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Friday, September 16, 2011

Northern Vietnam: Hanoi and Halong Bay

After a chaotic experience with the locals at the airport, we arrived Hanoi with much angst.  We shall never get fooled by any locals was our game.  Upon arrival at Hanoi airport, we were met by soliciting taxi drivers for a fixed taxi fare.  We walked past them and found a seemingly nice taxi driver who was willing to take us to the city on a meter.  We took the risk and thought, we cannot forgive ourselves if we get into a trap again.  Luckily, there are a few good men.  Shortly, we found our hotel for the night, Indochina Queen booked through agoda.  The receptionist was a good looking tall fair Vietnamese guy.  That's a rare find in Vietnam!  He came out and helped out with our bags and made sure we had no issues with the taxi driver.  He was very accommodating and I was particularly fond of him saying "certainly" in British accent each time we asked for something.

Just like in Ho Chi Minh, the facade of the hotel was narrow.  The room was spacious and well equipped.  Arriving close to midnight, we had to hurry and pack an overnight bag for our much awaited trip to Halong Bay.  The hotel gladly stored our luggage overnight while we were out on a cruise in Halong Bay at no extra fee.

After settling in, from an overnight trip at Halong Bay with Indochina Sails, we went to see the water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre at 8pm for 40,000 dong.  Do check out their website for schedules.  The theater was around Hoan Kiem Lake, just a few blocks away from the hotel and the receptionist advised us just to walk to get there.  The show wasn't a must see, but knowing that it was brought around the world gave us a reason to see it for ourselves.

Thanglong Water Puppet Theatre
Add : 57b Dinh Tien Hoang Str., Hanoi – Vietnam
Tel : 84 4 39364335 – 39364334 - 38255450
Fax / Tel : 84 43 8 245117
E-mail :
Website :

the puppeteer came out for the finale, eww, they're soaked all the time.

After the show, we walked around Hoan Kiem Lake with numerous dating couples and locals dancing in the night.  We walked all around the lake and found Fanny's Ice Cream Parlor on the one side.  As recommended on trip advisor, we went in Fanny's Ice Cream Parlor.   Fanny's Ice Cream is popular in Vietnam, it claims to serve 100% natural ice cream. The presentation was more interesting than it actually tastes.

48 Le Thai To St., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
tel : (04) 3828 5656
Fanny's Ice Cream Parlor
I love the weather in Hanoi.  Day 2 was allotted for a day tour around Hanoi's historic spot - Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and it's adjacent presidential palace and museum.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh's modest house
We also visited the temple of literature.  It was obviously, of Confucian influence with chinese characters all over. 
Temple of Literature

We killed time lounging at the Vietnamese Museum of History, since there was not much people around, it was definitely cozy for some cheezy conversation.  The cafe next door was also great place to hangout in, serving delicious Opera Cake.

the Vietnamese Museum of History
Since we've practically covered the important sites in Hanoi for a short time, we went back to the area of Hoan Kiem Lake.  Checked out those that I normally find in travel blogs of Hanoi and took a shot of Huc Bridge, vietnamese ladies holding hands in costume and some old vietnamese locals playing chinese chess.  These shots completes my stay in Vietnam. I'm one happy tourist.  :D

numerous dating couple at Hoan Kiem Lake

Vietnamese Ladies in costume

old Vietnamese playing chinese chess at Ngo Soc Temple grounds

the Huc Bridge leading to Ngo Soc Temple

rickshaw ride around the old quarter

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Central Vietnam: Imperial Hue enroute Da Nang to Hoi An

Previous: Exploring Ho Chi Minh

We took the budget airline Jetstar from Ho Chi Minh to Hue;  the fare was just a third compared to their flagship airline Vietnam Airlines.  However, these two airlines share the same terminal.  Passengers go through a long line of security check in most terminals across Vietnam.

On this leg, we prebooked a two day tour with Handspan that will take us from Hue to Hoi An via Danang for $161 per person with superior accommodation. Handspan was recommended by blogger ironwulf. They had a pre-arrange itinerary for Hue to Hoi An, however, it was customized according to our schedule and preference.  Details were arranged through email communication.  Maybe because of language barrier, it took a couple of exchanges before they could get it right.  When details were ironed out, they asked for credit card information and sent us a link to prepay the tour online.  It is their policy that prepayment is required before they can guarantee the booking.