Ice-cream on a hot, hot day
The difference is, everyone who buys the ice-cream will loiter around this hall to eat it. No one seems to leave the place with the icecream. Ah... after some thoughts, we concluded that since most of them are on bikes, they will need to finish the icecream before moving out as they can't be eating the ice-cream and riding the bike as well (except for the pillion rider who can do that). The weather outside is hot too. In this hall, it's pretty cooling.
They have a wide range of ice-cream flavours and they are of different prices.
This place where we had our ice-cream "hang-out" is called "Kem Trang Tien Ice Cream" near to Hoan Kiem Lake (along Trang Tien road) Everyone who wants an ice-cream will come to this place to hang out.
Bay of the Descending Dragon
Halong Bay is one of those unmissable natural wonder places that should be on everyone’s list when in Vietnam. The Bay has an area of around 1,553 sq km, including 1,960 islets, most of which are limestone, that form what is called a Karst. Meaning "Bay of the Descending Dragon", it's become a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its geological uniqueness as well as cultural and historical importance - it has been mentioned in poems and verses for centuries. Home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species, it features cave systems, striking caverns, as well as other geologically interesting formations, such as uniquely shaped massifs.
I took my 3 day/2 night Halong Bay tour with ODC Travel who are based in the Old Quarter in Hanoi. They first picked me up from my hotel in the Old Quarter and we made our way out of the city over the Red River. We arrived at the tourist port in Halong City and then transferred onto a small boat which took us to our wooden junk boat called the Sun Cruise. It was a very nice boat and my cabin had two single beds, a/c and a nice modern bathroom complete with WC, shower and hand basin. We first had lunch which was very luxurious of small prawns, potato croquettes, butterfish etc and then set sail past Halong City for Halong Bay in order to visit the so-called "Amazing Caves" (Hang Sung Sot) which were pretty spectacular but not quite as good as ones I'd seen in Guilin in China. We then got back onto the boat and made our way to Ti-Top Island which features a small sandy beach and a small pavilion at its peak which we climbed to for some good views even though it was still overcast and the light was fading fast. We then transferred back onto the junk and had dinner of stuffed crabs, large fresh prawns hanging off the side of a wine glass, edible flower-shaped vegetables and fresh spring rolls on cocktail sticks stuffed in a pineapple. We were then entertained by a father and daughter duo who sang traditional Vietnamese songs and instruments.
Day 2 started with breakfast on the junk with eggs, loads of toast, fresh fruit, coffee after I slept very well in my cabin. Myself and two Dutch women then transferred to the Cat Ba Prince 3 and we made our way to Cat Ba Island to do some trekking and canoeing and to stay on the island overnight. We reached the island and walked to a village called Viet Hai which featured old wooden houses alongside piles of modern bricks that were ready to build new houses. We stopped by a family who were making square 'cakes' for Tet (the Vietnamese lunar New Year celebration) which included pork, rice and egg shaped into a square and wrapped in banana leaves. We then visited some old style wooden buildings that looked like temples but were in fact a community centre that some French guy had brought over from the mainland and built here. However, they weren't finished because the government had created the National Park whilst they were being built and so didn't give him permission to finish building them! We then had lunch served to us by a 70-year old woman in the village and headed back to the boat in order to do our canoeing. We transferred into canoes and made our way into a small lagoon that you entered under a natural stone bridge where we heard the rustling of trees by monkeys that we couldn't see. We then paddled past floating fishing communities complete with barking dogs back to the boat and then set off for Cat Ba Town and our overnight stay at the Princes Hotel. All-in-all it was a good trip on a lovely boat with some fantastic food and a nice cabin made even more special by the wonderful scenery. I had already seen Karst landscapes along the Li River in China, in Vang Vieng and along the Andaman coast of Thailand but Halong Bay beats them all!
Silks, Lacquerware, lampshades
Hanoi is certainly a shopper's paradise if you want silks, lacquerware, lampshades, wooden Water Puppets etc. One of the best areas we found was in the vicinity of St Joseph's Cathedral - particularly P Ly Quoc Su, the parallel P Hang Trong and its connecting P Nai Tho - lots of thngs to encourage you to part with your cash. But good value too.
Hang Be was another street that was worth wandering along. Silk at the Boutique and the Silk (P Nai Tho) Various
Public busses in Hanoi
There are plenty of public busses. From the airport take the number 7 and go to Cau Giay, where you find busses to all corners of the city. Should be about 40 minutes. The 17 to Long Bien and the 7 leave both at the right side of the terminal. A bus map you can obtain free also at Cau Giay and at 16 Cao Ba Quat, or better look up the website www.tramoc.com.vn, there you find an interactive bus map.
There are no good busses in the old quarter, so you better walk.
In Hanoi, there are some eating places you go to because of the decor and others that you go to despite the decor. Cha Ca La Vong is one of the latter kind.
The place is any decorator’s nightmare with its neon lights, green walls and wobbly tables and chairs.
But – oh – the food! The food is absolutely scrumptious!
And the best thing is that they only serve one dish. So you won’t be spending hours studying the menu, trying to decide what to get.
At Cha Ca La Vong, there’s only “Cha Ca” – the signature fish dish. It’s so popular that it’s even lent its name to the street that the restaurant is on.
Cha Ca La Vong has been run by the same family for generations. It’s located in a rickety old house in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. There’s no flashy sign, no line of people, no attractive exterior that’ll draw you to this traditional restaurant.
If you aren’t aware of what’s inside this shabby house, you’ll never notice it or think of going in.
Luckily, a friend had told me about it, so we stepped inside, climbed up the narrow wooden stairs to the left of the entrance, and made our way to the first floor.
Upstairs, one of the waiters showed us to our seats and placed a little laminated card in front of us. It told us that the only dish at this restaurant – Cha Ca – would cost us 90 000 Vietnamese Dong each – roughly € 3,50 or about $ 5,00.
After we’d managed to communicate that that price was just within our financial limits, we were on.
The waiter brought a clay oven filled with red hot charcoal to our table. He put a pan with sizzling hot oil and some pieces of fish on top of the oven.
In addition, we got some cold rice noodles in a bowl, some peanuts, a small plate with dill and Vietnamese herbs and a bowl with spring onions.
Next, the waiter threw some of the spring onions and herbs into the pan. The combination of frying fish, Asian spices, herbs and spring onions smelled great.
Unfortunately, we were clueless as to what should happen next: Should we take the frying pan off the grill at some point? Or should we also put the noodles and peanuts into the pan?
No, no, our waiter signalled, and demonstrated how it’s done: you put some of the cold rice noodles in your bowl, add some pieces of fried fish from the pan, sprinkle with some peanuts and add the fresh herbs.
The resulting combination was unbelievably delicious!
“This is the best dinner we’ve had in Vietnam”, my friend said.
I think it didn’t take us longer than fifteen minutes to clear that pan.
But as soon we were no longer busy chowing down, we suddenly became aware of the fact that there was this extremely hot grill sitting right in front of us on our table. A grill with burning charcoal and a pan full of hot oil. A grill on a wooden table, in a wooden house, in the middle of the maze that is Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
How far to the next fire extinguisher in case the oil caught fire? How long would it take fire fighters to get here in case of an emergency? Kind of unpleasant thoughts.Ha Noi Beer to extinguish the fire
We felt pretty relieved when the waiter finally took away that charcoal grill and just left us with our beers. And the bill…