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Motormouth From Ipoh

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hanoi Day Tour DIY & Lunch @ Highway 4 Restaurant

Continuation from Day 4 - Triple Breakfast in Hanoi ....

Feeling mighty satisfied and satiated from the heavier-than-average breakfast of Pho Bo (beef noodle soup), Banh My (baguette + pork sandwich) and Vietnamese coffee by the roadside, we retreated back to our guesthouse, and managed to charter a taxi to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, about 15 minutes away.
#A tip for the uninitiated - If you decided to ask your guesthouse to charter a taxi for you, like we did with the help of Hanoi Guesthouse, the taxi will charge a flat rate, for us = 40,000 Dong/RM8/USD2.30 for 6 people. The staff at the guesthouse will set a rate with the driver, hence all rates shown by the meter is negligible. The meter showed about 27,000 Dong only, by the way. But if you decided to flag your own cab, you're free to do so. But remember to ask before taking one, whether they use the meter, or flat rate. But given the fact that chartering a taxi big enough for the 6 of us was a rather daunting task, (more on that later, though we managed to squeeze into a sedan-size cab .... all FIVE cramped at the back! muahaha) we decided to let Mrs Linh made the booking for us #

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a grand memorial built for the famous Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh (duh, who else you expecting?) situated at Ba Dinh Square, the place where Ho read the Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945, which established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. (source : Wikipedia).
First of all, strict regulations are imposed on the visitors, numbering thousands everyday. The mausoleum is opened from 8.00 am to 11.00 am, from Tuesdays to Sundays (unverified, but Mondays are definitely off to visitors), and half an hour earlier for both opening and closing times during summer. You must be dressed decently, meaning no shorts, mini skirts, sleeveless shirts etc etc. Rumours abound that the embalmed corpse is being sent to Russia for 2-3 months each year, for erm, "maintenance works" to preserve the body. Do ask your guesthouse or hotel staff to confirm before departing on your own.
Oh, and strictly NO CAMERAS ALLOWED inside the mausoleum. You've to surrender them at the entrance, whereby you need to go through a metal detector of sorts (like the one you've to go through at the airport), and no food & drinks allowed. Either hide them deep in your bag, or place them in the basket at the entrance, and claim them after (write your name or something). The cameras will be kept in a sealed bag, and transferred to the exit of the mausoleum. How safe? I can't guarantee, but all of ours were safe-kept perfectly.

The Presidential Palace - Off limits to the public
The queue to see the well-preserved corpse of Uncle Ho was intimidating, you have to walk two by two (kinda reminded us of school days .... those happy times ....), but moving at a steady yet not too slow pace. The serene and quiet surrounding was almost surreal (silence's a must, and definitely no laughing/singing/whispering of any kind, lest you intend to test the patience of the stern and DAMN unfriendly and downright RUDE guards). And trust me, they CAN be absurdly annoying to the point of igniting your fire ..... Patience my friend, is a virtue.

Are you seeing YELLOW yet?
Exiting the mausoleum, you'll reach another section with the residence (house on stilts, really!) Uncle Ho used to stay for a short period, behind a yellow-coloured, grand building named the Presidential Palace. Really humble leader, in my opinion. The house is facing a lake, providing much tranquility, not to mention a beautiful landscape to the place.

More Yellow structures .... guess Vietnam's like Malaysia in terms of choosing the 'Royal Colour' ...

The house built on stilts .... notice the throngs of visitors? It's a miracle the structure doesn't give way!!

One thing you'll notice straightaway is the number of Vietnamese visiting the attraction, easily over-numbered the tourists by a large margin. From school students to the blue-collars, they seem to have utmost respect to the late Ho Chi Minh.

The One Pillar Pagoda
After spending about two hours visiting the mausoleum and the residence, we followed the crowd, and reached the One Pillar Pagoda. (Read from Wikipedia HERE on the history and explanation on the temple ... my fuel's running low)

Ho Chi Minh Museum (click HERE for Wikipedia's always reliable take)

Erm, help translating anyone? Either stay away from the grass ... or else.

Further sessions of camwhoring ensued, at the square in front of the Mausoleum, populated by a field of lush, green grass ... until "disaster" struck.
The square is gargantuan in size, probably about the size of a football field. But to enter from the other side (not through the tough security checks and sour faces!), you'll get whistles blowing to ear-bleeding level instantly! It was indeed, a candid moment watching people searching high and low for the source of the whistle, and some even tried to out-run the whistle, dashing through the square at break-neck speed!
But none, I tell you ... NONE can be compared to this RIDICULOUSLY RUDE, ANNOYING, BIAS, PRICK of a guard. Ladies & Gentlemen, I present to you .....

Hanoi's #1 Worst in Public Relations, Mr Sour Face !!!!!!

Scoring almost 100% on the score card for Rude Guards of The World, not only did he blow his whistle at us for using the tripod (erm, is that illegal?!) on solid ground, but after shooting the question of "Where You From?", and partly disappointed we're not Vietnamese as he initially thought (maybe Vietnamese can be summoned for using tripod?), he waltzed off in shame ..... until ....
We witnessed he voluntarily helped a couple of Westerners snapping photos (impromptu I tell you, though only sign language, no words uttered). Obviously still shaking in our boots (hehe), we refrained from using tripod again, and politely (you know Malaysians lah .... in foreign countries or to foreigners IN our country, we're at our most humble selves ....) asked the guard to assist us in a Happy Family shot. And guess what? He had the audacity to FLICK US OFF! Without even looking at us nor saying a word, he grumbled and shot us down (not with a gun la ... it's a figure of speech).
Geez ..... with no complaint forms in sight, we stole a few shots of the aforementioned Mr. Sucked-On-A-Lemon. Now, now ... where's the pair of clogs I need for some "tenderizing" of the pic?!!!

The Temple Of Literature

Sour notes aside, we left the square in a hurry as we were rushing to cover the Temple of Literature and lunch before visiting the Dong Xuan market for some souvenirs-shopping. Only to realise our 'wise' choice of opting to walk instead of flagging a cab took us a good 20 minutes or more to reach the aforementioned Temple.

Yup, that's a stone turtle staring back at ya ....
For a brief rundown of the place, refer to HERE. Also known as the Temple of Confucius (not Confusion, for the sarcastic ones ...) the temple was founded in 1070. Yup, almost 1000 years old!!!! But of course, after some restoration works, no less. Entrance fee is priced at 5000 Dong/RM1/USD0.30.

The Third Courtyard with the pond aptly named Thien Quang Tinh, or Well of Heavenly Clarity

Structures in and around the temple ....

The Drum and ....

The Bell
Our king (Malaysia's very own YDPA Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin) went on a visit to Vietnam last week or so, and beat the very same drum in the pic above, urging Malaysians to share their expertise to help the country develop rapidly. (Source : Bernama news) We were there 2 weeks too early though, else we could be standing side by side and shared the limelight. =)

Highway 4 @ 5, Hang Tre, Old Quarters, Hanoi, Vietnam

We rushed off to lunch, and mistakenly took a taxi specifically ferrying visitors of the Temple. Whoopsie. Bad news, as tourist taxis = Over-charging. A short trip (about 10 minutes or so) for 75,000 Dong/RM15/USD4.30. As soon as we arrived on Hang Tre Street, I signalled frantically for the taxi to halt, as the meter was ticking like crazy! Plus point was, we managed to squeeze all 6 of us inside the sedan-sized cab! Though comfort aside, I'm sure the others at the back were suffocating. (Morale of the story? It pays to be FAT!)

Nem Ca Xa Lo4 (Catfish Spring Rolls) @ 72,000 Dong/RM14.40/USD4

Highway 4 has a total of four outlets all over Hanoi ( Their specialty covers a whole range of food, from the most basic Vietnamese dishes, to the more exotic ones such as snails, clams, crocodile meat and more.
Worth-mentioning is their specialty, the catfish spring rolls. The fried catfish rolled in paper-thin rice rolls stuffed with herbs and greens tasted uncannily like McD's Filet-o-Fish, but paired with their wasabi soy dipping sauce, the combination is perfect, a tasty starter to tease the palate for more.

Cua Dong Rang Me (Soft-shelled Crabs roasted with tamarind)
@ 55,000 Dong/RM11/USD3.10

The soft-shell crabs were nothing that we're accustomed to. Baby crabs roasted to crispiness, it was a daunting task chewing on them, as the tiny claws and feet of the crabs can scratch your throat if you're not careful.

Clockwise from top left : Muc Nuong Sate (Satay-grilled Squid) @ 65,000 Dong, Hen Bam Xuc Banh Phong Tom (Minced Freshwater Clams with Prawn Crackers) @ 68,000 Dong, Cha Oc Son Tinh (Son Tinh Snail Patties) @ 78,000 Dong and Khoai So Le Bo (Fried Taro with Salted Egg) @ 55,000 Dong

The meal was far from cheap, by Vietnam's standards, yet not exorbitant. The corn drinks in jug was refreshing and thirst-quenching. The meal costed 461,000 Dong/RM92.20/USD26.40 for six.

Location : Highway 4 Restaurant @ 5, Hang Tre, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam.

Cho Dong Xuan - Dong Xuan market
So, why were we rushing? To reach Dong Xuan Market before it closes at about 4-5pm, that's why!!! Seemingly THE shopping destination, the place was NOT your average shopping complex, resembling more of Perlis border shopping at Padang Besar.
Lots of clothes, accessories, bags, souvenirs, food etc etc .... perfect for all-under-one-roof shopping for cheap goods. But we merely bought souvenirs for fellow Malaysians back home, and some 3-in-1 coffee (Trung Nguyen's the brand, G7's the name of the coffee), and dried fruits.
Night activities recap to come in later post ...... for now, Motormouth's off-duty. ^_^


FooDcrazEE said...

if ur pricing is right, it will be much cheaper when I was there back in 1994 - 1998. 3 and a half years in HCMC dude. . . .missed the banh my and cafe sua da a lot.

The VN food in KL sux big. . .fortunately, VN House came into Genting and I can gorge myself the occasionnaly. . . .15% mah for staff.

Enjoy ur trip dude

Bangsar-bAbE said...

Geeezz...that guard really was a biased prick!

Snail patties?? That's was it?

sc said...

oh, looking at your pics reminds me of my trip to hanoi! i see the presidential palace is still off limits eh? i find the people in hanoi generally more rude..HCM's locals are gentler..

Lingzie said...

lol at Mr Sour Face's photo!!! hahahaha did he realize that you guys were taking his photo? shame on him for being such a prick! :P

and that cat fish roll looks really good!

HairyBerry said...

"where's the pair of clogs I need for some "tenderizing" of the pic?"

hahaha, now that really puts a whole new meaning to the whole "beating little people" ritual! haha!

ya lor, i oso wonder what's wrong with using a tripod. does it resemble a WOMD? hmmm...nvm, u got good pics! ;D

backStreetGluttons said...

Well done for an excellent Hanoi Geographic presentation !

They are definitely under the proud category of
"Country to Watch"

iamthewitch said...

LOL to Mr Sour Face! So racist and bias! Btw the soft shell crabs looked scary, in the sense that their shells did not look SOFT at all! Are you sure it's safe to eat the shells? :P

email2me said...

Eh .... J2k .... you killed the guard's father ka ..... like die father face. hahahaha ... SEI LOU TAU ...

Anonymous said...

The whole outing was perfect if not for the incident with the guard. Have to agree with Nic, must tar siew yern.

The prices of the food is very cheap and looks good.

The Travelling Foodie said...

You are right about the attitude of the RUDE guard. I too had a bad experience with those guys in uniform whether a guard or a guy at immigration. Those guys are totally rude.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your posts on Hanoi. Your trekking adventures on arrival is something I would want to give a miss, don't think my legs can take it! The day tour seems interesting.

foodbin said...

those soft shell crabs looks too mature.

minchow said...

The guard shot you guys down.. hehehe.. this remians an ongoing problem with the tourist trade in emerging economies. We are not gwai lo, therefore we are not worthy of their help! Grrr!

choi yen said...

The softshell crab seem like quite "hard" :(

Tummythoz said...

Waa that prickly guard sure knows his currency (weak RM vs USD/EURO/etc). Malaysia kurang Boleh-huh.

J2Kfm said...

Foodcrazee : VN House in Genting? never heard of. how bout blogger friends of staff? =)

Bangsar-Babe : snail patties tasted like, erm, snails I guess. it's not too chewy though, bearable I'd say. the herbs used to cook the meat kinda overpowered whatever gamey taste/smell it had.

sc : yeah off limits. can snap from afar only. the locals managing the guesthouses were particularly nice.

Lingzie : i couldnt care less. but that pic was cropped from a pic of him with the Mausoleum. nobody asked him to stand in the way anyway .... hehe.

Nic : yeah, let's all donate a clog to Motormouth From Ipoh. :) then we can have peace on earth. tripod's for picture of all 6 of us ma ...

BSG : Hanoi Geographic presentation?!! LOL.

iamthewitch : dunno lah. but in the end i was the one to sapu the whole plate, but didnt succeed anyway.

email2me : he killed our mood more like it. so rude, we didnt do anything to offend him also. hmm ...

ck lam : yea yea ... funny you all realised what i meant by clog-tenderizing process. =P

The Travelling Foodie : and i've yet to mention those IN the mausoleum themselves. barging and brushing people off while rushing during shift change.

peng : thanks for following. seriously, not that intimidating lah ... even uncles n aunties also managed to do it. :)

foodbin : way out of our league. and we were expecting the normal variety, bigger, crunchy with batter, and softer.

550ml jar of faith : gotta agree with that. but truth be told, it happens in our very own backyard as well.

mimid3vils : it's hard lah ... can scratch one's tongue and throat.

Tummythoz : true lah .... no tips for the rude guard. hehe ...

Anonymous said...

Love the little tips you give us along the way. I'll find it useful when I go to Hanoi later this year. (And if I see Mr Sour Face, I'll be sure to annoy him like hell.)

Anonymous said...

the soft shell crabs didn't look very soft to me o__O and with their sizes I doubt there would be any meat to savor. But only RM11.. wow

J2Kfm said...

Lyrical Lemongrass : yea yea ... pls rmbr to bring a clog or two. better yet, bring a bottle of serai perfume. =P alluring stuff ... to be sprayed at the eye level, to lessen annoyance.

vkeong : no meat one lah. popped everything into mouth and chew with caution. may go well with beer, but funny pairing with rice.

Rebecca Saw said...

hhmmm,..i wonder what happens if I throw something at him (the rude guard)??

Anonymous said...

The food looked very well presented - so colourful & kinda artistic! Nice trip report.

Elin Chia said...

One word...envy. :))))
I like your blog...great one..all the food & travel reviews...well done!

the Sojourner said...


i came across your blog from, and was wondering if i could link to your blog.

i'm from ipoh as well, and it's nice to see someone take the effort to talk about what makes Ipoh food special (or otherwise!)

thanks and regards

Anonymous said...

Definitely agree about the soft shell crabs..It was one of the scariest food we have tasted during the entire trip.. =P

FooDcrazEE said...

if u come up, belanja me and we can use the staff card lor . . .lolz

J2Kfm said...

thenomadGourmand : erm sure you can try, but i'd rather not be sitting the rest of the trip in a lockup or something!

Pureglutton : thanks! i'm having fun recollecting all the memories over there.

Elinluv : wah, such high praises? I'm blushing nia ...

Petrina : hi Petrina! sure you canlink up my blog, no problem. it's my pleasure! :)

Mboy : true also lah. imagine biting into not-sure-raw-or-cooked little crabs with killer legs n all.

FoodCrazee : oh.. so there's a catch lah? hmm ... no invited reviews one ah? hehe...