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By this Author: advb4dementia

Coffee


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It is possible to find a good coffee shop in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos for a good 'western' style coffee but as these countries don't produce their own fresh milk the UHT milk often used leaves an aftertaste that spoils the great coffee taste. Vietnamese coffee has been our alternative go to coffee whether black or with sweet condensed milk, hot or cold with ice and with or without milk, done right it has a strong, rich creamy taste with a hint of vanilla and chocolate. We have had it delivered to the table complete or in a little filter coffee maker over a glass with the milk and left to 'drip' at the table - the clever places had the glass sat in a warm water bath or over a candle to keep warm.
The best we have found has been at a tiny cafe in Cat Ba in which we appeared to be the only westerners.
vietnamese_coffee_filter.jpgvietamese_coffee.jpg

Our travels have also introduced us to a few other variations of coffee.
Egg coffee: thick, sweet creamy coffee made with beaten eggs and done right sticks to the spoon- tastes like tiramisu custard. The best we have had so far was found in s tiny locals cafe in Hanoi for just 17,000dong (less than a dollar) but has costed a lot more everywhere else.
egg_coffee_x4.jpgegg_coffee_thickness.jpg

Coconut coffee: a shot of coffee with coconut milk, some providing it as a coconut milk slushy with shavings of fresh coconut on the top. I am not a cold coffee lover but this was definitely my favourite when needing my coffee fix on a hot day.
coconut_coffee_1.jpgcoconut_coffee.jpg

The T'House layered latte: consists of macchiato, latte and coconut milk and was a great alternative to a regular latte as the coconut milk provided a better aftertaste that the UHT milk- shame it was a speciality of one shop on Hue.
t_house_layered_latte.jpg

Posted by advb4dementia 04:34 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh- 3 nights/3.5 days- Ho Chi Mnh or Saigon??


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Overview:
After a month of traveling and transiting through airports our journey to Ho Chi Minh has been our most interesting. Just about to board and they pulled Gus to one side saying something about security and baggage check before taking him off to another area leaving the rest to wonder what was happening and would we be missing our flight. But after explaining what the 'mysterious' torches in his case were, he and his luggage were allowed on the plane and we could continue our journey.
Ho Chi Minh, or Saigon to those from the south of Vietnam is a city of 10 million people and 7 million bikes and they were all on the road as we drove from the airport to our hotel 😜.
A mix of old and new, affluent and ramshackled, the city is chaotic but on a larger scale than Hanoi and has a large city feel rather than the quaintness Hanoi had. It's also a lot more expensive than we have experienced on our travels so far.

Highlights:
Visiting the local market and riding around the village on push bikes with the locals welcoming us and shouting hello as we passed by.
The boat ride on the narrow waterways of the Mekong River

Lowlights:
We were warned by the hotel to take care of our valuables whilst walking the streets and not have mobile phones on show as they could be snatched by motorbike riders. We were also warned by a stall holder when she could see a mobile phone sticking out from a pocket in a handbag. Whilst we have taken care of our valuables as we have travelled, this is the first time we have felt unsafe.
We experienced the most sudden down pours here than anywhere else on our travels, however luckily they occurred whilst we were in a cafe and had stopped by the time we left one evening, and on and off all afternoon on our last day but as we were just chilling in the spa at the time wasting time until checkout so wasn't too much of a problem.

Learning’s:
On our first night, and in a local restaurant recommended by our driver, we were offered wet wipes in packets on our arrival and then again before our meal arrived. We used the first ones but not the second set and later found we had been charged for them on the bill- no warning of this before.

Activities:
We wandered the streets by day and by night.
The Ben Thanh Market is open until 6pm and sells just about anything, from flowers, fruit and veg, meat, poultry and fish, freshly made food, coffee beans, and clothes, shoes, bags, silks .......the list goes on and we were advised they have 'originals' and copies.
In the evening the night market takes over with its food stalls where amongst the usual you can get yourself a BBQ'd turtle ( known as Ba Ba). The stalls also sell everything the inside market does but not quite the same 'originals'.

We did our own walking Saigon City Tour, starting by passing the Revolutionary Museum to the Independence Palace which served as the South Vietnamese PresidentIal Palace until the first communist tanks in Saigon crashed through its gates on the morning of 30th April 1975 when the South surrounded to the North. After a quick refresh at nearby Gossip cafe we headed to Notre Dame Cathedral and the huge building with its two 40 meter high square towers is rises up in the centre of the road. Unfortunately it was not open and so we could not see inside. Facing the Cathedral is the Central Post Office, this impressive building was designed by Eiffel and painted on walls inside are historic maps of South Vietnam snd Saigon. Heading back we passed the People Committee Hall before stopping at Ben Thanh Market for a little browsing and then Ben Thanh Street Food Market for cooling drinks and ice-cream- tried sugar cane juice which is strangely refreshing.

We chose a private tour of the Mekong Delta with Buffalo Tours to avoid the masses and busy tourist places. Our guide, Ha, met us at our hotel to drive out of Saigon to the Mekong Delta some 70 kms away.
First we stopped at a temple dedicated to Cao Dai - a young religion started in 1926 and an amalgamation of 8 religions including Christianity, with the main 3 being: Buddhist, Tao and Confusious.
Next was a local market where we seemed to be centre of attention with our white skin, blond hair and high noses as very few westerners are seen there. Everybody was very friendly and gave us samples to taste, as we wandered around with Ha buying some vegetarian food and fruit to have with our lunch.
We picked up push bikes from a village nearby and cycled around the local streets and through rice fields, where we found concrete structures built to encourage swallows so the locals could collect their nests for birds nest soup. The locals and school children were waving and shouting hello to us as we passed.
Lunch was at a small restaurant at Muddy Beach. In addition to the food we had purchased at the market we had fresh tiger prawns snd clams, spring rolls, vegetables, catfish in clay pot, fried tofu with lemongrass and sweet and sour soup followed by fresh fruit. On the horizon were some small islands which were Australian Army bases during the war-Ling Tan, and where veterans return to visit.
An hours drive later we boarded a boat for a trip on the Upper Mekong River. The river crosses through 5 countries: China, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and is the 12th largest in the world. At the point where we crossed it there are 4 islands: Turtle, Unicorn, Phoenix and Dragon- which we went round. On the other side we boarded a Sampan to navigate through the smaller waterways passing coconut plantations. After disembarking we tried some snake wine - definitely not to be repeated in a hurry. before heading back to Saigon.

The hotel pool, jacuzzi and gym was the place to cool down and relax after a hot day of sight seeing. And we wasted away the afternoon here in the day we were leaving having drinks in the spa during a downpour.

Eating and drinking:
Tan Lap 272- well that was an experience never to be repeated. Our driver recommended here for good, cheap local Vietnamese food. We ordered, pointing to our selection on the menu as the staff spoke little English, but when it arrived it was nothing like our order. It took quite a while, and someone from a neighbouring cafe to establish that seafood was not in the dish we ordered and they took it back, deciding not to reorder but to move on elsewhere we drank up and paid the bill- only to find they had charged us for the wet wipes packets they gave us on our arrival 😳. Cross that off our great eats list. 😜

Ben Thanh street food market - what an awesome place this is. A collection of street food stalls all in one place: you get your choice of food and eat at communal benches. Anything from fresh coconut, smoothies and beer, ice- cream and sticky rice, fresh and fried spring rolls, soups, filled Banh Mi and lots of other full meal
options- all at very reasonable prices and we visited here on a couple of occasions.

We found The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf after we had exhausted ourself negotiating in the market- the coffee would be good if the regular size were not so big as they were just a little too milky- but for the first time in a month we had skinny milk! A little expensive but great location to watch the madness unfold as motorbikes fought with taxis and buses during rush hour,

Awesome food from Phuong Ma vegetarian restaurant and really reasonable prices. The eggplant was awesome, as was the Pad Thai and Schezwan Tofu, Veg and Mushrooms.

We were presently surprised by Gossip the cafe, being located near the Independence Palace we thought it might be an expensive tourist trap but it seemed full of workers on their laptops. The prices were reasonable for the city, as was the food: salads and filled Bahn Mi, and the coffee and cold drinks were awesome- thumbs up for their latte.

We tried Cyclo Restro on the recommendation from someone we met, Located at the bottom of a quiet dead end street, it is a family run restaurant proving a fixed set menu of 5 courses for $135,000 dong (approx $6USD) of traditional Vietnamese dishes with s home cooked feel, and they provided alternatives for those who don't eat seafood or meat. The food was good, especially the prawn and pork spring rolls, green melon snd prawn soup and the green bean and pork fish, and a great way to be introduced to the different Vietnamese flavours, especially if starting out on your travels through Vietnam but we were at the end of ours and during that time we had eaten some awesome dishes.

With the risk of a further sudden downpour and not wanting to be caught in it we opted for a restaurant round the corner from our hotel - Alfresco providing pizza, pasta, Mexican and burgers. We opted to share a pasta and pizza and was pleasantly surprised to find the pizza bases were good- thin and crispy and whilst expensive it was all very tasty.

Nguyen Hoang coffee shop which had a range of coffee bean blends to choose from for our morning coffee fix.

Une Journee a Paris felt like we really had been transported to France so what else to order but Pain Aux Raisins, Croissant Almande et chocolat chaud

Alagon Saigon/poolside bar- expensive for food and drinks but had THE best herbed wedges.

Accommodation:
Alagon Saigon Hotel and Spa - after a request to move from our initial room- which was located on the 9th floor next to the stairs leading to the rooftop and the lift to access all lower floors, we found ourself with a lovely, slightly larger room on a lower floor with windows looking over downtown Saigon.
There are 3 hotels in the chain taking up a corner block and using their roof space to provide garden, bar, pool, jacuzzi, spa snd gym areas. An ideal location in District 1- Dong Khoi areaway him walking distance of the Ben Thanh Market and other tourist sites.

Links:
Alagon Saigon Hotel and Spa:
http://www.alagonhotels.com/
Water buffalo tours
http://waterbuffalotours.com/

Posted by advb4dementia 03:40 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hoi An- 4 nights/3.5 days - mellow yellow


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Overview:
Hot and extremely humid, the pool would be used A LOT 😳
Once a major port Hoi An sits along the river with its yellow painted walls and historic buildings: Japanese merchant houses, ancient tea warehouses and Chinese Temples, many of which have been preserved and converted into restaurants, cafes, shops and tailors - of which there are MANY.
A one off entrance fee to the Old Town goes to it's conservation and provides access to a number of historic buildings.

Highlights:
Sitting on the balcony overlooking the river in the early morning sun, drinking coffee and reading a book as Johnny swam laps in the pool below.
Sitting on the balcony in the evening as the sun goes down, drinking red wine, relaxing and reflecting on the day before heading out for dinner.
The Old Town with its narrow streets, yellow painted walls and historic buildings, especially when lit up at night by lanterns hanging from balconies , strung across streets and floating down the river.
Loved loved loved driving out of town to explore the coast and beaches on hired motorbikes, and even better that we survived the chaos that is Vietnamese driving to return unscathed.

Lowlights:
The busyness of the hotel at the weekend

Learning’s:
Be aware that Hoi An is a holiday resort for the locals and so weekends can be busy with families so either avoid staying here over a weekend or be prepared and go for breakfast early to avoid the madness.

Activities:
We crossed the river and wandered the streets of Hoi An Old Town by day and by night.
By day the touts were out trying to lour passers by to one of the many tailor shops, the shops within the old town were selling their wares and the fresh food market was buzzing, but by early evening a lot of this had closed.
At dusk the place was buzzing, the streets were lit up with hanging lanterns and the river with floating lanterns, small boats floated up and down the river and food vendors were selling a smorgasbord of local dishes by the riverside- and this was where we ate dinner on our first night.
Amongst the many silk shops one- Cocoon - had silk worms on display showing how silk is produced.
Stopping at one of the many street barbers Gus was treated to an ultra modern head shave.

Next to the hotel was an artificial soccer pitch and the locals 7 a side games provided us with lots of entertainment as we stood on the balcony corridor before heading out for dinner.

We headed to Hoi An Roastery for a coffee fix before our morning cooking class. We met Linh, our guide, in the old town and she started by showing us the buzzing, vibrant and colourful food market with an abundance of different fruit, veg, herb and spices, fresh rice noodles- some coloured with turmeric, seafood and fish- including eels, meat and poultry. After the market we jumped a boat for a short ride up the Hoi An river to the Red Bridge Restaurant which hosted the Cooking School set in a tranquil oasis garden along the riverside approx 4km out of town. Here we met Mimi, our Chef and instructor, and under her guidance we learnt food carving and how to make rice milk, paper and noodles and made Crispy Hoi An Pancakes with shrimp, Seafood Salad with Vietnamese herbs, Fresh Rice Paper Rolls with shrimp - with our own handmade rice paper and Quang Nam style fresh rice noodles with chicken. Our lunch consisted of what we had made, plus a fresh fish to make summer rolls. The school also has a pool where you can relax after the class and find your own way back into town or they offer a return boat ride.

We spent an awesome morning on motorbikes leaving the Old Town behind and exploring the coast and secluded beaches on hired motorbikes. Vietnamese road rules are 'anything goes': no need for mirrors as there is no expectation to look around you, no stopping at junctions or red traffic lights- just go and everyone works around everyone else! So with that in mind we set off to Cua Dai and then up the coast towards Danang. Cua Dai beach was experiencing severe erosion and gangs of men were filling sand bags to protect the eroded coastline. Heading north we stopped at An Bang and after negotiating a parking charge with the very funny and cheeky lady we wandered down to the beach area with its sun loungers and bamboo umbrellas. Danang skyline could be seen in the distance and the Cham Islands on the horizon. As there were very few tourists about we were magnets for the locals selling their souvenirs and after buying some trinkets we moved off in search of a quieter beach. We had been told to look out for Hidden Beach which was apparently not so hidden but less touristy with a couple of nice restaurants, however it was too hidden for us and we finished up nearly in Danang before turning around. We drove along a little street off the main road and found Sounds of Silence coffee shop with a beautiful garden area and access to a quiet soft sandy beach where they serve food and drink. The place also offered homestay with lovely little rooms dotted around the garden- a definite consideration for the next visit.

Thao Moc Viet was opposite our hotel and the place we hired our motorbikes from, but they also offered spa services and with the offer of half price treatments we could not resist the temptation for some pampering: full body massages, head neck and shoulders and cucumber wraps to re- moisturise after a few days in the sun.

On the 25th October we were celebrating a birthday and sat on our balcony eating the cup cakes the hotel had delivered to the room whilst drinking red wine and listening to jazz music from the pool below, perfect end to a great day.

The pool and poolside bar was a regular afternoon haunt to escape the heat and the humidity of Hoi An and just chillax.

Eating and drinking:
Our first night we sat by the riverside at one of many food stalls and shared dishes with the locals, we tried White Rose, Hoi An Spring Rolls, beef skewers -to be wrapped in mustard leaves with picked veg and herbal tea.

Hoi An Roastery is not the cheapest but makes good western coffee as well as local coffee, we returned a couple of times and between us tried their egg coffee, coconut coffee, iced coffee, Vietnamese coffee, latte, iced tea and ginger tea and all were very good, as is their carrot cake 😜

Hoi An Silk Marina/ poolside bar -the food, as you would expect from a resort, was not cheap but it was nice and convenient for the occasional quick snack.

We found BoBo's whilst wandering a little out from the main area of the Old Town, a small family run cafe offering local food at reasonable prices, the Cau Lau was only 35 dong (approx $1.50)

White Marble restaurant and wine bar has the same owner as Red Bridge and the same extensive (and expensive) wine list. Not having had a decent glass of wine for a few weeks we splashed out with a glass of bubbles and couple of glasses of red and a cheese board and selection of dips.

We made an impromptu stop at Before and Now as they were showing a live EPL game with Man City, so we just HAD to stop for a drink or two (shame the end result of the game didn't go in favour of City!)

Not sure what the food is generally like at Red Bridge but what we had was good and we made it ourselves as our lunch was the product of our earlier cooking class 😜. The tranquil riverside setting and great wine list make it an awesome setting for dinner.

Red Gecko cafe is located around the corner from our hotel on the Hoi An Peninsula. A local family owned restaurant providing BBQ and Vietnamese dishes. We selected a fresh fish on the BBQ, papaya salad and veggies in curry sauce. The family all participate in the running of the cafe, including the children who made our cocktails 😳.

We found Sounds of Silence coffee shop as we were traveling along the coastal road on motorbikes, just off the main road down a little street backing onto a quiet, beautiful sandy beach is this little oasis that makes awesome coffee. We ate in the garden but they also serve to the loungers on the beach. Their coconut coffee, cafe latte and Vietnamese tea were all very good.

The birthday boy got to choose dinner on our last night and decided on Indian at the sister restaurant to the one we visited in Hue - Ganesh, and it was just as nice.

Accommodation:
Hoi An Silk Marina Resort and Spa- Hoi An Silk Marina- awesome resort to relax and recharge by the pool, great sized rooms with balcony and river view, and fabulous location on the Hoi An Peninsula with just a short walk into the Old Town. A little bigger than those we have experienced on our travels so far, and quite busy at weekends when the locals visit for a short break- so if wanting a quiet leisurely breakfast it needs to be done early to avoid the masses at weekend.

Links:
Hoi An Silk Marina Resort and Spa:
http://www.hoiansilkmarina.com/
Red Bridge Cooking School:
http://www.visithoian.com/redbridge/cookingschool.html

Posted by advb4dementia 05:10 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hue- 3 nights/2.5 days - comes alive at night


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Overview:
Having avoided Typhoon Sarika we arrived midday and found it eerily quiet on the streets, we felt like the city had been evacuated and we are wandering around oblivious. But that was clearly the ' down' time as a busyness returned as the day progressed and the city came alive at night, but not as chaotic as Hanoi.
The 20th October was 'Women's Day' in Hue and flowers were being sold from every corner and bouquets of all sizes transported on motorbikes everywhere you looked.
We were amazed at number of locals out socialising in restaurants and bars to the late hours every night, all dressed to impressed.

Highlights:
The visit to the Vinh Moc Tunnels to see how the villagers built and lived with the hand made tunnels for 6 years during the American War.

Lowlights:
We didn't find the Xe Co coffee shop sooner 😜

Learning’s:
Nothing really 😊

Activities:
We wandered the streets by day and by night. The city is quite sedate by day, with lots of silk shops offering ready made or tailored clothes that could be ready in just 4 hours and you couldn't go far without being offered hand made cards and hand painted traditional scenes on silk or if by the water a ride up the Perfume River. By night the city comes to life with general hustle and bustle, the cafes and restaurants lit up with lanterns and effective lighting and music blaring from some of the pubs. The riverfront was also lit up with fairy lights and lanterns and with people selling their wares and stalls offering food and drink popping up everywhere. This was also the hang out for lots AND LOTS of young adults: milling around or sat in groups talking, playing music and singing.

We had pre organised a day tour to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) with a Vietnamese veteran as a guide and this was certainly worth the money as he provided an insight into his own involvement in the war as well as general information about the French and American wars and events at the places we visited.
Mr Vinh - our guide, came from Hue and was compulsory enlisted to the South Vietnamese Army but because his English was very good he worked as an interpreter for the American Army in the intelligence branch for names such as Nelson, Ramsey and General Colonel Powell (April 69-70). His position was Sargent First Class of Republic of Vietnamese Army and because of the work he did he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal by America. He was wounded by a grenade and was in a military hospital and after the war he was captured by VC local forces in Danang and Imprisoned as a prisoner of war. He did not admit to having worked for America Army Intelligence, saying he was only an engineer in the South Vietnamese Army and was sent for reeducation and eventually released but had to reapply for Vietnamese citizenship.

Our trip to the DMZ began traveling north along Highway 1, passing a number of VC local forces cemeteries with hundreds of unmarked graves for the unknown fallen soldiers.
Our first stop was at La Vang- the Holy Land in the Hai Lang District, a catholic sanctuary famous for Mother Mary"s appearance in 1798. The area was used as a VC base during the war and as a result was badly bombed by the Americans.
Next we travelled through Quang Tri City - where the citadel was completely distoryed by B52 bombers, and the countryside of Quang Tri Province along the South China Sea.
Further north the Ben Hai River marked the boarder between North and South Vietnam and the DMZ stretched 5 km each side of the river and the 100km along it from the South China Sea to the Laos broader. The DMZ was created as a result of the Geneva Convention in 1954 to end the French occupation.
The Hien Luong Bridge crosses the river and a line marks the location of the boarder between the north and south. On the North side there is a UN Office- which was used to hold meetings regarding the maintenance of the DMZ, a North Vietnam Governmrnt flag pole and a museum. There is now a new bridge for traffic, but it is possible to walk across the original bridge and to stand with one foot on side of the boarder.
North of the river lies Vinh Moc Village and the Vinh Moc Tunnels which were crested by hand to provide a safe place for the villagers as the area was being heavily bombed by the Americans. The tunnels have 13 entrances and reach 38m underground, having sleeping, cooking and bathing areas as well as weapon storage and meeting rooms, and the villagers lived within them overnight or during bombings for 6 years with 17 babies being born underground.

After breakfast the next day we took a cyclo over the Trang Tien Bridge and Perfume River to the north side of the river for a self directed tour of Hue Citadel. The cyclo ride itself was an adventure, especially when turning left into the oncoming traffic and jumping a red light to cross the bridge.
The Citadel is heavily fortified with distinct sections: the Imperial Enclosure and Forbidden Purple City forming epicentre of Vietnamese royal life for the Nguyem Dynasty.
The Imperial Enclosure is a Citadel within a Citadel housing the Emperors residence, Palace, Temples and main buildings of State with the Forbidden Purple City for the sole use of the Emperor.
The Citadel was badly bombed during the French and American wars with only 20 of the 148 buildings within the Imperial Enclosure surviving and the Forbidden Purple City being left in ruins.
We walked as the Emperors' would have done to enter the Imperial Enclosure: through the Ngo Mon Gate and over the Trung Dao Bridge to the Thai Hoa Palace. We also saw the Halls of the Mandarins, Can Chanh Palace, Emperor's Reading Room , Co Ha Gardens, Royal Theatre and the To Mieu Temple Complex within this complex. The To Mieu Temple Complex is a walled complex containing Hiem Lan Pavilion, the to Mieu Temple - housing shrines to seven Emperors and the nine dynastic urns- each dedicated to one Nguyen sovereign

After a hot and sweaty morning visiting the Citadel we caught a cyclo back for a cool down by the pool.

Eating and drinking:
Our first stop for lunch was the Mandarin cafe were the owner- Mr Cu's photography coveted the walls. Here we tried some local Hue specialities: Banh Khoai- rice pancake with shrimp, pork and veg served with peanut sauce, Hue beef noodle soup and fresh spring rolls with pork lemon grass skewers DIY style. Great food at reasonable prices.

Le's Garden offered a quiet relaxed setting to recharge with local beer snd cocktails, especially when 2 for 1 during happy hour(s).

In addition to the regular Vietnamese coffee offerings T'House had all the 'western' coffees including their own 'layered' latte which consisted of a macchiato, latte and coconut milk which was sweet and yummy, The egg coffee was also thick and creamy but a little costly.

Little Italy was full of locals celebrating Woman's Day but we managed to get a table on the rooftop to enjoy the view and our free caramel vodka shots before sharing a pizza and pasta.

Shiva Shakti Indian was unexpected delight, great service and yummy food at reasonable prices.

We found Xe Co coffee shop quite by accident when wandering down a quiet street on our last night and we wished we had found it earlier. An awesome tiny, eclectic cafe with just locals sitting at an array of different miniature table and chairs/ our table being a window shutter with legs. We were provided with complementary tea and the drinks were all reasonably priced, including the egg coffee which was very good.

The coconut coffee at Tipsy was very good, as was the Banh Khoai and Banh Mi pate, but double the price of the street vendors. The staff were great at helping us with our Vietnamese and we learnt a few more words to add to our list.

Accommodation:
Asia Hotel- Asia hotel- located in a great spot on south bank, the large rooms were well equipped with huge comfy beds and views over the city.

Links:
Asia Hotel: ]http://www.asiahotel.com.vn/
Car/driver/tour/transfer: http://hueprivatecars.com/

Posted by advb4dementia 08:16 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi 2 nights/1.5 days- take two


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Overview:
Our journey back to Hanoi started with an early morning ferry crossing from Cat Ba, followed by the drive from Haiphong to Hanoi. We arrived back at our hotel just before lunch to check in and collect our bags that had been stored their since we set of to Sapa a week earlier. The chaos of the city seemed even more intense following the peacefulness of Tavan and Halong Bay.

Highlights:
Having already spent some time in Hanoi we had a familiarity with the city on our return which was a great advantage.

The location of the hotel is perfect, nestled in the old quarter and close to everything.

The food and drinks we had everywhere were just awesome, whether at a restaurant, cafe, coffee shop or street side food stall.

We visited some amazing, hard to find cafes and coffee shops that we would never have found if not for specific instructions: down dark corridors or alleys ways, through communal living areas, up narrow stairs to places which provide amazing views and equally amazing food, coffee and drinks. Special mention has to go to Dinh Cafe, L'etage, Hanoi House cafe and Nola

Lowlights:
The mausoleum being closed for renovations and therefore being unable to see Ho Chi Minh's body, as morbid as that may seem.

Learning’s:
Confirm a price for a taxi before jumping in- we did on the way to the mausoleum and the metered price was 55,000D but in the way back the meter was rolling along until we bailed at 100,000 and indicated we had driven 10km 😳
Remember to take your tablet out of your suitcase to avoid having to unpack everything at check in 😜

Activities:
Hanoi Luxury Spa for some 'man-scaping and much needed foot repair after a few weeks of traveling and trekking with wet boots through the jungle.

Wandering the city at night, which looks completely different than during the day- although the traffic chaos is continuous. On one corner of the lake kids were showing off their free line skating skills - no idea how they do that 😳. If the number of motorbikes parked up around the fountain in the middle of the roundabout was any indication, this was the hanging place for the young. And couples in love could be seen meandering or sat chatting around the lake.

In the morning we headed to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex but found the mausoleum closed for renovations. Within the complex were the One Pillar Pagoda-a buddhist temple, and the museum- a huge concrete soviet style building dedicated to Ho Chi Minh: the founder of modern Vietnam, which was very informative with arty exhibitions.

The afternoon was spent wandering the streets and sampling street food sat on little stools at the different pavement stalls. We headed to St Joseph's, a neo gothic Cathedral sat within a little plaza and was fortunate to find it open. Inside was just beautiful with the stained glassed windows and carvings.
Our travels took us passed the Hanoi Gallery which sold hand painted posters, and we couldn't help but purchase a couple that represented our travels through Vietnam

Later in the day Johnny finally had the 2 weeks of facial growth removed by cut throat razor at a tiny barbers shop down a back street before a relaxing massage at the Hanoi Luxury Spa.

Eating and drinking:
We picked up pastries from the Family Bakery to have on the journey back to Hanoi, but instead of the yumminess we were expecting they were dry which was disappointing.
And before boarding the ferry at Cat Ba we had one last yummy Vietnamese coffee from Nghia Cafe.

Quan Bia Minh -looked empty downstairs but was busy on the balcony upstairs and provided a great place to watch the street life below. The Bun Cha here was just awesome.

L'etage is accessed through a narrow corridor into a communal courtyard and up stone steps. Leaving your shoes at the door you enter an interesting room on the 2nd floor with a balcony overlooking the lake. A great place to grab a coffee or juice and watch the hundreds of motorcycles passing by below.

Fragrance restaurant offered us an authentic hot pot for dinner with a huge portions of fish, clams, large prawns, calamari, tofu, pork, beef, chicken, veggies and both rice and egg noodles. Quite expensive at $40USD considering our usual spend for dinner, but nothing in comparison to what it would cost in Australia.

Phuong Linh- we went upstairs to the second floor balcony to watch the world pass by below whilst drinking coconut coffee and egg coffee.

Hanoi House Cafe is found down an alleyway and up a set of dusty stairs to the second floor, where you can sit on the extremely narrow balcony overlooking the busy street below and facing St Joseph's cathedral. We sat here writing our journals sipping Sapa herbal tea and passion fruit juice whilst listening to the cathedral bells ring.

Our last meal was spent sharing a table on the pavement with locals at New Day. The simple and very busy cafe served authentic Vietnamese in good sized portions and was yummy especially the lemongrass and chilli chicken and beef with black pepper sauce.

Nola was the last stop for drinks. Walking down a corridor lit by decorated soda bottles and up a flight of stairs brings you to a dark bohemian style room from which open a labyrinth of doorways and other stairs leading to small cosy seating areas.

Accommodation:
May De Ville Old Quarter- our rooms this time were at the front of the hotel with windows overlooking the hustle and bustle of the street below- which is a little noisy at night but great to hear the goings on of everyday life. The location of the hotel was just perfect, nestled in the old quarter but near to the lake, and close to all the coffee shops and eateries that have been recommended by others or in lonely planet.

Links:
May De Ville Old Quarter: http://www.maydeville.com/oldquarter/home.htm

Posted by advb4dementia 02:35 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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