Tag Archives: tour

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: 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

Osaka, Japan (Day 6: Shitennoji Temple, Osaka Castle, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and more)

Just like Day 4, today is another day of guided touring but in Osaka. Our first stop was Shitennoji Temple. It is said that this is the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan built around 593.


We were only able to enter the outer temple grounds. Apparently, another place to visit is the Gokuraku-jodo Garden which is located inside the grounds. I only discovered this inner temple area as I’m writing this post.


From Shitennoji Temple, we went to our last historical stop – the Osaka Castle. Walking towards the Osaka Castle was a very nice experience. You will pass by a moat to enter the grounds. On the opposite side, you can enjoy the scenery of lush gardens.


Once you enter the complex, you can already see the castle from afar. I was excited every step we walked closer to it.


Make your way inside the castle and get to the top floor. From there, you can view the rest of Osaka.




Lunch was already nearing so we had to go already.


For our lunch, we headed to the port area. We had buffet lunch in one of the buildings there. Food was just right but the view was killer!


During the afternoon, we went to Umeda Sky Building. This officially marks the last stop of our guided tour.


We went straight to the Floating Garden located 173 meters above. It was so cold when we reached the open area.



They even have love locks on the top floor.


Another souvenir token for me!


Though our guided trip has already ended, our driver was nice enough to drop us to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. Only 4 of us went out of our group of 15. If there are only two things I can do on a trip, it would be temple touring and aquariums.


The place is huge spanning several floors. The variety of marine animals alone is worth the visit. The highlight of the visit however, is the large tank that features an actual whale shark. I believe this was my very first time to see one in real life.


I also enjoyed their jellyfish tanks.




There’s also a semi-open area where you can  see seals and other marine animals. They can see you as well!


After our aquarium tour, we headed back to Umeda for dinner. I think I’ve eaten tempura at least once a day during this trip.


The young ones decided to head out after dinner. We found an area with drinking places about 15-20 minutes away from our hotel. Our first stop was drinks at a classic whiskey bar.


After a few glasses of good 18-21 year old whiskies, we went to another bar that serves yakitori.



I order some niniku (garlic) and kawa (chicken skin) to go along with my beer.


This wraps our 6th day here in Osaka. Kampai!

Osaka, Japan (Day 7 & 8: Ichiran Ramen, Yakiniku Icho)

– The Tourist Pao