguments on the topic of females in a relationship. They even attempted to insert “it’s scientifically proven …” when they were trying to provide evidence to support their stand. It was pretty embarrassing to even be loosely associated with them through our shared nationality.

After we’ve safely landed and settled all our hotel issues, we immediately headed out for dinner. My first Vietnamese meal, in my short existence on this planet. With my first taste of vietnamese style spring rolls and vegetarian pho, I’ve started my short love affair with Vietnamese food during my stay. I couldn’t seem to steer away from the classic pho nor the various wraps/rolls which seem to appear on our dining table in every shop we went to. Filled with vegetables, mint leaves, light broth and not overly-greasy fried spring rolls, Vietnamese food was good to my digestive system. Enough said.

Com & Pho 12, Rice and Noodles

Address: 12 Ly Quoc Su

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As Christmas was the next day, the streets were bustling with people who were out to soak in the Christmas atmosphere. Based on the recommendation of the manager (Peter) of the Hanoi Hibiscus Hotel, we walked to the St. Joseph’s Cathedral which was decorated with Christmas lights. I’ve to say it was the most festive I’ve ever felt during Christmas since Christmas in Singapore is really not all that great. Maybe it’s the air in a different country, hmm…

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Early the next morning, we boarded the bus for a day trip to Halong Bay. As we went about the old quarters picking up tourists from other hotels, I spotted little roadside eateries where the locals were having a cup of coffee or even a meal on little stools, which were better suited to the body size of a child then an adult. It was a pretty unique sight that I’ve not seen in the south east asian countries I’ve been to.

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This is one of the taxis in Hanoi which I thought resembled a police car, so why not put it in this post? Haha.

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Most of tour buses will have a rest stop in between your hotel to your final destination. In most cases, the rest stops will be selling over-priced potteries, tourist souvenirs, hand-sewed paintings and snacks. At the rest stop before heading to Halong Bay (pictured below), the restrooms, while clean, had pretty short doors. So you can pretty much stick your head over the door and see another person doing their business. Shall we say awkward…

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Once we’ve arrived at the ferry terminal I’ll admit, it felt like Pulau Ubin. Just replace the bumboat with boats painted white, you’ll get Halong Bay ferry terminal. On board the ferry, lunch (nothing impressive) was served. After our tummies were filled, it was not long after that where we arrived at Thien Cung cave. There was a slight drizzle going on the entire time we were at the bay. While it resulted in poor visibility of the islands, it made for a different kind of photo-opportunity and experience. In any case, when I was reading about the bay before the trip, apparently blue skies can only be seen for 60 days in a year. Despite that, there’s a certain calmness and beauty to the bay that cannot be denied even under misty and slightly drizzling conditions.
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After climbing short flight of steps, which were made slippery by the rain, I was pretty impressed by how beautiful the cave was. Sure, it was lit up artificial lights. But without these lights, viewing the cave would get boring very quickly. IMG_8287 copy

Some natural light coming in…

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and based on my imagination, a lion,

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jellyfishes,

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and a dog (when you rotate the picture once, to the left).

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At the end of our cave adventure, we boarded our ferry to view more of Halong Bay. IMG_8334 copy

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Here, we stop by this small little … well, a business centre (?), where you can get on smaller row boats (6 per boat) at 6 USD/pax for about 30-40 mins. I feel it’s a pretty decent deal since you get to experience a different kind of boat ride at the bay. Moreover, you get to see a closer view of the bay then if you just remained on the ferry. Besides, why not join in the fun since you would’ve to wait on the ferry for other tourists to complete this short ride? Though you’ve to tip the person who rowed the boat, at least for us, but they’re not as pushy about tips as the rowers at Perfume Pagoda.

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Our rower told us she eats and sleeps for 4 hours every 2 days in one of those little boat house (to the left of the picture below). Her child comes along with her and he resides in the boat house as she works.

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After we’ve returned to Hanoi, we headed to restaurant 96, where we had pork on sticks (I think they’re called Nha Trang) and fish in some soup. For the pork, they’re different parts of the pork on each stick. To eat it, you need to grab one of each, some noodles, vegetables, add in some of the sauce they provide.

Restaurant 96

Address: 34 Gia Ngu
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And viola! Pretty not bad dish though the meat was a bit tough. Though for hungry people like us, we usually dig in straight away and stuff the food in our mouth. Nobody ain’t have time to eat this dish properly. Oops!
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The fish was pretty fresh if I do say so myself. That’s all for this post, till then, bye!

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