The Vietnam Project: Last Day in Hanoi

“Vietnam is a new modern and at the same time an old-fashioned type of nation. Well, it does have its own similarities with its other neighboring Southeast Asian Countries. But what makes it unique from all of them? I think it would be the French influence and the sense of nationalism of the Vietnamese people. A country that is so proud of its ancient culture and traditions.” -Jassy

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In continuation of sharing with you the story of our trip in Vietnam, we are officially down to the fifth and last day of our exploring there.

So when the day had finally come for us to get ready and pack our things in preparation for our journey back to the Philippines. Fatimah and I were both feeling kind of emotional because we still can’t believe that it was almost over. And to make the most out of the time that was already left on our stay there, the first thing that we did was to enjoy the last few moments of eating at the hotel’s breakfast hall – taking it all in the ambiance of the area, greeting our fellow travelers, and of course, looking out once more the amazing view of Hanoi city specifically the Hoan Kiem Lake.

Since we still have time before checking out, we’ve decided to visit once again the Hoan Kiem Lake, and just sit at its nearby benches, and enjoy the view while drinking some lemon juice and taking some pictures. After that, we walked for about 10-15 minutes to go to the “Kem Trang Tien”, a small factory that sells a locally produced ice cream. And I must say, their ice cream is definitely not too sweet, but it tastes so delicious, and despite the lack of its artificial flavors, it didn’t actually hurt my tonsils at all, especially since we’ve tried a variety of its different flavors.

 

 

Then at 11:30am, we were back at the hotel to check out, and leave our baggage in the lobby since we’ve requested Mr. Henry Nguyen that we would like our driver to arrive at 6pm. So we still have the whole afternoon to explore again.

For our lunch, we went exploring at the old quarter to find and try the world famous Banh Mi 25, and all the walking that we did in order to find that place was definitely worth it because their sandwich tastes so yummy. However, the place was a bit crowded for the reason that there were tons of foreigners who were also familiar with the popularity of this French Baguettes. So it’s a good thing that we were able to get a table. Plus, I had the chance to meet the new owner of this third-generation family business.

We were there at Banh Mi 25 for more than an hour, and then we’ve continued our exploring from the old quarter all the way to the St. Joseph Cathedral. At first glance, we thought that we were in France because of the European ambiance of the area which makes it also a very enchanting site to visit.

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For the rest of the afternoon, my younger sister and I just walked around the other side of the French quarter all way back to the Hoan Kiem District. It was really exhausting, but we didn’t mind because in a few hours, we will be on our way to the airport and we just want to absorb every surrounding that we would see in Hanoi. Then in the late afternoon, we took the time to take a short break at a certain overlooking café near the HM Boutique Hotel and ordered some take-outs at the Popeye’s for our dinner later at the airport.

And as I’ve already written from my previous blog, it’s kind of hard to believe that our stay in Vietnam only took for about five days. Because it tends to feel like we’ve stayed there for a number of weeks.

 

 

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After that, we were back at the hotel to take our luggage and wait for the car that would transport us back to Noi Bai International Airport. And while waiting, both of us had given our deepest gratitude to Mr. Henry Nguyen (Manager), and also to all the hotel’s staff for the wonderful customer service that they have given to us during our stay at the HM Boutique Hotel, and for that, we will surely miss them. So if you’re looking for a wonderful place to stay in your upcoming visit to Vietnam, I would definitely recommend this hotel for its one of the best spots to stay in Hanoi. Just don’t forget what I’ve noted about it during our first day there.

Then we were on our way to the airport and had arrived there at 7pm. The thing is that the journey should only take for about 40 minutes. But due to the heavy traffic, it took us for more than an hour just to get there.

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It was still an early evening, so we took our free time by sorting out and making sure that we won’t have an excess baggage. Then ate our dinner, and had taken some short naps while waiting for the check-in counters for the Cebu Pacific airline to open.

And while we were also there, we’ve discovered something new about the culture and the people of Vietnam, and that is when a family member would go abroad, (either as an overseas worker or an exchange student). You will be surprised to know that a lot of people will send him/her off at the airport, and I’m not just talking about their immediate family members, but also the extended ones – the close friends, and if possible, including the neighbors. It’s like the whole town was actually there. Although that kind of culture is somewhat similar in the Philippines. But the surprising part is that these people love to bring tons of foods with some utensils (including kitchen knives!). Just shows that their airport isn’t that strict when it comes to their security. Something that I don’t usually get to see back home.

 

 

Anyway, we’ve also had the chance to converse with a certain Vietnamese Family, who were also there to send off their younger sibling because he will be working in Japan for about three years. They were very friendly, and from our conversations, I’ve learned that the Vietnamese are the kind of people who love to live in peace, and that is why it is so rare for them to hear some activist that opposes their government, but nevertheless, they truly trust its leadership. In which case, I can sort of agree.

By the way, in case that there’s a possibility that a particular Vietnamese local would give you something like some food, please accept it graciously even if you don’t want to. Because the Vietnamese are known for that, and in doing so would somewhat be an impolite thing to do.

 

 

Also, it was a very exhausting night while waiting for our flight back to the Philippines. But from the moment that we were officially on board, and were ready to take off, I was tearfully emotional. For I still can’t believe that the trip was definitely over.

Moreover, I’m also grateful to God for making our journey a very memorable and safer one. Bringing with us also all the unforgettable experiences that we’ve gained from there. Including those people that we’ve met, and making us believe the importance of being content in life, the love for our family, and showing us the passion of patriotism to our very own country. Something that we’ve bought with us back home, and wanted to share with our fellow countrymen.

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For our next trip, I hope and pray that we would be able to gain more insights and learnings just as much as we did from all those previous travels that we’ve already made.

I guess that shows that the more you travel, the more you will realize how small and different we truly are from one another.

As I finish writing the story of our trip, I would like to dedicate and say my heartfelt gratitude to our friends and family who’ve been giving me and my sister their all-out and 100% support, especially to my parents. Moreover, a special mentioned to a friend of mine that I’ve met in Taiwan, Aleks Paat. I just wanna say thank you so much for all your help in sharing with us your tips and insights about Vietnam especially for being so accommodating to all of my inquiries during those months of planning. Again, Maraming Salamat!

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And course, I want to say a big thank you to my younger sister Ray2x for choosing to come with me and be a part of this unforgettable experience. Seriously manghod, I’m so grateful for the all the patience that you’ve given me specifically during those times that I was acting way more anxious, and for that, I’ am truly sorry. But nevertheless, I’ am so proud of the success that we’ve achieved on this trip because it had made everything so worth it, and I’m so looking forward to exploring and seeing more places with you, my dear sister. Love yah!

Well, that’s it, the story of our exploring to one of the most awesome places in Southeast Asia. Next to the Philippines of course!

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Cam On Rat Nhieu Vietnam!

(Thank You So Much Vietnam)

Till we meet again!

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Plus, thank you so much for reading the Vietnam Project Series!

God Bless!

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DAY 1: The Vietnam Project: First Day in Hanoi

DAY 2: The Vietnam Project: Halong Bay Tour

DAY 3: The Vietnam Project: Hanoi Free Tour Guides

DAY 4: The Vietnam Project: Day Tour to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc

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That Place Called Sagada: Chasing the Dawn and the Journey Back Home

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“The best camera in the world is viewed within our very own eyes; and the best photos are those MEMORIES that we will always treasure, no matter where such desire of wandering would take us.” -Jassy

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On our third and last day in Sagada, we went on a short visit to Kiltepan Peak. In which I think was really a very enchanting moment, and that I truly enjoyed it there including the jeepney ride experience and the Arroz Caldo for breakfast.

Although it was so crowded by the time that we’ve arrived there, I was still lucky enough to find such a good spot for viewing the sunrise. Then after taking some videos and pictures, I just used my limited time to take it all in the beauty of everything around me while I was listening to some music on my phone.

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Then at 6:30 am, we had to go back at our assigned jeepney since Kuya Ron will be waiting for us at the Sagada Homestay for breakfast. And because I already ate at the Kiltepan Peak, I just ordered their coffee and went out exploring the place. Plus, enjoying the overlooking view of the whole town of Sagada while I was drinking my mug of coffee.

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You know what’s weird, the thing is that I actually have a phobia when it comes to dogs, but while I was there, I was not afraid of them. In fact, for one moment, I felt so brave to be near them and even took some pictures of them. And I think it’s one of those places in the Philippines where you can find such different varieties of dogs wandering freely around town; because for the locals, their dogs are so special that there’s a penalty if you will harm them.

And in our last few moments before leaving Sagada, I knew that I’ve fallen in love with the place, and will always long for it wherever I go. Then at 8 am, we were officially back on the road going to Baguio, but this time, crossing the Halsema Highway, one of the world’s most dangerous roads to travel.

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By the way, the journey to Baguio via Halsema Highway will take for about 5 hours, and despite those heart-stopping moments on the road. I was totally amazed at all those stunning and majestic views outside our window. And how I wish that I could just take tons of videos and pictures of the area. But I couldn’t. For the only thing that I can do was just to take it and breathe it all in especially during those times when we had a short stopover at the Philippine Highway System Highest Point.

 

Another side trip was a visit to La Trinidad so that we could eat our lunch at a restaurant near the strawberry farm. And after eating, we were also given an hour to buy more souvenirs, and explore the area. Then continue our journey back to Manila.

Back at the restaurant, someone in our group actually made a surprise to me, and to tell you the truth, I was totally shocked by it. But uncomfortable? For my fellow travelers, maybe yes, but for me, I was not. However, what I truly felt during those unexpected moments was that sense of compassion and kindness for that person who was introduced to me. But what happened there was a test of my character, and how I’ve dealt with that unexpected encounter tells me more about who I really am, and what I could do to improve myself.

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As for my fellow joiners in this wonderful journey, I must say, I’ve already joined a number of joiners tour, and this group that I’ve been with during those four days of wandering were definitely one of the best ever.

Why? It is because all of us had really bonded that even during on our journey back home, we were still having a great time, and were even singing together as a group during those road trips. It’s like we don’t want the journey to end, but had to accept the fact that later on, we all have to say goodbye.

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A journey that I will never ever forget. Which made me so grateful to God for the following:

  1. For making our 14 hours road trip to Sagada a safer one. Especially when we were already two hours away for I had to be honest, I was somewhat scared at that time.
  2. Despite the coldness surrounding us, I’m glad for the beautiful and sunny weather during our stay there.
  3. Although there are more challenging caves to trek there in Sagada, but for those of us who’ve joined the trekking inside the Sumaging Cave, and for some of us who are an amateur cave trekker, I’m so grateful that we were all safe and physically strong to make it inside then back to the main entrance. Cause one mistake, and it could be fatal on our part. But the views inside there were totally worth it.
  4. I’m also thankful to all the locals that we’ve met. For showing us the real essence of giving importance of what is truly ours, and to appreciate the little things in life. They are so simple and humble in every way. And I’m sure they know how truly rich they are.
  5. For our journey back home, the 5 hours road trip from Sagada to Baguio was a very risky one especially when we were informed by Kuya Ron and Kuya Ryan that we will be crossing the Halsema Highway. But as mentioned by them, we should not be afraid, and just enjoy the stunning views outside. And before our journey, we really prayed for it, and thank God the weather was totally okay, and that our journey all the way to Baguio and Manila was a safer one.
  6. And lastly, I will never ever forget those people that I’ve met and joined during those few days of exploring in Sagada – Ate Marge, Tita Nora, Kuya Jan, Ate Tedi, Ate Jai, Nicole, Rizelle, Kuya Ryan, Kuya Salvador, the owners of the guesthouse, and Kuya Ron. Truly, I’m so beyond grateful to you guys, and I miss you all so much. Hope to keep in touch with you all every now and then. And also to meet you again during my visits to Manila. Moreover, because of you guys, I didn’t feel for one moment that I was on a solo trip, and that’s what made it so special. Hope we will have a group tour again.

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As I’ve already written from my previous blog, I cried so hard upon arrival back home, because the trip was so beautiful and special that I still can’t believe that it was finally over. Wherever I go, I will always remember those unforgettable times, and to hope and pray for the opportunity to visit Sagada again and again.

 

That’s it. I’ve finally finished writing the story of our adventure in Sagada.

By the way, I truly dedicate this blog of mine to all the people who’ve been part of this wonderful journey.

Again, MARAMING MARAMING SALAMAT!

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“Sagada is a quaint small town. But not the kind of place for the faint-hearted. And for those who’ve already been there, now I know what you really mean.” -Jassy

DAY 1: That Place Called Sagada: The Long Journey and First Day in Town

DAY 2: That Place Called Sagada: Trekking Experiences and Food Trip

That Place Called Sagada: Trekking Experiences and Food Trip

“I’m just a SOLIVAGANT in a much different world than mine. And seeing this kind of view makes me wish that at all times, we as wanderers, should always be kind to Mother Nature. To hope and pray for the protection and preservation of God’s gift to us mankind.” -Jassy

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For our second day in Sagada, our first activity was the trekking to Bomod-Ok Falls.

According to our assigned local guide named Kuya Salvador, this trekking experience will take about 7,500 steps in order to reach this famous waterfalls in the area. Upon arrival, it was already a bit crowded. And except for me and Ate Arge’s mom, the rest of the group went out for a short swim near the waterfalls.

So while I was there, I’ve utilized my time by just enjoying the view of the place, do some bookstagramming, and also to take some videos and pictures of the area.

 

Anyway, the views of the mountains while we were trekking there were really beautiful and breathtaking. But on our journey back to the main site, it was very physically exhausting since we had to climb quite a number of stairs, and because of that, we had to stop and take a short break every now and then. Plus, the jeepney ride back to the main site was for one moment, a bit similar to the road trip to Shimla, India; I have never been there, but I’ve seen a travel documentary about it. So the similarity was there, and I was quite overwhelmed by that experience alone.

 

 

Back to the main site, we were welcomed by a very sumptuous feast for our lunch, and had a great time eating it all.

Just a little something for anyone who’s planning to visit Sagada, when trekking there, one should always make sure to really eat well because such energy is really needed to walk such long distances.

 

After our lunch, we went for a short side trip at the Sagada Weaving. Then head off straight to the Echo Valley, the area where the famous Hanging Coffins were also located. And since we were already fresh from our trekking in Bomod-Ok Falls, walking and climbing the stairs there was already a bit easier for us, and we stayed there for about 2 hours.

For our next stop, it was the Sagada Pottery House. A vintage place in where they make a pottery and sell it to its visitors for a very hefty price. Which is entirely understandable since the process to make it is not an easy one.

 

 

Since we still had time, Kuya Ron had decided to take us at Lake Danum for a short visit. And we really had a wonderful time enjoying the view of the lake despite the coldness of the weather. Then at 4pm, we were back in town for our free time to do our own thing like souvenir shopping, and food trip.

Well in my case, I’ve decided to join my fellow joiners for an early dinner at the Salt and Pepper Diner. Ordering their very own Grandma’s Delight paired with a local mountain tea; and went out on my own to buy some souvenirs to bring back at home, and take a short side trip to the Yoghurt House.

 

The Yoghurt House is definitely the kind of café that I would love to visit, and while I was there, I had no idea what to order. So I’ve asked their staff for an advice as to what is their best seller, and I was given their specialty – Plain Yoghurt with Sagada Honey. It tastes like a vanilla ice cream, but soft and sweet due to the local honey that both of which had really blended well. Moreover, I also had the time to be acquainted with its staff and found out that in Sagada, most of its students after school would actually do a part-time at the different establishments in the area. Which is something that is quite normal and necessary for them because they are a self-supporting type of community.

 

It was a drizzling and cold early evening by the time we were back to our guesthouse for we really need to rest and prepare for the bonfire session which would officially start at 8pm. And I must say, that bonfire session was definitely one of the highlights of our trip, and I’m so sorry that I just couldn’t elaborate more on that because it was a very private moment that I had to leave it that way.

So for our last day in Sagada, our call time was at 4:30am. A very early start in preparation for our sunrise viewing at the Kiltepan Peak, and that is why we really have to wake up way too early for the jeepney that will take us there will be arriving at the guesthouse at 5am; and at the same time, to put all our bags inside the van because Kuya Ron will be waiting for us at the Sagada Homestay along with our things after our trip from Kiltepan.

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That’s how our second day in Sagada had turned out to be and will share with you later the story of our side trip to Baguio and journey back home.

Thank you so much for reading.

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DAY 1: That Place Called Sagada: The Long Journey and First Day in Town

DAY 3: That Place Called Sagada: Chasing the Dawn and the Journey Back Home

The Vietnam Project: Day Tour to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc

“Go to a place where you’ll feel at ease and most likely yourself.”

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On our fourth day in Vietnam, we’ve had the chance to visit and experience one of this country’s greatest treasures. Which was a road trip to the Ninh Binh Province to visit its Hoa Lu Temples and a river cruise in Tam Coc. And if there’s a day tour that I would most certainly recommend for you to do when you’ll visit Vietnam. This is definitely one of those.

Just the same as I did in our Halong Bay tour, I’ve also booked this Tam Coc tour online, and by pure coincidence, both of these tours were booked separately, and it was only after booking, when I was about to check my e-vouchers, that I’ve noticed that it was all under the same travel agency named Halong Hanoi Transfer.

It was around 8:30 am in the morning that we were picked up by our tour guide at the Hanoi HM Boutique Hotel. Actually, the shuttle bus was kind of late for about 30 minutes; and for one moment, my sister and I thought that we wouldn’t be able to get some comfortable seats, but it’s a good thing that we were still able to for assigned bus was almost full by so many travelers from different countries like in Thailand, India, USA, China, and South Korea. However, despite the number in our group, we didn’t had that kind of friendly vibe to one another. Not like in our Halong Bay tour; it is because each one of us were really accommodating and friendly towards each other especially to those group of Filipinos that we’ve met on board.

This full day tour was headed by a very funny guy named Doc. At first glance, he may seemed to be so serious on the outside, but when he started talking to us during our journey. We were all quite surprised that he speaks in a very humorous and hilarious kind of way.

Well moving forward, the journey to Ninh Binh Province took only for about two hours including the stop over at a souvenir shop in which most of the items that are being sold there were handcrafted by the locals who are disabled.

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Then an hour before noon, we’ve arrived at the Hoa Lu Temples. A famous historical site in Vietnam that were built during the Dinh and Le Dynasties.

Actually, the place looks kind of similar to “The Temple of Literature” in Hanoi. So when Mr.Doc was giving us in our group some historical insights about the place, my sister and I were at an advantage. For we’ve remembered some of the main points that Mr. Bui Duy Khanh (tour guide on day 3) had shared with us, and because of that, we were able to answer some of the questions that were given to us by our tour guide.

From there, we were all given an hour to explore on our own the temples. And since the place was less crowded, we’ve had a wonderful time wandering around while taking tons of photos. Then head off straight to Tam Coc for our buffet lunch.

It was a very hot and humid fourth day, but I would have preferred that kind of weather instead of the rain. Cause then we wouldn’t been able to enjoy our tour. After our lunch, our guide was already waiting for us at the Tam Coc wharf in order to assist us in our ride to the sampan boat. In which this kind of boat can only accommodate three passengers, including the guide who will row the boat using either their two arms or legs. The river cruise took for about two hours, and despite the blazing heat of the sun, we most certainly had one of the best time of our lives, and it was such an adventure especially the journey inside the caves.

Some tips for you guys, always make sure to bring a bottle of water and your own snacks with you. It is for the reason that such items there are being sold at a touristy price. Plus, if you’re someone who’s also very conscious about being under the heat of the sun, make sure that you’re wearing a long sleeve, or a cardigan maybe, and to wear cap; and if you also have an umbrella with you. That would totally be awesome.

To continue our story, I would also like to share some thoughts with you my fellow readers, and that is, during that boat ride, I’ve realized that one must definitely try to utilize and absorb all the stunning views of Tam Coc. Well, of course, taking tons of pictures and videos there are definitely a must in order to have something to remember. But the thing is, as much as we want to capture everything. We just can’t. So the best thing that one should do is to just sit back, enjoy the ride, drink something (maybe a cold beer?), eat some snacks, listen to some favorite music on your phone, and just take it all in. Because the only thing that you will truly gain from it all are the unforgettable memories from that experience. Including the amazing views that you’ve captured right before your very eyes.

Furthermore, I would also like to say a huge “Cam On” or “Thank You” to the woman who was assigned to row the boat for us. That despite our language barrier, we were still able to communicate through our smiles and hand gestures. And by the way, giving some free snacks and tips to the rower is somewhat optional. But in our case, we were so grateful to her that we didn’t mind giving something extra because it was all worth it.

 

Back at the dock, Mr.Doc was already waiting for all of us in our group to assist us individually in choosing the bicycles that we will be using for our Do-it-yourself exploring in the small town village of Tam Coc. But the bicycle experience are for those who really knows how to ride the bike. So if you don’t know how to ride it, then the tour guide will give you the one hour free time to explore the small town village by walking.

At first I was somewhat hesitant to do it because it’s been years since I’ve ridden a bicycle. So I was totally nervous. But upon hopping on and moving forward. I was profoundly enchanted of everything around me. Almost to the point that I can’t believe that I was actually doing it. The first stop was at the center of the village, and then we went along the highway road going to the rice field of Bich Dong with an overview of the mountains of Tam Coc.

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It was most certainly one of the best highlights of our trip in Vietnam. Even I was kind of imagining that I was Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love”; cycling around the countryside, and greeting “Xin Chao!” to the locals every time we pass them on the road. Well I wish we could have explore more of the rural village. But we were on a schedule, and we have to get back to our meeting area as to where our shuttle bus was waiting to take us back to Hanoi. And during our journey, while I was looking outside the window of the bus, I’ve had this overwhelming feeling deep inside of me because that experience alone was definitely one of the coolest things that I’ve ever done as a traveler, and it was entirely unforgettable.

Exploring the Small Town Village of Tam Coc

Then at 6:30pm, we’ve arrived back to the city and were dropped off at our respective hotels.

So for our free time in the evening, Fatimah and I went out again to eat some dinner at a local restaurant that was just a walking distance from the hotel. I’ve ordered a “Dried Beef Salad”, and for my sister, she ordered the “Bird Salad”. But mine was more delicious than hers.

It was still an early night, and the streets had gotten a bit quiet and less crowded since the night market is only available during the weekends. And because we still want to utilize our time, we went out again to explore every nook and corner of the old quarter, and to continue buying some souvenirs. Cause by tomorrow morning, we would have to start packing our things for it’s our last day in Vietnam before we head back home to the Philippines.

The Rice Field of Bich Dong

The thing is that during those times that we were wandering in that area, both my sister and I felt somewhat emotional again. For the reason that we still can’t believe that we’ve mostly accomplished all of the things that we’ve planned for months. Furthermore, we know that deep down, we will surely going to miss everything about Vietnam; including those people that we’ve met, the food that we ate, the places that we’ve explored, the night market, and also some insights that we’ve learned.

Moreover, it feels so surreal that we were only there for about a number of days; because it felt like we were there for a long period of time. I guess it really shows that we’ve had such a wonderful time.

And that my friend is how our favorite and memorable fourth day had turned out to be.

By the way, are you looking for a place to stay on your next trip that provides such huge discounts and tons of reviews?

Because I would definitely recommend for you to book it under Agoda.com

One of the best sites for hotel bookings. And not only that, it’s convenient and reliable for every travelers out there.

 

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Hoan Kiem Lake

The Vietnamese Version of Chicken and Beef Salad

And below are the links that would direct you to the Vietnam Project Series.

DAY 1: The Vietnam Project: First Day in Hanoi

DAY 2: The Vietnam Project: Halong Bay Tour

DAY 3: The Vietnam Project: Hanoi Free Tour Guides

Thank you so much for reading.

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The Vietnam Project: First Day in Hanoi

Vietnam is the kind of an exotic country that will always leave a huge impression to all of its visitors.

However on your first day, it’s going to be a real adjustment; and sometimes, you might have this vague and disturbing thoughts into your mind like,

“What am I doing here?” or “What have I gotten myself into?”

Well that kind of impression is quite normal on day one, and don’t worry, as you go along on your stay there, you will realize that it may seem a bit chaotic at first, but, it is a beautiful and authentic country. Plus, you will insanely and hopelessly fall in love of the place.

But if someone is going to ask me as to why I have chosen this country as my next trip abroad. The answer is, I still don’t know. It’s just that, when I had the chance to book a promo fare online, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. I just booked some round-trip tickets from Manila to Hanoi for me and my younger sister, and that’s it; even I was surprised after I did it. And since we still have months to prepare for it, we’ve both decided to slowly do some research about Vietnam, then plan and finalize everything.

It was a sisterhood team-up that took months and months of researching and planning in order to hopefully make sure that we will be able to make the most out of our trip. For my part, I did the booking of airline tickets, hotel accommodations, arranging of our day tours, planning our itineraries from day one to five, and budgeting our finances. Then for my younger sister, she mostly did the navigating (which is a huge weakness on my part), finding the best spots for our food trip, checking out some useful information from other Vietnam visitors, my partner in taking photos (cause she’s really good at it), and of course, the bargainer for our pasalubong (souvenirs) for our friends and family back home.

After all the planning and preparing, we were officially on our way to Vietnam, and we arrived at the Noi Bai International Airport Terminal 2 at around 12mn. By the way, in terms of its time difference, Hanoi is one hour behind in Manila.

Moreover, one advantage of the Philippines as part of the ASEAN is that Filipinos can go to Vietnam without having to apply for its Visa on Arrival. Just set off straight to the immigration and look for the ASEAN sign as to where you will go to present your passport.

Then at the arrival area, we were quite surprised to know that the driver who was supposed to pick us did not arrive. So I contacted the hotel staff with regards to it, and he gave us an option to just take a taxi from the airport going to Hanoi HM Boutique Hotel, and also informed us that he is going to pay for our fare. The journey took for about 30-40 minutes, and upon arrival, we were so beyond exhausted that we had slept right away at 3 am. Then we woke up at 6am to get ready for the day, and ate some breakfast at the hotel’s small dining area with an overlooking view of the Hoan Kiem Lake. After eating our buffet meals, we went to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater to buy our tickets in advance for the 6:30pm schedule; in which I recommend to buy the tickets way too earlier since it’s mostly a full pack show, and also to get the best seats.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Since we’ve already planned our itineraries, my sister and I already know what to do on our first day; so the first site that we’ve chosen to explore was the Hoan Kiem Lake. The reason is that if you will decide to go there in the late morning and beyond. Tendency is that you will bump into a lot of foreign visitors. After that we went to the Café Giang 39 to try its famous egg coffee, a place that can only be found in the middle of an old alley. For our next stop, we went to Café Pho to try its other version.

Both were very delicious, so it’s kind of hard to say as to which one is our favorite. The only thing that I could say about it is that each coffee is so fluffy, so foamy, and so yummy. Definitely worth trying.

Old Quarter, Hanoi

For our lunch, we ate at the Green Tangerine – an old restaurant in which the place looks like a touch of Paris in Hanoi. I must say, the food and its dessert taste delicious; and while eating you’ll really enjoy the ambiance of the area.

But before I move forward into our story, I would like to share some insights on our first morning of exploring in the old quarter, and that is, one of the surprising things that we’ve observed is that Hanoi is a very old fashioned type of city, and the locals there are kind of laid back. Well it’s just that, they don’t seem to be like the kind of people who are in such a hurry. But the ironic thing is, in terms of crossing the street, you have to be very alert because they ride their scooters way too fast. So if you’re someone who lives in a place in where crossing the street is too convenient for you, then be prepared to be surprise, and master the art of doing it.

Another useful tip for future Vietnam visitors, when buying a drinking water, or other important items. I suggest that you purchase it at a grocery or convenience store that has an actual price tag. It is because there are some local sellers who tends to take advantage of its foreign visitors. One example from our many encounters was that when my sister was trying to purchase one liter of drinking water at a street vendor, she was informed that it cost for about 200,000 dong (P450 or $9), and then it was lowered to an amount of 50,000 dong (P110 or $2). But when we went inside a convenience store like Circle K, we were so glad to know that such an item was only 10,000 dong (P20). So we bought a gallon for refill purposes (cause I had a tumbler with me), and it only cost for about 25,000 dong (P56 or $1.36). Which is definitely the right price.

Plus, it’s a good thing that they we’ve made a note by doing a list on certain amounts of dong if it would be converted into Philippine peso; something that we did so that we would not be scam by some local sellers, and of course to know how much to bargain.

And that covers up our first morning of exploring.

Cafe Pho

In the afternoon, we went to explore every nook and corner of the French Quarter. A beautiful district in where you can see tons of houses and buildings in the French style. And for one moment we thought that we were actually in Paris. Which was totally awesome.

Although it did rain in the middle of the afternoon, but it still didn’t stop us to wander around. As long as we have our umbrella and offline Google map, then we’re good. So while we were walking from one block to another. Little did we know that we were already near the place in where it sells a Beef Pho. In which according to my younger sister is definitely one of the yummiest noodle soups in the country. So we went there to try it, and I tell you, it taste so good.

Green Tangerine

Also, one of the places that we’ve passed by was the small restaurant in where my idol Anthony Bourdain ate some Bun Cha, and drank some local beer while conversing with former US President Barack Obama. Wish we could go inside, but we were sort of in a hurry since it was already past 5pm, and we have to walked back again to the Hoan Kiem District, in order to catch up on the Water Puppet Show. And my goodness, upon arrival, we were soaking wet due to all the walking that we did in the rain. However, we still have 30 minutes to change, so we first dropped by at the hotel, went to our rooms to change in our dry clothes, and when we’ve arrived at the Theater, we were just in time for the next show to start.

French Quarter, Hanoi

The Water Puppet Show is about the day to day living of the locals in Vietnam during the old times, with some local background music that makes it so enjoyable to watch. Since the dialogues are in Vietnamese, my advice is to read some information about the program before heading off to the theater. And one of the things that I really enjoyed there was that I was so amazed of its audience; so many foreigners from different countries all over the world. Plus, to hear them talking in their own native language was definitely a cool experience especially when it’s all blending as one.

By the way, please avoid taking too much photos or videos while the show is ongoing. It is because you will miss the real essence of being there. Moreover, you’re supposed to be watching the actual live show, and not through your gadgets. Trust me; it’s worth putting aside your phone or camera for one moment.

French Quarter, Hanoi

After that, we still had some time to explore the district, so we walked around the area before we head back to the hotel to sleep, since we really need to have an early start in preparation for our long journey to Halong Bay. And that’s it, our very exhausting and exciting first day in Hanoi.

Thank you so much for reading! 🙂

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

 

Hoan Kiem District

 

DAY 2: The Vietnam Project: Halong Bay Tour

DAY 3: The Vietnam Project: Hanoi Free Tour Guides

DAY 4: The Vietnam Project: Day Tour to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc