Last November 8-12, Cebu Pacific flew to Hanoi with famous travel bloggers from the Philippines. We were part of that group. And to borrow a line from Michelle Eve De Guzman of Cebu Pacific, “How Awesomely Nice Our Itinerary!”
Introduction to Hanoi
Duc who was our Tour Guide who welcomed us at Noi Bai International Airport and is from Hanoi Red Tours, told us that 7.5 million visited Vietnam last year, 2013. That is close to the number of population in Vietnam which is around 7 million people, according to him.
By the way, the month of November signals the start of Winter in Vietnam. Summer starts in July-August.
And so we started the journey on the midnight of November 9 at Noi Bai International Airport. From there we went to our first hotel check-in in Hanoi.
Crowne Plaza West Hanoi
Booked at Crowne Plaza West Hanoi, we were joined by Melo Villareal of Out of Town Blog, Marky Go of Nomadic Experiences, Micaela Rodriguez of Senyorita.net, Shayla Sanchez of When In Manila, Jonel Uy of Let’s Go Sago, Gigi Hilotin of Pinay Solo Backpacker, Nina Fuentes of Just Wandering, Ferdz Decena of Ironwulf.net, Kezia Romblon of Stratworks, Len Borja of JG Summit Holdings Inc., Michelle, and Pinoy Adventurista.
Buffet breakfast is served at this hotel.
Ho Chi Minh Complex
We went to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and One Pillar Pagoda, both of which are located inside the Ho Chi Minh Complex which opens daily from 7:30 AM to 11 AM only.
5 minutes away is Temple of Confucius built in 1070. This place is most commonly known today as Temple of Literature. We were surprised that November is graduation month for students in Hanoi. We witnessed the graduation parade of students from different schools inside the Temple of Literature that goes far up to the Old French Quarter.
SenXanh Ho Tay
Lunch was served at SenXanh Ho Tay or Green Lotus Restaurant located at Pham Hong Thai . They served us appetizer or khai vi which included bun cha ha noi grilled meat cake, pho cuon rolled rice cake with beef, and muc xao lo sauted squid with cauliflower. Next were heo nuong la moc mat or grilled pork with moc mat leaf, ga quay mat ong roasted chicken with honey, and tom hap trai dua steamed shrimp with coconut juice.
The food never stopped and next on the menu were ca kho to or braised fish in clay pot, canh cua mong toi, ca phao minced crab broth with vegetable, ngon su su xao toi sauted su su with garlic, and com hap dua steamed rice with coconut juice.
Desserts came in with banh com hang than hang than young rice cake and tra viet nam Vietnamese green tea.
And what do they say before you eat in Vietnam? Chuc quy khach ngon mieng or enjoy your meal!
Prepare 70,000VND or around USD3.50 for a one hour ride of the cycle rickshaw known as cyclo in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
Ceramic Wall at Yen Phu Street
If you’re going around Hanoi, you’ll never miss the 5 km ceramic wall at Yen Phu street. Currently it holds Guinness Book of World Record as the Longest Wall of its kind.
Co Ngu, Bai Chay
After a long 3 hour ride from West Hanoi to Bai Chay, we dined at Co Ngu just in time for dinner. Here we tried the Ha Noi Beer! It tasted good! It reminded us of San Miguel Super Dry Beer.
Our group checked-in at Halong Plaza Hotel, some 30 minutes away from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf. We needed a good night sleep before we tour Ha Long Bay early next morning.
Before we left for Ha Long Bay Junk Boat Cruise, we had our breakfast at the hotel.
If you’re reading this and you’re planning on a Hanoi/Ha Long Bay tour, visit Halong Plaza Hotel Facebook Page and join their photo contest. One of the contest rule is to have a photo taken inside the Halong Plaza which will entitle the participant a chance to an overnight stay in case that he or she wins.
Ha Long Bay Junk Boat Cruise
The Ha Long Bay Junk Boat Cruise takes about 3 hours of fun and exciting spelunking, lagoon river passing through, and sight seeing the Ha Long Bay. Prepare 120,000VND for the sight-seeing tour (excluded here are food, cave entrance, sampan boat ride, and tips).
For those who are in a bigger boat, guests can spend overnight at the Bay area and day tour for additional costs. Boats also offer karaoke to heighten the mood.
Cafe Phô Cô
Going back to Old Quarter, Duc brought us to a quaint and narrow place where there’s a steady Hoan Kiem Lake viewing upstairs. On the third floor of an old and rustic residential/commercial building is the dining area where visitors can have the wide angle view of Hoam Kiem Lake.
Tip: Order coffee at the ground floor before going up through a spiral and winding staircases.
Cafe Phô Cô is best famous for ca phe trung da, coffee topped with raw egg, 35,000VND per cup.
Cafe Phô Cô is located in Hang Gai Street.
Water Puppet Show
There are two Water Puppet Theaters that we saw in Hanoi but the one were we watched is at Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. The Water Puppet Show is about Vietnamese story about the legend-history of Hanoi. The show presented the story and the puppets moving in the water.
The Water Puppet Show looks like a blockbuster movie because a lot of people, especially foreigners lined-up in a crowded theater entrance just before the show started at 6 in the evening.
Com Viet could have been another Vietnamese restaurant if not for the funny waiter who put smiles back in our faces after he asked Gigi for her ‘undress’ that sent us to a laugh-trip moment. But of course what he meant was for Gigi’s address.
Crowne Plaza West Hanoi
We came back to Crowne Plaza West Hanoi to spent the evening of our 2nd day in Hanoi. From the 6th floor on our first Crowne Plaza check-in, we were now booked at the 18th floor of the hotel. Upgrade!
While some of our companions were already sleeping, Marky, Kezia, Nina, Mica, Michelle, Melo, Len, and yours truly enjoyed the night by playing Cards Against Humanity. At first, we did not get what this card game was all about but as soon as we get used to it we were already asking for the most weirdest and sexiest cards from the deck. If you are wondering what we are talking about, look for this card game and you’ll be surprised of what you can think about when it comes to the most unthinkable play of words in Cards Against Humanity.
Warning: Cards Against Humanity is not for the old fashioned (no pun intended). Thanks to Nina for introducing this game to us.
For Pinoys, a visit in a Starbucks branch in a foreign land would be incomplete, especially if you’re a collector.
Submitting to friends’ request, we asked Duc to take us to the nearest Starbucks and once there, we jumped out of the shuttle together with Melo and Jonel and looked for a Starbucks novelty items.
There are 4 Starbucks in Hanoi and a total of 12 stores in Vietnam. Starbucks is not that very much popular in Vietnam, they only opened this year. Vietnam of course is not new when it comes to coffee. Vietnam is home to original Vietnamese coffee shops like Highlands Coffee and Trung Nguyen. And let’s not forget those little coffee shops that you’ll find in every streets and corner in Vietnam.
Nha Hang Dac Kim
If you want to try and feel the authentic way and tradition of eating Bun Cha, Nha Hang Dac Kim along Hang Manh Street at the Old Quarter is the place to be.
The traditional way of serving Bun Cha and Nem Cue Be can be found at this tiny restaurant. Bun Cha with Nem Cue Be or the traditional grilled pork served with rice noodle, herbs and green leaves, garlic, and chopped chili pepper is paired with crab meat spring rolls.
Joma Bakery Cafe
And as if we can’t get enough of coffee, our group settled for another drink at Joma where we found an interesting pastry named Nanaimo Bar is served.
Upon checking online, we’ve found out that Nanaimo Bar is a Canadian dessert and popular in North America. It’s a a bar dessert named after a west coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. And we thought it was Vietnamese. Again, no pun intended.
Joma Bakery Cafe is located at 22 Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoan Kiem District, Hà Nội, Vietnam.
Papaya T-shirt Store
We don’t know exactly the name of the store but it’s actually at the entrance hallway of Cafe Phô Cô. Not in our Hanoi itinerary but we’ve included it here because this is where you can find and buy good quality t-shirts with awesome designs. Unlike those selling in night markets, Papaya T-shirt brand is good for its price and you’re sure it wont look old or worn-out too fast.
Papaya T-shirt costs 250,000VND to 400,000VND, depending on the print designs.
Flamingo Dai Lai Resort
Our last destination and it was kinda felt like we wanted our trip to extend another day more, because of Flamingo Dai Lai Resort at Ngọc Thanh, Phúc Yên in the province of Vĩnh Phúc.
Flamingo Dai Lai Resort has a huge landscape of 123 hectares with villas, lake, pine trees, and amenities like spa, clubhouse, function hall, and a lot more.
Dubbed as a romantic getaway, Flamingo Dai Lai Resort is perfect for themed party, pre-nuptial photo shoots, weddings, concerts, music video production, and everything you can think of.
We had our sumptuous dinner at Bamboo Wing and our hosts were the Flamingo Dai Lai Resort executives headed by its General Manager Cesar Castro, who is a Filipino, and Hanoi Red Tours led by Nguyen Thi Van Anh.
It’s just sad that we have to say goodbye to Flamingo Dai Lai Resort too early to catch the evening flight of Cebu Pacific to Manila.
Overall, we are thankful to Cebu Pacific and Stratworks, Inc. for making this Hanoi Familiarization Tour possible.
Cebu Pacific flies to Hanoi every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 10:20 PM at NAIA Terminal 3 in Pasay City.
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