4D3N Hanoi, Vietnam

Arriving at the airport of Vietnam, we headed straight to get local sim pack. Sis & I got 2 different mobile providers but hers had a problem and she can’t access Whatsapp for the first few days. We had to resort to WeChat to ensure we stay connected. I took the Mobifone pack which is VND250,000 that has 4GB data & 40 minutes of phone call. 

The hotel arranged our airport transfer but they missed out that we requested for a 7-seater hence we waited for another 30 minutes. Arriving at the hotel, we were warmly welcomed by Henry whom I have been exchanging email with. I must give him a big shout out for his quick responses and for being really helpful and friendly. He even advised us to be careful of our belongings while going out.

We stayed at HM Hanoi Boutique Hotel. You pay for what you get and I think the place is decent for budget travelers. Hotel room is right at the Old Quarter and everywhere is within walking distance. The down side is that it’s facing the streets and kinda noisy at night in comparison to the hotel we stayed on the 2nd night. Nope, we are not that crazy enough to go hotel hopping. We were supposed to be sleeping in the cruise for day 2 but it got cancelled. More story on its way.

We went straight for food. We were ‘famish’ after an early morning flight and some delay in the airport pick up.  The famous Bun Cha Dac Kim stall (non halal) is located about 15 minutes walk from the hotel.

The famous Bun Cha

Special fried fish 

Spring roll

The pork meat is awesome and the noodle was interesting as it’s unlike the rice vermicelli in Malaysia where everything tends to stick together after it gets cold. By just pouring some soup over, the rice noodle untangled. It’s really soft and smooth. The special fried fish is good but not the spring rolls so you can skip that.

Combo 1: Bun cha with 2 spring rolls VND90,000
Bun cha VND60,000 | Spring roll VND15,000 | Fried fish VND50,000
Saigon beer VND20,000 | Heineken VND25,000
Soft drinks VND15,000 | Ice tea VND5,000

Address: 1 Hàng Mành, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Then we head back to the hotel as Henry had help us get an early check-in for 1 of the room. We took a 1.5-hour rest since we were all been awake since 3am to catch the 6am flight and I’m sure my parents didn’t get to rest well in flight.

After that we started our day with the Tranc Quoc Pagoda. It is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi located on a small island near the southeastern shore of Hanoi's West Lake. This place is slightly further than the Old Quarters and we took an Uber out. It’s a small area and we covered the place in less than 20 minutes.

Then we head on to the Temple of Literature which is a temple for Confucius. 

At the entrance of the Temple of Literature

The building is famous for its well preserved traditional-style Vietnamese architecture.

After that, I saw an email from Get Up and Go Vietnam (my tour agency) that our cruise for Day 2 & 3 might be cancelled and was requested to head over to the office (also at Old Quarter). But since dad was already hungry and we missed lunch time, we headed to the famous Banh Mi 25 around 3pm.

It’s really good and we enjoyed our meal there including the ice cream and coffee. They have interesting flavoured ice cream. The one we had was strawberry coconut & soursop yogurt.

They have other ice cream flavours including avocado coconut, triple melons, mango yogurt and more.

Price: VND150,000 (2 banh mi, 2 ice cream & 1 coffee)

Address: 25 Hàng Cá, Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Then we spent almost 2 hours at Get Up & Go Vietnam office to sort out our Day 2 & 3. By the time everything was sorted, the sky was really dark (Vietnam turns dark faster than Malaysia). We went for dinner. Dinner was average and cost us VND526,000. We are a family of small eaters so this is what we ordered for 5 pax:

I wouldn't recommend this place so gotta leave out the restaurant detail. 

Other places you could have visit while we wasted 2-3 hours at the tour guide’s office: Old Quarter, Long Bien bridge, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (it's named HCMC but located at Hanoi), Ho Chi Minh Museum, Hỏa Lò Prison & St. Joseph's Cathedral.

The busy street of the Old Quarters

Day 2

As mentioned, we were initially supposed to go on a 2-day cruise trip to Bai Tu Long bay (slightly further than Ha Long bay) and because of Typhoon Doksuri, our cruise got cancelled. We were upset about this since it was what we were looking forward for this the entire trip but I must say that it’s also a blessing in disguise after checking what happened. At least we were not on board when the typhoon hits. Can’t imagine what will happen.

So, we got a Plan B to Bai Dinh and Trang An. It was a rainy day due to the typhoon. 

Bai Dinh Pagoda at Ninh Binh ~ it took them 8 years to build the Pagoda. The pagoda consists of 3 different temples. It is consider the largest complex of Buddhist temples not only in Vietnam but also Southeast Asia. 

Scenically set on the foot hill of Dinh Mountain, surrounded by an amazing view of the exquisite river valley below and limestone dotted around will take your breath away. It was rainy so the photo taken doesn't justify the view.

The temple has 500 stone statues of "La Han" (Arhats) and you will see them all around while 'hiking' up & down the temples.

Then we went to Trang An.

Half way through the ride, we regretted it and was wondering how long we could get back on board. Honestly, if it was a good weather, the experience would be different. But then again, this would be a once in a lifetime experience with le family.

While I was on the ride, I was worried about the boat turning turtle as none from my family can swim and also crocodilessss!!! What if this… what if that… I can be quite imaginative.

After a long ride, we arrived at a small temple. After that, we row back to the entrance.

Price: USD39 per pax for the entire trip of Bai Dinh Pagoda & Trang An with a simple lunch. 

We headed back to the hotel and went for dinner around the Old Quarters at this road side stall selling Chicken Noodle. Not sure what's the shop name though:

It's located at Hàng Buồm street.

The chicken soup is so delicious that we actually bought takeaway the next day. A stall worth exploring even though the seller doesn't know how to speak English.

Price: VND90,000 for 3 bowls of chicken noodle.

Day 3

We didn’t want to miss Ha Long bay and so we signed up for a day cruise. We were really lucky to get a good weather after the storm. We were told that it’s gonna be wet (raining) and we were praying hard that it’s gonna be just a drizzle. Initially the sky was still dark & gloomy. However, the day turns out to be bright and sunny later on. A day tour to Ha Long bay cost USD45 per pax. 

Ha Long in Chinese refers to descending dragon. It is based on a legend. The mountain forms the shape of the dragon.

Our guide picked us from the hotel and started the journey from Old Quarters around 8.30am. We reached the port at 12.00pm. For a day cruise, there were 3 activities - kayaking or bamboo x, expedition to a mountain and Western style evening tea.

The cruise started with a safety briefing by the guide that we must be maintained in the ‘chamber’ before being allowed to go up the deck for photo taking when we are out in the sea. We were served lunch while the ship started sailing.

Lunch was really average and don’t have high expectation for it.

View of the bay

Then we proceeded to bamboo boat. The difference is kayaking – you have to row on your own with a partner while bamboo boat, you can go in group with a person rowing the boat for you.

This place is only accessible via a bamboo boat or kayak.

After that we proceeded to the expedition of the cave. The guide told my dad to stay on board because it takes many steps to go up & down and it’s 1 way in and 1 way out. Once you start, you have to go forward. We immediately regretted that decision because the steps were not as hard as we were told. The Vietnamese government actually pave a proper path for visitors so it’s not cave/mountain path. And they turned off the fan while docking and waiting for us ~ dad was complaining that it was stuffy on board.

After the expedition, we set sail back to the harbour and it was time for the Western evening tea. We actually thought it was evening tea with layers of cakes/scones etc but we got the wrong idea. Their idea of a Western evening tea was totally different. To our disappointment, it was just a cup of jasmine tea served with green bean biscuit and watermelon. Swt=.=!!!

But I must say that I enjoyed the green bean biscuit.

What’s dreading is the ride back to Hanoi ~ another 3 hours on the bus. Imagine almost 6-7 hours on the bus in a day. My back feels like breaking and I can’t imagine how my parents felt T.T

The best meal we had is during dinner where we went to Bò Nướng Xuân Xuân or Xuan Xuan BBQ right in the middle of Ma May Street. You get a selection of pork or beef. 

You cook your own meal in the middle of the table. Add-on some bread, fried noodle or rice as your side if you like and of course a cold Vietnamese beer. Yummylicious and the most satisfying meal throughout the trip. I'll be back for more.


Address: 47 Mã Mây, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm

Day 4

Last day in Vietnam and we have until 12pm to shop around before checking out and heading off to the airport at 12.30pm. We started our day earlier with breakfast in hotel at 6.30am and headed off to Hang Da Mall/Galleria. We were told that there are quite a lot of things to shop around but it doesn’t suit us so we went to the lake instead. It’s a must visit place if you are in Hanoi. It’s ordinary to us but then again, it’s so near and I must say that you can’t say that you have come to Hanoi without going to the lake.

Then we went cafe hopping starting with Cong Caphe.

Though I can only take few sips of coffee, I can say that I like the coffee here and the ambiance too.

Price: VND70,000 for 2 cups of lovely coffee.

Address: There are many Cong Caphe outlets in the Old Quarters and each has slight differentiation in the interior deco. I would suggest for you to explore.

We then went to try the famous Egg Coffee at Giang Café.

We have to walk through a long narrow path to reach the shop

Coffee is good but we find the coffee to be too sweet for us. The texture is slightly different than the usual coffee. Chrysanthemum tea pricey – same as a cup of coffee, VND25,000.

Address: 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm

Then we went to search for a famous Vietnamese spring roll shop but it was closed but we were lucky we found a sticky rice shop by the street. We were looking around for it high & up while we were heading to the lake. We finished the food even before we snapped a pic.

By the time we finish loitering around, it’s time to head back to hotel and packed. We had lunch at the airport – food was lousy so I’m not gonna share anything here.

Finally, we are back in Malaysia and there’s no place like home. Till next time then! The question is ‘where should I go next?’