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Motormouth From Ipoh

Thursday, March 19, 2009

From Hanoi to Halong Bay ... One of the 7 Wonders Yet?

Continuation from Day 4 - Hanoi Day Tour DIY ....



At only USD8/pax, this is more than satisfactory, is it not?
I'll breeze through this post as much as possible, as I'm sure most of you would've sighed .... "Not another Hanoi post ..... Oh, man .... Episode what now? XXXVII??"
In reality, I've only reached Day 4 ... moving on to Day 5 with today's post. Bear with me, the saga will end soon .... =P
After lunch at Highway 4 Restaurant, we proceeded to Dong Xuan Market, to the north of Hoan Kiem Lake. Taxi fare from the restaurant to the market? 30,000 Dong/RM6/USD1.70 for a cab for six. Expectations running high, we were somewhat stumped as the place was far from a shopping paradise, but there were a few steals far and between. The luggage bags, backpacks, souvenirs, ornaments and statues, as well as dried fruits (sweetened/pickled fruits of all varieties) and coffee are worth noticing.

A street selling beautiful and colourful lanterns and ornaments .... It was a month past CNY though ....
Spending about an hour and half at the market, we started to suffer from exhaustion, as we haven't been resting since sleeping on the train the night before. Though the distance from the market to our Hanoi Guesthouse is rather negligible, we unanimously voted to take a cab instead, choosing to sacrifice some VND rather than precious energy.
But things do not always go in your favour, although you've got the moolah ($$$) for them. A few taxis were not willing to ferry us back to our guesthouse at Bat Su Street, being a win-loss situation of sorts, with us being the profiteers, and the drivers instead having to maneouvre difficult alleys and avoiding bikes to earn a measly amount. But the charm (hehe) of the Malaysians somehow saved the day, a taxi driver fell for our droopy eyes-endearing puppies look. For 12,000 Dong/RM2.40/USD0.70, the ride was indeed worth the price paid.

At the northern part of Hoan Kiem Lake, shops selling silk products line the streets ....
Ahhhh .... but Hanoi Guesthouse was full for the day. WHAT?!!! *_*
No worries as Mrs Linh was a kind soul, arranging an alternative place for accomodation, at Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel. A few streets away, we were led to the place by her brother who's also working at Hanoi Guesthouse, with looks resembling a movie star. (And a 10,000 Volt smile sure to melt any maiden's heart). He was accomodating in many ways, even ferrying our huge-a$$ baggages using his motorcycle!!! Talk about stability.
The rooms were spotless, slightly more spacious than Hanoi Guesthouse even, with hot shower, a bath tub (made from PLASTIC, mind you), TV and the usual bells and whistles, sans the air-conditioner. But you wouldn't wanna die from hypothermia anyway.

The silk products such as ladies' bags, and cushion covers are good-buys. But practise your bargain skills ....
After a soothing hot shower bath, and well-deserved rest, we embarked again in search of good food. Dinnertime! Torn between few options, we picked seafood dinner at Tong Duy Tan Street, some distance away from our guesthouse, but bearable as the weather was cooling, to the point of freezing cold later that evening.

The bigger the crowd, the better the food ..... right?
The stroll to our dinner destination was eased by window-shopping, from silk shops to souvenir outlets, and fashion boutiques. But bear in mind the prices is significantly higher than the stuff sold at Dong Xuan Market.

Clockwise from top left : Stir fried Snails with Vegetables, Glass Noodles with Crab Meat, Sweet and Sour Prawns, and Steamed Fish with Beer

No recollection of the items description, as I can't locate the receipt, nor made any notes. The food ain't living up to expectations, but not to the point of inedible. Far from inedible I'd say. The steamed beer fish sounds tantalizing, yet failed to deliver. When the fish arrived on our table, the flesh was slightly translucent and pinkish, indicating insufficient cooking time. They concurred and re-steamed the fish, but any cook worth his salt would know what happens to fish being steamed twice.

Deep-fried Cheese Potatoes ... or something. Translation? French Fried with sesame seeds.
The meal was rather cheap, if I'm not mistaken. The whole street was lined with similar type of 'Dai Chow' type of Chinese restaurants, but no sight of grilled seafood I've been anticipating for. Hmm, whatever.

Mixed Fruit Drink with Milk and Ice (12,000 Dong/RM2.40/USD0.70 per glass)
The comforting breeze was welcoming, as it was either raining cats and dogs, or scorching hot back in our country at that time. We arrived at a corner shop, crowded with people seated on small plastic stools inside and outside of the shop @ 46, Hang Gai Street, at the corner of Pho To Tich Street. Everyone seemed to be having fun mixing and slurping on their glass of colourful mixed fruit drinks with milk and shaved ice. Needless to say, we joined the crowd.
The air was rather dry, hence lots of liquid's recommended. The refreshing combination of watermelon, strawberries, kiwis, soursop, mango etc etc, drizzled generously with milk, and topped with shaved ice made the shop a perfect rest stop. The shop's name could be "Sinh To Hoa Qua Tuoi", as the words were printed on the canopy, but I could be wrong, what's more with our limited vocab of Vietnamese. :)
We then proceeded to the night market in Old Quarters, operating only from evening onwards but on weekends only. Apparels, accessories, display items, etc were being sold on the streets, spanning maybe hundreds of stalls. But the temperature was chilly, and with foggy minds, we retreated back to our hotel, and had a good night's sleep .....

Breakfast at Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel - Complimentary
At a mere USD8 per person per night, what we were getting was VALUE indeed. With breakfast thrown in, from a choice of noodles (instant noodles though, resembling Nissin type with either beef or chicken), or baguette with butter/jam or egg.

The rest area with the disabled community working in full force and paintings (made from intrinsic weaving) being sold for charity
The next day we departed to Halong Bay, situated to the Northeast of Vietnam. We took the tour package from Sinh Cafe, amounting to USD33 per person, inclusive of a night's stay on the junk boat, 4 meals, kayak-ing activity, and entrance to the caves. There are countless tour cafe offering such packages, from as cheap as USD15, to some deluxe tours priced at about USD60 and above. Even Sinh Cafe has its imitators from all corners, and on some streets, you can even see Sinh Cafe on your left, right, front and back. Imitation the best form of flattery?
The screening process was daunting, as we were not prepared for such difficulties in choosing the RIGHT one. Trusting our instincts after a few misses, we stepped into a Sinh Cafe at 4C, Dinh Liet Street, Hoan Kiem Dist, Hanoi. The lady was friendly, and looked honest enough, explaining in details what our journey will consist of.

The jetty after about 3-4 hours ride
The van picked us up from our hotel at about 8.30am, and then departed to the pier at Halong Bay. The journey took about 4 hours, with one rest stop in between. No food and drinks are allowed on board the junk boats, but plain water's OK. Remember to bring your bottles of water on board to stay hydrated, but if not, no worries as they're selling various beverages on board, and not too expensive either. A bottle of water at 10,000 Dong, a cup of coffee at 10,000 Dong, etc.

Which one?!!! The wait was ... relentless.
Our package includes an English-speaking tour guide, named Toan (a guy), and our boat fits about 15 people, with rooms on the lower level, as well as one on the middle level. The middle level also houses the dining area-cum-common room with TV, tables and sofa, as well as the drinks bar. The upper level is open-air with benches and seats for you to lie down, and soak in the chilly sea breeze and come nighttime, stars-watching activity. Sadly, the weather was a little foggy, hence no stars nor moon for us. =(

Though not the deluxe version of the boat trip, our junk boat ain't too shabby either, with clean and rustic dining area, complete with nicely-folded napkins and table cloth
There are other tour options, customized to your needs, from a basic day trip to 2 days one night either on the boat or on land (Cat Ba Island's one of the choice), or a longer 3 days 2 nights package, with one night on boat and another on land.


Far from fine dining level, but the homecooked style was charming, and tastewise? Not bad at all.


Half an orange each, instead of one per person like in Sapa's Summit Hotel


Any idea where we were heading to?

To be continued ......

24 comments:

Min said...

Hey,very fast ho, until Day 5 already, hehe. I think our Halong Bay tour is worth the price, nice food and comfortable room also...too many Sinch Cafes there la, luckily we chose the better one :)

jencooks said...

Halong Bay tour stop short with one pic only...more please.

And you must be a rich towkay there in Hanoi with the dirtcheap prices even for hotel rooms, so clean.

kampungboycitygal said...

my parents were conned at a floating seafood restaurant at halong bay called something bank one..each of them paid USD 130 for some sucky seafood

Bakeling said...

I love this post ! The picture is big enough and very attractive !

thenomadGourmand said...

keep it coming! we r not complaining! so ur in KL tis week?

Little Inbox said...

The home cooked dishes look rather bland, but surprisingly you said it's quite tasty.

J2Kfm said...

Min : fast leh ... hahaha... will conclude very soon. then can resume to usual posts.

Jencooks : more coming, no worries. :) but the foggy weather kinda marred the pictures somewhat.

kampungboycitygal : USD130!?!! wow. yeah, gotta get a package from a trustworthy cafe/tour agent. ask til confirm everything.

Bakeling : thanks for following. I've enlarged the photos for viewing.

thenomadGourmand : yeah! wanna bring me around? hehe ...

Little Inbox : somehow the weather made us constantly famished, but trust me, the bland simple meals were not bad, really! not tasteless, simply fried stuff. they're flavourful.

iamthewitch said...

The junk boat trip seems like a good deal! Could you put up pictures of the rooms in the junk boat please?? :) I'm interested to see how they look like! And for such cheap price too!

Selba said...

Your pics of Vietnam are spectacular! You really make me miss Vietnam!!! :)

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

wah steam fish with beer..that really caught the eye..

teckiee said...

I'm waiting for kayak pictures! I didn't stay over night... so didnt get to kayak thought I really wanted to. Your meal on the junk reminded me of mine too.. almost had the same dishes.

worldwindows said...

Where are the limestone faced islands of Halong Bay? Covered with mist?

Lingzie said...

that last photo is simply breathtaking!! you guys really did a lot of sightseeing. im getting dazed at all the names! lol
but keep em coming!

Bangsar-bAbE said...

The mix fruit drink looks real yummy... =)

And USD8 per pax is really a good deal! Got breakfast somemore...

mimid3vils said...

The milk n the mixed fruit dessert is condensed milk? Look so thick~~

Mboy said...

He he he...KCA will kill you for indirectly exposing her face in one of the pics lor...

thenomadGourmand said...

sure sure..darn its Sun already..been at work whole day yest.how to contact u ah?

ck lam said...

Can't wait to see the place you are heading to on your next follow-up review

J2Kfm said...

iamthewitch : yeah, pictures of room in coming post.

Selba : really? then go again. :)

Joe : yeah, it was tempting, but no beer taste at all.

teckiee : kayak no pictures lah ... no water proof bag for my camera. but can 'imagine' the scenery ... :)

worldwindows : erm, coming up in next post. if i manage to blog bout them. :)

Lingzie : hahaha, too much to handle? i'll try break them down, but that may take a few months worth of posts!

Bangsar babe : yeah, the room was good, cheap and clean.

mimid3vils : it's like evaporated milk, but sweet if i rmbr correctly.

Mboy : i din even c her face while snapping that pic! hope she doesnt mind.

thenomadGourmand : guess this reply's a little too late? whoops.

ck lam : follow up to come soon. hehe ....

cariso said...

I will follow your every episode. :)

YilingL said...

wow i also wanna visit hanoi!

J2Kfm said...

cariso : thanks so much for being such patient reader. haha ...

YilingL : I also wanna visit your Perth lah ...lucky devil you. =P

Anonymous said...

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