hanoi, vietnam – day 3 and departure

Breakfast is cup noodles and coffee. I love their coffee, even though it’s just Nescafe instant 3-in-1. Iba lasa sa Pilipinas.

Our tour guide for the Hanoi City Tour – Dat – was already waiting for us in the lobby, 8 AM on the dot. On the Dat. Weh.

First stop was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. No photos here. Make sure you’re wearing proper attire (no short skirts or shorts, no sleeveless tops); a friend of mine was wearing a short blouse and had to buy a scarf (4 USD) to cover her legs.

Ho Chi Minh was a revolutionary leader who dreamt of a united, communist Vietnam. The country came under one government in 1975, after Vietcong-led North Vietnam’s victory over Southern Vietnam (backed by the US and other countries) in the devastating Vietnam War.

The mausoleum reminds me so much of our own Marcos mausoleum.

We went around the complex and saw the very French-inspired Presidential Palace.

We also went to a museum, featuring the 50+ peoples of Vietnam, with the Viet as the largest group.

Some photos of the installations and displays:



These look like the bulul.



We were then dropped at a lacquer store. I enjoyed this tour, despite the fact that I didn’t have money to buy any of the items on sale.

Trivia! This girl knows Marimar, and seems to like Dingdong Dantes.

Look at the beautiful paintings on the wall. I personally would like to have the peach blossom paintings.


The creation of lacquer paintings and items is a painstaking process, involving washing and scrubbing the same item 15 times to achieve the smooth, level effect of the finished product.




Cutting shells for the paintings.


The Temple of Literature used to be the center of learning in Hanoi.






Journals of students engraved on stone; language is Mandarin.


Puppets used in the water puppet show.


Tour around the Old Quarter. We decided to take an electric car so we could all fit.





Coffee and the water puppet show.






Back to the hotel after the show. Shopping time.


I bought sweet and salty dried peach (highly recommended!), instant coffee (black and 3-in-1), bamboo placemats, and a little wallet for my sister.

The humidity was extraordinary! Wear shorts for the love of God.

Hanoi City Tour 8:00 AM 2,060.00 50.00                 50.00 All inclusive
Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
Temple of Literature (magnet) 11:00 AM                   4.50
Lunch (lemon drink)                   2.00 Only meal was included in the tour package
Ethnology Museum 1:00 PM
Hoan Kiem Lake
Ngoc Son Temple
Old Quarter (tip-driver)                   1.00 Tour around the Old Quarter
Water Puppet Show! 3:30 PM
Tip guide                   5.00
Tour ends 5:00 PM
Freshen up  6:30 PM  7:30 PM Hanoi Garnet Hotel
Dinner 206.00 5.00                   3.00 KFC
Night Life
Scarf                   4.00
Pudding coconut                   2.00

We checked out early at the Garnet because we have an early flight. I think it’s clear by now that I don’t recommend this hotel. Go only if you really need a cheap place, though I’m sure there are other, better, friendlier cheap places. We hired Indochina as well to transfer us to the airport instead of relying on the unreliable Nancy. We wouldn’t want to end up missing our flight.

On the other hand, I highly recommend Indochina Legend tours – Bai Tu Long Junk cruise. Hospitable staff, good accommodation, good food, well-trained tour guides (who speak good English, a boon for non-Vietnamese speakers like myself), just really friendly people.

We had breakfast while waiting for the flight, and we’re off to Thailand.


Total expenses for Hanoi is USD 245 (including downpayment).

hanoi, vietnam – day 2

I used to have motion sickness but I’m glad I grew out of it. I slept soundly on the ship.

Early morning photo.


Breakfast was good, and served with unlimited Vietnamese coffee.

Off we go to Sung Sot Cave.


This cave is huge. Fishermen – and later soldiers – used to hide in here during the Vietnam War.




Fantastic view from the top:


Brunch on the ship, and then back to port after that. We were dropped off at the Garnet at 4:30, where we finally met the elusive Nancy.

We headed out for dinner. We saw a KFC on our way to the hotel, but unfortunately they only accept Vietnamese Dong. Back we went to the Garnet. We couldn’t find a money changer still open at that time (around 6pm), so we had our dollars changed at the hotel (19,000 dong for 1 USD; true rate is 20,000 dong to 1). Nancy was acting very impatient with us, like we’re wasting her time. We didn’t like her.

We asked earlier if we could be served breakfast early the next morning, and she said breakfast could only be served at 8:30 AM as the cook comes in only at 8 AM. No apologies, no effort to help us. I know this is a budget hotel, but customer service shouldn’t have a price. Hay nako.

Here we are, sampling authentic Vietnamese cuisine (and promptly ignoring each other thanks to the Wi-Fi).


We walked around the area to look for places where we could shop the next day. We also bought food for breakfast. Hanoi weather is very muggy, even more humid than the Philippines, I think. Wear something comfortable.

hanoi, vietnam – arrival and day 1

I wasn’t even supposed to be on this trip.

I initially declined because I have no funds, it would eat up my work VL’s, I’d like to go to HK or Singapore with J, etc etc. Pag ayaw, may dahilan; pag gusto, may paraan. CHAROT.

In the end I decided to go because one of my friends is getting married, and we might not have a chance to do this again with the group complete.


Our flight out of NAIA 3 is at 10:30 pm on May 18, Saturday. I was the only person in the group who have yet to go on an international flight. Process was pretty smooth, but I really hate that we have to pay travel tax and the ridiculous terminal fee.




Of course, during the flight everyone fell asleep except me. (This will be an unfortunate trend for the duration of our trip.)

We landed at Hanoi at 1 AM, local time. (Vietnam and the two other countries we visited are one-hour delayed compared to the Philippines.) We were billeted at the Garnet Hotel. This was when our troubles started. They promised that we will have a vehicle for transfer. It didn’t arrive. We were later told that the taxi left because we were ten minutes late. We had to call them for us to learn this. (And Nancy, the woman Ghia had coordinated with, was nowhere to be found.)

Photo-op as usual, while we figure this out.




We haggled with drivers so we could get a taxi to bring us there. When we got there, the hotel was closed. We had to ring the doorbell several times. When the door opened, we were greeted by Lee, one of the hotel employees, who looked as if we had just awakened him. Did he really call us a taxi to pick us up at the airport, or was that a bald-faced lie?

He said our rooms were on the fourth floor. There was no elevator. Vietnamese homes and buildings are constructed favoring vertical length, so the stairwell was really narrow. When we asked if someone could help us with our bags, Lee simply said no. We asked if we could have our breakfast tomorrow. Lee said no again, even though Nancy promised us this. I don’t know if it was because he was sleepy, or the language barrier, but we just got angry with his nonchalance. He didn’t even move from his spot in the middle of the room as we moved with our bags, so we had to walk around him.

Not a good first impression of the hotel, but I liked Hanoi well enough. The drivers at the airport were nice (one even let Ghia borrow his cell phone), and the roads looked like our roads. Only with more scooters! It appears to be the transportation vehicle of choice. Maybe the Philippines should look into that – less cars, more motorcycles, more road space.

May 19, Sunday. So, no free breakfast. We turn to the mighty cup noodle. (I had biscuits and Oreo.)


We waited in the lobby for Indochina Tours to bring us to Halong Bay. We saw Lee behind the desk, freshly bathed and in a smart shirt. I thought he was a different person. Still no sign of Nancy.


The van came, which we shared with three other tourists from Vietnam. A hard task for our tour guide Tu, who had to speak to us in English, and to the three in Vietnamese.

The van stopped by a gift shop with beautiful wares.








Halong Bay! We got to the port and were driven to the cruise ship. (That’s Tu looking at the camera.)


Good weather.


We had to wait an hour before lunch was served. You wouldn’t have guessed our hunger from all our photo-ops on the deck.

Tu explaining the trip to a very very hungry audience.


The room’s pretty nice for a budget cruise ship.





After lunch and a little rest, we went on bamboo boats to be taken to the Vung Vieng, the Fishing Village. You have the choice to kayak, but are you kidding me.


The homes here are surprisingly well-stocked and self-sufficient. I spotted some potted plants and television sets, and even some pets! Tu said the government brings the families fresh water regularly.

Residents live on fishing and seafood farming. They have their own school for their children, who often choose to continue as fishermen instead of finding occupation in the mainland. Each household owns a fish cage and brings its haul to the Chief’s house to bring to the mainland for sale.



It was a relaxing boat ride. We even found the time to tsismis. Nahiya naman ang Halong Bay, ginawa naming tambayan. Taray.

Night life! This was funny, because we – that means, I – expected that there would be a lot of people on the boat. We were already making plans of introducing our single friend to a foreigner. Turned out it would only be us six, and the three Vietnamese.

Cute design from our dinner:


(I think Chad is still dreaming of these deep-fried, bread-covered squid balls.)


They serve good cocktails, I have to say. I think I had a Mojito? We had June’s Skittles and chocolates for pulutan. We talked our heads off until midnight, and then realized that we still have eight days left in this trip. 


back + copies of ‘unseen moon’ now here

And I’m back from my nine-day Hanoi-Bangkok-Siem Reap trip with friends! Will post a day-by-day detailed account – with itinerary and costing for interested travelers – after I catch up with my work emails.

UPDATE: Start reading. :)

Hanoi, Vietnam – Day 1 2 3

Bangkok, Thailand – Day 1 2 3

Siem Reap, CambodiaDay 1 2

Anyway, some photos from my phone:

preview 1
My high school classmates – and constant travelmates – relaxing outside a small restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam.
preview 2
A touristy photo inside Madame Tussaud’s Bangkok.
preview 3
Visiting the temples.

Also, the paperback copies of Unseen Moon are here! Will be shipping these out soon. Visit the Goodreads page or this page for reviews and details about the collection. Thanks to those who have ordered! I hope it’s worth the wait.

unseen moon print

unseen moon

Will work on the next posts/do my laundry/sign the book copies now. *flails and runs*