Hanoi, Halong Bay (Vietnam!!)

there are a few kinds of travel i absolutely love- beach vacations, movie worthy cities and rustic cities filled with history, That’s why the BF and myself decided on visiting Vietnam for our mid-year cheap and quick getaway! To add to the hassle-free traveling, we decided to go with a tour this time round and after a few checks around, we decided to go with Euro-Asia Holidays for their 5D4N sort of half-board package to reduce the amount of research needed to be done and just enjoy! Boy am I glad we made that decision! It forced us to learn so much more of Vietnam in a good way and help us with that fact that Hanoi isn’t filled with many English speaking locals nor properly erected road signs! More on that later..

I’M SO GLAD WE WENT TO VIETNAM! Hanoi was historically precious and Halong Bay was like a picturesque world on its own. I really de-stressed while in Halong Bay and i thoroughly enjoyed the food and sights in Hanoi. Vietnamese food in Singapore is never going to be the same again – ARGH! The one thing I could do without in Vietnam was traffic and noise pollution. Motor Vehicle horns are not used the same way as it is in Singapore. It is perpetually honking like ‘JUST SO YOU KNOW IM HERE’ and while crossing the road, well, I’m supposed to feel like king but hell no it takes so much guts! Just remember, never stop walking abruptly.

Going to Halong Bay was another experience on its own. A three hour -i could kill someone soon -seriously bumpy mini bus ride and watching how a 2 lane road become 4 lanes could seriously give you a heart attack. it is best to just sleep the journey! Its like enduring a long drive up to Genting or Melecca just with less peace and you love these places so much but you just hate the traveling to get there! Staying overnight on a junk added to the whole rustic experience. No WIFI, no Cable, fishing at night (and noob like me actually caught a sotong!), wind in your hair, hard bed and time that seem to stand still. Quality time together and quiet times. Lucky we had the iPad for some How I Met Your Mother at night though =P. We visited a limestone cave and it’s cooler than the sea breeze outside, wonders of nature! which brings me to a Did You Know Fact – Halong Bay is on the UNESCO list of Heritage Centres for culture! Read more about it here! We kayaked along the lake and into the undercutting of some limestone caves which was sometimes creepy but at the same time interesting – seeing swallows fly in and out of these caves makes me wonder if i can find bird’s nest *teehee*

Hanoi was like any city town in SEA, crowded and bustling with road-side food stalls and shopping, the deeper you go, the less touristy priced they are. The closer the food stalls are to the roads and the shorter the chairs, the better tasting and authentic is it – BUT that’s just my weird analogy. We were also able to find really pretty souvenirs for just S$1 each! However, don’t count on fashion there as it still seems one step backwards from the mainstream. I was really glad we had a good tour guide who spoke very good english and could give very good food suggestions! We found a local’s favourite place for Pho Bo (pronounced as fer/fur boar – Beef Viet Soup Noodles)  which was tucked away in a quiet street far from the main district but lucky for us, it was near our hotel! 2 huge servings of Pho accompanied with mini You Tiaos all for less than S$6! Oh have i mentioned where I was staying? Prestige hotel in Hanoi, absolutely LOVED how its tucked away on a quiet street far far away from all hustle and bustle. on top of that, very modern furnishing, comfortable rooms, nice service and accidental FREE UPGRADE ON OUR LAST DAY! 😀 a little mix up with the room and no similar room available bumped us up into a Suite! Too much space but it always feels good to get a free upgrade right!
Part of every tour, I think its a ritual to go to a certain location and not enjoy. For me, it was definitely visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.  No mausoleums anymore for me be it how famous the once alive is. The thought of the REAL body embalmed and still lying there seriously freaks me out – no disrespect! I mean, let the dead rest right! Do you know besides Ho Chi Minh, Lenin’s body is STILL EMBALMED IN RUSSIA. Lenin passed away 88 years ago, how freaky is that! news has it that they might be burying him soon but how am I supposed to be excitedly flocking to a place like this! Among those two is Mao Ze Dong and soon to be embalmed Kim Jong-il. Something in common huh. It seems the Russians are the experts with having fly them into the local countries to embalm these bodies yearly. *shudders*

In every country I go, I find a local dish that no restaurant in Singapore no matter how authentic can replicate! Bali was something as simple as their penggang corn, Thailand was a simple tom yum noodle soup, in Europe its their Pomme Frites, in San Francisco was their crabs, New York was their Burgers. In Vietnam, I found love in Bun Cha! Grilled Meat on Vermicelli noodles drenched in a special sauce, not forgetting a generous helping of raw garlic and chilli padi. HEAVEN!! I’m salivating as I am typing this to you. I’ve tried this in Singapore thus leading me to ask the guide where I can find a good one in Hanoi and guess what, it changed my taste buds forever! I didnt know till i was researching for this post that the stall i went to was so famous they even have a website. But unless you understand Vietnamese, the website might not be of much help save for the address – A MUST TRY! The serving for 1 was so huge (it comes with deep fried viet rice rolls) and it only set us back S$7. the BF and myself shared 1 serving and was still stuffed and so happy! I regretted the fact that i only found it on the last night or I would have returned there night after night. I’m having so much withdrawal symptoms that i found the recipe. Im going to try it and if i succeed, share it I will.

I flew home very happy with the trip and missing the calm waters and bun-cha. and of cos having a lot of quiet time. ahhh the wonders of traveling. Its no wonder i agree with every article that preaches to the youth to travel, its game changing!