Hanoi, for me, is an ideal shopping destination. In the French Quarters, you can buy luxury goods (Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Valentino). In the Old Quarters, you can buy raw materials at wholesale prices. In between, there is high street. This is not a comprehensive shopping guide to Hanoi, but this is what I thought were the good things to buy in the charming city. Advertisements
The day we visited the Vietnam Museum of National History was balmy. The skies were grey, about to rain. We walked fast, past the Hanoi Opera House, past the boutiques of international luxury brands, to the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel. I am about to spend money on probably my most luxurious purchase in our whole Vietnam trip, and I was quite excited.
We’ve circled the Old Quarters thrice and always came back to the rotunda beside the Hoan Kiem Lake to see the flow of traffic in the late afternoon. Finally, after watching the Thang Long water puppet show on a Monday, we plopped ourselves in the fourth floor of the Cong Caphe, enjoyed our local coffee, with what I think was the best view in the whole of Hanoi.
What is Vietnam without mentioning coffee, right? Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world so a trip to Vietnam would not be complete without drinking coffee. In our month-long trip, I would have to say that the egg coffee (ca phe trung) was not just the most unique coffee I have tasted in Vietnam, it was also the most delicious. And the best place to have it is in the place where it all started — Cafe Giang.
Prior to flying to Vietnam, I made a list of “museums to visit” and there were about 10. But because I was more interested in checking out the cultural side of the country, I decided to just narrow it down to one — the National Museum of History in Hanoi. I had no expectations of the museum, which is why I truly enjoyed our time here.
Sixty years after Hanoi was established as a city in independent Vietnam, Van Mieu (or more popularly referred to in English as The Temple of Literature) was founded as a Confucian school. The temple is one of the oldest and most significant buildings among Confucian complexes in Vietnam, and still remains a treasured cultural edifice.
Thang Long was the former name of Hanoi. It literally means “rising dragon” and this dragon is the same dragon that descended upon in Ha Long Bay, at least according to our guide, aptly named Mr. Vietnam. While Hanoi is famous for being a charming old-world timeless city, it was also the birthplace of many great empires, the remains of which has been inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was sitting there, expecting a so-so performance of folk music, hoping I was not wasting money because I have seen it somewhere else. When the dragons, on the water, spitted fire, I was up on my seat, my bag’s contents almost spilling, with tears in my eyes, clapping like an eight-year old kid who has just seen the most magnificent show on earth.
The boats coming in, I am looking at the eerily serene world-famous karst from a deserted part of the Tuan Chua Island. It was a Saturday, our second day in Vietnam, and our first weekend in the country. How many people can say they spent their Saturday afternoon looking at the spectacular Ha Long Bay? Today’s cancellation horror turned out to be one of our best, if not THE best, memory of Vietnam.
What I find more interesting in Cambodia other than Angkor Wat is how its people coped up after the Khmer Rouge regime. It was a horrific time, at least in accordance with the books (and movies) I read. I am not very interested in wars and war paraphernalia, but I am interested in military tactics and effects of conflict to civilians, especially women and children. After our tour of Ta Phrom, which ended our Angkor Archaeological Park tour, we asked Kim to take us to the War Museum.
Phitsanulok is somewhere between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It is a small city, but I have heard of it already because Joel’s aunt lived and worked there and their family has stories and memories of the city. We never got to explore much of the city but we did have some “stopover” hours on our way to Chiang Mai, and there are two things we would go back for — friend chicken and Pista Cafe!