Things to do in Hanoi

My weekend was robbed with classes , assignments  and exam preps . So I am going to take this Monday to reminisce that day, that I fell totally in love with the chaoticness of Hanoi.And how grateful I am ,to have done with Tigress.

As we drove into the Old Quarter after nearly a 45 minute slow drive from the airport  ( and  needing to deal with Tigress  conversing in Vietnamese with the grab driver using google translate – She needed to know the exact time of sunrise !! ) ……….I almost immediately knew this was going to be a gem of a city.

There was so much chaos , traffic was crazy , people  everywhere, cute little cafes with  tacky looking florists. .My kind of amazing.

First things first ,

  1. FOOD

The only way to do it is the  hanoi street food tour . We started at 6:30 pm and it was go go go till 3.5 hours later. Tired and food comatosed!

It was 20 USD / per person for a 3 hour walk that by the end of the nite , we felt like we had eaten for three.There were 6 of us on the tour , few with certain dietary restrictions  ( they accomodate to vegetarians as well) . Our guide was POTATO ,  super cute , accomodated all of us and gave us good training on how to deal with the death-defying traffic using her “mango sticky rice” manouvres.

These were what we had .And loved every single on of it. My favourite being the coconut ice cream and the most intriguing one is the egg coffee. ( You most certainly need to try it , its love)

Chairs meant for kids ,but those were the only ones available .

Our group of 6

more tiny stools

World ‘s best dessert – directly opposite KIM s tours ( Hanoi street food tour office)

Egg coffee – truly love at first 

2 . You must stay at the Old Quarter – we stayed at Essence Hanoi Hotel & Spa

In the middle of chaos.Lots of shops , massages , bars, cafes , shops ,traffic , people , nail spas , everything.But the beauty of this hotel , that probably sets it apart is the staff. They go all out to please you with everything.

3.The prettiest church

4.Hoan Kiem Lake and the Temple of the Jade Mountain

Really pretty at night. Supposedly nicer at sunrise , but we never woke up early enough. Only managed  the sun , when it was so bright , to a point we were  sweaty and yucky.

5.Coffee .Vietnamese coffee is second to none. Thick , sweet and luscious.

Also , managed the “crazy rich asian” type coffee – Luwak.While Tigress couldnt take the idea of  drinking poop , I let my esophagus drown in it.

6.Hanoi train street

As silly as it sounds, this is a must experience.We didnt manage to do it in the day, which I am 100% sure would have been a better experience but the train at dark was just as fun.So , this train actually passes through an extremely narrow lane in between two shop houses.It was an inch from where we stood.Surreal , although this was what we probably took for granted in Kassipillay .

So the train passes at about 3:30 pm and the other about 7:30 pm. The day we were there , it passed by at 7 pm. You get dropped off here – Ngo 224 Le Duan and then walk along  (  NOT on ) the tracks till you reach the Hanoi train track cafe . Instead of waiting aimlessly, you can opt to have a drink and the kind owner usually alerts you once she “smells” the train coming.

7.One pillar pagoda

If you re feeling holy , there s this cute little pagoda about 15 minutes from the Old quarter , where you can spend an hour praying and wandering around. It was filled with locals genuinely praying and the rest of us playing tourist.

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Ha long bay

Yes , Ha Long is beautiful.Not even kidding.

It’s a loooong drive to Ha long. Nearly 4 hours , mostly because it’s a slow drive with two ” obligatory stops” .One at a textile factory and the other a pearl.

We hired our own transport via ha long bay luxury travel, so it was way more comfortable. Our driver didn’t speak very good English, so we couldn’t really ask any questions , much to his delight.

Upon arrival at the jetty, we met with our very own “flag bearer” , where we joined a group of about 15 and was ushered into a boat.

Into the boat we went , and was served lunch.Lunch was elaborate – fresh seafood, rice , beef, chicken , salad , fruits. Point to note – no drinks are served, everything to be bought including water. They pretty much rushed us to finish lunch so they could clean up and we could set sail into deeper horizons. Once lunch was cleared,out came some handicraft and local jewellery. If you re looking to browse, just browse , don’t touch. Once touched……..they bug you till you buy it. SO ANNOYING!

Anyway, once that ordeal was over ,we were allowed to head up to the rooftop of the boat.And yes, this is where the beauty lies. It’s truly captivating. Weather was rather gloomy , so no sun to have those perfect “for the gram” photos but on a positive note, it was easy to sit on top and not sweat our armpits out.

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Two stops along our sail.First at the Fisherman’s village. ( we didn’t see a village .  You have an option of kayaking or hopping onto a little boat to take you around a bay)

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Second, limestone cave. Probably the most beautiful I’ve seen in my life.

 

photos don’t do justice to this

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Apparently , some overnight cruises arrange dinners at night. Clearly a great romantic option.

views just before getting into Suprise cave

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We sailed back by 4pm and then checked into Wyndham Ha Long for a night’s stay.( I would totally recommend this hotel)

All I can say  is , there is really nothing ELSE to do in Ha Long. I wouldn’t bother staying a night, you’re better off driving back to Hanoi.

-Bar at the hotel closes by 10pm.

-Sun World @ Ha Long is really no fun except for the cable car ride across.Not worth the money , especially since you only have a few hours before closing time.

extremely slow ferris wheel

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complimentary ride with purchase of cable car ticket

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-Night market was badddddddd. Hanoi is way better.

Lesson learnt – head back to Hanoi, rest the night , so you wake up fresh for Hanoi the next morning.

Porto,O,Porto

Today, marks 2 weeks since we got back. Porto …..I sooooo long for you.

clearly excited

We hopped on the train from Lisbon  ( Santa Apolonia ) at 8 am , in an extremely empty comfortable train. Paid 26 euros for a one way trip to Porto via the CP line (https://www.cp.pt/passageiros/en/buy-tickets ).Wifi on board with enough room , considering we had the entire carriage to ourselves. There was water and coffee /tea available too.Trip took about 3 hours , with one connecting to Sao Bento station( Porto) .

Sao Bento Station being a tourist spot, it was pretty busy on arrival at 11 am. Extremely beautiful tiled station , and despite the crowd ,there was enough space for us to manouvre through to the exit.

tile lovin’

Our airbnb was a walk away , uphill but easy walk since we were travelling light.Took us about 8 minutes , since we took a slow walk.

an amazing view from our little balcony

Dropped our bags and immediately headed out to Majestic Cafe , for breakfast. Considered , the most beautiful cafe in Portugal. We were in at about 11:45 am with about a 3 minute wait outside ,  but noticed a queue  building up at about noon.

We started our day with the portugese tart , that was nearly as nice as the infamous one at Belem and of course , on holiday, its port and tonic any time of the day.I loved Majestic cafe , it felt , one word ,  majestic . 

Majestic Cafe

Would have loved to stay in for awhile,  but looking at the long line outside ,we left to give way to the rest who wanted a taste of this majestic beauty.

We continued walking along Santa Catarina street, an extremely busy touristy street. Lots of street vendors with shops lining both sides of this street. Since retail is not our thing , we walked on, soaking in the vibe on the street. And , later ,hunting for Mercado do Bolhao . Spent a good 30 minutes hunting it down , only to learn later then its been closed for renovation and moved temporarily to a spot nearby. (It is supposed to mimic Time Out market in Lisbon , plus it also sells local produce and little souveniors in a pretty historical building ).We then skipped it , and proceeded to ,……our compulsory spot, Hard Rock Porto. As always, same experience , no surprises here.

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the only spot that had Hard Rock “Porto”-  the bin

customary photo

I packed light , assuming summer was universal in Portugal. Boy was I wrong, it started to get really , really cold and I was forced to get a sweater to keep warm. So , a sweater from Hard Rock , we did.

eat,eat,eat

We stopped for sardine and Port wine at a cafe facing Avenidos dos Aliados  (Also to recuperate from our long search for Mercado ) We decided to get on the Hop on Hop off Yellow bus. We got the 2 day  pass .This includes two routes, a short and long one.Since it was cold , we got on the upper deck to make the most of the sun . We drove past the few sights in town , where we had walked during the day and then headed out towards Ribeira. Since it was tourist season , roads were jammed . What usually takes 20 minutes, delayed us nearly an hour . We got off at the Vila Nova De Gaia , for a wine tasting . ( if you’ve been on any other wine tours, this was rather dissapointing. The wine tasting was complimentary from the yellow bus tour , by the way)

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Wine tasting

We walked around the gardens , before being seated and served one glass of wine.             ( boring!!!) .We headed out  within 20 minutes to continue on our tour, however we waited for the bus for nearly an hour . With us ,there were many more  disgrunted passengers .Finally the bus turned up , with almost no breathing space in it, but since we waited so long we were too nervous to wait any longer and all 10 of us scurried inside. It was a rather uncomfortable 45 minutes ride back in traffic , to where we started.

 

We headed back to our Airbnb to rest a little , before heading out again. On our walk back , we stumbled upon Casa Marlindo  . Probably one of the best eats in Porto . Lovely owner , laid back atmosphere with some 80s English music in the background. With a full tummy and little high from the alcohol , what supposed to be a crazy night out ended up , an early night in. Woke up unexpectedly at 4 am , in complete disgust knowing we spent our only night in Porto , in bed.

We had signed up for a  Porto Sunrise Walking Tour that was to start at 7 am , so we headed out at 6 am for a quick breakfast and reminisce on what was left of dawn .

Laurem , met us at 7 am together with Jorge for our tour. She briefed us on the history of Porto before we headed off. Our initial bits of walking was through Catarina Street , that we had covered the day before , then headed off to Se Cathedral.It was a rather foggy day, so the views were rather dissapointing. It was a lovely walk via the bridge ( One of the 6) and down towards Ribeira ( probably my favourite little town in the world) before heading back to Clerigos Church.

Porto in fog

We stopped at a cafe admiring the bustling of morning rush , although it seemed more of a tourist rush.Headed back to our Airbnb , to pack up since we had to leave the premise by 11 am. The good part of this Airbnb was that we were allowed to keep our luggage there , till whenever .

Port wine all day

1 euro for everything including the man

Since we had the morning , we decided on the purple route on the yellow bus tour .This took about an hour and a half. It was a rather boring route I must say. We got back , quick pit stop at McDonalds since its rated the MOST beautiful  in the world , think chandelliers , stained glass windows and  they serve beer .

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World’s most beautiful  McDs

Since we loved Ribeira , we set off again, with better weather in sight.

We headed off to Gaia, via the Dom Luis I Bridge , it is a double deck metal arched bridge. We played tourist , and took a stroll on both decks to admire the views. Gaia , is as vibrant as Ribeira , with lots of wine cellars and cute cafes by the Duora River. We did another wine tasting before heading back to Ribeira for lunch.

the most unreal graffiti I have ever seen by Guate Mao

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There were young local boys that were jumping of the bridge , who did it for money. Rather amusing views. Also, lots of street entertainers singing , dancing and vendors selling little souveniors . Tempting to buy but usually, ends up in a corner once we reach home.

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more views of Ribeira

We chilled at a cafe , for lunch with some sangria while soaking it all in. Loved ,loved , loved it. Wish we had stayed a day more ,but  our train was to leave at 6 pm.

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There is so much to love in Porto