Hanoi day 4 & 5

Hi all!

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This is my last post from my trip to Hanoi and today we’ll start off by walking into the Old Quarters after the early morning shower where we were “forced” to hideout in KFC (the one near Hoan Kiem lake).

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Maybe it was the weather (Vietnamese see rain as luck), maybe it was a coincidence, but we came across 3 couples getting married that day. Marriage in Hanoi was an interesting affair. A car will stop in the middle of a narrow road to allow the couple to alight. At the same time, other cars will start blaring their horns due to the road hold-up while motorcyclists calmly navigate through the road obstacles. The couple would alight to a medley of poppers releasing confetti as they walk down the short aisle to a temporary tent where the ceremony would be held. It was an interesting blend of road obstruction, joyous ceremony and popping confetti.

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I just pitied whoever had to clean up the roads, way to many confetti everywhere. After the unexpected ceremony, we wandered into one (of the many) coffee shops that littered the streets. We had a latte made from weasel coffee beans. It was good and the coffee high was right smack in the ass.

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Of course, after the coffee break, there was a mad scramble for the loo amongst the four of us. There’s not a lot of washrooms in the old quarters and when we found one, despite how dodgy it looks (it was in a narrow “alley” between two shops), we went in as the bladder call was waay too urgent. Lol! There’s 2 kind of toilets here, the normal sitting kind and then there’s the squat ones. For the sitting one, you get to have some privacy as it is in one little room/cubicle. But for the squat kind, it’s a full-on open concept. Firstly, there’s two squat toilets facing each other. Next, there’s absolutely NOTHING giving you any form of privacy.  People can just go in and out of the washroom and see you doing your business. Can we say awkward… It was a serious toilet culture shock to me, hahaha.

So after the toilet break, we wandered about the market section in the old quarters where I saw the slaughtering of a porcupine. Wanted to take a picture here, but I couldn’t get my camera to focus. Apparently, my brother switch it to manual focus without letting me know and he didn’t switch it back to auto-focus. So irritating! Do anyone else get like that? I mean I get really annoyed when people borrow my things and don’t return it in its original state or promptly. It’s like I lend something to you and I still have to prompt you to return it to me??? I feel it’s basic/common courtesy to just return things promptly and in its original condition after you’ve finish using it.

Enough of my short rant and let’s continue :). We eventually came across Hang da galleria (somewhere within the old quarters area) and saw some art works/pictures and did some shopping before lunch.

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Lunch was at Old Hanoi restaurant that my uncle had introduced to us and I’ve also seen a number of reviews raving about this place on TripAdvisor.

Old Hanoi Restaurant

Address: 04 Ton That Thiep, Hanoi

They certainly do have a wide array of dishes. Maybe we didn’t order the correct ones, but the food held no wow factor. Though they did have this crab soup pho (I can’t really remember the exact name now) but it was interesting. The tomato taste is quite strong though and I couldn’t really taste any crab so….

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Anyway, one of the dish we ordered was fried tilapia and we were kinda expecting a single, big fish NOT small baby tilapias. Seriously, it’s kinda disturbing and cruel to kill so many tilapias just to make a single dish 😦 .

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After lunch, we headed over to the Temple of Literature. It was here that I got my first taste of tourist influx within the Hanoi city. It’s a beautiful temple compound with too many tourist in a single location. Maybe I was jaded from the past few days where contact with other tourists were kept to a minimum. Yes, there were tourists around but there’s a limit to the number of tourists that can seat in a single boat in Halong Bay or even interested in seeing the perfume pagoda on a rainy day.

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Here’s an interesting pattern on the roof-top of the temple

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After the temple visit, we got lost, wandering in circles trying to find the Hoa Lo prison. The prison provided some information to the Vietnam War but it was severely biased in their POV especially regarding the American prisoners, which is expected, so I would take things with a pinch of salt.

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We ended the day by walking over to Hoan Kiem Lake to shoot some night shots of the turtle tower (see below) which I remembered seeing in Running Man so heh.

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We practically crawled down the street in search for our dinner venue like a bunch of starving zombies. But, where it was supposedly located, you’ll find a missing 34 shop. Just continue walking further down the street and you’ll be able to find the restaurant.

Restaurant 96

Address: 34 Gia Ngu, Hoan Kiem 

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I think the dish below is called Chả cá thăng longIt’s a Vietnamese style fish pan-fried with tumeric and dill and eaten with noodles. It’s definitely one of the best dish we’ve ordered from the place (or even Hanoi). Their chicken pho was nothing much to rave about while the other dishes were mediocre but nothing too crazy. If you’ve a chance, you should definitely try out this dish!

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The next morning view, I visited the lake to get some pictures to portray the difference in day and night scenery. Plus, it is nice to see so many old folks coming out at 5-6 am in the morning to exercise. The way the flowers adorned a portion of the lake really added live and beauty to this place. If I had the time, I can definitely see myself having breakfast by the lake, chilling.

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And I’ll end this post with the empty streets of Hanoi that is rarely seen unless it’s early in the morning. Bye!

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Hanoi day 3

Hi all!

Day 3 in Hanoi was probably the most challenging trip for me (and the most worrisome one). A day before I flew to Hanoi, I had a random hyperventilation attack which entitled a visit the hospital. Since I was on holiday in December, I was pretty stress-free. Hence, it was unlikely that the attack was induced by stress. The doctor also commented that the attack happens more commonly to females and as of now, they have no idea what the possible trigger for the attack could be. And it is with this fear that I would experience a sudden hyper-ventilatory attack, that I attempted to conquer the steps to the pagoda.

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The day begun with a short rainfall which occurred intermittently till late evening. Our guide for the day, phượng (it means phoenix and I had to google translate it from English to learn the spelling in Vietnamese) led us to the Yen River. The ride, which took about an hour or so, was supposedly supposed to be romantic and I can sort of see why. But when it was drizzling and our seats had puddles of water on it … wet butts, not so romantic anymore. Lol.

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After “docking” our little sampan boat, we headed up the slippery slope to Thien Cung, which means Heavenly Kitchen. We entered through the South gate (pictured below), which had Chinese characters decorated along its walls. According to our guide, the language Vietnamese originated from Chinese as the people of Vietnam tried to make sense of these characters and over time, it evolved into the current Vietnamese we know today. Pretty cool huh? It also explains why I could understand certain Vietnamese words since its pronunciation bears a close resemblance to its Chinese counterpart. IMG_8538 copy

Within the beautiful temple compound, despite the slight drizzle, the air was fresh (compared to the city) and it felt good when I took a deep breath. The hills which surrounded the temple also created a serene backdrop which added to the calmness in the area.

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Here’s a funny frontal angle of a stone tortoise

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After the temple visit, we had lunch before we tackled the steps to the perfume pagoda. You can tell from the massive lack of pictures along the way to the pagoda that I was simply trying to survive the climb. The roads appeared to be a mix of gravel (?) and rocks that had a smooth marble texture and finishing. It was slippery (I almost fell a couple of times), the steps became much higher nearer to the pagoda and for someone of my stature, I was practically doing 90 degree leg raise the whole time. Plus, I’m not the fittest person around. But anyway, I managed to make it to the cave and here’s a picture of its iconic entrance, which supposedly resembled the mouth of a dragon.
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Just before I exited the cave, I thought the light filtering in made for a nice shot.

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On the way back, we spotted a few men whacking the water with a pole. Apparently, it’s their attempt at fishing. But I don’t get how the fishes will appear. Won’t the fishes swim away if they felt this kind of disturbance to their home? #sobefuddled.

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And here’s a selfie act caught in action, lol. Seriously, the boat is pretty unstable and we’re all not wearing life jackets. But then again, yolo!

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And dinner for the day was bbq pork with noodles (it was super good and I highly recommend it)

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and a vegetable, noodle rice roll. The roll was pretty plain by itself, but kind of refreshing at the same time because of the crunchiness of the vegetables and the mint leaves. Till the next time, bye!

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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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