13 Mar POSTCARDS TO HARLEY – HANOI + HOI AN
Our next adventure saw us travel to Vietnam. My husband had lived in Vietnam for a year after high school and had always talked about taking me there. I was already a big fan of bahn mi’s, so was a very willing participant in this holiday, though I didn’t expect to also become a big fan of the busy streets, the stunning beaches, the iced coffees and the lovely, warm people – who were, in our experience, so eager to accommodate and make our time in their country so wonderful.
We started our trip in Hanoi, where we spent the first week wandering the old quarter, sipping iced lattes on french inspired balconies, swimming in rooftop pools, eating our own weight in Vietnamese street food, and ticking off some key tourist spots along the way. I came to really love Hanoi, and by the end of the week I was only having 2-3 heat related tantrums a day.
We then flew to Hoi An, a welcome reprieve from the city heat, where we spent each day at the beach, drinking from coconuts and eating fresh seafood by the sea.
We stayed in a small hotel – the Cinnamon Cathedral Hotel, where we had a good sized room (with aircon – SO important!), and a lovely plant-filled balcony overlooking the street and views of the Catheral. It was in a great location, easy walking distance to most places in the old quarter, and the staff were absolutely lovely, and were all so eager to help us plan our stay in Hanoi.
What we did:
We walked. A lot. My husband spent a lot of time in Hanoi when he lived in Vietnam, so he knew a lot of places to go for sight seeing and touristing. He also likes to trick me into walking everywhere by telling me its only a ’10 minute walk’ and then 30 minutes later when he tells me we’re only ’10 more minutes away’ is usually about the time I crack it. This happened more times than I can count on this trip. But we ticked off the usual tourist spots – museums, the prison, temples, all by walking, and if it wasn’t for the extreme heat I probably wouldn’t have complained as much as I did. Probably.
One of my favourite things we did was a street food tour which we organised through our Hotel. It was the best way to spend the day, wandering the streets and trying lots of local specialties that we wouldn’t have even thought to try had we been on our own. This is the one time I am 100% on board with a tour.
We spent an afternoon at Trill Rooftop – swimming in the rooftop pool and admiring the expansive views over the city.
We’d heard a lot about the egg coffee in Hanoi, so we wanted to sample the iced egg coffee from Café Giang – the cafe that claims to have invented this Hanoi treat. If you’re in Hanoi, I highly recommend you try it. It was like coffee flavoured ice-cream in a drink, it’s almost more dessert than coffee. Delicious.
I’m always on the hunt for holiday ice cream. And we found a winner in Kem Trang Tien – the best ice cream in Hanoi. We went back multiple times.
We waited in line for a Bahn Mi from Bahn Mi 25 – one of the best bahn mi’s of our trip – worth the walk, and the wait.
Escaped the heat on the balcony of Pasteur Street Brewing Co. whilst enjoying a sample of their local beers. Even I enjoyed the beers here.
I became obsessed with Bahn Cuon Bah Hanh – we went back three times. They make the best soft pork pancakes, I am literally still thinking about them and haven’t been able to find anything equivalent in Australia.
On our last day we decided to hire a swan boat and paddle around Truc Bach Lake. It looked romantic. And it would have been a lovely way to look around the area, if it wasn’t a million degrees the day we chose to do it… I don’t think either of us have ever sweated so much in our lives. So yeah, slightly less romantic than anticipated.
We stayed in a smaller hotel vs a resort – at the Belle Maison Hadana, which was approx. 10 min walk to the town of Hoi An and a quick taxi trip to the beach. It was clean, in a good location, had aircon (tick), and the bed was comfy – all the key things, which was good.
What we did:
Booked dinner at Morning Glory: everyone says this is the best in town, we had multiple recommendations to eat here, and I’m glad we did – it was delicious. It was super busy so make sure you book, and it was SO hot inside, so asking to sit near the aircon was also a good tip. Make sure you order the morning glory. Garlicy and delicious.
Also booked dinner at Orivy – which ended up being one of our favourite places in Hoi An. A little bit out of the main town (maybe a 5 min walk from the town centre) and was a great find. The restaurant is in a cute little Vietnamese garden, the food is amazing, and the staff were so lovely.
Had one of the best meals of our whole trip at Ms Ly’s. Go here earlier in the night and put your name down for a table – it can be really busy and sometimes a bit of a wait, but was SO worth it. I want to go back just to have the fish again. YUM. One of the dishes that we saw everywhere in Hoi An was the white rose dumplings – make sure you try them, you won’t regret it.
Tried the Mot Hoi An tea – a herbal tea that is served with a pink flower petal in a plastic cup. You can get it from one of the little shops along the mains streets in town. Look up #mothoian and you’ll see what it looks like – everyone walks around drinking it, and after tracking it down I was obsessed.
Spent every day at An Bang beach – get a taxi here or ride a bike if you feel brave navigating the streets of Hoi An, and set up for the day at one of the restaurants – they all run little huts on the beach and if you can order drinks and food from them all day you get a sun lounge and umbrella complimentary. We basically ordered fresh coconuts all day, and had amazing fresh seafood for lunch right on the beach. The best way to relax.
We also got some clothing tailor made, which is apparently THE thing to do in Hoi An. If you have an item of clothing that you love they can copy the pattern easily if you leave the garment with them. Or if you’re after a standard item, they also have patterns you can choose from, though I’ve heard getting things made from pictures is less successful. There are so many tailors around, the streets are lined with them, so you will be pretty spoiled for choice. The good tailors aren’t necessarily cheap though, so don’t expect major bargains. Our hotel recommended Bebe Tailors to us, and they were pretty good, and quick to turn everything around.
So far, so good Vietnam. Hanoi and Hoi An were both packed full of amazing food, lovely people, and beautiful nights sipping cocktails. Next stop: Ho Chi Minh City & Con Dao, where the amazing food, lovely people, and evening cocktails continue…