Thursday, December 25, 2014

VIETNAM HANOI TRAVEL 2014: Halong Bay, Cha Ca La Vong (Turmeric Fish) & Barbecue at Ma May Street

This is what my complimentary breakfast at the hotel looks like :-)

I found the selection just so-so but I had the chance to try a few of the Vietnamese food that was offered...
Vietnamese Fried Rice...I have no idea why but in Vietnam, Fried Rice over here has a bright yellow tinge which is probably from the Turmeric spice that they use. It was pretty fragrant I must say...
Pho Ga (Chicken Pho)
Peanut Sticky Rice. In Vietnam, Sticky Rice is called Xoi (Pronounced as "Soil")...there's a lot of variation of this dish, you can have it savory or sweet with ice-cream...
This one was purchased by our Tour Guide for us to try...I would really suggest a tour guide as it makes a lot of things much easier. For example, bargaining, communication with the locals and driver, places to eat, Vietnam's history etc...
Though Xoi is one of the "recommended" things to eat in Hanoi, I beg to differ. My Top 10 things to eat list in Hanoi would be coming out, so watch out for it :-)
Just like tours in China, Vietnam tour agencies are also picking up on this trend. What trend you ask?
The trend of having "pit stops" at souvenir shops....GRRRR!!! While traveling in China 2 years ago, I was really annoyed and got into a BIG argument with my driver who kept on wasting my time and making pit stops at all these souvenir shops when I don't have any intentions to buy at all!!!

Luckily in Vietnam, tour guides here are not that "Aggressive" yet and they let you browse at your own pace...
I didn't know at first but all these people who are doing the embroidery work are victims of Agent Orange...

Long story short, many years ago, during the war with the Americans, the Americans decided to drop bombs which releases lethal chemicals called the "Agent Orange" see, Agent Orange does not kill immediately, in fact the Vietnamese soldiers were not even aware that they are infected.

So after the war, the soldiers moved back to the villages, fell in love, got married, had babies and the sad part was they discovered that their children were all born with deformities! The saddest part is until today, it didn't affect the children or the grandchildren of those soldiers but the GREAT GRANDCHILDREN!!! :-(

Histories especially war histories are sad stories that really broke my heart but in the war era, power was everything. As the saying goes, ALL IS FAIR in the game of LOVE & WAR...

Though the innocent are still affected but at least there are many foreign governments have started to work together to help the people of Vietnam...
Bought this packet of chips to eat on our road trip. Very very yummy! Highly recommended :-D

Finally! After a 3 1/2 hours drive, we arrived at the port of Halong Bay :-D

If you want to save money and is on a budget, here's the "budget traveller" price of the cruise. You have to make your way to Halong Bay though...

We had a private boat all to ourselves *like a boss* :-D Of course there was a "price" to pay, but what the heck! You'll only live once :-)

Even when the boat is moving, there would be random "sampan" boats that would ask us to buy fruits from them...after yesterday's big hoo ha banana scam...we were extremely wary of banana peddlers...

Lots of construction taking place at Halong Bay...humans...we just can't leave a beautiful place just as it is...commercialization is just all for money making purposes...tsk tsk tsk...
Our lunch was included in our 4 hour tour and first up was Prawns...
Mummy had to whallop the entire plate as Nick and I don't eat prawns :-S

Crab cakes, this was delicious...

Fries...don't ask me why...

Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls

I'm going to learn how to make this, anyone wants to be my Guinea Pig? :-P
Plain rice
Stir-Fry Squid
Sweet & Sour Fish
Stir fried cabbage & Bananas as you can see, we were filled to the brim...
We decided to walk around the ship and snap pictures of the "wonders" of Halong Bay

There's a special name for a lot of it's rock formation, this one is called the kissing hen or the cock and hen...something along that lines...

More banana peddlers...I feel so angry when I see banana!!!

It was super breezy but sunny...I couldn't stop squinting my eyes

Both of us actually fell asleep for a bit as the lunch made us super sleepy...
We then arrived at this pier
It's the pier of this cave which is known as the Driftwood Cave

For some strange reason, I've been visiting A LOT of caves these past 2 years and the prettiest and most well-managed "public" cave would have to be this one...

~Do not fret my dear, there's always a light at the end of the tunnel~ :-)

Cute Penguin Dustbin

As we were super sleepy, we ordered a few cups of Vietnamese Coffee and we were charged USD 2 per cup
USD is also commonly used in Vietnam. So if you would like, do bring along some USD...
After another 3 1/2 drive and one 20 minutes stop by the police (you are not allowed to go above 60-80kmp/h in Vietnam)... we finally arrived at Hanoi Old Quarters and our Tour Guide showed us the way to the famous CHA CA LA VONG!
It wasn't included on our tour but being smart *ehem* I made full use of my tour guide and instructed him to show me the way to this place. Of course, I tipped him generously :-D
This Cha Ca Fish Dish is known to be one of the 100 things to try before you DIE...yes, you read that right, BEFORE YOU if you did not try this dish and die suddenly, you will not be reincarnated....just kidding!
This delicacy is quite nice. However, it did not live up to it's hype
For 170,000 Dong per person (RM 28), we weren't even full after our meal

The place however, was full to the brim and had steady flow of customers coming in and out though it was almost 9pm already...

There's a few shops along the same road that sells the same Cha Ca Fish Dish and tries to disguise as the "Original" one but do not be fooled!
The original Cha Ca La Vong is located right across from the Hanoi Garden Hotel...
We decided to wander around to look for more food to eat
There was a street that was selling a lot of Xmas themed items and many families buying it!
We ventured a bit too far and ended up on this road...most roads in the old quarters have the word "Hang" in front...

Me being mischievous and ever the comedienne, couldn't stop making fun of the road names...I handed the map to my brother to navigate as I admit that women are bad with directions...

Nick: Where are we heading to?
Me: Hang...Tuah??? LOL...or Hang Li Poh? (2 mythical figures in Malaysian folklore)...

Me: Okok...just kidding, I want to go Hang Gai (which was actually one of the road names but coincidentally means "Shopping" in Cantonese) :-P

Me: Okok, stop asking me...I'm starting to Hang Gey (which was also another street name and was a slang word in Cantonese which meant "getting confused")
Seriously, I should write stand up comedy scripts...but I'm already overly multi-talented, so I'll give other people the chance :-P

The "fake" Cha Ca shop which I was talking about earlier....
We found this shop called L'amore and we decided to sit for awhile as we were super tired from walking
Also because I wanted to have the Creme Brûlée a.k.a Kem Chay which is a by-product of the French Colonization in the past...

Coconut Ice cream!!! I really missed the ones I had in Bangkok

Creme Brûlée

We found a shop near our hotel which sold Bun Thang. Bun Thang was one of the items to eat on my list
Bun means noodles and Thang means soup which translates to Soup Noodles. If you like, you can request for other accompanying ingredients too :-)
If you are a fan of sauces, there's a lot for you to experiment with in Vietnam
The road behind our hotel has A LOT of cafes as it is facing the main road. I call it the "Coffee Strip of Hanoi"
Remember the Xoi Sticky Rice which I was telling you earlier? This restaurant is famous for it...we didn't go in and try though...

Huhuhuhu...I wanna go in!!! But still under renovation :-(

Took a picture of this hotel as it looks really pretty, might stay here if I ever revisit Hanoi :-)

Street hip hop performers...actually, they weren't that good :-S But good to see the youths doing something about their "passion"

Ma May Street which is the backpacker street is mostly off limits to motorist (other than a few that manages to sneak in) so, you'd find a lot of children running around freely and renting mini bicycles and trishaws like the picture above to play with their friends :-)

Another group of hip hop performers

So, we headed back to the barbecue place were we had dinner the day before for another round :-D

This time, I was naughty and ordered whisky which my mum drank 3/4 and got really drunk!!! :-O

Note to self: Don't get mummy drunk ever again...too scary, just too scary :-S
You have NO bloody idea how bloody delicious it is to barbecue the Banh Mi bread and having the beef juices all seep into the Baguette!!!
Btw, as I have mentioned many times...I'm really serious about starting a Vietnamese Food biz...let me know if you are interested :-D 

P.S. Creeps who wants to ask for my number are not allowed to act as potential biz partners...please go to hell, kaythanksbye!

Read my other "Hanoi, Vietnam" Blog posts here:-

Part 1-

Part 2-

Part 3-

Best Food in Hanoi-

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