Sunday, September 25, 2016



Hanoi's time is an hour behind Malaysian time.  When we came downstairs for breakfast around 7 am., the meat seller and vegetables seller already up and ready for business(they are located just opposite the hotel).

No we did not have this for our breakfast, even though we would like too.  

Small dining space behind the reception and the kitchen is under the staircase!

Breakfast was included with the hotel and they served pho for breakfast too!  But I noticed that most of the items were sourced from outside the hotel maybe because the kitchen is so small.  

Banh Mi 25 just next to our hotel....  getting ready for business 

This Banh Mi did not disappoint us.... .... 

It was almost 2 hours drive to Ninh Binh province outside Hanoi to visit Hoa Lu Ancient Capital.  It was the ancient capital of old Vietnam under the Dinh Dynasty and the Le Dynasty,  a total of 41 years.

The lotus pond.. 

Notice the low roof of the temple..... this keeps the sun/heat out and the interior cool..  

We are "wilting" under the hot sun... and it was just 11am 

Concentrating on history of the first kings.... 
I hope I can remembered it right.  Briefly, the Dinh Dynasty started in 968 when the first king Dinh Bo Lin defeated the 12 warlords and form the Dinh Dynasty which ended in 980 when  it was ceded to the Le Dynasty.  Later it came under the China's Song Dynasty rule  until the French colonisation in 1900-1944 when the France extended their powers in Cambodia, Laos too, known as French Indochina until 1945. During the WWII, Vietnam also came under Japanese rule for a short period and when the war ended in 1945, Ho Chi Minh pushed for independence and after the August Revolution in 1945, the Republic of Vietnam was declared independence on 2/9/1945.  However it was divided into the North (under the communist influence) and South (under American) and the Vietnam Wars ended in 1975 with the North being victory.
Ho Chi Minh declared the Unification of Vietnam in 1976 in the Ba Dinh Square and till now it is a socialist government ie under one party rule only.        

Faded but still beautiful and intricate craftmanship 

the carving of the dragon on a single piece of granite. 

Excavation site.

After the blazing sun, we were glad to rest our feet and have our lunch in this air-con restaurant. 
Herbal Chicken soup

this hot pot of  lamb stew with pineapples and pho...very refreshing and delicious soup. 

There is a fish stew with black beans also delicious... but we really could not finished this big meal.

More suntanning.... we were going on these boats/rafts around the lake with its numerous karst caves.. Trang An Grottos,  a prelude of our trip to Halong Bay later.... 

clear water in some parts of the lake

High up among the mountainside, a temple 
Yes, that's the first  cave/tunnel  we are going into....

Inside it was dark (except some parts where it was lighted) and the ceiling of cave so low, we have to crouched,  in fact told to lie down on the boat when going under....

Amazing the way the lady managed to negotiate through the dark and sharp angles without damaging the boat

finally can see the light at the other end of the tunnel..... 

before wandering into another cave.... 

Yay, one item off bucket list.... well done...

It was a 2 hours cruise and in the end we "helped" the lady along, though she is an expert using her legs as well!!  

These rowers are actually farmers and during the free time while waiting for harvesting, they take turns to suppplement their income and each boat is allotted a number and you have to queue and wait for your turn and there are around 4000 boats in this area!  But the guide told that during the peak periods they get their turn at least once a week. So they truly deserved the extra tip which the guide requested to give them- only 100,000 dong. 

After this, we drove back to Hanoi for dinner at another nice restaurant. 

just a few photos of the dinner.

The guide waited patiently for us to finish before saying goodbye as he won't be going  with us tomorrow to Halong Bay.   By the way, there was a festive mood around the whole city... yes remember, it's their Independence Day tomorrow ie 2nd September! Long weekend holiday for them too.   

Monday, September 19, 2016



This was a short 4D/3N trip to Hanoi-Halong Bay.   It really changed my preception of Hanoi totally.   I find it modern yet retaining its old world charm; the people we met were friendly and helpful  even though there is the language barrier but of course, the horrendous traffic did not disappoint us.  

The Merdeka "baby" celebrating her birthday in the air...
It was a fun trip with my family, my collegues and 2 ex-staff as well.    
The very early flight took around 3 hours to reach Hanoi and of course, most of us tried to catch some sleep on board. 

Our guide, Son in Hanoi and there is wifi inside the car! 

Street view that we passed by ....

look at the "old" houses with balconies. Infact some of the houses are definitely very "french" designs reminded me of the houses in Paris.  

The first stop - The Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh at Ba Dinh Square.  We were rushed by the guide to view this historical building as it is only open to the public free of charge for 3 hours each day 9 am to 11 am. and we were indeed able to view the embalmed body of the President of Ho Chi Minh just before it closed for the day.    No talking and no photographing inside the chamber.

 Upon the death of President Ho Chi Minh, the man responsible for the independence and reunification of Vietnam, the people decided to built this mausoleum to honour him, even though he could have preferred a simple burial.  Ho Chi Minh (hereinafer referred to as "HCM") was a simple man from the poor family background.    

The Presidential Palace (1900 to 1906), a French Colonial Building for the French Governor-General of Indochina.  HCM did not take up residence here after he declared the Independence of Vietnam on 2/9/1945 from France and started the Communist Party rule.    

The mustard yellow building in Renaissance architectural style reminded me of the French buildings in Paris. 
It is closed to the public and only open for visiting foreign dignitaries. 

The Mango Alley leading to where HCM stayed.... 

Uncle's Ho Stilt house, built in 1958 the traditional design of Vietnamese house.  HCM stayed here from 1958 to 1969 and there are only 2 rooms in this house, so you can see what a modest man he was. 

HCM's official vintage cars, one of which was imported from Russia 

The statue of Ho Chi Minh  in his garden... 

the 3 sisters...

the carp pond in the garden

These are "Budhha's'' tree (cypress tree)  roots along the fishpond  

amazing, haven't seen anything like these...

Pomelos are in season.. we tasted one but it was rather sourish.. 

the "French" Opera House in Old Quarters of Vietnam.  Very classic french-style architect

you will know the main mode of transport for the Vietnamese by these scooters.

Look up and you can see an inheritance from the French, yes electric wires hang precariously everywhere...

Rattan-ware vendor...

Another "Notre-Dame" in Hanoi... the St. Joseph Catheral.
unfortunately it was closed and hence we were unable to enter and visit.

The Hanoi Club Hotel located along the West Lake (Hoan Kiem Lake). 

The Temple of Literature built in 1070 to honour Confucius. 

The Tran Quoc Pagoda temple. 
It was relocated to this present site in 1615 and is one of the oldest Buddhist Temple in hanoi. 

A wind chime up in the bodhi tree. 

This bodhi tree was a cutting of the original bodhi tree in Gaya, India where Buddha sat under and obtained enlightenment.  It was a gift from Indian president Rajendra Prasad visit in 1959.

Going round the tree for peace and health. 

The Pagoda has 11 floors with a height of 15m and each floor has a vaulted window holding a status of Amitabha and right on the top is a 9-storey lotus. Inside there are many priceless antiques and statues.

Its time for lunch.. everyone is hungry, hot and sweaty by now.   It is really humid and our clothings are sticking on our backs.   But unfortunately we were seated in the open terrace  rather the air-con inside.  

at last our pho... but they don't served it with beansprouts and fresh herbs.??

refreshing watermelon and guava served with chili flakes and salt

after finishing our pho, we looked over the terrace.....

and saw them enjoying themselves........

he told us, the best moments of the trip! LOL

Lacquer ware is a long laborious process but the finished product can last at least 40 years.  
Lacquer is a resin derived from the Lacquer tree and just like latex it is white in colour and gradually becoming black when dried.  The art of lacquerware is a family secret handed down from generation to generation.  It is an extremely time consuming and labor intensive work as it will take around 100 days to go 20 stages of the creating, polishing, washing it in water  etc to finish a piece of beautiful glossy lacquerware.  

Roadside vegetables vendor

you can never guess such a charming cafe hidden away....

stairs leading up to the rooftop.

coffee is being prepared here below and brought upstairs...

Egg coffee served in a bowl of hot water... which I think is to keep the foamy eggy meringue stable so that it wont deflate.....

enjoying my egg coffee shot of coffee with eggy meringue..

the rooftop verandah .... low chairs and table...

The inner spaces of the cafe... 
We wrapped up the day's sightseeing after our coffee rest and headed back to check in at the hotel.

Venue for our dinner... 

Interior of the restaurant... 

our set dinner. 

papaya salad

After dinner, we said goodnight to Son but the night is not over yet... our hotel is located near a night market... so time to see some night life...

the Vietnamese preparing for the Mid-Autumn Festival