Vietnam (II) – Hanoi City

Second day started off with a tour of the Ho Chi Minh complex. HCM to Vietnam is essentially what Lee Kuan Yew is to Singapore. He was the first President of Vietnam and founded the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, their “National Liberation Hero”.So he has a complex built in his name for all the Vietnamese to commemorate and remember him for what he has done. Hm, will Singapore someday build one for LKY too? 

The first stop in the complex was the mausoleum, which houses Ho Chi Minh’s preserved and embalmed body. We had to line up in twos to enter the mausoleum, remove sunglasses etc, everything was very solemn and forced to be orderly. His body was kept in dim lighting to better preserve the body. And I remember my colleague mentioning that when he visited in 1999, the body was actually not in Vietnam as it was sent to Russia for touch-ups, since Russia is apparently the expert in this embalming industry. No pictures were allowed in the mausoleum so all I got was a picture of the outside. 

Next is the Presidential Palace which was built by the French colonists. The Vietnamese government took over it in 1954 and offered it to HCM as his residence but he refused as he thought that it was too luxurious. In the end, he just used it to meet high-level diplomats. 

All the government buildings built by the French are yellow with a red roof, as yellow was a colour only used by the king, and it was their way of exerting their authority. 

We also saw his actual residence which was next to a koi pond/lake. A very humble abode. 

He also lived in a house on stilts from 1958 till the day he passed away. Near the outside of the complex, there was also this super cool coconut tree growing from within a banyan tree, which was scientifically mind-blowing but photogenic-ally not very appealing.

Our next stop was the Hoan Kiem Lake, and on the way there we passed by super colourful Pasar Malam-like shops. 

The lake has a bridge which led to a temple, which was when we realized that all the writings were in Chinese due to the Vietnamese language having Chinese characters roots, along with many other Asian languages. 

The roads outside the lake are closed to allow pedestrian traffic, so I could properly enjoy and appreciate the atmosphere and the space. 

Everything here looks like a thousand calories. 

We walked through the old quarters for lunch, and man, Vietnamese traffic strikes again. The roads in the old quarters are extra narrow and there were so many scooters weaving around me, it’s amazing that nothing ran over my foot. 

As usual, I was too busy eating to take any photos, but the menu was funny enough for me to snap one. 

Beautifull girl? Emotion smoothie? Lol

Vietnamese is super famous for its coffee, and they have this egg coffee creation that’s apparently super yummy. So we decided to check out this cafe which was super hidden (store fronts are small because theyshops are supposedly taxed by the size of their store fronts). 

The cafe has this super cool indoor nature concept, but it was so crowded that we didn’t stay thaat long. Since I don’t drink coffee, I decide to get iced egg chocolate. Which is milo powder mixed in beaten egg white and probably sugar and milk and stuff. It was surprisingly yummy, despite its suspicious look. 

Whole fam was pretty tired so we went straight back to the hotel to nua. And then we went back to the same restaurant for dinner, the one we went to for our past 2 dinners. 

Roasted pigeon

Empty bowl of chicken pho 

Yep, that’s pretty much a wrap for the whole trip. Off to the airport tomorrow and then back to Singapore. It was a pretty relaxing trip, not as packed as how my usual trips are, which is a good change. Had the time to actually enjoy the hotel room and get enough rest. Maybe one of the few holidays where I actually sleep before midnight constantly.


Vietnam (I) – Ha Long Bay

2017 started with a family holiday in Hanoi, and the highlight of the trip was definitely the 2d1n cruise on  Ha Long Bay itself. But before we got there, we had to endure a 4-hour bus trip from Hanoi to Ha Long city, before this scene greeted us. 

And apparently, the government wants to develop the city itself into some tourist centre by building a theme park, ferris wheel, cable car etc

And eventually we got on board the cruise ship. It’s a fairly small ship with a hilarious tour guide, Tommy. His English was wonderful and I half wonder if he learnt his English from watching American dramas because his humor felt very American. 

“only rich people can afford to take drugs, but they won’t be rich for long because they’ll be DEAD.”

Um okay. 

And more photos of the 3000+ limestone Islands in Ha Long Bay. 

I know, they start looking the same after a while. But I do so loooove the emerald water colour. 

The afternoon of the 1st day was spent kayaking in the Bay! Eggcites. And it was great that my mom and dad could join too since my sister and I paired off with them, and of course my dragon boat experience was put to good use. It was quite fascinating to see that part of how these floating fishermen villages earn their keep, is in helping the cruise ships take care of their kayaks. 

Imagine living here… 

Anyway, so we kayaked to this natural beach and it was really serene and just amazing to see all this nature created by God. 

And back to the ship for dinner. They definitely fed us very very well for those four meals. We did some fishing and puzzle-playing  after dinner and my sister actually caught a fish! Bloop. 

Next morning, we went to visit a cave on one of the islands. I don’t recall the name of it because Vietnamese names are really difficult to remember

The view from the island is quite beautiful. The rock on the right looks like a whale eating the ship heh. 

The cave in the other hand, is not so photogenic. But what’s cool is how it was formed by the water flowing through it over the thousands of years and then carving out the cave in the process. Now, that’s impressive.  

So many people in the cave though. 

Then back to the ship and we had a cooking demonstration on how to carve flowers out of vegetables. From which I learnt 2 things: 1) this is a way to get kids to eat their veggies “eat the flower or the butterfly”, 2) cooking is difficult. 

And then it was the end of the cruise and we endured another 4 hour bus ride back to Hanoi. We filled in the feedback form for the cruise and we indicated that they didn’t give us a connecting room when they said they would. They were so concerned about this minor complaint that they actually sent someone down to our hotel to talk to us and bought us some Vietnamese cakes and coffee to “compensate” us, even though we were really satisfied with the cruise on the whole. Vietnamese hospitality is 👍

For dinner we went to this super huge restaurant, Marche-style with tons of different stalls selling different stuff. I’m really bad at taking food photos because I tend to forget. But here’s the limited amount I captured

(there were 6 prawns but I only remembered to take a photo after everyone took one) 

Chwee-kueh looking thing

Yeah that’s all I remembered. Vietnam does indeed have amaaaaazing food. The variety is huge and everything is so delicious. Ha Long Bay was definitely a highlight since I love being)  surrounded by water. The calmness and the serenity water brings to me is something I always look forward to. 

The non-stop honking of Hanoi though, is quite unbearable. The sidewalks are all used for the street stalls and scooter parking, which forces the pedestrians to walk on the side of the road. I legit fear for my life, but I’ve been reassured by our tour guide that “it’s chaotic but it flows”. So there’s order in the chaos, I just can’t see it. It’s quite amazing that traffic accidents are apparently quite minimal…

Last day in Hanoi tomorrow!