Tag Archives: Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam : day two

30 May

On day two I woke up at the glorious hour of 6am, guess that makes sense considering I went to bed at 8pm. The minute I woke up I heard the sound of rain- not just a light drizzle but heavy, pounding, sideways flowing rain. I was amazed Brian wasn’t awoken by it. Considering, it was our last full day in Hanoi before departing for Halong Bay I was a tad sad by the rain and immediately went to the weather app on my phone to see the forecast…

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The lightening bolt was a nice touch, don’t you think? At this point I became worried about our two nights and three days, on a boat in Halong Bay. I wasn’t keen on the idea of floating around on a boat, in Vietnam, in a torrential downpour with the chance of lightning. I’m not much of a boat person in general; I much prefer land. So I spent the next hour going through all the options in my head – do we just go with the flow? Do we move the Halong Bay trip back a few days? Do we skip Halong Bay all together? Luckily, by the time Brian awoke the rain had become a soft drizzle (and was lucky enough to avoid all my neurotic thoughts) and we decided to go with the flow and make the best of it. The hotel equipped us with umbrellas and off we went. The city was actually beautiful in the rain- it. gave it a romantic feel. Being used to such downpours , the locals just put on their ponchos and go about their business.
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We decided to make day two more culturally driven as opposed to yesterday’s heavy food focus, so we set off in search of a temple and museum we wanted to visit. First up was the Temple Of Literature, built-in 1070 under the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong and dedicated to Confucius. It was also home to Vietnam’s first university, which was established within the temple to educate Vietnam’s bureaucrats, nobles, royalty and other members of the elite. The university remained open from 1076 to 1779.

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The grounds were absolutely gorgeous and very lush and green after the morning rain. It was a nice break from the chaotic bustling streets. There was a big gorgeous pond surrounded by a stone wall that we peered into and saw a bunch of large toads hopping around. How magical, I thought. That was until I heard a horrified Australian women shriek that we were stepping on teeny tiny baby frogs. I looked down and saw the teeniest tiniest black specs jumping all around us. Oh, yes you would be correct…we are stepping on teeny tiny baby frogs. Sadly, I fear we may have killed a few prior to our knowledge. That doesn’t count, right?

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After The Temple of Literature we strolled across the street to what appeared to be a little lake and were greeted by this women, fishing. Don’t you just love her? She clearly means business.

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Then we strolled a few more blocks down to the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, home to an extensive collection of Buddhas. After the museum we were starved and decided it was time to delve into the world of Vietnamese Pho- something taken very seriously in Vietnam. I had read that the North and South disagree over who has better Pho which was confirmed yesterday by our food guide, Chinhg, who made a point to say the southern version wasn’t as “tasty and balanced” as the northern version. This of course made me want to compare the two. So we headed to a restaurant called, Pho 10 for our first bowl of Vietnamese Pho. We were the only tourists in the joint which I took as a very good sign. We ordered two bowls of Pho with steak and not even one minute later were enjoying said bowls. The noodles and broth were really good- very flavorful, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the meat- it was a bit too fatty for my taste.

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If you can’t tell from the above photos Brian likes to add hot sauce to his Pho. That boy was literally drenched with sweat and after finishing. He makes me smile.

After lunch we decided we were in need of beers and stumbled upon Cong Caphe, the cutest little cafe located by the St Joseph’s Cathedral. It really showcased how much Hanoi was influenced by the French. I felt like we had stepped into Paris. Worked for me. It was filled with twenty-something locals sipping coffees and drinks. We holed up at a cozy table upstairs in the corner by a big window. The rain had completely stopped at this point, so all we felt was a warm breeze waft through the window. Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” played in the cafe- which is a favorite of Brian’s and mine, while the cathedral’s bells chimed in the distance. To say I loved this place would be an understatement.

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At night we tried Cha Ca La Vong, a restaurant that serves only one dish – Cha Ca, which is grilled fish served alongside various kinds of herbs, rice vermicelli, nuoc cham dipping sauce, sliced chillies and roasted peanuts. It was incredible, definitely my favorite meal in Hanoi. You also had to cook it at your table yourself, which made it rather fun. One of my favorite things about Vietnamese food is their use of herbs, it makes every dish so flavorful.

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After dinner we decided to take a walk to go and see the Opera House, which was built at the turn of the 20th century to keep the French entertained. After years of renovation it reopened in 1997 and hosts regular performances. Sadly, we did not think ahead and get tickets for a performance so we had to settle on the view from the street. It’s situated right in front of a large roundabout, and I loved the image of all the cars and motorbikes zipping by it- keeps with the frenetic energy of Hanoi.

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As Brian snapped photos (I love being married to a photographer) it began to drizzle. In that moment I was reminded how grateful I was to be in Vietnam with the man I loved. I am always the happiest and most alive version of myself when I am traveling.

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“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

 

 

 

 

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Hanoi, Vietnam : day one

28 May

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The first stop on our honeymoon was Hanoi, Vietnam. We decided to start the trip in Vietnam and end it in Bali knowing that Vietnam would be filled with frenetic energy and Bali would be calm…and we wanted to end the trip on a calm note. After twenty-four hours of traveling, Brian and I arrived in Hanoi at 11pm. I always find it off-putting to arrive in a foreign country at night. It only adds to feeling totally out of sorts. After battling the longest customs line ever created, we walked out of the airport doors and were immediately swarmed by a sea of cab drivers trying to get business from us. For some reason everything we had read about negotiating the fare first went out the door- I blame the twenty-four hours of traveling and the long customs line.

So after getting ripped off by our cab driver (lesson learned- always negotiate the price BEFORE getting in the cab) we got dropped off at our hotel located in the Old Quarter, also known as the “36 Streets”, one of the oldest parts of Hanoi. Formerly a center for resistance against the French, this part of town evolved in the 13th century when artisan guilds were concentrated along each of the original 36 lanes. Tinsmiths were found on Hang Theic (Tin Street), bamboo basket makers on Hang Bo (Bamboo Basket Street), Hang Bac (Silver Street), and so on. While much of the Old Quarter has become modernized with cafes, restaurants, hostels, hotels and shops, you can still see the remnants of the original 36 streets- a very interesting juxtaposition.

After a solid night of sleep we woke up ready to explore the city by foot. I quickly learned that getting around bustling Hanoi by foot is a harrowing adventure. The narrow streets are packed with motorbikes, bicycles and cars; crossing the street feels like you’re playing a terrifying game of chicken. Considering there is rarely a break in the traffic flow, you just have to brave it and cross, in hopes the sea of motorbikes move around you. My plan of action- close my eyes and let Brian lead the way across each street.

We spent the morning wandering around the Old Quarter & Hoan Kiem lake, taking in the city.

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My favorite thing we stumbled upon during our morning walk was this scene by the lake- a bunch of very happy Vietnamese women dancing together to loud music. The more I watched, the more it became clear that it was some form of a (public) group exercise class. You couldn’t help but smile watching them- so lively! I was about to join in, when the music abruptly stopped, clearly, saving Brian from definite embarrassment.

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After a few hours it was time for our food tour – something both of us were very excited about. Prior to our trip, I learned through my research that hiring a guide to take you on a food tour was very helpful. One, because the street food scene is better understood by a local and having a guide who spoke both Vietnamese and English was very helpful when trying to order at non-tourist spots. We were not disappointed by this experience. The food was like nothing I have ever experienced before, each dish was an intoxicating mix of new flavors. Our guide, Chingh, a twenty-five year old girl born and raised in Hanoi was incredibly knowledgable and had quite a spunky personality. She didn’t just tell us about the food at each stop but also shared stories about her family life and her drive to work in tourism despite her parents disapproval of a career that it considered better suited for a male in Hanoi. She had such a great spirit. I always love talking openly with locals- it makes the city come alive and opens up your eyes to the world around you.

We made seven stops on our food tour. SEVEN!

1st dish – Mien Luon (eel noodle)

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2nd dish – Nuoc Mia (Sugarcane juice)

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3rd – Bun Bo Nam Bo (southern beef noodles)

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4th – Cha Ca (grilled fish)

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5th – Banh Cuon (mushroom + pork roll)

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6th – Banh Trang Tron (mixed noodle dish)

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7th – Cafe Trung (egg coffee)

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With our sweet guide Chingh

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After eating our weight in Vietnamese food we decided to head over to the backpackers district, more specifically a street named “beer street”…for as I’m sure you guessed…a beer. We had been reading about “Bai Hoi”- the local beer made fresh daily and sold for the insanely cheap price of 3,000 dong per glass which translates to 16 US cents. Hard to believe, right? So we found a patio spot and sipped beers while taking in the scene (this area is filled with young travelers from around the world, although Australians seem to make up the majority). IMG_  62

After a few beers (not the best beer I have ever had but certainly refreshing on the hot afternoon), we went back to our hotel to take a nap before heading out for the evening. We had a quick dinner at a neighborhood Vietnamese spot – before setting out on foot through the Hanoi night market, also known as Dong Xuan night market, which is a weekly market held on weekends in the Old Quarter.  I originally thought it was going to be just a food market but instead the stalls were packed with clothing, shoes, jewelry, decorations, toys, etc, as well as a few food stalls. The market was crazy and a tad overwhelming with jetlag, but equally fascinating. The market was filled with locals who seemed to come to the market not just to shop but as a social activity. Young couples strolled arm in arm as little kids excitedly ran around at our legs. The market was a complete sensory overload.

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After the market we crashed at 8pm. It was the perfect way to end our first day in Vietnam.

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find me elsewhere: instagram @kate365, twitter, facebook 

 

let the adventure begin!

24 Apr

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Sorry I have been MIA this last week. I’ve felt like a chicken with my head cut off (is that how the saying even goes?) trying to wrap everything up before we leave for a month. A MONTH- I still can’t wrap my head around that. I’ve never traveled for that long. So excited. I spent yesterday running a million errands and beautifying (it is my honeymoon and all). It seems like everything is in order. Bills are paid for the month, Frank’s schedule with his various watchers is in place (he’s staying one week with his lovely dog walker, two weeks with my mom and one week with Brian’s parents), bags are packed (well, mostly) & our travel itinerary is locked.

I plan on blogging every few days from each destination unless it becomes impossible. Hopefully I will check-in in a few days from Hanoi, Vietnam!

Follow along on instagram (@kate365) in the meantime!

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bali…bali…BALI!

19 Mar

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(photo via Hither & Thither)

I have wanted to go to Bali forever. Well, maybe ever since I watched the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”…kidding…kinda. In all seriousness though…Julia Roberts made Bali look magical and I am hellbent on getting a reading from Ketut, the medicine man in the movie. I’m sure Brian just read that and rolled his eyes. Don’t worry babe…I won’t force you to get a reading from Ketut…I promise.

We have the first half of our honeymoon in Vietnam planned out- on April 24th we fly from LA to Ho Chi Minh (with a layover in Tokyo). We stay in Ho Chi Minh for five days before we head to Halong Bay for a three-day boat trip. When we return from the bay we will then fly to Hanoi which is located in southern Vietnam for another five days before we fly to Bali (with a layover in Kuala Lumpur…don’t even get me started about my current anxiety over flying on Malaysia Airlines through Kuala Lumpur after recent developments. You could say that I am slightly obsessed with the missing plane. Brian probably just read that and thought…slightly?????) Anyways, then we have twelve days in Bali! We still haven’t figured out how to break up our time there yet. I’m thinking half in Ubud (inland Bali) and half sitting on a beach doing absolutely nothing.

I was researching Bali this morning and stumbled upon a Bali Travelogue on the blog Hither & Thither (which I am now obsessed with) and her pictures of Ubud left me speechless. I’m already in love with Bali and have decided we must stay at this villa while there.

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honeymoooooon

14 Jan

photo-38We finally picked the destinations for our honeymoon…The Glodney’s are coming for you, Bali and Vietnam! We still have to zero in on the exact dates but sometime this spring…most likely a window in late April and early May. The minute we finalized the destinations I ran out to the book store (yes, a few still exist) and purchased travel books. I’ve pretty much read them both in three days and I’m already so excited! Have any of you been to Bali or Vietnam? I would love your recommendations on hotels, restaurants & sights to see.

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