Sunday, June 18, 2023

The Foodie trails to Vietnam


Vietnam, it had never been on our top 20 countries to visit, but it broke through the other countries, when in 2022, almost everyone from India was heading to Vietnam.Economic times said that there was a 51% rise in Indian tourists in the first 10 months of 2022. and while we went to Spain in 2022 ( here is my SPAIN BLOG ) , the Fear of Missing out and the general curiosity around Vietnam increased.

And so, in May 2023, we headed to this little Asian country , which I can only describe as Sensational. It is literally a sensorial overload. I think if I had to describe the place it would be ‘water’ for me, just so many different water bodies, each so different, from the Jade coloured Hong Kiem lake in Hanoi, to the emerald waters of Halong Bay, to the flickering silk lanterns and boat ride on Thu Bon river Hoi-an, to the Grand Saigon River Ho Chi Minh, and the expansive Mekong river Delta . and the second word would be ‘coffee’ , I have done a post on the coffees in Vietnam on my Instagram page, because coffee is literally a lifeline and a way of life in Vietnam.

Here is our Itinerary and travel blog. Aswell as a few tips on what you want to look out for, while planning your own Vietnam trip.

Day 1 -: Hanoi. We spent the day walking around Old Quarter and it was a beautiful way to begin the holiday. Not rushed, very soulful. We first went to the Hong Kiem lake where we were caught in a flash rain , and found the Vietnamese hats non la were super efficient. The lake itself has an interesting story of the sacred lake turtle that gave one of it's claws to a King in the form of a sword to fight a war. Once the king won the war, he came to the lake to return the magic sword, this the lake is also called lake of restored sword. There is pagoda in the middle of the lake dedicated to the sacred turtle.
Then we went to the Note coffee cafe , which is 4 story building with paper sticker notes on every surface, with letters from all around the world. It's such a happy vibe place.
We decided to have lunch at the train street, but the cafes at train street did not have lunch items. Very picturesque spot. And you need to get 1 drink per person to enter the train street road. See all my reels from the place using hashtag #thefoodietrailstovietnam
We had lunch at MET restaurant,and would highly recommend it. Vegetarian options available, also the pho and chicken curry were delicious.
At. Night we went to Beer street, and being a Friday the place was buzzing. The seats are low, the beer cheap, the food passable.

Day 2- We started the day with hop on hop off city tour of Hanoi. Which was a waste of money. Big tip ,if you plan on visiting the west lake Pagoda, or the Ho chi Minh museum then wear long pants or skirts. No knees or sleeveless allowed. We visited a gorgeous cafe called Bancong in Old Quarter which is like a flower shop . The best part of the day was the Water puppet show. One hour of live music, cultural story, and puppets, kids friendly, it's for 100 VND, and a 50 VND for audio guide. Dinner was at a insta worthy places called coffee club near the Hong Kiem lake , great views of the night life near the lake. On weekends the entire street is a walking street and there were live dancing and night kite flying.

Day 3- Checkout from Hanoi and we set out at 8 am for Halong Bay. We set sail on the Paradise Elegance 2 . A 2 day 1 night stay on the Natural Wonder if the World. On check in we had a grand lunch, for vegetarians they even had extensive custom-made dishes. Our first stop was a pearl farm and Kayaking on the bay. One of best experiences to be surrounded by the natural wonder if the world and Kayaking with my son. Our next stop was Ti top island which has a 400 step steep climb to see a panoramic view of the Halong Bay area. There is also a small beach to enjoy. Once back on the ship we had happy hours from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm which is really value for 
money since it is but 1 get 1 drinks. The best thing is that you can buy the drinks and keep it for dinner. Our dinner was a sit down five course meal with our very attentive Butler Sam. We had a salad of smoked salmon, a seafood bisque, a grilled seabass, beef tenderloin and an ice cream dessert. The night ended with us fishing for squids. Tip, yes you can do a day tour of Halong bay, but if you have the time and money, the overnight stay cruise is a great experience.

 Day 4 - woke up to a session of Taichi on the sun deck of paradise Elegance with fellow cruisers from Korea, Laos,Japan, followed by a cave trek into the Surprise Cave.  700 steps into the cave with stalactites and stalagmites. We returned to a lavish breakfast and then checkout from the cruise liner. The cruise gets you back to Halong Bay port by 10:30 am and then it is about a 2-3 hour journey back to Hanoi that means by 1 pm we were at Hanoi airport. We had a flight from Hanoi to Danang that day. We chose a flight at 6 pm just to be safe , and I would recommend you get a flight at around 3 pm from Hanoi, to save some time. By the time we landed in Danang, took a taxi to our Airbnb in Hoi-an it was night and we just about managed the last dinner at an Indian restaurant in Hoi-an old quarter.

Day 5 - We were staying at a cute Airbnb in outskirts of Hoi-an. They had cycles for us to ride around paddy fields, also a swimming pool to laze in. We hired bikes for the day ( highly recommend) and chose to ride around Hoi-an old quarter. The Old Quarter is one of the places that survived the bombing from the Vietnam war and it has buildings and township that transports you to another land. I would highly recommend you find a place to stay in old quarter. Take a ticket to the old quarter. In 120 VND you get to choose any 5 attractions you want to experience in Old Quarter. Number 1 for us was the Cantonese Assembly hall with the dragon fountain, the Faifo coffee house is a must for the view from the terrace , the MOT herbal tea is literally the most instagrammed place and the herbal tea was just for 16 VND, Hoi-an also has the best Banh Mi in Vietnam, and ofcourse the linen and clothes shops are such fun. The evening we spent riding down the river Thu Bon in Hoian, the lanterns on the boats, the paper lamps in the river, the lanterns on the bridge, and all along the streets, just makes Hoian the absolutely Magical place from any fairytale. 3 years back I had written a bucket list of wishes, one of which was to see a flying lantern festival, and this is the closest to that. The wishlist also had see the 7 wonders of the world, and Halong Bay is considered one of the Natural 7 wonders of the world. To have 2 things ticket off my bucket list in 2 days was all that a girl could wish for. The night life, the live music, the foot massages, yes I could go back to Vietnam just to visit Hoi-an. Top tip, the clothes and artifacts and souvenirs are best bought at Hoi-an , they are the cheapest as well as the best quality here, rather than Hanoi or Ho chi Minh.

Day 6 - Another brilliant day spent in Bana hills. The place is a Marvel of Human architecture, and I don't just mean the Golden Bridge. They have medieval castles, and entire hill sides converted into Pagodas and Japanese Gardens, and some of the world's longest cable cars, and the alpine cruiser which is a self drive roller coaster. Each turn and side is an insta-worthy view. We reached at around 9 am and left by around 6 pm. Most people rush back at 3 pm. Don't. Wait for the crowds to receed by 3-4 pm.

Day 7- we left Hoi-an drove to Danang to catch the flight for Ho chi Minh City. Ho chi Minh city felt like just another big city, and honestly was the least favourite of our 3 city destinations. We stayed in a High rise Air BNB in District 3 Saigon Royal . But a better decision would be to stay in District 1. Everything is touristy, accessible and walkable from District 1. District 3 had more locals staying and they were not the friendly locals like Hanoi and Hoi-an , they were the busy, mind your own business, city dwellers, with little patience and concern for Tourists. So stay in District 1. The places to visit would be Nguyen street and Bui Vien walking street. A few beautiful parks in the neighbourhood, a Saigon River cruise and that's about it.

Day 8 - we had an option for Mekong delta river cruise, or Cu-Chi tunnel day trip or a combination of both. We chose to do the Mekong river cruise. The tour starts at 7:30 and we return by 4:30 pm which is definitely a day well spent, since Ho chi Minh doesn't have much to do in the city. Lunch is included in the day trips. It's a beautiful Eco tourism. A different aspect of Vietnam.

Day 9 - Our last day, and we started the day with a visit to the War remnants museum which is a must see, infact the only must do in Ho chi Minh city. It closes by 5:30 pm so go in the morning and yes take the audio guide it has amazingly nuanced stories. Can easily spend 1-2 hours here.We then tried visiting another beautiful place called the pink church, totally insta worthy, but they were closed on Saturday and Sunday ! Honestly, we could have reduced half a day in Ho chi Minh, and added a day to Hanoi. That way we could have visited Ninh Binh, a day trip from Hanoi.

Stay recommendations – Hanoi ( old quarter ), Hoi-an ( Old town, near river) , Ho Chi Minh ( District 1 )

Hotel or Air BNB – advantages of hotel are, that breakfast is included, rooms are cleaned each day, someone at reception to always guide you. in the air bnb in Hoi-an we had a very attentive host, but in Ho chi minh there was no host present, and we had to fend and figure out everything on our own. But air BNB’s definitely give you more unique travel experiences than hotels, and are excellent for big groups with children.

Food in Vietnam – Pho, definitely more Pho. And rice paper rolls, spring rolls, bun cha, seafood in Ho chi minh and Halong bay, street food and Banh ni in Hoi-an. Beer everywhere. Vietnamese Pizza was such a let down. And smoke icecream another let down. We also tried some snake wine and yes, that shock value reel has crossed 110 K views. Go check #thefoodietrailstovietnam for more

Souvenirs- if you like oils and acrylic paintings, Hanoi is your place. Amazing works of art. And coffee definitely, also a Phin coffee filter. I brought back a lot of pho, and Vietnamese sauces, and we are recreating some of the dishes at home.

So my perfect Vietnam itinerary would be

Day 1- Hanoi

Day 2- Ninh Binh

Day 3- Halong bay

Day 4 – halong bay to Hoi-an/danang

Day 5- Hoi-an day and night tour

Day 6- Bana hills, plus night hoi-an

Day 7- Ho-chi minh do the war museum before 5 pm

Day 8- Mekong river

If you have just 3 days to visit Vietnam or less – do only Hoi-an , bana hills and Danang. Flight to Danang airport. This gives you the best mix of culture and fun.

I hope this blog gave you lots of inspiration to make Vietnam one of your holiday destinations for the future. Do write to me on my Instagram page @thefoodietrails for any questions, also to watch the detailed highlights and video reels and posts using hashtag #thefoodietrailstovietnam

This year 2023 we have already gone to Meghalaya and here is our Meghalaya Travel Post