HANOI – The 1st Day
07-10-2014 | Nguồn:
My trip to Hanoi, Vietnam spanned a good 7 whole days. A welcoming break from the mundane working life in Ipoh, the chaotic political climate (Perak’s STILL in tantrum …. 7 days passed by only to be greeted with the headline of Emergency Meeting Under A Tree …. Oh well. And I was being hopeful and wished this saga would expired by the time I’m back), and the scorching hot weather in M’sia (now being rather erratic, with sweltering heat intermittent with flash floods & downpour).
I was torn between blogging the whole journey in details (aka my last Sept Hong Kong posts) or briefly run through the trip in one or 2 posts. But since I’m off from work today, I’ll be generous and write a wee bit more for the 1st day’s recollection. So, bear with me,k? …. Else, just scroll away and browse the pictures for a general idea, sans the incessant rambling. =P
#Tip : Bring USD to Vietnam, and exchange at any of the banks at the airport in Vietnam to Dong (VND). There are quite a number of banks, opening from 8.30am onwards (Vietnam time, or 9.30am M’sian time). Current rate 1USD = 17,482 VND, roughly about RM1 = 5000 VND. #

Hanoi Guesthouse @ 14, Bat Su Street, Old Quarters, Hanoi.
We booked our accomodation online before we departed on our journey, a month or two back. Old Quarters of Hanoi supposedly consists of 36 streets (but actually there are more), originating from 36 guilds. History runs deep and a stroll around the area seems inevitable for all 1st timers to Hanoi, and warrants repeated visits for the amalgam of culture, sights, sounds and delectable street food in every nook and corner.
Hanoi Guesthouse on Bat Su Street is a reputedly trustworthy, cheap, and comfortable option, when it comes to guesthouses in Hanoi. Of course, there are probably tonnes more around Old Quarters, but the hospitality and warm reception of the staff in our guesthouse is possibly second-to-none. Miss Linh, the proprietress of the guesthouse, ensured that throughout our trip, we felt at home, and so much at ease (kudos to her staff, and her ultra-friendly brother as well). Though in reality, we did NOT even stay one single night at Hanoi Guesthouse. Confused?
A mix of the New and the Old …..
We booked our trip to SAPA (more on that in the next posts) from the guesthouse, and were supposedly put up for 2 nights in Hanoi Guesthouse on 2 different occasions. However, the place was full on both days, hence Ms Linh arranged for an alternative, moving us to Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel which is located about 2 mins’ walk away. Needless to say, we were paying “Guesthouse Price” for a hotel’s stay. Not bad huh? :) A night stay in Hanoi Guesthouse came to USD8/pax, for a double room. And we were even allowed to use their rooms FOC to refresh ourselves on the 1st day when we arrived, as we took the early morning flight from M’sia. Bad breath and messy hair does not sound inviting, huh?
A Barbaric scene in the middle of the streets …..

Quan An Ngon Restaurant @ 18, Phan Boi Chau, Hanoi


Ms Linh recommended Quan An Ngon for lunch, a place buzzing with locales and tourists alike, day in and day out. The restaurant is one of the more prominent ones in Hanoi, with a branch in Ho Chi Minh City. Reservation’s a must come peak hours (lunch and dinner hours). But she was kind enough to book us a table, and chartered a taxi for us.
A note on taxi service in Hanoi. Though most taxis have meters, make sure you confirm with the driver before taking a ride, as some DO NOT utilize their meters, OR they over-rule and charge as they please. Communication barriers may add salt to the wound as well. But rest assured not many are in for the killing (the same can’t be said about our local taxi drivers, esp those at the airports!) and throughout our trip, the most we’ve paid for a ride for 6 was 75,000 Dong (RM15), and that was because we mistakenly took a tourist cab from the Temple Of Literature, with the meter increasing like nobody’s business.
Anyway, on to the F-O-O-D …..

A spacious setting, with al fresco dining, and indoor seating area inside a huge bungalow, and various stalls on the outside churning out delicious spread of Vietnamese cuisine

The variety of food served at Quan An Ngon is mind-boggling. Plus the long description of the items on the menu, with their Vietnamese names, and the dim interior of the restaurant, you’re bound to have a jolly dizzying time browsing the menu and making your decision.
We were there rather early, about 11am, and the place was packed to the brim! Fortunately Ms Linh reserved a table for us. And so we ordered, recklessly ….


Wash it all down with Bia Ha Noi ….. the local beer.




You can sample ALL of Hanoi’s street food, and specialities, and even southern delights from Hue’s origin such as Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake), though nothing special IMO. It’s a thin, yellow, and crispy rice flour+soy bean pancake with pork, shrimp and bean sprout filling, which is then wrapped with rice rolls and lettuce, and dipped into fish sauce with peanuts, chillies and green papaya chunks.
Ask for recommendations, like we did. But remember to order the Bun Cha (Grilled marinated Pork Patties with Bun Noodles), which was excellent. In fact, almost all of the dishes were good in their own rights. Some may argue the authenticity of the “street food”, and swear by those served at the roadsides. But seriously, lest this is a solely FOOD HUNT, you’re never gonna be able to savour every Hanoi’s specialty within a span of few days.
Prices may be a bit steep compared to hawker fare, but the meal for 6 of us came to430,000 Dong/RM86/USD25. Seven dishes, six drinks, and white rice. With excellent service, ambience and comfort. If it’s your virginal visit to Hanoi, give Quan An Ngon a try.
Missus … you better dash …. or risk the stampede !!!
#Tip : Refrain from jaywalking around Hanoi streets. Or strolling leisurely/aimlessly. The thousands/millions of bikes on the road are bound to get on your nerves, one time or another. And the relentless honking (they honk like as if their lives depend on their horns!!!!) may be cute the 1st time around, but after a few days, we got agitated at the noise level. Since there are a serious lack of traffic lights around Old Quarters, crossing the road is a seriously do-or-die business. Either you dash your way through, or grow mould and wait til nightfall. #
Tranquil scene of Hoen Kiem Lake


Even while strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake, you’re ‘polluted’ by the unnecessary/incessant/nuisance honking …..

Hoan Kiem Lake means Lake of the Returned Sword, and is the undisputed centrepoint of Hanoi, Vietnam. Amidst the bustling city, the lake remains one of the most scenic point of Hanoi, and a favourite haunt among the lovebirds, elderly, and tourists alike. A complete 360 degrees stroll may take about 30 minutes.
The Huc Bridge to Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple)
Near to the northern part of the lake, lies Ngoc Son temple, erected in the 18th century.
The wiring man must have had a BAD day …..

Clockwise from top left : Pepita (Coffee+Vanilla Ice Cream with Coffee liquor and whipped cream)Passion Givree (Passion Fruit filled with Passion Fruit Sherbet)Malicoco (Coconut Ice Cream+Orange Sherbet, Malibu and Chocolate sauce) and Feuille De Menthe (Chocolate and Mint Ice Cream with a mint liquor heart)


Since the weather’s rather cooling in Hanoi, (about 20-25 Celcius daytime), we decided to press on further and had ice-cream at Fanny’s, a famous ice cream parlour facing Hoan Kiem Lake, on Ly Thai To street.
With a myriad of flavours to choose from; imagine durian, caramel, salt, passion fruit, etc etc …., we were stumped and had a tough time picking. Ended up with four varieties to be shared. Nothing special, aside from the EXTRA-sour Passion Fruit Sherbet. Pricey for local’s standards, as the total damage came to 169,000 Dong/RM33/USD9.60. But a cool respite from the erm, cooler than M’sian weather.

Fanny’s Ice Cream – Look for this shop on 48, Ly Thai To street facing the west side of Hoan Kiem Lake …..

Dinner @ Ladybird Restaurant, 57, Hang Buom Street, Old Quarters, Hanoi

For dinner, Ms Linh recommended Ladybird Restaurant on Hang Buom street, around Old Quarters, a short walk away from Hanoi Guesthouse.

Grilled Pork + Shrimp Rolls (45000 Dong) and Spicy Seafood Soup in Hot Pot (45000Dong)

Clockwise from top left : Banana Flower Salad (19000 Dong), Shrimp Fried Rice (35000 Dong), Pizza and Carbonara Penne (39000 Dong)
A recommended restaurant in Lonely Planet (or so they claimed), Ladybird serves a mix of Vietnamese and Western fare. The cold weather made us hungrier than usual, and we polished off more than we usually do.
Soft Sleeper Train to SAPA town …… a 10 hours ride!
That very 1st night, we took a train to the town of Lao Cai, when we will be transported to SAPA for a 2 days’ tour. Package courtesy of Hanoi Guesthouse at USD88/pax. We slept on the train, in very restricted cabin for four, but complete with beds, blankets, and pillows.
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