Honeymoon- Japan and Vietnam Part II
I hope you did yourself and favor and clicked the link to see what that Hello Kitty plane looked like, because I felt like I was in the twilight zone...and loved it.
Anyway, now to Vietnam! I really didn't know what to expect there I just heard it's beautiful. Both of us had been to Thailand before and kind of just thought it would be similar to that. BOY was I wrong. As soon as we landed we fell in love with the chaotic streets of Hanoi. Don't get me wrong, I love Thailand, but this just had a different feel to it. The streets were just as crazy and busy with 1000 scooters carrying entire families of 6 speeding by, outdoor restaurants along the side of the road with what looks like small plastic toy furniture to sit on to eat, apartments stacked on top of one another looking like a giant game of Jenga. The major difference between that and Thailand was everyone left you alone. Usually in somewhere like Bangkok the locals are staring at you or hollering at you to buy from them or eat at their restaurant. Here, they were all just going about their day, chopping heads off the ducks in the side of the road, smoking, drinking, hanging, all without harassing tourists. If it sounds hectic, it was. But there was something about the vibe and the buzz off the streets that felt magical (sorry to use that cheesy word, but it's true!). I loved the nonstop motion of it and how many different things at once there was to look at. Maybe that's why I love NYC so much too. Here's an example of the scooter hectic streets.
We checked into our hotel and couldn't be happier. We stayed in a suite (travel points baby!) at the Golden Lotus Luxury Hotel which was absolutely gorgeous. We took a dip in the pool on the roof before heading out to find some lunch. There was a place we had heard about called Cha Ca La Vong that was famous for this one dish. We looked up directions only to arrive at this...
It looked like nothing from the outside and possibly even closed. We walked in only to find what looked like an antique shop. We asked the people sitting there if they knew of the restaurant and they just pointed to stairs in the front corner of the store. We proceeded to climb (I say climb because the stairs were so rickety and steep) to the second floor where there were a bunch of wooden tables and a few swirling ceiling fans. We sat down and a guy came around and threw this on our table..
Before we could even put our drink order in (two Bia Ha Noi's please!) he threw down a hot plate and bowls filled with vermicelli noodles, broth, peanuts and every type of herb you can think of. He then brought out the fish and began grilling it in oil and turmeric right on our table on the hot plate. When it was done, he turned it off, and was pretty much just like "go for it". Mike and I looked at the dish and honestly didn't know how to attack it so we leaned over to the two gentleman next to us and asked how to eat it. They basically said (in broken english) to put the broth in the bowl, then noodles, then fish and then alllll the herbs and toppings. TO THIS DAY..it is the best meal I have ever eaten. I realize that is such a bold statement, having traveled to so many places in the world and coming from an Italian family where the food is amazing. This was just so unlike anything I've ever eaten and unfortunately, I think the only place in the world that can truly make it like this is in Vietnam (Mike and I have seen Cha Ca on other menus in the states and they're nothing like the original). I didn't take the below photo because I must have been too busy eating, but this is what it looks like.
Not even appealing looking, I know. The funny thing is before we left for Vietnam people had always talked about the food and how "fresh" it is with all its herbs and blah blah. I honestly didn't understand it, I was like, gimme pasta and pizza, THAT'S good food. It wasn't until we went that I realized what everyone was talking about. The food all over Vietnam is just like nothing you've ever tasted. It IS fresh, but also filling, but yet you still feel fresh because of all the herbs...ugh it's hard to explain. I could go on and on about this dish but that's silly so I'll stop. Mike and I ended up continuing to chat with the guys next to us who kept telling us to go to Ho Chi Minh City and all about their favorite soccer players (?). The day of exploring the streets went on until our next meal for a huge bowl of Pho where we sat on the side of the road in tiny plastic chairs with a soccer game playing across the street. Pictures will never do this place justice.
The next day was a big day because we were going on an overnight boat trip to Ha Long Bay!! Do yourself a favor, and just google those words. The place is a freakin dream, BUT not too easy to get to from the city. We got picked up by a car along with a few other passengers and started the 3 hour drive to the coast. Thankfully the car they sent was huge and had big comfy seats we were able to pass out in. They split up the trip by bringing us to a factory half way through that was filled with women sewing absolutely STUNNING embroidery art. It was kind of part-tour part-promoting us to help the community and buy their art. I mean, they didn't have to ask twice, I wanted to walk out there with everything. We ended up getting two pieces of artwork. One of them below we got to bring back for my Dad. If you were at my wedding and remember his speech, he talked so much about how my Mom loved being pregnant and loved carrying babies so much and somehow compared her to "those women in the rice paddies"...obviously we had to get this for him.We arrived at the dock, got our tickets and jumped on the dinghy to get to our overnight cruise on the Dragon Legend. <- please click and see how amazing.
Just look at our kickass room
From there the scenery only got better.
(view from our room window)
Yes, we've landed on Mars.
Now, there are a TON of these cruises that go out to Ha Long Bay. From Mikes research, he found that's kind of the "thing to do". You choose from a number of ships to sail out and spend one or two nights on the water and do a bunch of activities scheduled through the boat and have all your meals and drinks included. Not sure how, but we just managed to get the boat with THE BEST staff, ever. These guys were f*cking hilarious. There were only about 10 rooms on our boat with mostly couples staying in each and a bunch of staff so it was very small and personal. At the very beginning the captain of the ship, Huang and his assistant only known as "Milky Boy" sat us all down and explained the trip and our list of activities. This banter between the two of them was amazing. They were part deck crew, part comedians. Between their broken english, comedic timing and amazing sense of humor Mike and I were dying laughing the whole time. Every time we got together or they had to make some sort of announcement we got so excited.
Our first day was packed with activities, from kayaking to the beach, to hiking in caves, to massages back on the boat.
While we kayaked they told us about the beautiful lime stone karsts that were all around us sprouting majestically throughout the bays emerald waters. While walking the caves we were able to look back and see the most incredible views of the boats sailing along the bay and pass by all the little floating villages.
That night they proceeded to serenade us with a ridiculously amazing 7 course meal accompanied with live music from the crew (bamboo flute playing?!), extravagant fruit art from the chefs (I'm talking whole dragons carved from watermelon) and basically stand up comedy from Huang and Milky Boy. By the end of the meal we had made friends with the couple sitting next to us and continued to drink heavily so when Huang offered for some night "squid fishing" the four of us were SO down.
We went to the back of the boat where there were small seats set up and we were given long sticks of bamboo with wire and hooks hanging off the end of them. I forget the trick, but basically it has to be done at night because that's when the squid come out, and as soon as you feel a tug you have to pull back FAST otherwise you lose them. Once you do though, they legit squirt ink everywhere so when the water turns black you know you caught one. Maybe it was the booze but it was such a bizarre thrill and we had the BEST time catching and cheering everyone on.
The next day came and we had to sadly head back.
As much as we were sad to leave, we were excited to see what more Hanoi had to offer. This time on the way back to break up the drive, they stopped half way to show us... water puppetry. Apparently it's an old tradition in Vietnam that goes as far back as the 11th century. We were unprepared for what we were about to see.
We got back and immediately hit the streets to find Bahn Mi's and Bun Cha's (a dish similar to Cha Ca but with beef), see the markets of Hanoi, and figure out how to cross the roads.
One thing we heard about and wanted to see was the famous Train Street, where an old railroad track is the center of a busy street where they built restaurants all along the sides of it to hang, drink and enjoy.
One thing Mike had heard about were these beer halls that sold beer that had been brewed that SAME day so they're nice and light and super cheap (even though everything is cheap as it is). There were a few but we settled on this one that was basically all outdoors with the tables spilling onto the streets. I was most definitely outnumbered as it looked like it was all men after work still in suits getting drunk off their asses eating mounds full of spring rolls and jerky. When you looked into the street you'd see the owner (or maybe he was a manager?) staring back at the restaurant and yelling at the staff to send over more beer to any table that had empty glasses. Instead of homeless people, they had a men walking by with portable karaoke machines singing for money. It. Was. Amazing.
We decided to take our chances and risk our lives by grabing a bike taxi to the center of town.
We went into the center of the city to see more of what Hanoi had to offer with its town squares filled with bright lights, electronics, walks along a river park and what can only be described as an impromptu music video shoot.
That was our last night before waking up the next day to find one more Bahn Mi before our flight out and walking the streets one last time!
Of course I had to buy two of the traditional Vietnamese straw hats for my brothers as a souvenir before we left. Thankfully I had my Kemi Clip so I didn't have to carry them in my hands the whole way back (hahaaaaa shameless plug!)
Hope you all enjoyed reading about our Honeymoon that we loved so freakin much!!! Ok now I have the travel itch again. Till next time!