Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2017

I guess that after reading the title, many will feel so curious of this new world. Although this place is so close to the Old Quarter, the belated heart of Hanoi with various choices of food, it has its own features of food that no one will forget after a try.In order to enjoy this special food your, you are free for 3 options: a private car, a motorbike or a bike. These private vehicles let you stop at any places of your interest for photos hunting. There are two times of the day that are highly suggested for you to visit the lake, sunrise and sunset as those are great chances to take stunning photos of the sky and the water. If you start at any other time of the days, you will also find a lot other great moments along this largest lake of Hanoi.

To get more information about Hanoi, you can view: Hanoi Cycling Tour

West Lake in the afternoon

West Lake in the afternoon- source: internet

Now we may start with the most traditional drink of Vietnam: coffee with milk. It is not surprising that the Bloomberg once reviewed that this specialty will be fit in the top 10 coffee drink in the world. Also, the President Obama on his trip to Vietnam also listed this coffee is a must try beverage in our country. A bit deliciously sweet condensed milk with dark-roasted coffee whether hot or cold may wake you up for a new day ahead, especially when sitting in front of the spacious lake to enjoy the fresh and clean atmosphere. You may easily find any coffee shop around the lake, or simply, just stop next to the Quan Thanh Temple, along the Thanh Nien street to find the most favorite one.

Enjoy a cup of coffee in West lake

Enjoy a cup of coffee in West lake- source: internet

Shrimp cake in West lake

Shrimp cake in West lake- source: internet

After coffee time, we will be ready for our food tour as I promised, do not forget to you’re your stomach before going on. Take a short ride or drive to the Temple of Mother Godness, in Vietnamese it is called Phu Tay Ho, you will be impressed by a street full of food here. People who visit West Lake often stop here for worshiping activities for good luck and smooth work with abundant of money will flow into the pocket. They also do not forget to try the Shrimp Cake (Banh Tom) where seafood lover may never ignore.

Snail noodle

Snail noodle- source: internet

The dish is listed as an evitable dish in the menu of Hanoi snack food. You may love this  special cake with 2 big pink shrimp set on the mini “pan cake” after being deep fried in the boiling oil pan, the cake is served with sweet and sour fish sauce and fresh herbs.

At the same street, foodie should not miss the Snail noodle (Bun Oc) or Paddy Crab paste vermicelli (Bun Rieu). The dish is delicious for its featured soup of a bit sweet with pork ribs and a bit sour with tomatoes and vinegar. Tasting the soft noodle and enjoy a colorful bowl of soup in any time of the day may freshen up your body if you have had too much meat  the day before.

Departing on the trip of Food lover, you should stop at one roadside steamed snails to feel the soul of Hanoi cuisine in winter. The best snails should be medium well cooked and served with secret fish sauce of garlic, ginger, lime juice, sugar, vinegar, chopped lemongrass and chili. That is the dipping sauce which make the dish delicious or not. If you are served the bold taste with plenty of flavors: salty, sweet, sour and spicy, and also clean and fat snails boiled, you have the best steamed snail ever. As usual, I often drink just a sip of this sauce to add on the strong flavor of snail eating.  There are several nice roadside snails shop along the Trich Sai street that you may find it easier to drop by.

Boiled snail

Boiled snail – source: internet

I hope this short list of cuisine may somehow satisfy your stomach on the trip to West Lake, and agree with me that, there is the other food paradise outside the Old Quarter.

Happy Traveling!

Read Full Post »

After visiting all of famous destinations inside/outside Hanoi and still having some free days, what will you do? Staying at your hotel or taking a walk around Old Quarter and seeing our local life. I think it is enough for you to see. Let’s go and have unique experiences on our local daily life!

You will see these activities in Hanoi every day and I make sure that real Hanoi people will have to do one of them at least one time during their lifetime. With these below activities, you can arrange a full day trip to enjoy a local life by yourself easily.

Waking up at 5:30 am, go to a local market in early morning

Normally, Hanoi starts its new day very early at 6:00am. You can see a road with some transportation from 6:00am. But the high time of traffic jam in morning is from 7:15 am to 8:30 am. Most of foreigner cannot understand why we have to start our days earlier than some other country. There are some reasons as below:

  • Most of working places will start at 8:00 am
  • All of primary student and secondary student will be transferred to their schools by parents. Parents will bring their kids to schools safely before moving to office. Because of this culture, all of primary and secondary school will start at 7:15 am. This will help parents can bring their kids to schools safely then going to workplaces on time.

When you wake-up at 5:30 am, you can take a walk around your Hotel and find some vendor at the local market to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, flower, and raw meat with very low price. Most of these vendors go to market at the early morning is farmer who just collect their agriculture products in the very early morning and bring from their garden to big cities like Hanoi to sell. However, if they just sell till around 6:30 am then come back home in countryside area. If you go to market late, you have to buy from retailers who just go to market earlier than you and buy with a good price then trying to earn some profit from people going to market late. A smart Vietnamese housewife will go to market very early to buy fresh foods with the best price.

Flower-Market-in-the-early-morning-in-Hanoi

Flower Market in the early morning in Hanoi- source: internet

In case you do not like local market, you can do some morning exercise around Great Lake, Sowrd Lake or any Park near your hotel. However, you will meet many older walking or running slowly in the early morning. As I said, most people at working age will have to go office very early, so they did not have time to do some morning exercise because it make them be late for working. The younger usually do their work-out in the afternoon after they finish their working day.

Having a breakfast with street Vendor Food and Drink (6:30 am – 7:00am)

In Vietnam, most of hotel will offer you buffet breakfast as a complimentary service. You may enjoy both of Western foods and Vietnamese foods in your breakfast at hotel but I have to say that the taste of Vietnamese foods at hotel sometimes is not traditional and is modified to be familiar with Western dishes. Please to forget one complimentary breakfast at hotel and wake-up then find some local places to enjoy “Pho”, “Bun” or “Banh mi”. They are top three the most popular foods for breakfast in Vietnam. What are they?

Have you tried Pho like this? This is a very local way to enjoy a Pho in early morning in  Hanoi

Have you tried Pho like this? This is a very local way to enjoy a Pho in early morning in  Hanoi- source: internet

  • Pho: a type of Vietnamese soup typically made from beef stock and spices to which noodles and thinly sliced beef or chicken are added. This one is very famous in all over the world.
  • Bun: This is one is nearly the same with Pho but its fibers will be smaller than Pho. You can have use Bun with beef, chickens, snails, duck, pork. You will have more option than Pho which is used with beef and chicken only.
  • Banh mi: a Vietnamese snack consisting of a baguette (traditionally baked with both rice and wheat flour) filled with a variety of ingredients, typically including meat, pickled vegetables, and chili peppers.

Enjoy a Vietnamese black coffee and green tea after break-fast:

ice-milk-cafe

Ice mile cafe – source: internet

I guess that most of you will drink coffee right after wake up and use it during with your breakfast. However, in Vietnam, our breakfast will have a lot of smells and taste (I am talking about real local foods not about modified foods at hotels), so if you drink coffee and green tea, you can enjoy the taste of food fully. If you did not try any Vietnamese coffee before, please do not try to order a black coffee because it will be very strong and not easy for drinking at the first time. You can call a green tea or coffee with milk and ice. Most of coffee shop in Vietnam open early, so you can find some good places around Old Quarter and enjoy your cup of coffee or green tea. Vietnamese people usually have a strong coffee cup with condensed milk in the morning to start a new day.

For more detail information about Hanoi, you can access Hanoi walking tours

Read Full Post »

Located in the heart of Mekong Delta region, Can Tho is a unique place which brings you many exciting travel experiences. It takes at least four hour to drive from Saigon city center to Can Tho then you are highly recommended to spend at least two days one night there. Here below are some must-see attractions:

Cai Rang Floating Market

Can Tho has long been well known as the home of the famous Cai Rang floating market. Each year, thousands of travellers do not mind spend hours travelling on coach from Saigon to Can Tho, just to attend this early morning activity – where you can see the daily life and local people selling their products on boats.

Cai Rang Floating Market

Cai Rang Floating Market- source: internet

The best time to visit Cai Rang Floating Market is early morning, around 5am to 8am when it is most bustling and crowded. Photo opportunities are endless, my camera memory card was full after just about 3 hours visit the market

Can Tho bridge

Can Tho bridge crossing Hau river, connects Can Tho city to Vinh Long province. It is a newly built cable-stayed bridge which was finished in 2010. If you have chance to visit Can Tho during weekend or some holidays, the bridge is lightened with thousands of colorful lights. Embark a boat at Ninh Kieu pier and sail down the river to view the whole bridge at night is also a lovely experience.

Can Tho bridge

Can Tho bridge- source: internet

Binh Thuy Ancient House

Binh Thuy ancient house in Can Tho attracts people with its ancient look and unique architecture. This old house was built in 1807 and owned and well preserved by Duong family. For those who are interested in architecture, this location is definitely worth to check out.

Binh Thuy Ancient House

Binh Thuy Ancient House- source: internet

Ninh Kieu Pier

If Hanoians are proud of their One Pillar Pagoda, Hoan Kiem Lake with Turtle Tower; Hue has imperial tombs, Can Tho people must be happy as they have Ninh Kieu pier which is now called Ninh Kieu Park – a cultural tourist attraction. Recently, night market and restaurants are operated nearby the pier where you can discover the cuisine of Mekong Delta at night.

Ninh Kieu Pier

Ninh Kieu Pier- source: internet

My Khanh Orchard

With more than twenty trees are planted along the walkway including plum, rambutan, jackfruit, mango, strawberry, durian, etc, always lush, laden with fruits, the orchard is definitely a paradise for those who love tropical fruit.

My Khanh Orchard

My Khanh Orchard- source: internet

Follow above suggestions, trust that you will enjoy an interesting time in Can Tho and discover most highlights of Mekong Delta tours Vietnam.

If you interest this post,  you can access: private-3-days-cai-be-vinh-long-sadec-can-tho to get more useful information

Read Full Post »

I believe that travellers will read a lot (both positive things and negative things) before travelling to Vietnam. Your research beforehand will help you identify the common scams and things to take note.

Part 1: Taxi Scam

Taxi scams are prevalent in Vietnam, especially in big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. It’s easy to find the stories about tourists being overcharged or extorted for sky-high fares all over the internet. In Vietnam, illegal taxi drivers have so many tricks up their sleeve, especially when it comes to foreigners being the customers. The easiest way is to use a modified meter, which runs faster than normal ones; thus allows unscrupulous taxi drivers to rapidly increase the fare. The longer the trip is, the more money they can rip off travelers. In addition, they usually take longer paths, which they call “shortcuts” but in fact are circling around to maximize the fare. Sometimes, taxi drivers can offer tourists some good places to go, just to later on ask for tips. However most of this information can easily be found through post office, maps or from the internet.

Here are the ways of sophisticated scams which taxi driver often use:

– Get money by cheating charge per kilometer

– Use the cheating tricks to increase the counted number on the taxi meter

– Do not use the taxi meter

– Driving around on the multiple routes which are not right with roadmap to increase the distance between staring point and your destination.

– Demanding more your gratuities.

In order to avoid all the troubles with the taxi scams, I would like to provide you some advice:

1/ You should get a cab of trustworthy brands, like Mai Linh (the Green Taxi), Taxi Group, or Vinasun. They are usually in a good number and the price is reasonable which based on the kilometer clock.

2/ Ask a receptionist at your hotel to help. This is highly recommended! especially you use airport taxi without from the package tour with travel agency. Transportation is also an important part of the tour company, so you do not have to worry about the quality of car, driver and over-charge.

3/ If you use one of the local taxis, get agreement on the rate before you get in by pointing at the rates sign and getting a confirming nod. If the driver tries to charge you more upon arrival, do not pay. Also, so not pay any extras for the tolls/parking – that is all included.

4/ Please make sure you have the exact name and address of the hotel you are heading for, ideally written down in Vietnamese, and make it clear all share an address. If the driver takes you somewhere else you have two options: (1) get out and walk (2) refuse to pay until they take you where you want to go.

5/ Please make sure you have enough change on you. It’s a common trick for drivers to claim they don’t have any change. If they do this, pay less rather than more (if you have it) – no change, their problem, not yours.

When you finish your trip: Tipping for taxis is not expected in Vietnam. If a driver demands a tip, do not feel obliged to give him more money unless you feel that you want to reward him for his work. If you do give the driver a tip, 5-10% of the total bill is more than enough. Some instances have been reported where the taxi driver has withheld the customer’s luggage until receiving extra payment. It may be good practice to make sure the driver opens the trunk as soon as you arrive at your destination. Or if you travel in a group, let one person remove the luggage while other pays.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are victim of a scam, there are a few things you can do:

1/ The first is try to negotiate as much as you can – whatever their demand is, start with half and be as steadfast as you can.

2/ You can also try taking a photo of the taxi driver, car number or taxi number – that tends to intimidate them.

3/ In the event that you feel physically threatened, try to bluff and say you are calling the police or pay an amount that will also you to leave the situation. However, tourism is very important to the Vietnamese economy, Vietnamese people so it is highly unlike that drivers will hurt tourists.

Have a safe trip!

 

Read Full Post »

Located on the southwest slopes of the Kulen mountain, 25 km from the main Angkor group of monuments, Kbal Spean consists of a series of stone rock relief carvings in sandstone formations of the river bed and banks. It is commonly known as the  “Valley of a  1000 Lingas” or “The River of a Thousand Lingas”.To reach the river, you must trek through a well-worn path through the jungle for about 45 minutes. This was a bit of an arduous journey if you do your trip in the summer.

Road to Kbal Spean

Road to Kbal Spean- source: internet

There will be no craggy stone steps to climb up, but you should watch your steps cause there’re many roots crawling on the surface, looks like many snakes that make you trip up at any time.

Along the way, you will see many kinds of tropical plants and many jungle creatures. Stop for a while and you can hear the bird chirping, or can’t take your eyes off some flying butterflies, a hardworking spider is making a cobweb, or a numerous of the black ants are taking home with their food.

jungle creatures in Kbal Spean

jungle creatures in Kbal Spean- source: internet

There are also some interesting rocks looks like the giant mushroom. Under the rock are so many small wood sticks. Local people usually collect the sticks nearby and put them under the mushroom to let them dry.

Kbal Spean stream

Kbal Spean stream-source: internet

As soon as you feel hot and tired, the sounds of gurgling streams will give you extra motivation. Take some more steps and you will be awarded by the crystal water stream. The water is so fresh that you can see many carvings on the stone sculpted under. The motifs for stone carvings are mainly myriads of lingams of Hindu god Shiva, depicted as neatly arranged bumps that cover the surface of a sandstone bedrock, and lingam-yoni designs. There are also various Hindu mythological motifs, including depictions of the gods Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Lakshmi, Rama, and Hanuman, as well as animals (cows and frogs).

Although the water is very clean, tourists are advised not to drink directly the water from the stream. You also shouldn’t step on foot on this are because it is supposed to be a sacred place.

Kbal Spean waterfall

Kbal Spean waterfall- source: internet

Follow the stream, you can see a small waterfall where you can standing under the cool water and enjoy the nature. Remember to bring dry clothes along if you have intended to be wet.

If you are a nature lover and would love a bit adventurous activity, the trip to Kbal Spean is an activity that should not be overlooked. You also can combine with a visit to Banteay Srei temple because these two locations is only 5km far.

When decide to come to Cambodia travel tours, don’t forget to grab a bottle of water for the trek. You should also bring some snacks or sweets as the trekking requires a lot of energy. Also, wearing comfortable clothes, sports shoes, a hat and applying the insect repellent. Follow a local guide to make sure you’re not got lost in the jungle.

Do you know what “lingas” means in the Khmer language? Let’s come to Kbal Spean and find the answer.

Read Full Post »

Sapa is a lovely hill station town in the north Vietnam. This is a famous destination to local people and to worldwide travelers due to its outstanding scenery overlooks the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley, the 3,143m-tall Phang Xi Pang peak and culture of hill tribes such as the Hmong, Tay and Dao inhabited around this area.

Sapa in Vietnam

Sapa in Vietnam- source: internet

Most of people visit Sapa mainly for doing the trekking to the villages including Lao Chai, Ta Van, Cat Cat… to explore the life of hill tribe people and to watch the beautiful scenery of the nature. Some spend time to relax in this town to enjoy the fresh air, the peace of Sapa and to taste the delicious Vietnamese or European-inspired cuisine…

Whatever the purpose is, Sapa is the perfect oasis that anyone should visit once in a lifetime.

Currently there are 2 ways to reach Sapa. The first way is by train and another way is by car transfer.

During several years working as a travel consultant, I have many clients need to give advice regarding the type of transportation they should choose for their trip to Sapa. Between car transfer and train, which is better and more convenient? Hence, I hope this post would give you some ideas for choosing the best vehicle for your trip.

1/ Train to Sapa

Actually there is no railway station in Sapa. The train only transfers you to the Lao Cai station which is about 38km (24 miles) from Sapa. From here, you will take a ride to the town which lasts about 50 mins.

There are both daytime and overnight train between Hanoi and Lao Cai but most of people choose to take the night train because you can spend this time for sleeping until you arrive to Sapa instead of wasting your whole day on the train without doing anything.

Air-conditioned soft sleepers, air-con hard sleepers, hard sleepers, air-con soft seats, soft seats, hard seats are available but I only recommend you to take the air-conditioned soft sleeping carriage coz it is much more comfortable than other carriages.

Normally all of the A/c soft sleeping carriage would have 4 berths with 2 upper berths and 2 lower berths. If you would like to save the cost, you may consider sharing the room with some other people but if you love a privacy space and you don’t want to hear the snore of a stranger, you should pay for the whole 4 berths to have your own room

Among a whole series of privately-run sleeping-cars for tourists, the best ones should be Victoria Express Train, Fanxipan Express, Sapaly Express, Livitrans and King Express.

Cabin in train to Sapa

Cabin in train to Sapa- source: internet

king-express

King express

Victoria Express is currently the most expensive train to Lao Cai. The train is operated by the same branch hotel and resort Victoria Sapa and it is only for ones who stay in the resort.

The advantage of the Victoria Express is its modern and comfortable facilities enhanced in the room. Years before, Victoria Express is also the only express has dinning carriage but this service has been stopped several months ago.

The disadvantage of Victoria Express is it doesn’t provide service for people who don’t stay at the Victoria Resort and its price is twice time higher than the other trains. Also, this train doesn’t run on Saturday.

After Victoria Sapa, Fanxipan Express, King Express or Sapaly are also good options to Lao Cai.

For the best value, I always recommend my clients to travel with Fanxipan Express than with Victoria Express. The reasons are:

  • Without dining carriage, the comfort you will have in your room on the Victoria Sapa or the other trains are pretty the same. The train express operator are now improving their service day by day to make the customer satisfied and I am sure you will have the same experience even you are travel with Fanxipan or Victoria Express
  • The price of Fanxipan express is only at a half of Victoria Express. It should cost you 140USD to occupy a private room on Fanxipan but for Victoria Express, at the same price, you can only have a sharing room on the train.
  • Fanxipan Express runs daily while the Victoria doesn’t run on Saturday
  • The rest stop of Fanxipan is right opposite to the train station and there is always staff there to take you to the train.

In case Fanxipan Express is fully booked, you may consider to travel with alternative options such as King Express or Sapaly.

2/ Car transfer

In 2015, a new highway opened between Hanoi and Lao Cai shortens the drive to Sapa to 4 hours. In stead of taking the long night train in 8 hours, many people who don’t have much time in Vietnam have now chosen car transfer in order to visit within 2 days.

highway Hanoi- Lao Cai

Highway Hanoi – Lao Cai

If you could afford the price, you can use a private transfer. The price is about the same for taking the train on a private carriage otherwise, there are many bus from Sapa to Hanoi at the moment and you may consider taking the bus to save money.

Limousine Bus between Hanoi and Sapa

Limousine Bus between Hanoi and Sapa

The best ones should be the Limousine buses offer a maximum of 9 luxury soft seats to create a spacious and airy space for customers. Inside the bus, luxury interior and modern amenities such as LED TV, Wi-Fi, electricity sockets, cup holder, transport insurance is well appointed. The cost of a seat on the bus is at the same as a ticket on the night train. Resulting in short time transferring on the way, I think it’s fine for sharing the bus with other people. All the bus picks clients up at around 3.00P.m and you will return to Hanoi at around 8.—9.00P.m early enough to make sure you have a good night before the rest of your tour.

If you plan to do a trip to Sapa, I would only recommend you to use this highway to return back to Hanoi after tours in those mountainous regions and keep using the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai as the early morning arrival time is convenient to start exploring Sapa right away. However coming back to Hanoi by train made people wait at the train station of Lao Cai to arrive in Hanoi in the middle of the night with nowhere to go to rest or eat.

You can click: Vietnam cultural highlights  to get more information. Hope you have helpful information to arrange your transfer to Sapa.

 

Read Full Post »

Leaving the crowded, bustling, busy life of the Hanoi centre in peak hours, we look to a peaceful and serene places in the afternoon. The old Long Bien bridge where we want to visit. This bridge was a connected the life of local people around Red river.

Long Bien bridge

Long Bien bridge-source: internet

It is considered a historical witness for more than a century. Apparently, the image of ancient Long Bien bridge has become a symbol of the Hanoi capital.
This bridge is the first steel bridge across the Red River, which connects the two districts of Hoan Kiem with Long Bien district,it was built by the French (1898-1902), named for Doumer, under the name of the Governor General of Indochina Paul Doumer. This bridge is linked to the history of two wars against the French and American peoples, witnessed many changes of Hanoi. The values of the past as still deposited on each bridge.

Long Bien bridge

Long Bien bridge- source: internet

Every day, the busiest line of people has the reverse sweep back and forth line across this bridge. It is especially unique bridge opposite direction in Vietnam. This bridge consists of lanes for pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles and trains.
Walk along the bridge, you will see green mudflats with banana trees, strawberry garden. A ordinary life of the people along the Red River. Located about 2km central Hanoi, but the life of the local people is so idyllic and rustic. Everyday, they grow vegetables, fruits and go fish.

Banana field near Long Bien bridge

Banana field near Long Bien bridge- source: internet

In the afternoon, We easily see the street vendors where is selling gifts like fruit native toad, guava, or bunch of shrimp , bunch of fish which brought up by the local people.

Long Bien bridge in afternoon

Long Bien bridge in afternoon- source: internet

When it is really dark, rows of iced tea, lemon tea laid out with a few simple mats. You will find a sense of peace, interspersed bit dim. That contrasted with the Chuong Duong bridge bustling, sparkling lights, symbolizing the modern lifestyle.

Long Bien bridge in night

Long Bien bridge in night- source: internet

Conclusion, The daily activities occur frequently and repeated on the old Long Bien bridge. If you interest this post, please click  Hanoi cycling tour to get more information.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »