Archive for August, 2010

August 31
We took a 14 hour train to Hue. We splurged on a Livitrans sleeper, and thank god we did. For only $10 more, we got a whole cabin to ourselves for the night, comfy sleepers so that we can arrive in Hue refreshed for the busy day ahead. Since we did not stay in Hue overnight, a full night’s rest is needed!

view from our window on the train

they gave us noodles on the train for breakfast

our awesome cabin with 4 sleepers, two on the bottom, 2 on top

August 29

This image made me laugh so hard I cried when i saw it. The grotto is in the shape of kissing chickens, so Kat and I decided to continue our routine of going to romantic and cool places together instead of significant others.

Tien took this photo of the fruit boats. The colors are stunning. We bought grapefruit and dragon fruit for dessert.

We did a day excursion to Ha Long Bay. We actually planned on being in Ha Long City so we brought all of our bags, but at the last minute, we decided to return to Hanoi since it was more lively at night.

We booked a tour at Ha Long, which you shouldn’t do because you are likely to pay more. However, we got the most amazing boat with some very interesting guests on board. Since we did our own tour, there were less people on the boat; we had a total of 7 people touring, and the crew. We ran through the whole boat taking pictures on the top deck, and then went to chill in the bottom deck.

They offered to take us to the floating island to buy seafood and they would cook it for us, which is awesome, but they didn’t tell us that the prices would be insane. We ended up picking a fish, some crab, and two mussels to cook. It was the most expensive meal ever, but my god, was it good. The minute it came out, we knew this was going to be an amazing meal. Our other guests shared some of the meal with us, and it was all so incredibly tasty. The fish was the freshest I’ve ever tasted (they killed it in front of me), the crab was so meaty, and the veggies were all cooked while the seafood was boiling.

We then arrived at the grottos, and went to explore. The grottos are lit with different colors, and everything was amazing on the inside. It was incredibly humid inside the grottos, but we managed to get some pretty fun pictures. Walking up and down the steps is like the best stairmaster ever. I think my calves grew an inch since I’ve been here. It forces us to be insanely fit and I am very happy about that…even when Im huffing and puffing my way up!!

oh! and get this! on the boat, there was a famous Vietnamese singer!! Well, we don’t know how famous he actually is, but a DVD was put in and suddenly I realized that the person on the screen was the same person sitting across from us. His name is Dang Vu, and he sings love ballads. He was dressed to the nines, in a shiny shirt and long toed shoes. He and his wife were actually really sweet and they shared their grapefruit with us. We then shared our million dollar fish and tons of shrimp with them.
August 29

We are currently on a 13 hour train to Hue. Its only 8 pm so I have some time to kill.

I don’t normally blog about hotels but I have to rave about this one. The Rising Dragon Hotel. They have the most amazing staff and I highly, highly recommend them if you are traveling to Hanoi.

We booked another hotel in Hanoi the previous night. It had the highest ratings on hostel bookers but we were unimpressed when we finally found it after the longest trek around the lake. Returning from a day trip to Ha Long, we decided to walk around the part of the city we liked and had the bus drop us off in the vicinity.

The girls watched our bags while I ran in to negotiate prices and check out the rooms. Rising Dragon exceeded it’s competitors by a mile. The front lobby is gorgeous and Thuy, the working staffer negotiated a great price for us, promising a wonderful breakfast the next day as well. I scoped out the other 2 placed but this was by far the best.

We all took hot showers, cleaned up, and went to check out the night flea market down the street.

Thuy offered to book train tickets for us When I asked about trains to Hue. She was able to book the livitrans cabin for us, which is the nicer train reserved for tourists. We cannot be happier that she was able to save us a trip to the station, but also the stressful wait in line when actually get there. Because she booked it through the hotel, they delivered the tickets to the hotel by courier that day right before the taxi picked us up! How amazing is that?!

For breakfast, for free, they served us French bread with fried eggs, scrambled eggs, and banana crepes. Hot bold coffee was abundant and delicious with condensed milk.

To prep us for the next leg of our trip, they also pulled up Hue on the map and recommended the area to stay in, and what to do.

Oh I can’t forget meow meow the house kitty!!! He was the best! Not afraid of humans by any means, he introduces himself by pouncing on your keyboard and won’t leave until you pet him. We were infatuated with him but he took to Kat the most.

If you are traveling to Hanoi, you have to stay here to experience the great surrounding culture, sleep comfortably in safe clean rooms, and have an amazing breakfast with the best staff on earth!

August 27

Last time I was here, I was with my family and a 15 person caravan taking us around. This time, we are backpacking so we walked from where the bus dropped us off to the hotel. The problem: 30 lb packs on our backs. They told us the hotel is only 5 minutes from where they drop us off. NOT. Try a 30 minute walk in misty rain humidity. Tired and exhausted from the flight, we walked through some insanely intricate streets selling mats, flowers, aluminum, and food. We finally found our hotel in the midst of a crazy ghetto street exploding with street fruits, loud children, and screaming women trying to get me to buy their food.

After we checked in, we decided to walk around and explore the city. We got lost and ran into a stall was selling dog meat in the open! It took Kat by surprise and I immediately pulled out my camera! It’s a bit gruesome so i’ll save that image for the stronger stomachs.

Later on, we decided on a little cafe for some salted shrimp, BBQ beef, and roasted chicken. Washed it all down with coke and cafe sua da mixed with ice cream, and went off with a slight food coma. No dog meat for us.

Tomorrow, we head to Ha Long Bay. It’s POURING rain right now in Hanoi. I hope it stops tomorrow for Ha Long so we can photograph the grottos from the outside!

street pho ga and pho bo

We were running around in the morning grabbing food for the day excursion to Ha Long while Kat stayed at the hotel to watch over bags and check internet. One block away from the hotel, we see this outside food stall with a small alley room to eat. The gates of the alley were green and gorgeous, grabbing my attention. We only had about 15 minutes before the bus came to get us but Tien looked at me, and asked, “how fast can you eat?” I said, “REALLY FAST.” We sat down and the bowl of pho appeared within seconds. Yea, it was the best pho ever. EVER.

We gulped down pho with Vietnamese hot sauce. Right then, it started to rain. No, it started to downpour. So we pulled our trusty REI ponchos out (mine is sea green and tien’s is magenta) and started the trek back. One of my fondest and best memories of Ha Noi is this run back to the hotel with Tien. It’s mentally embedded in my mind because i saw a photograph, except i didn’t have a camera to capture it. We were covered in our respective ponchos, running down this empty street at 7 in the morning. I was running ahead of Tien, and I stopped to look back at her, and I saw her running just like me, giggling about the ridiculously useful and fabulously colored ponchos, and the amount of rain being dumped on us. The wholes scene was just beautiful. There were no motorbikes squeezing me out of the street, no women yelling at me to buy their food, and no food smells from random street vendors. Just the empty wet cobblestones, freshly washed with rainwater, and us. It’s an image that I will always treasure.

I’ll do a separate post for Ha Long Bay because it deserves its own post. We drove back after a day excursion and found a much better hotel in the central part of the city for almost the same price as the last hotel! The people here are amazing. They helped us book tickets to Hue, fed us the most delicious banh mi op la, bacon and cafe sua da.

Our second day in Hanoi was amazing. We went to Hoan Kiem Lake to take pictures, and then had lunch in the circle of death nearby. One of my post fond memories of Hanoi is when we witnessed hookers picking up two Irish guys right in front of us while we were having lunch at a cafe. We were sitting at the cafe bar table that overlooks the circle. Two girls came up and openly flirted with the men 2 feet from us! We sat there staring in shock, and then started to snicker. They ignored us completely, and continued to ask the men for money to buy champagne and to get a room around the corner. One actually got up and handed her money to run off and buy it! We literally witnessed a whole transaction 2 feet from our meal. It was so random, being in the center of a boulevard in front of a fairly nice cafe….but pretty funny for us to witness it!!!

This little girl was the best. Her parents were so loving and she was happily playing with her dad’s iphone. We had to take a pic of her. The statue is Ly Thai To, a famous philosopher.

We explored Dong Xuan market at night, which is the night flea market. Millions of belts, tshirts, purses, and street food to be had. I held off from pulling out my camera too much as they are known to be expert pickpocketers here. We walked the whole street, and then stumbled on Yummy, a Vietnamese version of Yogurtland. We tried these amazing toppings…pink jelly balls that explode with watermelon flavoring, and different kinds of mochi with the yogurt. What a perfect way to end a long hot day!

Off to see the rest of the city now; Ha Long post to come when i get all the pics resized!

August 27
And we’re off! We left the united states 1am Wednesday and arrived in Taiwan at 6 am today. We had a three hour layover there to stretch our legs, eat, and recuperate after the long flight across the pacific ocean.

We loved flying Eva air! I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Asia! The seats were comfy, the service impeccable, and they served 3 full meals! They also have an amazing selection of music and movies! Kat told me to watch Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. If you haven’t seen it, watch it! It’s amazing!!

Once we landed at Taiwan airport, we ran amuck through the crazy hello kitty nursery, the relaxation room and the post office/Internet room. We even sat down at a cute restaurant to have some braised beef noodle soup before getting back on the plane to Hanoi. We got free massages!! It’s lik Disneyland in here!

I’m only sorry to not experience Taiwan more. Next time I’m in Asia, I’ll make sure to spend time in the city because I am thoroughly impressed! Thanks for the hospitality Taiwan!

August 25

what i wore to marty & jean’s wedding

banana republic fuchsia dress, cole haan wedges
August 16

Snapped these pics right before I hopped in the car to go to the beach. I rarely ever go to Main St HB now, mostly because I spent all of my high school years there, but it was super nice to see what changes have come about. Surfer Museum was hosting some events along with the Main St arts and crafts fair, so we made an afternoon of it. Every time I’m in the area, I always hit up Mangiamo’s for some amazing Italian iced coffee + pistachio gelato on Main St!! You have to try it! It tastes exactly like pistachio!! We then found my friend who works a booth at the fair, and then strolled down to the pier for some people watching. The weather was insanely beautiful today. The sun was hidden just behind a layer of clouds, but bright and warm enough for a long stroll.

H&M shirtdresses, forever 21 belt, aldo shades, random tote

August 13

These j brand jeans are amazing. They are incredibly thin, well fitted [after much pulling and tugging to button it up!]. I was hesitant on getting them in a smaller size, but my ingenious Italian roomie made me do it, explaining that this quality fabric will mold to fit in about an hour of wear. They are now worn in to perfection. Being on sale for more than 50% off is pretty sweet as well.

j brand jeans, random top, forever 21 headband