Tuesday, November 19, 2013

4D3N Hanoi and Halong Bay Retreat 14-17 Nov 2013 - Day 1

Hanoi Day 1 
14 Nov 2013

The trip that I've been looking forward to for more than a month! We were quite worried as Typhoon Hai Yan was passing by Halong Bay at the start of the week. Luckily the storm was over when we got there on 14 Nov, Thursday. The sky's clear and weather was pretty cooling. TR 2308 brought us safely to Hanoi at about 11am (Hanoi local time). I arranged taxi with our first hotel - Rising Dragon Grand Hotel, a 7-seater at USD 21 (VND 441,000). It took us about 45-60min to reach our hotel from the airport. If you are going to Vietnam for the first time, be prepared to face massive motorbikes and at least 10-20 horns per minute. I guess that's the way they communicate to each other as there aren't many traffic lights. However, the traffic does flow very well. So, don't be offended if they horn at you. =)

On our taxi from the airport to the hotel

Building in Old Quarter
We were warmly welcomed by the staff in the Rising Dragon Grand Hotel with their welcome drinks - Tea or Coffee. The staff brought out a map and explained to us the hotel/old quarter area, the places where we can shop/eat/walk/etc. She was very friendly and helpful. Given the price we paid for this 3-stars hotel (SGD25 per deluxe room a night), the service was really remarkable.

Welcome Tea

Deluxe Double Room

Samsung TV

Bathroom - Blue is for hot water, Red is for cold water. *strange*

And of course a selfie =P
After settling down for about 15min, we headed out for lunch as we were very hungry after the 3.5h flight. The hotel staff recommended a restaurant called Highway 4, just a street next to our hotel. We went over to check out the prices and realized that they were actually quite expensive - similar prices to Singapore's restaurants, so we decided to not have it. Instead, we tried their roadside stalls and they tasted pretty awesome!

Highway 4 Restaurant Exterior

Bun Cha . Nem Cua Be

The 6 of us shared one bowl of sweet soup with one plate of noodles and one plate of chicken + fried spring roll. I like the sweet soup with noodles! Many locals were having meal in this stall too. Most of them dived their chicken into the soup but we didn't do so. All these costed us VND 50,000 (approx. SGD 3.13).

Walking along the streets, we saw another place with hot pot. Looking at the crowd, we decided to give it a try too. The price of the hot pot was VND 300,000 (SGD 18.75) - VND 50,000 each. Honestly, this hot pot was nothing special. It's just soup base with the meat you want, adding instant noodles and some vegetables. I spotted rabbit meat on their menu. Erm.... No we didn't order it.

Menu with Rabbit Dishes

If you're on a budget tour, or you wanna save cost on a city tour, I'd recommend you to take on a free tour, yes, a FREE OF CHARGE tour, by Hanoikids. Website: http://hanoikids.org/ They are university undergraduates from different universities in Hanoi who volunteer to take tourists around the city attractions in Hanoi city. You just need to pay for their meals, attractions' entrance fees and transport. We engaged them for a half day city tour starting from 2pm, at our hotel.

Initially, we intend to visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum but it was closed as early as 11am. Do remember to cover all your body parts (except face) if you are heading over to the museum. Since it's closed, we walked to our first destination - Temple of Literature.

Street Barber Shop
Temple of Literature

Temple of Literature's Ticket Booth - VND 20,000 (SGD 1.25) per ticket
Huiping and I - taken outside Temple of Literature
There were many graduates at the temple for photo-taking with their traditional graduation 'gown'. Our hanoikids tour guides (1 female and 1 male) explained to us that this temple was the very first university in Vietnam and now has been converted to a temple, dedicated to Confucius.

Beautiful Flowers

So pretty <3

Stones carved with scholars' names

Statue of Confucius
Next, our Hanoi-kids brought us to a dessert place. To me, their desserts were too sweet to my liking. I barely touched 1/2 of my cup of taro.

Nicest dish out of all
I was craving for hot food like fried chicken, yea I miss Taiwan very much, where I can find all sorts of food everywhere on the streets. And so when we walked passed this roadside 'satay' stall, I asked everyone to stop and give it a try. Each stick costs VND 10,000 (SGD 0.63). They were hot but not really tasty. Oh well, at least it kind of satisfied half of my craving.

Feeling refreshed after filling up our stomachs, we marched towards the Mausoleum even though it's closed. There were many modern buildings as we were approaching the Mausoleum, very different feel from the old quarters.

Cute baby boy

The Magnificent Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The presidential palace is just a street across the Mausoleum. If you wanna snap a picture, do it quick as this place do not allow photography and the security guards will shoo you off once they spotted you with a camera.

Presidential Palace - Yellow House

Entrance of Presidential Palace

West Lake

After walking for the whole day, from our hotel to different sight seeing places, we were all exhausted. Our tour guides hailed a taxi (7-seater) for 8 of us - 4 girls at the back, 3 guys in the middle and 1 other male tour guide at the front, next to the taxi driver. It was a very squeezy and bumpy ride back to our hotel area. The taxi ride from west lake to our dinner place Nét Huế Restaurant took about 10-20min with the heavy traffic and cost about VND 160,000 (SGD 10). I always trust Ma Linh taxi company and will only take with them. They run on proper meter and will not quote you a fare themselves, very reliable.

Nét Huế offers authentic Vietnamese cuisine at affordable prices. Do give it a try!

Nét Huế Restaurant Menu

Nem Lui - I call this a WIY (wrap-it-yourself) dish as you need to wrap the ingredients into the wrap yourself

After wrapping, you need to pull out the lemongrass stick from the meat, dip into the sauce and you're good to go!

My noodles cost VND 50,000 as there's an additional Crab Meat ball - I find this dish so-so only

Restaurant's Signboard

Group Photo of us and the Hanoi Kids Tour Guides
Our tour guides walked us back to our hotel and we parted, Huiping exchanged Facebook contacts with them during our dinner. We're glad to have them around to accompany us for the first day around the city. Thank you for their time and effort, hope that we'll meet again! :)

Saw this Z Z Z Club while we were on our way back to hotel
We met up after a shower and walked down the streets to get mineral water. We passed by a cafe named Comga and went in for some drinks. The cafe has free wifi, all you got to do is to ask for the password. This is one good thing about vietnam - WIFI is everywhere.

Comga Drink Menu

They have all-day breakfast!
As we were very full from our dinner, we only had drinks in the cafe. HP ordered Hanoi Beer, Gibson & JH took Long Island Tea, YH had Mango Juice, LF ordered a mix mango & orange juice and I ordered an orange juice.

We ended our first day in Hanoi with a small drinking session. Next day gonna be exciting as we are heading to Halong Bay for a 2D1N cruise with Indochina-Junk! Stay tuned for the Day 2 blog-post! Halong Bay is very beauuuuutifulllll!


  1. Hi Lynne, I was researching for Hanoi when I stumbled onto your blog. I'm interested in booking a Hanoikids tour but I can't find details itinerary on their page. I would like to know if there are different tours with stipulated number of hours to engage the kids, whether the itinerary is planned by Hanoikids or whether we could provide them with our key interests and they would take us to the places accordingly. Hope to hear from you! =) Thanx!

    Jo's Jumbled Jardinière

    1. Hi Jo, you can inform them via the email on their website on the number of hours on the particular date that you need them. You can let them them the places of interest you would want to go and they will guide you on their understanding. They are very friendly! Just email them to find out more! hanoikidsvn@gmail.com :)

  2. Wow... So it is really that flexible! Thanx a lot! I would email them and let them know what we are looking out for!

  3. Oh new friend. I have marked this blog in my interesting blog list and I want to use some your pics for my blog of Hanoi weather

    I hope you are fun. A your trip to Hanoi is so wonderful. Thank for loving my Hanoi

    1. Yes sure, as long as you credit the photos used!

  4. Thank you very much for visiting

  5. Lovely write up on Hanoi. Will be going there again in Dec this year. 2nd time there. Looking forward this one as it is will be a self own budget trip. Keep up with the writing.

    1. Thank you for your compliment. Have fun in Hanoi! :)

  6. Thanks for your nice and insightful review and glad that you have enjoyed your trip very much. Hope to get in touch with you and learn (or perhaps exchange) ideas/opinions in traveling, something I am very passionate about. Look forward to hear from you and wish u well~

    1. Hi Ed, I have replied your email. Cheers, Lynne.

  7. I'd love to travel in Hanoi, and the best part is the food. Thanks for the great article. More Adventures!

  8. Hi Lynne,
    I have gone through your blog. It sounds your Hanoi trip was happening and budget trip also. I am planning to go Hanoi in November this year . One thing I am worried about food as I am vegan, Is there any vegan food available in Hanoi? If you have any idea about that then please share your views. Cheers :)

    1. Hi Deepali, I am not very sure, all of the places I go serve meat. You may refer to this link I found via Google http://www.myfiveacres.com/travel-tips/hanoi-vegetarian-food-complete-guide-vegetarians-visiting-hanoi/ for vegetarians visiting Hanoi.