Taking the open bus from Hanoi to Saigon (or the other way around) is very convenient. You can buy a ticket including 3-5 fixed stops with open dates, you only need to reserve your next bus a day in advance. It’s a sweet deal: a ticket for over 40 hours of traveling with 5 stops only cost me $47.
From Hanoi I took a night bus to Hue. After being in the bus for only 10 minutes, we discovered there were more passengers than we had initially noticed: hundreds of cockroaches were accompanying us on this 14-hour trip. After an inner conflict – am I just a spoiled white girl from the Netherlands who cannot handle a little dirt? – me and my newly made friends decided to switch busses. The thought of the creepy little creatures crawling into my bag, under my blanket, in my hair etc and laying eggs in all those warm places was more than I could handle.
I only stayed in Hue for one day, which was just the right amount of time. The old imperial city is very nice, but very small compared to another one closer to me. After visiting the imperial city I decided to rent a motor taxi which would take me to the old tombs around the city. I gradually started to relax on the back of the motor, even started taking selfies when we were driving and I didn’t clung on to the skinny driver anymore. It was really nice to be out of the big city again, into the country, smelling fresh trees, breathing clean air (Beijing air quality as I type: “very unhealthy”), not being surrounded by people & motorbikes & sounds and enjoying the beautiful scenery and old tombs.
From Hanoi it takes about 4 hours by bus to get to Halong Bay, from there you board one of many boats available and sail the bay in one, two or even up to ten days. My time was limited and the weather wasn’t too great, so I was only able to go on a day trip. We cruised around the incredibly beautiful bay, passed by water villages and kayaked through some caves. Life is pretty sweet.
My entire trip in Vietnam was centered around food: the first thing I would do before going to a new city was doing research on what and where to get the best food. And before taking the train and bus to Hanoi I had already booked two cooking classes to learn how to make some of the refined Vietnamese dishes the cuisine is known for.
I was eager to learn, but unfortunately I was a bit disappointed. The cooking classes, not surprisingly though, target audience are tourists who are looking for a fun activity during their travelling, not necessarily people who love cooking and do it regulary. So in the “hands-on” cooking classes I barely did any cooking myself, but luckily I learned a lot of new things, like the big spoon is called a tablespoon and the small spoon is called a teaspoon..
For my meals in Hanoi I mostly relied on this genius and the recommendations of my hostel, which actually pretty much overlapped. My big time favorites: coffee with condensed milk and sticky rice, xoi. Oh boy, I’m just salivating at the thought right now.
Of course I had the must-have Phở, aka beef noodle soup, in the city where it originates from, but I was just too greedy to have the patience to take a decent picture before devouring it.
Cha ca – Fish sauteed in dill and turmeric and served with rice noodles, peanuts, fresh herbs and fish sauce. Continue reading…
My first stop in Vietnam: Hanoi. Looking back, it was the best city to start my trip through the blistering hot country, coming from depressingly cold and smoggy Beijing. The people I met travelling in the other direction, from south to north, were constantly complaining about the chilly weather, but by me it was welcomed with open arms.
I only got to spend two full days here, but I enjoyed every second of them. The city, just like the rest of the country, is overflowing with motorbikes, amazing food and nice people. I spent most of my time wandering around and observing the chaos in the small streets: motorbikes coming from every direction, street vendors trying to sell fruit or flowers, and people enjoying their food or coffee on little stools on the side of the road. Loved it!