Tag: #vietnam

Hanoi Eat and Drinks Diary Part One

Hanoi Eat and Drinks Diary Part One

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Hanoi. Such a beautiful city.

Exploding with life and culture and chaos, all encompassed in beautiful French Architecture, traditional simple Vietnamese lifestyle and the freshest of fresh cuisine.

The first and most important decision when travelling is the hotel choice. This can be a make or break for your chosen time in any given city.

Without a doubt, the best hotel in Hanoi is The Sofitel Metropole. Hands down.

Vietnam-honeymoon-1

The Hotel Metropole Hanoi is an award-winning French colonial-style hotel lying in the heart of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake and the magnificent Opera House.

Boasting a classical white façade, green shutters, original wrought iron detail, wood paneling and a lush courtyard lawn, the hotel is one of the region’s few remaining hotels of its era.

Located steps from the Opera House in Hanoï’s French Quarter, this legendary property brings guests into intimate contact with the opulence of another era.

Surround yourself in heritage as you stroll stately corridors and explore a dramatic past. Behind its classical white façade green shutters original wrought iron details and stately wood paneling reside over a century of stories.

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Some of the most famous people in the world have chosen to stay here. The hotel has seen a myriad of prominent visitors throughout its reign, including famous actors such as Charlie Chaplin, who one of the property’s suites is named after. Chaplin celebrated the most special of moments at the hotel, notably, his honeymoon in 1936.

Other frequent guests include revered world dignitaries and famed celebrities. It was at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi that the first motion picture showing occurred within the region, and it is the locale where Somerset Maugham wrote The Gentleman in the Palour, and where Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American.

Can you believe this….what a discovery…forty years after the bombs stopped falling on Hanoi, and less than one year after a chance discovery of an air raid shelter in its back garden, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi has opened the excavated bunker as the anchor attraction in a new Path of History tour.

You can go deep underground and explore the air raid shelter built during the war.  It has been said that the guests were ushered underground during the raids and then after wards ally led back to the dining room or bar to continue socialising…How surreal.

 

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Watch my FB live video as I tour the grounds of the Sofitel.


Next stop..the full tourist day.

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If you are prepared to battle the chaotic traffic, the heat and the crowded streets, then start walking to see the amazing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum the large memorial in Hanoi. It is located in the center of Ba Dinh Square, which is the place where Vietminh leader Ho Chi Minh, Chairman of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 1951 until his death in 1969, read the Declaration of Independence on 2 September 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The structure is 21.6 meters (70.9 feet) high and 41.2 meters (135.2 feet) wide. Flanking the mausoleum are two platforms with seven steps for parade viewing. The plaza in front of the mausoleum is divided into 240 green squares separated by pathways. The gardens surrounding the mausoleum have nearly 250 different species of plants and flowers, all from different regions of Vietnam.

The embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh is preserved in the cooled, central hall of the mausoleum, which is protected by a military honor guard. The body lies in a glass case with dim lights. The mausoleum is closed occasionally while work is done to restore and preserve the body but is normally open daily from 09:00 to 11:00 to the public. Lines of visitors, including visiting foreign dignitaries, pay their respects at the mausoleum every day.

After a quick look, and a moment of silence , we hailed a taxi, negotiated a fair price ($12) and arranged for the driver to take us and see more iconic monuments before taking us back to the hotel.

The high level of humidity, the midday sun, cranky kids plus my white shorts and the now streaky spray tan streaming down my legs…was the dominating factor in this decision.  Luckily for us our driver was super knowledgeable on all historical events and monuments in Hanoi. Big bonus. Plus aircon. Double bonus.

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‘Binhs Taxi Luxury Tour’ then headed over to the beautiful Hanoi Opera House.

One of the few places in Hanoi to catch a symphony, this century-old French colonial building is a major city landmark. While the interior could use some sprucing up, this imposing Opera House is still on the list of top things to see in Hanoi, given its architectural beauty, historical significance and repertoire of internationally celebrated musicians.

Completed in 1911 after 10 years of work, in its heyday this popular Hanoi attraction served as a center for high-end entertainment, theater and classical music. Frequented by French colonial officials and their wives and largely unvisited by the Vietnamese, the Hanoi Opera House was a monument of European culture. For most of the French era, artists who performed at the Opera House were almost exclusively European, but in the 1940s Vietnamese could rent what they called ‘the Western theatre’ to hold special performances and concerts, especially to raise money for charitable causes such as victims of floods.

Just outside the Opera House is a very modern and cool coffee house. The perfect spot to sit and enjoy the iced traditional Vietnamese Coffee. As mentioned in previous posts, this was fast becoming new new obsession.

Next.. Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple.

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Hanoi tourists and locals alike head to Hoan Kiem Lake when seeking a place to get away from the noise of the city. Peaceful and quiet, the lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda sitting in the centre on a small island.

The temple attracts many visitors and was built in commemoration of the 13th century military leader Tran Hung Dao who was renowned for his bravery in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty. Stunning, eerie and very commanding of respect. Beautiful temple.

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We jumped out here to take a walk around the lake. You will see all sorts of local customs. From the stunning Red Bridge, food stalls, and the locals enjoying lunch or practising Thai Chi.

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Before much of city wakes up and the constant hum of motorbikes kicks in, there is a peaceful “spiritual” side to Hanoi that many visitors miss. As the fruit sellers set up their wares and the children head to school in their crisp white uniforms, Tai Chi occurs daily in most of Hanoi Park’s. Its beautiful to watch. And a much needed little time out in this hustling city.

And then…..massage time. An absolute joy to have a full body massage to ease the stress of the very touristy day and unwind. Then it’s back to hotel for a cocktail by the pool and a swim and prepare for dinner.

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The City View Cafe, is an Asian bar and casual dining restaurant. It is the perfect place to sit outdoors and look down to the crazy city below. Its intoxicating. The view across the Lake is stunning and simply looking down and watching the cars, bike, buses and people all jostling to get somewhere is an amazing sight from above.

Great food, better cocktails and the ambience is priceless.

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A full exciting and wonderful day in Hanoi.

And that is how Hanoi Day one went down…… Sx

Vietnam Luxury Tour 2017

Vietnam Luxury Tour 2017

 

Vietnam_SMALL

 

Wanderlust Luxury Travel

Vietnam 2017

Tour Active –  10 Nights / 11 days

Tour Active plus Recharge – 14 Nights / 15 Days

Tour Price Active Only – 10 Nights : $ 5950 per person Twin Share. $ 7950 single

Tour Price Active plus Recharge – 14 Nights : $ 6950 per person Twin Share. $ 8950 single

 

Tour Style: Luxury
Tour Dates: May 2017 FINAL DATE TO BE CONFIRMED

 

Price Includes the following:

Ho Chi Minh (3 nights)

Luxury Boutique 5 Star Fully Escorted

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3 Nights’ luxury accomodation at the iconic 4.5 Star Caravelle Saigon in a Deluxe room located in the centre of the fashion, entertainment district. Free Wifi. Breakfast daily.

Saigon Street Food Night Tour on Bikes or taxi option.
Cu Chi Tunnel Tour via Speedboat along the Saigon River – Includes Lunch Ben Thanh Night Market
Day Spa Half day
Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office and Saigon Cathedral of Notre Dame tour. Arrival and Departure group transport
The Wanderlust Luxury Travel Welcome Pack
Traditional Vietnamese Dinner at Nha Hang Ngon
VIP entry to Glow Rooftop Skybar

 

Hanoi (2 nights)

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Economy Flight from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi
Arrival Transfer to hotel
2 nights’ luxury accomodation at the famous 5 star Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. Deluxe room. Includes WiFi. Breakfast Daily.
Tour the Old Quarter, Lake Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh Square, Vietnam Women’s Museum, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Water Puppet Theatre Show
Dinner at the Vietnamese Rooftop restaurant overlooking Lake Hoan Kiem.

 

Sapa Mountain Village (3 nights)          

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Limousine Transfer from Hanoi to Sapa (approx 5 hours)
2 Nights accomodation at 4 star Victoria Sapa Hotel. Free WiFi. Includes Breakfast & Lunch daily.
Guided tour to Lao Chai, Ta Van Village, Cat Cat, Sin Chai Waterfall
Traditional Vietnamese Market Tour.
Local Dinner
Overnight Train to Hanoi

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Transfer from Hanoi Train Station to Halong Bay
2 Night cruise on the luxury Paradise Cruise on Halong Bay and surrounding areas
Luxury cabin with Ensuite
Welcome Cocktail
Halong Bay Seafood Lunch
Cruise past Hoa Cuong Fishing Village, Soi Sim Beach, Coconut Three Islands
Tour Luon Cave area in a traditional bamboo rowing boat.
Site Seeing includes – Lan Ha Bay, Cua Van Floating village, Tien Ong Cave, Titov Island.     Vietnamese Dinners.
Sunrise Tai Chi Session on the deck
Visit Sung Sot Cave, hike up the 600 steps to the most impressive cave in Halong Bay.
Breakfast included.
Cooking Class.
On Board Spa Treatment.

Hoi An (4 nights) RechargeSunrise-Hoi-An-Beach-Resort-photos-Exterior

Transfer from Ha Long Bay to Hanoi Airport.
Economy flight to Hoi An
3 Nights luxury accomodation at 5 star Sunrise Premium Beach Resort Hoi An. Deluxe Room with breakfast daily.
Fully escorted tailor experience at Yaly for custom clothing.
Walk the streets Behind the Canals.
Visit Japanese Bridge
Fishing Boat tour along the river.
Walk Hoi An Ancient town
Sunrise Yoga
Optional Cooking Class
Transfer To Danang Airport

 

Itinerary Details

Day One

Upon arrival into Ho Chi Minh International Airport, you will be met by your transfer at the airport after baggage and customs/immigration clearance.
Serena will be at the hotel to meet you and ensure that check-in is smooth!
The day or night is yours to settle in, refresh with your spa voucher and acclimatise to the Vietnamese heat.

This evening join everyone for Welcome drink in the bar.

Day Two

After breakfast we take our walking history tour of Ho Chi Minh City.
Located right in the heart of the city, The Central Post Office is one of the oldest buildings in Ho Chi Minh City. It was built around 1886 – 1891, based on the design of Gustave Eiffel – a famous French architect and has become a significant symbol of the city, just like its opposite neighbour Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral, which we will also visit. Diamond Plaza is also located in this district, so a well deserved spot of shopping here is a welcome break from the heat and architectural history tour.

After the walking tour we can head back to hotel to freshen up, relax by the pool or check into the spa for a treatment.

At Sunset it is time to head over to the famous chaotic Ben Thanh Markets, to sample a variety of local produce, ‘designer’ labels and footwear.

After the markets and a traditional light dinner we can enjoy a cocktail at Glow Rooftop Bar.

Meals Included : Breakfast / Dinner

Day Three

After breakfast we take an early history tour to Cu Chi Tunnels via speedboat along the famous Saigon River.
During the Vietnam War, Communist guerrilla troops dug tens of thousands of miles of tunnels, including an extensive network running underneath the Cu Chi district northwest of Saigon. You can choose to crawl through the tunnels or follow the guide above ground. A traditional lunch on a floating pontoon on the river is provided before we head back to Ho Chi Minh on the luxury speedboat.

The afternoon is yours to relax by the pool, or take time out to use you day spa voucher.

At sunset we are collected either by Vespa (if you’re game) or taxi and taken to the back streets of Saigon for our Saigon Steer Food Tour.

A quick, fun and very tasty overview of Ho Chi Minh City’s best street food.
Get a glimpse of local life as you sample a range of dishes in a little neighbourhood that’s been serving cheap and cheerful street food for nearly 30 years.

During the tour, you’ll try everyday Vietnamese dishes, some with a little taste of France, some with a little taste of China. There’s even a little taste of Korea! We finish our eating adventures with Vietnamese dessert-in-a-glass.
This tour is designed to give you the confidence to go out and try street food on your own once you’re released back into the wilds of Ho Chi Minh City.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day Four

After breakfast we will be collected via luxury transfer and taken to the Ho Chi Minh Airport for our flight to Hanoi.
Luxury transfer from Hanoi Airport to our hotel.
Once settled in at the iconic 5 star Sofitel Legend Metropole, the afternoon is yours to relax by the pool or stroll the tree lined French Inspired streets and get acquainted with beautiful Hanoi.

Tonight we shall be inspired by a traditional sunset Water Puppet Theatre show.
The folkloric water puppet guilds and villages were established and respectfully remained and preserved until now.
The Vietnamese folkloric water puppetry includes: land puppetry and water puppetry.

After the theatre show we shall dine at one of Hanoi’s famous roof top Vietnamese Restaurants, overlooking beautiful Lake Hoan Kiem.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Dinner.

Day Five

After breakfast we head out and take our guided tour to the famous Hi Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Womens Museum, walk around the Lake, and absorb the culture of the famous Hanoi Opera House in the Old Quarter.
Sampling the famous Vietnamese iced Coffee is a ‘must do’

Lunch today is casual and pulling up a stool with a local street vendor and dining on the traditional Vietnamese baguette, Banh Mi. The tasty crunchy roll with fresh herbs and meats is a refreshing treat.

The rest of the afternoon is yours to shop, or relax by the pool.

Dinner / Drinks tonight are your choice to do as you please.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Lunch

Day Six

After breakfast, we head off to stunning mountain village of Sapa. (Luxury Coach)
The Queen of the Mountains, Sapa regally overlooking a beautiful valley, lofty mountains towering over the town on all sides. Welcome to the destination in northwest Vietnam, gateway to another world of mysterious minority cultures and luscious landscapes.

Upon arrival, we will check in to The Victoria Hotel, high in the mountains and then you can enjoy a spa treatment of your choice, to refresh you from our journey.

Dinner tonight is down in the local town square.
A colourful town, full of history, you will be enchanted with the culture, the people and the vibrancy.
After dinner its back to hotel to wind down and prepare for tomorrow.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Dinner.

Day Seven

After breakfast we will be collected for our guided tour of the local villages, waterfalls and markets.
A full day of hiking Ta Phin Village, meeting the local villagers, seeing the homestay accomodation, and exploring this amazing town and nearby areas.

You will be captivated with lush rice terraces, the amazing views and the gentle villagers who live off the land. A truly spectacular day.

The afternoon and evening is yours to rest and relax.

Meals Included : Breakfast

Day Eight

After a breakfast in town, we will be taken to the local markets to partake in the culture that keeps this town buzzing. Produce, local handicrafts and fabrics aplenty. You will be tempted to buy the most amazing cloths and bags. The colour, smell and chaos will cement how amazing this part of the world is.

After lunch, we will drive to the nearby water falls and marvel at the beauty of the waterfall and nearby caves.

This evening we head back to the main town for dinner and then we board our overnight train. The Victoria Express, back to Hanoi.

Meals Included : Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner.

Day Nine / Ten

After an early arrival into Hanoi, we will then be met by our transfer coach and driven to Halong Bay, to board a traditional Indochine vessel for our Halong Bay cruise.
Designed in the style of a traditional Vietnamese junk, it features a spa and sauna. A large sun terrace is available onboard. Free WiFi is available.

The Paradise Luxury Classic is the only ship in Halong Bay to offer royal banquets- don the robes of a dignitary and feast on a menu of delectable Vietnamese cuisine fit for a king. Relax on the sundeck, furnished with comfortable outdoor bed.
Between mealtimes and excursions take part in onboard activities, including cooking demonstrations and an introduction to Vietnam’s fascinating tea and cafe culture.

• Halong Bay Seafood Lunch
• Cruise past Hoa Cuong Fishing Village, Soi Sim Beach, Coconut Three Islands
• Tour Luon Cave area in a traditional bamboo rowing boat.
• Site Seeing includes – Lan Ha Bay, Cua Van Floating village, Tien Ong Cave, Titov Island. •Vietnamese Dinners.
• Sunrise Tai Chi Session on the deck
• Visit Sung Sot Cave, hike up the 600 steps to the most impressive cave in Halong Bay.
• Breakfast included.
• Cooking Class.
• On Board Spa Treatment.

Day Eleven The Relax Package Commences

Today we travel back to the Hanoi Airport, via luxury transfer and board our flight to Hoi An.
** Or if you are leaving us here you can board your next flight to your onward destination.

Upon arrival into Hoi An, we will be transferred via coach to the Luxury 5 star Sunrise Premium Beach Resort, located right on the beach in Hoi An.
The evening is yours to unwind and swim in the large pool or at the beautiful beach. Dinner tonight is located at the poolside bistro.

Day Twelve

Breakfast at your leisure.
Relax by the pool. Lie on the sunbeds at the beach.
Today is all about unwinding and relaxing.
Got for a bike ride to the surrounding beaches, walk across the road from the hotel and have relaxing massage. Do a workout in the state of the art gym. The day is all yours to do as little or a much as you like.

At sunset we will head into Old Hoi An, to wander the streets, and admire the beautiful old town which seemingly has been frozen in time.
A bustling fishing village, it has old world charm and character of the French and Asian influence.

If you would like to visit our recommend tailor Yaly and have garments made, tonight is the night to do so.
We will dine locally in Old Hoi An tonight.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Dinner.

Day Thirteen

Sunrise Yoga
Breakfast
Rest day

Day Fourteen

The morning is yours to do as you wish.
Late afternoon we will take traditional fishing boat along the river to Old Hoi An. We will go and collect any custom made clothes.
Walk over the famous Japanese Bridge, light a river candle and make a wish, then onto a local restaurant for our farewell dinner.
Then its back to hotel to pack and prepare for departure tomorrow.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Dinner.

Day Fifteen

Check out, say our goodbyes and begin the journey home or if you’re continuing on..to your next destination.

 

Not included in tour

International Airfares; Items of a personal nature; phone calls; passport; laundry; tips except for meals/beauty services included in the itinerary (beverage tips separate); personal transport; vaccinations; excess baggage; travel insurance.
Meals not specifically mentioned in the itinerary; beverages unless specifically described. Optional excursions or activities that may be offered but not included in the tour price.

Hanoi Eat and Drinks Diary Part One

Hanoi Eat and Drinks Diary Part One

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Hanoi. Such a beautiful city.

Exploding with life and culture and chaos, all encompassed in beautiful French Architecture, traditional simple Vietnamese lifestyle and the freshest of fresh cuisine.

The first and most important decision when travelling is the hotel choice. This can be a make or break for your chosen time in any given city.

Without a doubt, the best hotel in Hanoi is The Sofitel Metropole. Hands down.

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The Hotel Metropole Hanoi is an award-winning French colonial-style hotel lying in the heart of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake and the magnificent Opera House.

Boasting a classical white façade, green shutters, original wrought iron detail, wood paneling and a lush courtyard lawn, the hotel is one of the region’s few remaining hotels of its era.

Located steps from the Opera House in Hanoï’s French Quarter, this legendary property brings guests into intimate contact with the opulence of another era.

Surround yourself in heritage as you stroll stately corridors and explore a dramatic past. Behind its classical white façade green shutters original wrought iron details and stately wood paneling reside over a century of stories.

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Some of the most famous people in the world have chosen to stay here. The hotel has seen a myriad of prominent visitors throughout its reign, including famous actors such as Charlie Chaplin, who one of the property’s suites is named after. Chaplin celebrated the most special of moments at the hotel, notably, his honeymoon in 1936.

Other frequent guests include revered world dignitaries and famed celebrities. It was at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi that the first motion picture showing occurred within the region, and it is the locale where Somerset Maugham wrote The Gentleman in the Palour, and where Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American.

Can you believe this….what a discovery…forty years after the bombs stopped falling on Hanoi, and less than one year after a chance discovery of an air raid shelter in its back garden, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi has opened the excavated bunker as the anchor attraction in a new Path of History tour.

You can go deep underground and explore the air raid shelter built during the war.  It has been said that the guests were ushered underground during the raids and then after wards ally led back to the dining room or bar to continue socialising…How surreal.

 

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Watch my FB live video as I tour the grounds of the Sofitel.

Next stop..the full tourist day.

ho chi minh mausoleum hanoi vietnam

If you are prepared to battle the chaotic traffic, the heat and the crowded streets, then start walking to see the amazing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum the large memorial in Hanoi. It is located in the center of Ba Dinh Square, which is the place where Vietminh leader Ho Chi Minh, Chairman of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 1951 until his death in 1969, read the Declaration of Independence on 2 September 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The structure is 21.6 meters (70.9 feet) high and 41.2 meters (135.2 feet) wide. Flanking the mausoleum are two platforms with seven steps for parade viewing. The plaza in front of the mausoleum is divided into 240 green squares separated by pathways. The gardens surrounding the mausoleum have nearly 250 different species of plants and flowers, all from different regions of Vietnam.

The embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh is preserved in the cooled, central hall of the mausoleum, which is protected by a military honor guard. The body lies in a glass case with dim lights. The mausoleum is closed occasionally while work is done to restore and preserve the body but is normally open daily from 09:00 to 11:00 to the public. Lines of visitors, including visiting foreign dignitaries, pay their respects at the mausoleum every day.

After a quick look, and a moment of silence , we hailed a taxi, negotiated a fair price ($12) and arranged for the driver to take us and see more iconic monuments before taking us back to the hotel.

The high level of humidity, the midday sun, cranky kids plus my white shorts and the now streaky spray tan streaming down my legs…was the dominating factor in this decision.  Luckily for us our driver was super knowledgeable on all historical events and monuments in Hanoi. Big bonus. Plus aircon. Double bonus.

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‘Binhs Taxi Luxury Tour’ then headed over to the beautiful Hanoi Opera House.

One of the few places in Hanoi to catch a symphony, this century-old French colonial building is a major city landmark. While the interior could use some sprucing up, this imposing Opera House is still on the list of top things to see in Hanoi, given its architectural beauty, historical significance and repertoire of internationally celebrated musicians.

Completed in 1911 after 10 years of work, in its heyday this popular Hanoi attraction served as a center for high-end entertainment, theater and classical music. Frequented by French colonial officials and their wives and largely unvisited by the Vietnamese, the Hanoi Opera House was a monument of European culture. For most of the French era, artists who performed at the Opera House were almost exclusively European, but in the 1940s Vietnamese could rent what they called ‘the Western theatre’ to hold special performances and concerts, especially to raise money for charitable causes such as victims of floods.

Just outside the Opera House is a very modern and cool coffee house. The perfect spot to sit and enjoy the iced traditional Vietnamese Coffee. As mentioned in previous posts, this was fast becoming new new obsession.

Next.. Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple.

hoan-kiem-lake

Hanoi tourists and locals alike head to Hoan Kiem Lake when seeking a place to get away from the noise of the city. Peaceful and quiet, the lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda sitting in the centre on a small island.

The temple attracts many visitors and was built in commemoration of the 13th century military leader Tran Hung Dao who was renowned for his bravery in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty. Stunning, eerie and very commanding of respect. Beautiful temple.

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We jumped out here to take a walk around the lake. You will see all sorts of local customs. From the stunning Red Bridge, food stalls, and the locals enjoying lunch or practising Thai Chi.

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Before much of city wakes up and the constant hum of motorbikes kicks in, there is a peaceful “spiritual” side to Hanoi that many visitors miss. As the fruit sellers set up their wares and the children head to school in their crisp white uniforms, Tai Chi occurs daily in most of Hanoi Park’s. Its beautiful to watch. And a much needed little time out in this hustling city.

And then…..massage time. An absolute joy to have a full body massage to ease the stress of the very touristy day and unwind. Then it’s back to hotel for a cocktail by the pool and a swim and prepare for dinner.

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The City View Cafe, is an Asian bar and casual dining restaurant. It is the perfect place to sit outdoors and look down to the crazy city below. Its intoxicating. The view across the Lake is stunning and simply looking down and watching the cars, bike, buses and people all jostling to get somewhere is an amazing sight from above.

Great food, better cocktails and the ambience is priceless.

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A full exciting and wonderful day in Hanoi.

And that is how Hanoi Day one went down…… Sx

And Drinks Diary – Ho Chi Minh City – Part Two

And Drinks Diary – Ho Chi Minh City – Part Two

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There are 2 things that simply are a ‘must-do’ when in Ho Chi Minh.

#1:  A Saigon Street Food Tour.

#2: Cu Chi Tunnels.

Lets start with #1.

Upon arrival I was searching as to which street food tour to do. They are all pretty similar, and most are very generic. I wanted a less touristy version of the street food tour, and lucky for me me, my brother messaged and suggested Saigon Street Eats. I googled. I booked. ( http://saigonstreeteats.com)

Saigon street Eats is run by an Australian and Vietnamese couple living in Vietnam. It is an off the track tour, which takes you to the back streets of Saigon for a more authentic sample of Vietnam. So once you book, you can opt to be picked up by motor scooter, and taken to and from the destination…or ‘chicken out’ and take a taxi…we opted to go balls to wall and go by bike. In the rain. In Vietnam.  (the holiday brain took over and all sense was out the window)

We arrived in an area not frequented by tourists, met our guide Binh..(more about him later!) and 2 other couples from various parts of the world. No other tourists were to be seen. Anywhere. It was awesome.

The tour starts with Binh ( who lived in Melbourne for 6 years, is fluent in English, very knowledgeable about the history of Vietnam and its food cultures, which vary across the country and a great host!)  He explained what to look out for when choosing to eat from the street stalls. It’s never risk free, but these are the strict tips. The stall must have stainless steel tables, strong, bright lighting, the food must be visible and the chef should be cooking within sight. You are less likely to fall ill if you stick to these basic points. Hopefully.

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And the food!  Amazing and so much of it…. Tasty, fresh and such a variety from the 4 stalls we ate at.  Crispy pancakes packed with the fresh herbs, seafood like you’ve never seen, desserts with such traditional history behind the style, wrapping and how to eat it…plus the best of all …the tasty Banh Mi – the obligatory baguette of Vietnam.  Oh, and lots of beer…and a baby duck egg, but that story stays on the tour!.

It was a wonderful night, a must do…but book prior to leaving home…just in case.. They also have a walking Pho morning tour which is all about the traditional breakfast soup. Do one. Do both!

#2 Cu Chi Tunnels

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If you are only in Ho Chi Minh for a short stopover, choose your Vietnam War History tours carefully.  I would suggest either the War Remnants Museum or the Cu Chi Tunnels. I have previously visited the war museum and it is extremely confronting and very sad.

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City documents the costs of the war. It’s aimed squarely at foreign visitors–you won’t find many locals here. The tone isn’t one of victory, but one of victim. The museum amounts to an extensive catalog of the appalling legacy of war. If you are travelling with children I would prefer the tunnel tour, it is not as confronting for small people.

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I chose to book the tunnel tour that starts on the Saigon River. You are collected from your hotel and driven to the docks. Then jump aboard a ‘luxurious’ jet boat and zip along the Saigon River to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

We opted for the early departure (730am) rather than the midday option..due to the heat it is better to go early. The river trip is peaceful and you can get a glimpse into traditional river life..fishing boats, water hyacinths and beautiful old shanty’s lining the banks of the saigon waterway.

Once at Cu Chi  its go time.

Descend underground with a guide into a vast network built by resourceful guerrilla fighters during the Vietnam War to provide supply routes, food and weapon caches, living quarters and hospitals. The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country.

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If you have a fear of confined spaces, which I do..it is pretty terrifying. The tunnels are tiny, dark and drop deep underground. The heat makes it a challenge as well. Needless to say I went about 10 mtrs in..and then just as quickly backed out! Literally. The kids were fine. I waited at the opening to greet them. Win Win.

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After the tour, you have the option to shoot guns. At targets. It is a strange thing to want to do, but in this controlled environment, and after a full 2 hours of talking war and bombs  and guns..it seems normal. Its not.

But I will say, shooting a round of bullets out of an AK47 is something that is both exhilarating and morally wrong. And I will never do it again.

After your tour, you can feast on fried spring rolls, chicken and beef dishes, and soup as you enjoy an authentic, traditional Vietnamese lunch by the river. If you’ve selected the later tour, you’ll enjoy a provided dinner.
After your meal, depart Cu Chi and return by speedboat to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival at the central pier, you will be driven back to your hotel.

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It was a great day out and we were back to the hotel by mid afternoon. A refreshing swim, another round of massages, plus a nighttime walk through Ho Chi Minh Square, which seems never to not have a zillion people milling around at all times …then it was time to head back to the hotel , and pack for our departure the next morning.

Thank you Saigon…you were an incredible host.

Next stop Hanoi……

 

…Sx

(The Cu Chi Tunnel tour that we booked was through http://www.viator.com/?SSAID=1210009&aid=148628)

 

Eat and Drinks Diary – Ho Chi Minh City- Part One

Eat and Drinks Diary – Ho Chi Minh City- Part One

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One of my favourite cities.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Formally known as Saigon..

It is famous for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War, stunning French architecture, traffic mayhem , cheap guesthouses and 5 Star hotels, street food and high end roof top bars, crowded markets and luxury designer stores.

It is a crazy and intoxicating clash of commerce and culture. And it will grab you by the throat and drag you along for the ride. This is why it is one of my favourite cities…

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So, we left a chilly Melbourne winter and flew via Singapore with Jetstar to Ho Ch Minh. Its an easy trip. We arrived at 9pm local time and after a seamless exit through customs and visa approval, we hopped straight into the pre booked a car that was waiting kerbside. I always suggest this as my preferred option upon arrival. It can be a bit daunting landing in a foreign country at night and its just easier to spend a little more and get to the hotel. (**check with your hotel prior to travel, as most will offer courtesy shuttle, so you can pre book it before you leave home.)

I had booked the Hotel Liberty Central Riverside. It is as it sounds, on the Saigon river, located in District One, which is the best district for nightlife and shopping. 600 mtrs to the Ben Thanh Market, 20 minute walk to the Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon and only 15 minutes to The Saigon Opera House. It has a fitness centre and roof top bar with a pool..so all my preferences were ticked!

Life balance!

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http://odysseahotels.com/saigon-centre-hotel

 

Day One:

After a traditional Vietnamese breakfast which consists of Pho Bo ( beef noodle soup), lots of chilli, coriander, bamboo shoots and fresh lime…we hit the Ben Thanh Markets.

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This is the place to find local handicrafts, ‘faux’ Nikes and lots of T-shirts, sunglasses, belts , travel bags and electronics …You name it ..and it is here. It also has an amazing array of market food, fruit, vegetables, dried fruits and most important the Vietnamese herbs and greens for the traditional street foods and soups.

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Expect to spend about 2- 3 hours here and prepare to bargain. Start at half asking and creep up to no more than two thirds of the original price. The Vietnamese people thrive and expect bargaining…so don’t be shy.

Getting used to the traffic in Vietnam is probably the most difficult task to master.  The streets are full of honking trucks, taxis and motorbikes on a intensity level not known in Western Countries, with road rules that don’t exist. Bikes, cars and people seem simultaneously, collectively and individually to be heading straight at each other.

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Be warned, drivers will not slow down, or stop, so therefore you must be confident. Step out into the traffic, start walking, keep an even gait at all times  and just keep walking.

DO NOT STOP. I liken it to blood flow. It keeps going and flowing at a natural pace. The traffic will ebb around you. They anticipate your speed and adjust to suit. The honking of horns is considered a polite gesture…to let you know they are near…not as an angry one. So take a deep breath and go for it. (it will take you a day to get used to it.)

Once we had loaded up at the markets, it was time for lunch. Vietnam is all about fresh  and light food. So we headed to a local restaurant and ordered all the traditional options. More Pho soup, fresh rice paper rolls, vegetable noodles and completed the feast with my new obsession.

Vietnamese Coffee.

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Iced or hot, this is an addictive blend of ox-strong black coffee and sweetened condensed milk. Addictive. Delicious. Heart Racer. More please.

After lunch we did what any other 3 gals would do next…hit the day spa. We found a clean, modern beauty salon near the market and proceeded to spend the next four hours being completely pampered. Leg scrubs, body massages, facial steams, eyelash extensions, tummy wraps, pedicures, manicures, eyebrow wax, hand massage, foot massage, head massage..total cost $300.

It was the best few hours and totally refreshed we headed back to hotel to change for the night time activities.

… Sx