Hello guys! I’m finally down to blogging about our short getaway to Hanoi, Vietnam! I’m breaking it down to daily posts just because I also scrap these into PL pages by day. I hope it won’t take me too long to finish it! It was my first time (Dennis’ second) and it was quite an adventure! Hope the blog posts will provide some insights and preparation tips if you are planning to go there!
We took most inspiration and itinerary from iqiznil. You can also refer to her blog for more information.
25th April 2015
We took Tiger air since it was the only airline that flew to Hanoi directly. After we entered the boarding hall, I was surprised to be ushered on to a shuttle bus instead of going up the plane.
And then we boarded the plane via a small staircase.
The crew then announced that there were some plane maintenance works so there was a slight delay. We took off 45 minutes later than expected.
We opted for seat selection and it came with meal. Dennis had rendang (ordered Bryani but it wasn’t available) and I had soy sauce chicken.
Surprisingly good! It tasted like braised chicken and glutinous rice. I enjoyed my meal that came with coffee/ tea.
Note: time difference, Hanoi is one hour behind Singapore.
We came out of the arrival hall at Noi Bai International Airport around 2pm and we couldn’t find our guide who was supposed to be waiting for us at the gate. After walking round and round, we decided to go to the tourist information counter to call the hotel. That was when we realised there was another arrival hall door and we found out guide! What a relief! The journey to out hotel was about 1 hour.
Mr Tony (our correspondence) greeted us when we arrived at the hotel, with a welcome drink. We stored our luggages at the hotel before going out to explore the streets of Hanoi.
We knew about the crazy traffic in Hanoi but didn’t expect it to be scary. You literally have to cross the roads with your eyes closed because the traffic never stops! But once you have made your first step, just continue walking till you reach the other side of the road. The vehicles will look out for you and not knock you down. Really interesting!
Our first stop is a local food stall which Tony recommended for banh mi (baguette). The banh mi I had was below expectation because I’ve had better ones in Singapore, but the sandwich pan that dennis ordered was pretty good!
Don’t know what meat is in that patty and we chose not to think about it haha.
Tried to familiarise ourselves with the street names and whereabouts on the map. I believe we were at Dong Xuan wholesale market. It is a typical market segregated into different sections: streets of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, dried good, household items etc.
Check out the way they stack their goods on motorcycles. Just when we thought it is enough, they threw more stuff on top. Amazing!
Decided to rest our feet at Highlands Coffee before looking for a dinner spot.
Address: 1- 3 – 5 Dinh Tien Hoang street, Hang Bac Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi City (Near Hoan Kiem Lake)
Cost: VND 39,000 for iced coffee (way too sweet and thick for my liking!)
Whilst looking for dinner, we passed by plenty of shops selling North Face products. The first shop quoted 800k dong for a Goretex jacket and we felt it was pretty high. The second shop quoted 650k dong and Dennis managed to bargain it to US$20 and I thought it was a pretty good deal. Thankfully we bought the jacket because the following days in Sapa were pretty cold.
We walked around more and were quite desperate for a bowl of beef pho but we couldn’t seem to find any. It was strange because I thought pho was the most common dish in Hanoi/ Vietnam. We almost had dinner at Little Hanoi restaurant (near our hotel) but the place looks empty and the prices were quite high so we decided to walk one last round in search of some noodles. At about 7pm we spotted a food stall which was full of people sitting on low stools and this must be it! A good food place! Without knowing what food they had, we sat down and the service crew gestured “1 or 2?” We replied “1” and waited for our food.
55k dong for a bowl of ‘herbal chicken noodles’ and beer. Not even close to beef pho but this is quite a unique dish. There’s boiled chicken meat in herbal soup and a piece of instant noodles on top.
So happy we found at least some noodle soup!
Back to the hotel at 8pm where we packed our stuff for Sapa and the hotel called a cab for us to go to Hanoi train station. We’re very thankful that we booked the entire tour with the hotel because many locals do not know English and it was hard to get around. Especially when it comes to buying train tickets, we’ve heard it can be a nightmare.
We took TSC train and a 4-bed cabin (there’s also the 6-bed or 2-bed option which are cheaper and more expensive respectively). For the Sapa tour, we paid US$155 per person which includes tickets for the trains, hotel stay at Sapa and trekking package.
Note that there is no shower facilities onboard so do freshen up at the hotel before boarding the overnight train. There is a basin and toilet though.
We shared the cabin with a young couple from Barcelona, Spain. There were taking a four week vacation around South East Asia before heading back home. We had lots of fun talking to them for few hours, and learnt about their economy and political scene and it was interesting to hear their opinions about the current situation too.
We chatted till about 10pm before we decided to call it a night because we will be arriving at Lao Cai station at 5am the next day!