Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam
March 28th – 30th 2011

Another long 12-hour overnight bus ride brought me to Hanoi. At least it wasn’t raining when I got here but the air was cool and crisp, expected being so far up north.

I had been recommended a guesthouse by some people I ran into in Hue, the same people I met in Luang Prabang. I decided to stay there but was surprised at the price, higher than what I thought it would be ($14/night). After staying in the room for 10 minutes, I changed my mind and left the guesthouse. I found another one, much cheaper, at $7/night. It was a bit old but the room had an altar in it with a Taoist god and incense sticks burnt to their base. It had character and I liked it. Too bad they kicked me out after the first night after realizing the room had been reserved. The guesthouse promised me a replacement room but since the guests in that room decided not to check out on schedule, I was left to find another guesthouse. That was ok with me since the street was littered with guesthouses anyway.

(I really liked this $7 room too, there’s a prayer place next to it and the room smelled faintly of incense.)

So I find another one just opposite. Got me a nice room that had heat for $11/night. Except after one night, they called me during my Halong Bay tour and told me while cleaning the room, the shower head busted and water overflowed from the bathroom into the room itself so they had to move all my things. They didn’t have a replacement room so I was shipped off to yet another guesthouse down the street. Sorry to bore you all with all this but I guess it was a bit funny.

I don’t have much to say about Hanoi. It’s a city with people living their lives. There’s a big lake in the middle which draws couples every night around 9 pm. There are plenty of motorcycles around, just like anywhere else in Vietnam. There are a few Western brand shops around the lake but mostly Vietnamese shops selling clothes, souvenirs, tours, and all kinds of food ranging from typical Vietnamese noodles/rice to fancy pastries.

(Line of fancy “cyclos”.)

I visited the Ho Chi Minh Masaoleum and it was kinda cool to see his preserved body. It looked a lot like a wax figure lying down with its eyes closed. No pictures because cameras weren’t allowed in. Outside, we got to see his living quarters and work office space, which were beautiful yellow French-inspired buildings.

(HCM’s “House on stilts” where he lived for many years.)

(Lotus Pagoda.)

The water puppet show was one of the highlights of my stay. It was so entertaining I went to watch it again the following night (it was only $2 a ticket) but they sold out for the time slot I wanted. But definitely one of the highlights of my travels in Vietnam. I’ll be posting a video clip of it some time in the future so look out for it.

My day trip to Halong Bay was a bit disappointing as the cloudy and misty surrounding hindered the view. It might’ve been much better had the skies been clear and the sun out. We did stop by a massive cave that was full of stalactites and stalagmites that were beautifully lit from different angles with lights of different colors. I was really expecting to be blown away by Halong Bay but all it looked like were some big islands in water.

(Our boat.)

(Halong Bay.)

(Another view of Halong Bay.)

(Little girl taking her family around.)

(Inside the cave.)

Food-wise, I had a bunch of unique food I’ve never eaten before. The first meal I ate was at one of the oldest restaurants in Vietnam, “Cha Ca La Vong”, which spans 5 generations. They serve only one thing, “cha ca”, a grilled fish dish. It was also very pricey by Vietnamese standards at $7.50 for a small amount and when I asked them why it was so expensive (but in a friendly manner) they gave me a dirty look without an answer. The street it’s located on is named after them. Right after that, I ate some “che”, which are doughy balls soaked in sweet syrup. I also had “bun cha” which was a massive meal in itself, consisting of a big serving of “bun” (rice noodles) and a bowl of soup filled with meat and some other things. I’ve had other things to eat but the above are the ones I can remember the names of.

(“Cha ca”.)


(“Bun cha”.)

Hanoi, Vietnam Pics.

Hue, Vietnam

Hue, Vietnam
March 25th – 26th 2011

Former home of the Nguyen emperors. Sounded tempting so I had to stop by Hue. It was wet and rainy as usual so that always dampens a trip. Took a boat trip on the first day to visit several tombs of Nguyen emperors (Minh Mang, Khai Dinh, and To Duc. Minh Mang’ had a massive and beautifully landscaped compound, Khai Dinh’s was a feat of interior design that was jaw-dropping, but To Duc’s wasn’t quite as eye-catching.

On another rainy day, I went to visit Vietnam’s version of the Forbidden City. It was a citadel, enclosed by high walls and moats. But sadly, a lot of the place was bombed during the Vietnam war so there wasn’t much else that remained of the emperor’s residence. There was an animated video that showed what it may have looked like based on old pictures and architectural research. A lot of it looks Chinese and so did all the letters engraved all over the citadel.

Hue, Vietnam Pics.

Ahoy, Hoi An

Hoi An, Vietnam
March 24th 2011

Small town about 4 hours north of Nha Trang. It maintains a very old traditional feel to it thanks to its location beside a river and the old Chinese-esque homes and shops that line the streets. The more I see Vietnam, the more I think of China. Prior to sometime in the 1940s, Chinese writing and architecture was used.

(Random street in Hoi An.)

(People traveling up and down the river with their motorcycles and bicycles.)

(Friendship Bridge.)

(Traditional Vietnamese dance performance.)

There are *plenty* of tailors around here, ready to make anything you want at good prices.

(My new business in Hoi An. I’m the next Vera Wang.)

Also, Hoi An has a specialty noodles called ‘cao lau’ which can only be authentic here because the water used to make the noodles has to come from a particular well here in Hoi An. There’s also “white rose” (ban bao vac ) which is wanton skins topped with shrimp. Stuff I hadn’t eaten before so it was good experience trying them out.

(Cao lau.)

(Ban bao vac.)

After walking around the historic Old Town, there wasn’t much else to do so I left after one night.

More Hoi An Pics.