A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: NarLin

Final Day

more shopping, more cold weather :)

overcast 12 °C
View Vietnam 2012 on NarLin's travel map.

Whoops, sorry for the long delay - left early on the 12th, couldn't log on at the airport and ran out of time when we got back!
Our final afternoon was spent doing some last-minute shopping, revelling in the cold outdoors for lunch at Le Pub (even the Brits retreated inside), filming a few of our favourite streets and enjoying our last coffees at the lakeside cafe. Plane Boy finally found the funny furry hat he'd been looking for; he popped it on for a joke at the cafe but soon discovered how nice it was to have warm ears and kept it on.
Where else to go for our last dinner in Vietnam than our favourite Mexican restaurant? Delicious once again, plus warm and cozy. :)
Lovely hotel staff bade us a fond farewell the next morning, and then we were off. Good thunderstorm in KL on our way back, enjoyed the flights. Only just fitted everthing into the suitcases! Had a wonderful time, already planning our next visit.
'Bye for now!
Plane Boy and Nerdia.

Posted by NarLin 20:49 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Mucho Markets

Shopping in the cold

rain 12 °C
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Oops, forgot to blog last night. Yesterday was our Market Day.
First it was back to the daytime Dong Xuan markets, which we visited the last time we came to Hanoi. Found an amusingly annoying gift for Plane Boy's nephew, but that was about it - the rest was basically multitudes of clothes, all in Vietnamese sizes so no good for us. Interesting to see the sheer volume of merchandise (some vendors lay asleep atop vast piles of their wares) but very narrow walkways and not much of interest.
Lunch was back at "the squid restaurant", where Plane Boy throrughly enjoyed his "meat fried miscellaneously". Nerdis thought she'd ordered a version of pho bo (beef noodle soup) but it turned out to be soft rice flour rolls stuffed with spiced beef mince and bean sprouts. A bit like giant yum cha rolls, very nice.
Plane Boy then checked out some book shops while Nerdia headed for the French Quarter. Not as impressive as she'd thought (and she never did find the Animal Museum marked on her map) but she still snapped a few shots of a spectacular building that turned out to be part of a university... maybe. And had a fabulous hot cholocate at a cafe with an Italian cafe, with American and Vietnamese TV playing.
At 6pm we ignored the light rain (and cold) to head for the nearby Night Markets, only to find they were only just being set up. Tried some brazier-cooked street food: delicious bread rolls filled with grilled pork bites, rather less delicious corn on the cob. Eventually the markets were ready: a very long line of stalls down the centre of a straight street, with cars blocked off but scooters galore still streaking past at close quarters. Not much on offer, though - much the same as in the daytime shops.
Time for a warming dinner at the Mexican place near our hotel: yummo! Nerdia loved her flauta (chicken and cheese tortilla served with really good black beans, nice fluffy rice, salsa and salad), and Plane Boy's homemade burger was so meaty it temporarily put him to sleep!

We spent this morning shopping. It's extra cold today: 12oC max, even Plane Boy is feeling it. Lovely! We've been checking Perth's temperatures online or on TV (smirk smirk), looks like we'll return to low 30s. Not too bad by recent standards!
That's it for now.

Posted by NarLin 12:50 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Skipped the Mausoleum

...went window shopping instead

rain 14 °C
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Woke a little earlier today (Nerdia slept in AGAIN), and now that Plane Boy has started streaming ABC 720 Perth radio on the laptop in the mornings it feels almost like we never left home. Yay.
Despite the cold and drizzly rain, Nerdia wanted to visit Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum... until we saw the line. Or, rather, one segment of the line. Uniformed police were directing hordes of visitors in rain ponchos around the block... and around the next block... and the next next one, and the next one. After a 10min walk we finally found the start of the line, and decided Uncle Ho would have to do without our visit this time as well. (We did visit the enormous open square in front of the monument on our previous Hanoi visit, but he was in Moscow for a 'tune up' at the time.)
Then we took a taxi to a shopping centre Plane Boy had tried in vain to find the day before; no wonder he couldn't find it, it was nowhere near the location marked on the map! This was a high-end fancy mall so we just window shopped and watched the comings and goings - which suddenly got much faster when a small fire broke out in a shop just along the corridor. One bloke sprinted to the nearest fire extinguisher cupboard, right in front of us (they are EVERYWHERE here) but everyone else seemed to be either very amused or a bit panicky. After a spurt of very serious walkie-talkie conversations, men in suits running around and a small puff of smoke, it was all over. Except for the voice overs some ten minutes later, telling us the evacuation had been cancelled - which was interesting as there hadn't been any evacuation, or even a fire bell. Ah well. When we walked by again a while later the whole area was roped off and much cleaning was in progress.

As the weather was no better we returned to the hotel for a lengthy siesta, then ventured out again in the late afternoon when it had well and truly dried out. Still cold, though - Plane Boy even wore his thick jacket, unprecedented! Any excuse for Nerdia to rug up to the nines, of course: jeans, skivvy, jacket, scarf and hat. :) Explored more of the crowded, chaotic streets in the Old Quarter around our hotel: all narrow, angled streets with even narrower shops crammed full of all sorts of stuff. Gravestones, giant plush toys, jackets, Chinese lanterns, jewellery... fantastic. Ended up back at the main touristy intersection at one end of the lake, so we picked a different upstairs restaurant for tea. Meal was decidedly ordinary so we chose another new place near our hotel for supper, which was much better. We usually perch at small cafe tables on balconies but this place had comfy indoor armchairs, which were very nice to ward off the cold. Very nice!

We'll hit the daytime and night markets tomorrow, looking forward to it.

Posted by NarLin 19:35 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

It Actually Felt Cold!

Museum, Lake and More

overcast 15 °C
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Disclaimer: Nerdia has had 4 (admittedly rather dilute) cocktails. Blog content may not match reality.
Whoops, didn't blog yesterday. Here's what we got up to:
Spent the morning at the Ethnology Museum, just outside the city centre. We visited one of these during our 2008 South-East Asia Odyssey, and in the taxi on the way there we wondered aloud if this was the same one. Turns out it was - but they've extended it since then, and even the exhibits we'd seen before were still very interesting. Nerdia might upload a few photos from our previous visit... or maybe not. Highlights were the ostentatiously tall decorated ceremonial pole in the entrance hall (where did its creators store it?) and the ludicrously lofty ceremonial thatched-roof house: 19m tall pitched roof, 3m off the ground. Several betrothed couples were having their wedding photos taken in the grounds; we overheard a guide saying it's customary for couples to do this several months or even a year ahead of the wedding and that the guests receive copies of all the photos on CD. (Back in our day CDs didn't even exist... try telling that to the kids of today. They won't believe you.)
We intended to have a late lunch at a nearby place recommended by our hotel helper/stalker (seriously, she remembers EVERYTHING about us), but sadly the teeny tiny outdoor plastic stools were a tad small for Plane Boy. Instead we ate at a rather kitsch Western-style diner around the corner called Pickles (which has photos of pickles on the walls but not listed on the menu). Seriously yummy burgers and rolls, plus a revelation: warm potato chips! We liked it so much that Plane Boy returned for tea (Nerdia was so full she didn't even want any tea).
Then we ventured into 'Book Street': highly recommended by hotel stalker but not a lot in English. Still, the ice cream bars were interesting: one large place catering for local youth, where customers drive their scooters right inside and park pell-mell, with uniformed officials yelling while the bright young things wander out in romantic pairs clutching rather run-of-the-mill-looking cones. We ate next door, in the empty ice cream parlour full of of delicious-looking cakes and bored-looking staff.
That was yesterday. Here's today:

Nerdia had been aching for A Day At The Lake, doing nothing but ambling slowly around Hoan Kiem Lake all day, hopefully in the cold, watching the passing parade and grabbing the odd coffee. Weather was most obliging: 15oC max with a decidedly cold breeze whipping up across the water. Had a leisurely coffee or two at a lakeside cafe, saw a cute little frogdog rugged up in a little doggy jumper... even spotted the fabled lake turtles a few times. Revisited the island with the Chinese temple (complete with macabre stuffed and glazed huge turtle specimen), mainly so Nerdia could reprise her photo of the bridge. We also took shots of each other holding a print of N's 2008 photo in front of the bridge, setting up "tunnel shot" for future visits. Plus Plane Boy was wayliad by a gaggle of Asian girls eager for a series of photos with the Giant White Man. (This happens everywhere we go; on this trip people have greeted him as Happy Buddha since day 1. The first bloke to do so also offered us marijuana, but that's another story.)
Turns out a morning at the lake was enough, so for lunch Plane Boy tracked down our favourite restaurant on our previous visit to Hanoi. He had delectable squid again (eat your heart out, Chris J!), whereas Nerdia tried 'Russian salad' - basically potato salad as it turned out.
After a siesta we stumbled onto a fabulous maze of nearby streets: crazy narrow alleys thick with scooters and selling everything from jade talismans to gorgeous lacquerware to Tin Tin plaques. Fantastic!
Dinner was yummy pho bo (beef noodle soup) and grilled pork at a funky upstairs restaurant a few streets from our hotel... along with N's aforementioned cocktails. Yay!
Phew, that was a long blog entry. That's it for today!

Posted by NarLin 20:38 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hanoi, hooray!

Our favourite :)

sunny 23 °C
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Back in Hanoi, our favourite holiday destination - hurrah! Arrived late afternoon, noticed lots more highrise buildings on the way in. Same hotel as last time, tiny backpacker-style place called Rising Dragon Hotel, 300m from Hoan Kiem Lake. A few minor changes (mostly a lick of paint) but basically the same - still no lift, but we could use the exercise :) We think we have the same room as last time, must check the video (yes, Nerdia brought it).
Really friendly, helpful staff - gave us a detailed map plus a rundown of all the local restaurants and attractions. One was a restaurant Plane Boy had already seen recommended on Trip Advisor, so we decided to go there for dinner - but first, the lake! We have so many happy memories of strolling around the lake that it simply had to be our first stop, and we weren't disappointed. Lovely sunset between the buildings; little bats zipping around like we saw in Hue; joggers aplenty; hundreds of individuals practising Falun Gung exercises, lost in their own thoughts; couples canoodling on benches overlooking the water. The bridge to the temple island was swarming with people worshipping for New Year/Tet or watching those who were; bridge, temple and surounds are now awash with coloured lights (new since our last visit, not sure if they're permanent or just for Tet). We even saw 'frogdogs*' again - tiny long-legged chihuahuas that make our little Charlotte seem huge. There are miniature Doberman pincers too, many rugged up in fluffy jumpers; one of them sped off around the lake in the other direction only to pass us again on the other shore.
After a happy lap of the lake we set off down the main strip to the restaurant. The main street is a lot busier than we remember, and we got our first taste of the "big city" when a would-be thief tried to open Plane Boy's laptop bag. (Our hotel room doesn't have a safe so we took it with us.) No harm done, though, and we eventually found the restaurant: an absolutely tiny two-level plcae down a side street. All the tables in the downstairs area (about the size of our living room) were full so we were directed up stairs the width of aeroplane seats to the bedroom-sized second level, which still managed to contain five tables. No menus, evryone gets the same: fantastic pho, the noodle soup Nerdia pines for. A plate full of cooked vermicelli, a huge mound of fresh greens (and purples), one bowl each filled with broth plus meat (this version had grilled bacon-style pork and small beef patties). Extra broth with sliced squash of some sort, fried spring rolls (a bit cool and crab-filled for somewhat fastidious Nerdia), minced onion and chilli garnish, lim wedges, and away you go. Delish! Didn't hang around as new customers kept coming, cash was taken without a second glance downstairs as people crowded in and out.

That's it for today, an early night then lots of exploring tomorrow. Surprisingly temperate today (boo!) but the forecast is for a return to cold weather, so here's hoping. :)

  • We dubbed them 'frogdogs' after we laughed ourselves silly watching one try to catch a large frog the last time we were here. Pretty evenly matched.

Posted by NarLin 19:04 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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