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: 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