Category Archives: Vietnam

Hanoi (Day 3: Imperial Citadel, Pho Bo, Egg Coffee, Legend Beer)

After a night of drinking, we woke up a bit later than the usual. For breakfast, we had complimentary vouchers at the hotel but decided to skip it for some authentic Vietnamese food.



We came looking for Pho Suong located at Trung Yen Street which is one of the side streets inside the Old Quarter. We tried out their Pho Bo which is basically beef pho.


Having some hot beef broth that morning was just what I needed. Ahh…comfort food!


We also went Cafe Giang for some Cafe Trung (egg coffee). At first, we did not notice that there was a second floor which is where I would recommend that you stay. I also tried their Cafe Sua which is coffee with milk.



Later on, we visited the Temple of Literature. A lot of students visit this place to pray for good luck.




Our next stop was the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. I personally removed this from our list of places to see but the hotel staff insisted that we go and visit the place.




Definitely a must see if you are an ethnic and cultural buff. I have been to several Asian countries and have visited similar museums. Also coming from a country rich in tribal culture, I think Westerners will appreciate this place much more than I did.


For lunch, we went to Quan An Ngon. I was expecting a hole in the wall type of place but it was the complete opposite. I wanted to scream tourist trap but their food was surprisingly tasty!


We headed to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long that afternoon. I was surprised to see that this was a UNESCO site as I have not done my research about this place.


There are a couple of things you can do around the citadel. Apart from the walled surroundings, the Flag Tower was just around the other end. Also, this place was used as a secret headquarters during the Vietnamese War. The old and new blend with this one.



It was interesting to go around the buildings that housed offices hidden underground.


There seems to be a lot of renovation going when we visited. Some areas are still being excavated. Hopefully, there will be more areas open and more things to see when I return in a few years or so.



We also visited Dong Xuan Market. I was expecting a more touristy place to buy souvenirs but it seemed more like a wholesale market for locals. Some sellers were already packing up when we went so we really did not spend a lot of time in the market. Instead, we went back to the Old Quarter and walked around the streets to buy our goodies. We bought around 2 kilograms of ground coffee to bring home.


At night, we visited Legend Beer to get a glimpse of Hanoi for one last time. We grabbed some drinks and light snack while overlooking the organized chaos below the streets.



We grabbed some quick dinner at a nearby street BBQ place. One last meal before we head back.


As we waited for our airport pick-up, I felt mixed emotions about going back home. From chasing sunsets in Tanjung Aru to catching the sunrise in Mount Kinabalu to our layover in Kuala Lumpur and finally bia hoi Hanoi, this trip is definitely one for the books!

– The Tourist Pao



Hanoi (Day 2: Halong Bay, Bia Hoi Corner)

For our second day in Hanoi, we booked a Halong Bay day tour in the Halong Phoenix Cruiser via Blue Dragon Tours. The voucher we purchased online cost us around USD $52.00 per person. Hotel pick-up and drop-off is included in the package.


We were picked-up at around 8:30 am in a mini bus that will head straight to Halong City. Of course, the tour would not be complete without your usual tourist trap stopover.


It was almost 2 pm when we arrived at the docks. Since we did some careful research on the junk we will be boarding, the Phoenix Cruiser did not disappoint and we got exactly what we booked for.



We were lucky to be able to book a boat that is not fully occupied as I would have imagined a less enjoyable experience. Our guide, Hai, told us that the big group booked on our tour decided to take the overnight boat instead. We were only 7 in the group that day.



As we cruised along the bay, you can already see the limestone formations a few minutes after departing the dock. The formations are similar to the ones I have seen in Coron, Palawan. In Halong Bay, you experience foggy cold weather as you cruise along the bay versus the summer island vibe in Coron. If you had to ask me which one is better, I would have to tell you to experience both.






Our first stop was a floating village called Ba Hang. We moved to a smaller boat that was maneuvered by a female local. Though there were lots of tourists from other junk operators, Halong Bay still felt calm and quiet.



The last stop of the tour was Thien Cung Cave. Comparing this cave to the one I visited in Sagada (Philippines), which was dark, damp and had bat guano everywhere, this cave is lighted and well-kept.




The cave looks nice, especially in photos, but it looks too touristy for me at times. Then again, maybe the whole Halong Bay tour is. I still enjoyed it though!


It was time to go back to Hanoi. One of our tourmates joined us after the trip. We decided to head to Bia Hoi Corner. You can locate this area along Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Street.



The street is all lined-up with locals and tourists all seated beside each other in small stools. We decided to grab some cold bia hoi in one of the shops near the front. Apparently, not all shops sell this local beer.


As the night passed, our group grew in to six people. That being two locals who recently attended a language school in Hanoi and were practicing their English as well as the peer of our tourmate who we were just talking about. Four different countries represented at our table.


Time to rest after the shop ran out of bia hoi. Cheers!

Hanoi (Day 3: Imperial Citadel, Pho Bo, Egg Coffee, Legend Beer)

– The Tourist Pao

Hanoi (Day 1 ½: Hanoi at Night, Old Quarter, El Gaucho Steakhouse)

After our afternoon tour around the city, we went back to Essence Palace Hotel to avail our free massage at Essence Spa. The spa is situated in Essence d’Orient Hotel & Spa which is just a walking distance away from our hotel. As the name implies, both hotels are from the same group of companies.



From our wonderful spa experience, we took a rickshaw to take us around the Old Quarter to get to our dinner place.


Quite frankly, our afternoon experience was just okay. But once we headed out at night, we started to feel more into the trip.



I did not expect this part of Hanoi to be even more beautiful at night.


We even passed by Sofitel Legend Metropole which even looked more grand in the evening.


For dinner, we made a reservation at El Gaucho which is a popular Argentinian steakhouse in Hanoi.




From our beef soup to wagyu tartar to our USDA ribeye main dish, we were carnivores that night!  A-woooo!


We went back to Hoan Kiem Lake after dinner.




This part of town is much calmer at night if you know how to get used to the wild motorcycles around the city. Most of the attractions like the Huc Bridge and Turtle Tower were lit up.




Before midnight, we headed back to our hotel to get our first decent rest in the last 3 days. Tomorrow is another big day for us!

Hanoi (Day 2: Halong Bay, Bia Hoi Corner)

– The Tourist Pao


Hanoi (Day 1: Essence Palace Hotel, Hoa Lo Prison, Sofitel Metropole, Hoan Kiem Lake)

A little over an hour after arriving at Noi Bai International Airport, we reached Essence Palace Hotel. I have been in contact with their staff even before our trip as we availed of their special 3D/2N Spa Package. We also arranged a 2-day custom city tour with them.




Even before I mention any specifics, I would like to personally thank Essence Palace Hotel and their staff for providing great service during our stay! Special mention to Mike who facilitated most of our requests.


After allowing us an early check-in, we went to Gia Ngu which is the restaurant in the hotel. This was part of our must-eat list so we made the most of our scheduled and tried it right away. Since we availed of their special package, we were given a 10% lunch discount.



Food did not disappoint!




After a satisfying lunch, it was time for the first leg of our own city tour. Our first stop was the Long Bien Bridge. Unfortunately, cars and larger vehicles cannot use this bridge so we just took photos from the other bridge across.


Our next stop was Hoa Lo Prison. I was quite excited to visit this place as it was one of the must-visit places according to other blogs. As interesting as it was, it left the opposite impression to us. I felt very uncomfortable after visiting the prison. I felt this same vibe when I visited the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh a few years back.



We also passed by the Opera House.


Behold, the Sofitel Legend Metropole. This is probably the most luxurious hotel in Hanoi. This beautifully restored hotel is rich in history and is in a class of it’s own . I would have stayed here for one night if I had the chance.




As recommend to us by a friend, we had to try Sofitel’s version of the Charlie Chaplin cocktail. I am not a big fan of cocktail drinks, more so strong tasting ones. Good thing the drink was accompanied by a lemon sorbet which we used as a cold sweetener to our drink. I am not sure what the story is behind this cocktail but it sure kept us quiet for a few good minutes. It gave me a quick buzz!


From Sofitel, we headed to Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake features several attractions apart from the scenic stroll around. You can also visit the Ngoc Son Temple, Huc Bridge and view the Turtle Tower (Tháp Rùa) in the middle of the lake. The locals suggest that we visit the lake during early morning and night time as well.





We spent most of our time hanging around the lake as there seems to be a lot of things going on.


Before we headed back to our hotel, we made one last stop at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Hanoi (Day 1 ½: Hanoi at Night, Old Quarter, El Gaucho Steakhouse)

– The Tourist Pao