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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The Vietnam Project: Halong Bay Tour

“Search the globe, and you will never find a place that looks remotely like this.”

-Anthony Bourdain

 

Our second day in Vietnam is a full day trip to the 2,000 islets of Halong Bay, a very popular destination, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Well I remember on that early morning when I was kind of worried about the weather since it was raining on our first day in Hanoi, but luckily it had slowly turned into a sunny day.

It was expected that it’s going to be a long trip, so my sister and I had to wake up way too early in order to prepare for it, and also because we don’t want to keep our travel agent waiting for us. By 8:30 in the morning, we were picked up by our tour guide at the hotel lobby, and assisted us to the bus that was already waiting outside.

Along with some fellow Asian travelers on board, the shuttle bus was kind of full packed. So it’s a good thing that we were still able to get such comfortable seats since the trip will take for about four hours to travel, and while we were halfway through our journey, we’ve had a short stop over at a souvenir shop in order to take a break for about 15 minutes.

 

 

I think it was around lunch time when we had finally arrived at the port, and from there, head off straight as to where our assigned boat was located. Then upon boarding and at the start of our cruising around the bay, all of its travelers were given a sumptuous and delicious seafood with Vietnamese dishes for lunch. Of course, we all ate right away due to the fact that all of us were so hungry from that road trip; and while eating, we were utterly enjoying the wonderful view outside.

After that, we were given the free time to relax at the sun deck, to explore around the boat, to take it all in the amazing views around us, and as usual, to take some photos.

 

 

In our tour, we were also given the option to Kayak in the emerald-green waters of the bay, or go for a bamboo boat ride. But all of us in our group had decided to go for the latter option.

By the time it was our turn, my sister and I were paired with a young Indian woman and her mother.

So while our designated local guide was rowing the boat for all of us, we both take turns in taking some pictures to one another, and for that, I will always remember them for being so nice and so kind towards me and Fatimah.

 

 

 

Moving forward, the Bamboo boat ride was such a fun experience especially when we get to see some islets of the bay in a much closer look, including some local families who actually live in a boat. But I was kind of disturbed because I’ve noticed that there are some scattered pieces of a Styrofoam floating around near the small caves. I just hope that the locals would do something about it, because it’s such a pity to see a marvelous place slowly turning into a garbage area.

 

I almost forgot, by the way, in case that you will have the opportunity to encounter a local seller in Halong Bay that sells some souvenir items for a price of 15,000 dong (P34) or below. I truly suggest that you will buy it right away because it’s such a bargain, and those products back in Hanoi would cost for about 20,000 – 40,000 dong per item.

 

 

For our next stop, it was the Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave). I think this part in our tour was definitely the most exhausting thing that we all did. Probably it was due to the fact that we had to climb quite a number of stairs just to get there. Moreover, it was so crowded. Tons of foreign visitors. So it’s either you’ll enjoy it there, or you won’t. Well in our case, we’ve had a wonderful time wandering in that area.

Well anyway, the Cave was enchanting and colorful to look at; but instead of taking photos, I’ve used my time there to just walk around, observing the place, and just letting my sister Fatimah take most of the pictures. After that, we were back once again to our boat in preparation for our trip back to the mainland, and while on cruise, we’ve had the rare opportunity to witness the beautiful sunset around Halong Bay. Which is truly a magnificent sight to see.

 

The thing is, for years I’ve been wanting to see Halong Bay in person, and never mind that it was such a long road trip because from the moment that our boat had started cruising around the bay, I’ve tried to grasp everything right before my very eyes. Already getting an idea of what my idol Anthony Bourdain had felt back then when he went to visit there for two days. Furthermore, it looks so beautifully majestic that made the journey all worth it. And because we really had a great time conversing with our fellow travelers on board, my sister and I are also grateful to the them for making that day a very memorable one; like our tour guide, two travelers from Thailand, one Singaporean, and a group of Filipino travelers from Manila (who are also our fellow passengers on our flight going to Hanoi), and so many more.

 

Then at around eight in the evening, we were officially back to Hanoi, and all of us were dropped off back to our respective hotels.

It was still an early evening, so my sister and I had decided to go out again after taking a short break; and since it was also the weekend, we had the chance to experience the night market in Hanoi; an awesome evening with a big crowd and lots of stalls that sells so many affordable products (in which Hanoi is already getting known for). From food, clothes, shoes, souvenir items, bags, toys. There are just so many things to buy!

Even for a budget of 500,000 dong (P 1,000 or $20), there are tons of items that you can purchase in that kind of amount.

Some tips, bargain all the way and go for the reasonable price that you are aiming for. So how can you do it? Be a good negotiator, and don’t just buy right away, because not all stalls sell the same price for a certain product and it actually differs from one corner to another. So be very meticulous in terms of purchasing an item that you wanted to buy.

Plus, we also had the chance to try the Vietnamese edition of KFC. And I’m so sorry that I’m going to say this but, I think our Filipino version is so much better and tastier.

 

Overall, it was a very unforgettable night and we really had so much fun blending in with such a massive crowd, which also made us look forward to the next night market.

And that’s the story of our second day of exploring.

Thank you so much for reading, and will keep you posted to the next part of our story.

 

 

DAY 1: The Vietnam Project: First Day in Hanoi

DAY 3: The Vietnam Project: Hanoi Free Tour Guides

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

Seoul Searching 101: The First Part of Our Journey

As a wanderer, I’ve always been dreaming of traveling abroad. And I have never thought that South Korea would be the very first country that I will be able to visit and explore!

So it was officially in the year 2015 that such a dream had finally happened. The thing is that it wasn’t actually my priority last year to go beyond the Philippines; for I was already planning of going to Baguio or Vigan. But then I got a call from a friend of mine informing me about a promo fare going to South Korea. And without any hesitation, I accepted the invitation even though I still haven’t got my own passport! So I had to double time in preparing for all of the requirements needed, and to submit my applications as soon as possible; including also such requirements for my VISA, Authority to Travel, and of course, I still need to present all of these approved documents at the Bureau of Immigration on the day of our travel at the airport.

Then after months of preparation, the day to actually set foot in South Korea has finally arrived! I was totally excited, and at the same time I was also nervous. Not because it’s my first trip abroad. But for the reason that in our group, we actually don’t have a proper itinerary! What happened was that ten of us were supposed to be going to there. But we were narrowed down to five because of such unexpected events. So for the five of us (two adults and three teenagers), we just couldn’t back out. Especially when we’ve already booked our tickets, made a reservation at the guesthouse as to where we will be staying, and of course, all of the things that we’ve prepared just for this trip. It was a risk on our part. But we have to go. And so we did!

It was on November 30, 2015, that we were scheduled to travel to Incheon, South Korea. So even if our flight was still in the late afternoon, we still had to be early at the NAIA Terminal 3 in order for us to prepare for our check-in, to change our money from Peso to Won, our interview at the Immigration, and so many other things; and after hours of waiting, at around 4pm in the Philippines, we were finally on our way. Moreover, even if it’s already been months since that day, that feeling of that moment is still here in my heart. So unforgettable! In our group, we actually had no idea of what lies ahead of us when we arrive there. But our first priority was to makes sure that we will know what mode of transportation we will be using in order for us to get to Seoul, and of course, to know the direction of our guesthouse. And I’m so thankful to a batch mate of mine who went to South Korea a few weeks earlier than us. For it was her blog about her recent trip there that we’ve made it as our guide.

Of course, we already have an idea that by the time we’ll arrive there, it’s already their winter season; for I had a month to prepare for it – my clothes, two pairs of boots, medicines, other necessities, and a whole lot more. But in the end, we were so not expecting it to be that cold!

Then by the time that we’ve arrived at the Incheon International Airport, we went first to their Immigration, and after that we’ve picked our luggage so that we could change to our winter outfits. Anyway, to all the fans of Korean Series; I’m sure you’re quite familiar of those scenes at their airport in which when an actor would arrive they would always appear at that sliding door with a big monitor above it. So I was totally fortunate to experience something like that! It made me so giddy, but I forgot to take a picture! Oh well. At least I was able to seize the moment by staring at it for a few seconds.

For our first night, everything was just happening way too fast. We went to a seven eleven convenience store to buy our T-Money card for transportation purposes, made some inquiries at the information center, and went out of the airport to wait for our bus that would take us to Seoul. The funny thing that I could remember that was mentioned to us by a fellow passenger during our flight to South Korea was that, by the time that we will go out of the airport, it is definitely going to be extremely cold outside. So when we were exactly at the door and we were counting for like – one, two, three, and then go out. I was totally screaming inside because it was so damn cold! Even my four layers of outfit couldn’t protect me at all, and after almost 30 minutes of waiting, the bus that would take us to Myeong dong in Seoul has finally arrived.

During our almost two hours of bus journey to Seoul, it was one of those times that I had a special moment. Cause I still can’t believe that I’ve finally arrived in South Korea! For it was truly a dream come true! I was just there sitting at the bus listening to my music playlist, and absorbing everything that I’m seeing right in front of me. Even if it was already night time, I still couldn’t care less. For the thought that I’m seeing such amazing views outside my window, makes me feel such an overwhelming excitement. Happiness beyond happiness.

It was around 11pm that we’ve finally arrived in Seoul. And tell you the truth, I was so scared by the time our bus has dropped us off at Myeong dong. For we have no idea about the direction to our guesthouse. It was already night time, so cold outside, and we’re already exhausted from our journey. Plus, we have no phone signal, and at that moment no Wi-Fi. So it was totally hard for us at first. But luckily, after making some inquiries at a hotel nearby, we we’re able to locate 24gueshouse Namsan, and we’ve arrived there just in time for it to close for the night.

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As for the place where we stayed during our adventures there, I was totally amazed of the place, because it looks so nice, and it’s totally affordable. Moreover, during our first night, I was kind of funny because I didn’t know that there was a heater. So I had to stand the coldness of the water while washing my face and brushing my teeth. And it was during the next day that I was informed on how to use the heater inside our bathroom. Plus, it was already late in the evening. So we’ve decided to take a rest, and to continue our plans for the next day.

It was such a long day, but truly an unforgettable one. And that sums up our first night in South Korea.

As for next part of our story,

To be continued.

Thank you so much for reading. 🙂

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