It’s mah birthday trip for 2017! I guess this trip will be divided into 5 sections:
Catba / Halong Bay / Haiphong
Ho Chi Minh City (inc My Tho and Ben Tre)
It’s a 12-day trip from North Vietnam to North Cambodia. We missed out on Central Vietnam but I’m pretty sure I can make a whole new itinerary for that region. Someday. The whole trip was for 12 days (at least for me). I was with Edz for the first 6 days and Celine for the last 7 days. The three of us were only together for less than 2 days.
Day 1: Hanoi
Our flight from Manila to Vietnam is via Hanoi. We left Manila at around 10:00 pm and arrived at Noi Bai International Airport at around 12:45am. There’s an hour difference between Hanoi and Manila. We won’t leave the airport until the morning so we slept in at the airport. But before we were able to sleep, we had to take care of some things first such as currency exchange, SIM card and breakfast.
Before leaving, having a place where to eat was really one of our worries. I learned from my mistake during the Taiwan trip so we brought some baon to Hanoi. LOL! But actually, there’s a restaurant that’s open 24 hours. You just need to go to the departures area, it’s called Star Cafe. Like all airport food, it’s obviously more costly than usual. We could have hung out there till morning since they have comfy chairs but we decided to go down one floor so we could get some shuteye. We got up at around 5:30 and went back to the departures area to charge our phones a bit.
Oh, about SIM card, we bought ours from the Hanoi Information Center. It’s quite pricey, but I really thought we could use it in Siem Reap as well. Cause I read that Viettel also works in Siem Reap. Now that I think about it, they probably just turned off roaming charges for calls, but not for mobile data. Anyway, we bought just one SIM card and we just turned on the hotspot so my friend and I could use it at the same time.
And then we’re off to the city. Noi Bai International Airport is about an hour away (or more if you’re taking public transpo.) We were planning to take the first trip of Bus no 86 at 6:25 am (then moved it to 6:50 LOL) but then a driver approached us who’s a minivan driver. I have definitely read about this as well. There’s also this information on the internet about the Vietnam Airlines coach that takes you to the booking office in the French Quarter. We did see the both of them while waiting for other people to get on the bus. But here’s why we decided to get on the minivan instead even if it’s pricier. I don’t think the Vietnam Airlines coach accepts just any passenger. We saw different people approach the Vietnam Airlines staff but they were not allowed to get in. They ended up getting on the minivan. Also, the minivan took us to where our hostel is, if we took either the bus or the coach (in case we were allowed), we would need to walk from where the stop is or take an Uber from there to our hostel. It’s much more of a hassle figuring out and we just wanted to get to our hostel.
We were expecting to check in right away however, unfortunately for us, there are a lot of guests and they didn’t have an available room at the time. So we decided to start our city tour.
My first impression about Hanoi is that it has Baguio weather, which I super love and it’s like Luang Prabang or Vigan cause they tried to maintain the old buildings or tried to make the new buildings look old. I love this city!
The places we went to were:
Hoan Kiem Lake / Ngoc Son Temple / Turtle Tower
Burnham Park of Hanoi. Kidding! The Turtle Tower is at the center of the lake. The one that’s more accessible is the Ngoc Son Temple and the red bridge is called Huc Bridge.
St. Joseph Cathedral
It was constructed in 1886 and is the oldest church in Hanoi. There was a couple doing their pre-nup when we visited here.
Vietnamese Women’s Museum
There are definitely a lot of museums in Hanoi but we chose to go here cause girl power! My favorite section of the museum is the floor dedicated to Vietnamese women in history. It’s so empowering to see these women who had huge roles during the resistance against enemies. Most of them started at a very young age, one was only 14 and was executed before she even turned 18.
Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
Probably the most famous hotel in Hanoi. Very soshal and yayamanin! This hotel opened in 1901 and has been witness to a huge chunk of Vietnam’s history. There are a lot of outlet stores around this area.
Hanoi Opera House
Walking distance from Metropole, I think this is more beautiful at night though.
It was our last stop before going to lunch and checking in at the hostel. We took an Uber going back to near our hostel where we had our lunch. We actually saw a Jolibee branch that morning and decided to have our lunch there. It was calling our name. We ordered something that’s not found on our local menu anyway.
Hanoi Centre Hostel
We stayed at Hanoi Centre Hostel. It was not our first choice, we initially booked Pod Hotel however, they cancelled our booking a month before the trip. It was under renovation and we actually went to check on the way to the Old City Gate (they were located on the same street). We had trust issues, LOL. It was indeed under renovation. Anyway, we were very satisfied with Hanoi Centre Hostel. It was my first time to book a double bed in a hostel environment. They also made sure to clean and we got fresh towels on our second day. The bed was big for Edline and I. The best thing about this hostel though are the staff. They are the most helpful people ever! They made sure we are well-informed about the tours and they helped us book our bus package to Catba. My only complaint is the curtains, I wish there’s no gap so there’s more privacy and the noise and light are more contained.
So our schedule is normally wake up early and go out, go home at around noon, get some afternoon nap and go out again during sunset. Our hostel also had a happy hour every 6pm where they give out free beers to all the guests. We drank one glass each before going out. I must say that we felt buzzed after that one glass. I heard that it’s a local brew and it’s from a keg. Man, that beer was strong!
Xoi Cat Lam
After drinking our free beer from happy hour, we went to have supper at Xoi Cat Lam. It’s just across Jolibee and I really just wanted chicken wings. It was a really amazing dinner experience. We got to sit on those small tables and chairs. And the rice is something special. It has corn – kind of like binatog in the Philippines and then it has mashed potatoes on top. It’s really yummy. So you order the kind of rice you want and then whatever side dish you want. It’s probably the cheapest meal we had in Vietnam.
Dong Xuan Market / Cho Dong Xuan
I don’t have photos here cause Edline and I were more concerned about finding a WC. LOL. We found one somewhere at the end of an alley. We asked around for prices but they seem quite expensive. We later found out that everything is actually more expensive in Hanoi than HCMC so it’s a good thing we didn’t buy anything here.
Old City Gate
This definitely looks better at night cause of the lights. I read that you can walk underneath here. My question is how?! It’s hard enough to even just cross the street. LOL.
Ta Hien Street / Hay Bar
Ok, I think we went too early. We just waited for the band to start singing then we left. We only had 1 cocktail each cause it was quite pricey. Ta Hien Street is pretty busy. The bars occupy the street cause there’s just too many people. It was a Monday night but man, it was still filled with a lot of tourists. But what amazed me is that there are a lot of policemen in the area. I think it really is stricter in Hanoi.
Woke up early and took an Uber to the HCM Mausoleum Complex.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
So this is all in one complex. The mausoleum itself was closed when we got there – which we already expected since there’s an annual maintenance from October to November. But it’s totally fine 🙂
Ho Chi Minh’s Vestige at the Presidential Palace
This is just a few mins walk from the mausoleum and this area houses the Presidential Palace and the Stilt House, as well as House no. 54. We went on a Tuesday and there were a lot of tour groups! Like there’s a long line in every spot so the viewing time is quite limited. :/
The big yellow mansion! It’s not open to the public, just like the one in Laos. Rumor has it that Ho Chi Minh refused to live here so he stayed the Stilt House and worked at House no. 54 (which is another yellow house in the area)
Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House
It’s the green house near the Presidential Palace. In front of the house, there’s huge carp bond and it’s surrounded by a lot of creepy cypress tree roots aka Buddha trees.
Ho Chi Minh Museum
We didn’t go inside, we just took photos outside.
One Pillar Pagoda
This is the last attraction in the area and it’s a very small pagoda, surrounded by different stalls selling souvenirs and other crafts.
Temple of Literature
This is just a short ride from the HCMC Complex. It is considered Vietnam’s first national university.
After that half-day tour, we had lunch at a restaurant near Temple of Literature called Pho Hung and tried bun cha. We ordered the ones with vegetable spring rolls and beef. We didn’t know how to eat it, we actually watched a Youtube video to familiarize ourselves. LOL. After lunch, we went back to the hotel and took a nap.
We went out before sunset hoping to get a glimpse of it at the West Lake. However, it started raining (There was actually a typhoon in Hanoi on that last night.) It was already dark when we got there. We went to see Tran Quoc Pagoda but it was already closed when we got there. It still looks beautiful with all the lights. We then crossed to the other side so we can walk to the area where there are restaurants. Ang hirap tumawid sa Than Nien Causeway ha! We initially were going straight to Highlands Coffee but then we saw Lotteria! Hahahaha! So that’s where we had dinner. LOL. We keep eating at fast foods. Sorry na hahaha. After dinner, we then walked to Highlands Coffee just to chill, and wait for the rain to let up. We didn’t have plans for the night anyway.
Ok, this is super interesting! We really wanted to try Highlands Coffee in Hanoi and we initially wanted to go to the branch near Hoan Kiem Lake. But I’m happy we went here instead! It’s like a ferry in the middle of West Lake. It’s so pretty!
Once we were back in our hotel, we called it a night and hoped for a better weather the following day as we were set to go to Cat Ba.