And….I’m back from Hanoi! Time really flies when you are have a good time. I must say I enjoyed my time in Hanoi a lot more than Ho Chi Minh (sorry folks, the city is really wayyyyy to chaotic for my liking).
Here’s a quick drop of the itinerary that my travelling companion & I chillaxed to. Read on for more details of our trip!
Upon arrival in Hanoi airport (it’s cleanliness & modern look was a pleasant surprise) , our first instincts as data-hungry travelers was to find the nearest SIM shop! Which we found shortly – just walk towards the right when you get out of the departure gates – and purchased a Mobifone SIM card with 1.5GB hi-speed data (but unlimited at slower speeds) & 30mins of call for about 200,000 dong or 13 SGD. It was more than sufficient for 2 users (yes it allows hotspotting) across 4D3N!
We were greeted (or rather we had to look around in the mad crowd of greeters) for our airport transfer driver! We got a great deal at USD 16 or 22 SGD for a one way trip to the Old Quarters. There was a fellow Singaporean who was sharing with us that Uber-ing from the airport could be a better deal too, but we did not get to try that.
It’s about a quick 45min to an hour ride depending on traffic from the airport to the Old Quarters. We arrived at Hotel Especen without much trouble, and quickly got about to satisfying our hunger pangs with a recommendation from the concierge.
Pho 10, less than 5 mins walk from our hotel bustled with a constant stream of both locals, expats and tourists alike. The weather was perfect for a hot piping bowl of pho, and we quickly tucked into our meal of well done beef pho & medium rare beef pho for about 95,000 dong or 6 SGD for both of us.
It was then time to walk off the calories we just consumed. From the famous St. Joseph Cathedral (just in the backyard of our hotel), around the perimeter of the large lake (where I took a million shots of the pretty flowers blooming around the area), and the striking red bridge, we took our time exploring, acting like the tourists that we were. It was around the lake where we spotted a lady grilling corn cobs on a makeshift charcoal grill and we got all excited and decided to get one each (10,000 dong or 0.6 SGD). The conclusion: Hanoi’s corn tastes nothing like the corn we have had in Singapore before – it’s all chewy and sticky and tastes more like popcorn than the corn it is haha.
Since we were in the vicinity, we slowly strolled over to Cafe Giang where we got a good spot on some squatting chairs and ordered two Egg Coffees and proceeded to while our afternoon away. These Vietnamese Egg Coffees were truly a gem of a find on this trip, for a non-coffee drinker, these have absolutely converted me! Try it yourself to believe! It’s like a liquid heaven in a cup (In the words of my friend, I’m being dramatic but it’s definitely close.)
Because we wanted to make sure we had the day trip all settled, we went on to look for The Sinh Tourist (a legit tour agency with a million fakes all around town). Until this day I am still not 100% if we actually got it from the legit one or not. But at the very least I was satisfied with the quality of the tour for the price we paid – 800,000 dong or 51 SGD per person. In case you are interested, the outlet we went to was just beside Bio 45 on the map.
Tip: at every agency, they will tell you each day trip package will have 3 tiers (cheap, middle & luxurious) and usually about USD 10 difference in each tier. What we learnt on our day trip tour was that we met people who paid for the luxurious tour and were on the exact same boat, bus with us, did the same activities and ate the same food (we paid for the middle tier)! So don’t get scammed.
Walking around, having coffee and deciding on a day is tough work, so we were absolutely ready for a short but sweet pampering session at SF Spa. For a 30min back massage, it cost about 280,000 dong or 18 SGD. It’s definitely not the cheapest massage place in Hanoi, but I truly believe you pay for good quality – and trust me it was absolutely worth every cent paid.
Usually after a good massage, I get all hungry. So it was the perfect timing to head on back to Madame Hien‘s for a hearty good Vietnamese meal. The ambience was simply quite breathtaking with the littlest of Viet-details to the decor and just pretty grand in general. And the best thing, because we arrived early, we had the WHOLE of the second floor to ourselves. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city roads, we managed to enjoy a good meal in peace and quiet.
Filled to the brim in our tummies and our hearts, we headed back to our hotel which was also a stone’s throw away (as everything literally is within the old quarters). And decided to have a restful night before a full day of activities at Halong Bay the next day!
Read more about Day 2, Day 3 in upcoming posts soon!
MAJOR TRAVEL TIP!!!
Prior to this trip, I have always arranged my must visit places on an excel spreadsheet, and printed it out to bring along. But I had a major ephipany this trip, and discovered this AMAZING function on google maps that lets me plot my places on the map, and save it as a separate guide! OMG! To save you the work, I’ve uploaded my version here, so feel free to use it for your trip to Hanoi too! 🙂