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Motormouth From Ipoh

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

HANOI - The 1st Day

OK, after a whole week of hiatus from the blogosphere, let's get back to business, shall we? :)



Pic courtesy of Min (thanks for allowing plagiarism!)
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 to 430,000 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.


To be continued ........

40 comments:

Precious Pea said...

Yum yum yum...so feel like feasting on viet goodies now. Hmm..actually my schedule still permits one more trip. Should i??

Allie Food Talk said...

the first shot is amazing, like it.

in order to appreciate and understand the real Vietnamese food, we need to taste it ourselves locally.

worldwindows said...

I just love it. My favourite food. Keep it rolling.

ck lam said...

Good intro of the place and the food...waiting for the continuation.

thenomadGourmand said...

ehh..change of template?

thenomadGourmand said...

Viet is one of my target destination tis yr! hope i get to mk it..& no doubt ur guide wil come in handy! LOL..i read abt the incessant honkin in thestar ppr by BRENDA BENEDICT "Sambal on the Side"..

Food Paradise said...

wow..... I missed the vietnamese foods. Should plan a trip there one day and makan. lol

Little Inbox said...

Wow! Looks like you really enjoy the trip. :) Anticipating for the part 2.

Selba said...

So nice to see your pics of your Hanoi trip.. I am waiting for more!

Love the food in Vietnam..

I like your new template's color :)

SimpleGirl said...

seems that the price of food are quite reasonable....

Elinluv said...

Looking forward to the continuation. Interesting write out on your trip to Hanoi and all the yum yum makaning :) Thanks!

J2Kfm said...

Precious Pea : hahahah ... when you be migrating? middle of the year? then go! or ... you can embark on another HK trip. :)

Allie Food Talk : oh you've changed domain? no wonder. true, gotta eat in Viet to fully savour the real deal.

worldwindows : sure, more to come when i finally regain my composure.

ck lam : try not to wait with bated breath ... hahaha. a week's off from work got me running around now.

thenomadGourmand : yeah, i changed the template a little. still teething problems here n there. the honking will get to you very fast.

FOod Paradise : yeah! the trip was rather cheap as well.

Little Inbox : enjoyed, and suffered in one way or the other. but on the whole, the trip was rather fruitful.

Selba : really? it's still black aint it? hahahah ... tot of changing to white, but somehow darker background's more like it.

Simple Girl : it's indeed rather cheap. comparable to M'sia's street food prices. but of course, we did not go fine dining in any ways.

Elinluv : thanks for the time. makaning took utmost importance to us floggers, right?

Lingzie said...

oooo lots of things i like in this post.... the grilled pork & shrimp rolls look divine! and for some strange reason, the shrimp fried rice seems to call out to me too! and the ice creams!!!!!!

i'm also rather tickled by the 2 contrasting photos - first of the horrendously packed traffic, in contrast with the following very tranquil lake!

vietnam looks exciting! cant wait for more photos! :)

email2me said...

Eh ... How come I dun see Vietnam dripping coffee here .... they drink coffee in pub environment lo .... XD

J2Kfm said...

Lingzie : it's indeed a very complicated city, in every sense of the word. deserving of a visit, no doubt.

email2me : drip coffee coming up in future post .... patience ya? :)

ahlock said...

What motivates you to visit Vietnam, of all the other countries out there?

And did you come back with a spare tyre? Ha ha ha...

Poor me has never set foot on a plane.

jason said...

Maybe should plan a trip there next year.... *dreaming of dry vermicelli with spring roll, lemongrass chicken, vietnamese coffee by the streets...*

mimid3vils said...

Wah.. a very loooong post, & it's only day 1, more to come eh?

Life for Beginners said...

Wow, I think you took more photos in one day than I did my whole trip to Hanoi two weekends ago! :)

This is actually great, nice to have a different perspective to Vietnam. I dunno when I can find the time to write about my Hanoi adventures though... :P

iamthewitch said...

What language did you use to communicate in Vietnam? The food looks delicious and reasonably priced! I wonder if the weather is cooling all year long like that? It is definitely more comfortable to sight-see with cool weather rather than scorching hot one.

iamthewitch said...

Btw, I just found out that you're a friend of Kwai Lee's. What a small world! She's my very good friend and also colleague! :))

cariso said...

Pls DO post in detail. I am willing to wait.:)

Nic (KHKL) said...

great stuff! a few more parts and an air tix offer and i'll know where to go next....this'll be fun!

hmmm, i wonder if u went to halong bay...ok, will anticipate your next few posts!!!

J2Kfm said...

ah lock : for one, it's cheap. =P and i've only been to thailand n singapore, but not the other ASEAN countries. so, Laos, Myanmar n Cambodia may be next on my list.
plus the food's famous ... :) no spare tyre lah... walked/hiked them all off!

jason : come come!!! we go Ho Chi Minh instead? =)

mimid3vils : yeah, i realised that by the middle of my post. either i'm getting older and taken a liking to nag, OR it could be in-built nature. :)

Life for Beginners : and yet I kept wondering why not even one word on Hanoi leh ... since I knew you were going before me. hmm ...

iamthewitch : you found out through genuiness?! hahaha .. what a small world. yeah, Kwai Lee's my ex-tuition mate. we conversed in English mostly. and sign languages, obviously!

cariso : ok ok ... i'll try my best. i've yet to regain the usual momentum. like a dead fish in office today!

Nic : gotta wait for that .... ;)
i'm not being overly-ambitious and plan to travel neighbouring countries (of sorts) 1st.

kampungboycitygal said...

whoa what can i say, nice picture, comprehensive write up, me likeeee!! u can compile a motormouth travelogue dy..

~Christine~Leng said...

actually, i didn't thought of going to Hanoi.. but your write-up has changed my mind. Really. :)
Waiting for ur next post!

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

The wiring man must have had a BAD day .....The wiring man must have had a BAD day .....

So funny la you! I put up a pic something liddat too for my HCMC post! I guess the messed up wires run through the whole of Vietnam!

The Travelling Foodie said...

A very interesting and informative update on Hanoi. Well done! BTW its easier to cross the road in Hanoi or HCMC because the bikes will know how to avoid you. Just keep walking and don't hesitate. Its much safer than over here esp. with our Mat Rempit.

J2Kfm said...

kampungboycitygal : hey glad you like it. hmm ... maybe a travel blog may suit the bill. does that mean no more food posts?! =O

Christine : yeah, seriously! in fact most in my office were wondering, HANOI of all places?! but it's always been in my to-visit list.

Lyrical Lemongrass : yeahloh! hahaha... HCMC also that messed up and entangled huh? geez. it must be the pho bo. stress-inducer?!!

The Travelling Foodie : partly true. we did not witness any incident throughout our stay, bar one minor slip n fell bike. though knowing they wont bump into you, don't you feel the tension arising from crossing the roads?!

Shell (貝殼) said...

i've been to hanoi b4, but never try that much of food like you^^

Min said...

I think we made a right choice by choosing Hanoi Guesthouse although we didn't even spend a night there. Mrs Linh is very nice and the handsome brother also...haha, too bad we didn't take photo with them.

J2Kfm said...

Shell : that was many? we missed a lot, in fact. if only the time spent in Hanoi was a tad longer!

Min : yeahloh ... can ask them to send over a photo of them. then post the pic over in our blogs. hahahaha ...

iamthewitch said...

What do you mean through genuiness? what's that? *scratches head*

KCA said...

wa... so detail ar, Motormouth... Good job... :)

yeah.. i missed Quan An Ngon's food very much.. too bad cant make our 2nd visit there.. hmmm...ask KYT tapao those food for us?? =P

CUMI & CIKI said...

YEA, i rmbr that photo LL put up on ho chi minh city .. and yours is really cool too!

eh, ever considered writing for travel guides.. ;D

J2Kfm said...

iamthewitch : erm, i tot you read genuiness' blog pulak. =P nvm ... but how come u know i know kwai lee?

KCA : ask him eat for us and review better. hahahah ... bet he's having a tough time deciding on where to go now ...

CUmi & Ciki : writing for travel guides?!!! hahahah ... that's rather too ambitious i'd say. :)

CRIZ LAI said...

Finally, I can blog hop in peace.. haha. Troubleshooting a bug in the system can cause weeks of headaches on top of a serious PC virus attack!! Haiz!! Well, if you are unaware, you can view the latest 5 posts on my site now with iphone/mobile. Do check it out when you are free...

p/s: Still envy how you could travel so much all the time.. LOL! Anyway, those great information you have here are really helpful. :)

http://crizfood.com/

J2Kfm said...

hi Criz.glad to see you're back. viewing site with mobile? i'd rather on my pc, no worries. :)

iamthewitch said...

Haha, no I didn't read that genuiness blog. I found out from Kwai Lee herself, when she saw I listed you in my blogroll! :)

Anonymous said...

hei,did u book hanoi guesthouse thru hostelworld?cos i booked for shenzhen thru hostelworld and they r charging me booking fees and another 'additional charges upon arrival'.hv really no idea wats dat and how much.any idea?