Tag Archives: Streets

Enchanted by Venezia

This is the story of my lone backpacking trip across Italy from Dec 1 to 9, 2012. First city - Venice! If you want to know how I prepared for it or how you can do it too, click here!

I found myself in Europe for the first time in my life, alone & ecstatic.

I could barely contain my excitement! Even the plane ride was a celebration (with my teeny bottle of wine)! I’ve always wanted to see Europe but, sadly, financial limitations never let me.

Off to Venice from Dubai!
Off to Venice from Dubai!
To be completely honest, I was envious of friends that would go on trips outside the Philippines every summer. There were times I would travel with my family to Hong Kong, Singapore, or Bangkok – but never out of Southeast Asia. And I knew that if I wanted to go anywhere further, I’d have to find my own way.

Then there I was, armed with my backpack and plans, ready and eager to travel across Italy for nine days!

I was awestruck at my first sight of glorious Venice. I recall having a huge smile plastered on my face as I desperately quashed the tears welling up. All previous memories fell short of that moment. And nothing could stop me from taking a photo – not the cold winter wind, thick gloves, heavy bags, or fear I wouldn’t find my hostel!

My 1st stunning view of Europe - the enchanting city of Venice!
My first stunning view of Europe – the enchanting city of Venice!
I walked through the main street (Venice is a car-free zone with over 100 little islands connected by 400 or so bridges!) until I found my hostel – the Venice Fish. After checking in and depositing my bag, I headed out to wander aimlessly around the city.

Janinay on the Rialto Bridge
Janinay on the Rialto Bridge
I followed the crowd to the Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge across the grand canal. I listened in on a couple speaking English and asked them to take my photo (as I did theirs, naturally). I walked through little alleys and looked inside some shops as the sun started setting. It started getting dark and COLD. I ducked into an open café and gifted myself with a cup of hot chocolate before making my way to the famed Piazza San Marco. I sat right in the middle of it all and munched on my cheese and crackers.

I breathed it in – the piazza, Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile. All this awesomeness built in the 1500s is still attracting thousands of people every day! (There is an interesting attempt at calculating the number in this website.)

Piazza San Marco or St. Mark's Square
Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square
I would’ve stayed longer if not for the weather and my tropically inclined body. I walked over to where all the gondolas were docked and felt the loneliness as I looked over at the beautiful view of the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore.

View of the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore
View of the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore
Snapping out of my Venetian trance, I made my way to the vaporetti station. I desperately tried to figure out where my hostel might be on their map and which stop I should get off… Thanks to my awesome apps and innate navigator skillz, I got it right!

The rest of the night was filled with wine, card games, and then escaping from the younger college kids at the hostel (who wanted to get drunk in the streets of Venice). I was happy to be left behind, slightly buzzed, with an empty hostel and the bathroom all to myself!

Cold and Rainy Morning in Venice
Cold and Rainy Morning in Venice
It was a very, very good thing that I opted for sleep that night. My next day was busy and tiring! I woke up early to head to the train station to purchase my biglietto (ticket) to Verona then off I went past the Ponte degli Scalzi or Bridge of the Barefoot Monks to try and find the Peggy Guggenheim collection housed in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni.

In Venice, even the walks to the points of interest are interesting! There are so many ways to get to one site thanks to random, unplanned little streets. I loved my stroll! I saw a lot of interesting statues & churches and, thanks to Triposo, I was able to appreciate their significance.2_Fotor

I got lost in art with the Guggenheim collection (Hello to Picaso, Pollock, Mondrian, Ernst, & Warhol!) and paid my respects to Peggy Guggenheim who was buried there beside her beloved doggies.

After grabbing a prosciutto and mushroom pizza to go, I made my winding way back to a flooded St. Mark’s Square, excited to tour the Palazzo Ducale. Inside the Doge’s Palace, you learn about the history of Venice (centered around politics) while walking within the home of the city’s supreme authority – the Doge or Ducale. My favorite room was probably the one with all the humongous maps and globes (but unfortunately, you aren’t allowed to take photos inside)!

The Courtyard, Palazzo Ducale
The Courtyard, Palazzo Ducale
Blur_FotorI knowingly spent too much time in the Doge’s Palace so I anticipated the rush to catch my train. I made my way, once again by vaporetti, to the hostel, grabbed my packed bags, and ran to the station only to miss my train by seconds! (Just like in the movies!) I ended up wasting time waiting for the next train in the freezing station. It was time spent reflecting on my day, planning out Verona, and doing some people watching.

Grazie, Comune di Venezia!

an old Venetian lady & her German Shepherd
an old Venetian lady & her German Shepherd

Dubai: Sightseeing

Some members of mi familia are heading to Dubai for a vacation. My mom asked me for a list of things to do... Thought it might help you, too. (Hello, Mama!)

Also check out for my post on travel tips (I scattered food photos there!). I also posted an opinion/reflection-type piece, if that interests thee.

Abu Dhabi Tour: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

If there is one thing to see in Abu Dhabi, it would have to be the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I was in awe of this structure! If you have the time, there’s a whole Abu Dhabi tour you can do. Check out “Others” below for more Abu Dhabi sights… But the mosque is the one I highly recommend! Go during sunset. ❤Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Desert Safari

Experience being right smack in the middle of the desert with non-flying carpets, camels, henna, and belly dancers! Desert SafariGetting there is a treat, too… Unless you’re not the type who would like riding a 4×4 vehicle up and down sand dunes. The food wasn’t great. But the experience was! Just beware of this guy with a falcon. Taking a photo with his bird will cost you! :p

The Dubai Mall, The Dubai Fountain, & The Burj Khalifa

Burj KhalifaSave an evening for these giants – the largest mall, the largest dancing fountain, and the tallest building! They’re all in one area. How crazy is that? You can stand in a spot and see all 3. Haha! Have dinner in one of the restaurants in Souk Al Bahar overlooking it all… And go and have your flavored shisha!

Should you go up the Burj Khalifa? I didn’t. But if it interests you, then go for it! I suggest you purchase your tickets in advance.

Bastakiya Area & Dubai Museum

These two are right next to each other. Bastakiya is a restored neighborhood of past pearl traders from Bastak, Iran. It’s a wonderful peek into Dubai’s history, before all the glitz! If you enjoy learning about a country’s history, I suggest going through the Dubai Museum then making your way to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Learning for a free tour of Bastakiya. Check out the website and give them a call for the schedules. There are little  quirky shops where you can get interesting souvenirs! BastakiyaAnd right on the perimeter is a nice tea place (Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Café) and the camel burger restaurant (Local House Restaurant). Ask around about the Spice and Gold Souks! They’re around the area. I’m sure you’ll take some pretty and colorful photos there.

You can also walk along the Dubai Creek and find yourself an abra (boat) to take you around. (You’ll learn how important the creek was to the development of the city at the museum.) You can actually Dubai Creekhave a lunch or dinner cruise along the creek on the bigger dhow boat. But the food is not great so I don’t recommend it. (A wonderful experience on a dhow would be a day trip to Oman! Jump off and swim in the salty Musandam sea; plus you may even see some dolphins!)

Save half a day or more for Bastakiya. Remember, the heat of the desert takes a toll on you! You may not be able to explore out in the sun as long as you usually do.

Atlantis, The Palm & Aquaventure

Photo from the net. Click image for the link.

Atlantis is a hotel and entertainment complex located at the Palm. (Yes, the Palm is the iconic palm-shaped reclaimed area you see from ze sky.) One of its facilities is the Marine and Waterpark.

The waterpark is loads of fun with crazy tall and winding slides! Plus, it incorporated its marine park so some of the slides have you entering a tunnel surrounded by an aquarium. Pretty trippy! There is another waterpark in Dubai called Wild Wadi. I didn’t get to go to that one. But I was happy I chose Aquaventure instead.

Photo from the internet. Click to visit link.
It’s important to note that I’m not certain where Atlantis stands in terms of animal rights and environmentalism. They've been criticized by environmentalists for keeping a young whale shark. But I found an article with Atlantis' statement saying they’ve released it. Still. After seeing Blackfish, I no longer wish to go to any zoo or animal park. I'll be supporting animal sanctuaries and nature reserves instead.

Friday Brunch at “The Walk” Jumeirah Beach Residences

Work weeks in the Middle East start on Sunday and end on Thursday (Though I believe they used to only have 1 day off per week). Basically, their Friday is like our Saturday.

IMG_3600Anyway! A brunch tradition has started in Dubai and loads of hotels and restaurants offer Friday brunch buffets. You can even opt for bottomless champagne! I suggest looking for a place near the Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR) so you see the shopping boardwalk and maybe hang around by the beach. (Yo, Filipinos! There’s a ChowKing somewhere here! HAHA!) Here’s a list of the top Friday Brunch spots in Dubai.

Burj Al Arab

The Burj Al Arab is the iconic 7-star hotel in Dubai designed to appear like a ship’s sail. It is also built on reclaimed land and connects to the mainland through a private bridge.

Unfortunately, you cannot simply walk into the hotel and see it’s crazy luxurious interior. You would have to pay to see! You don’t have to pay for a room at the hotel, which costs at least USD1800. You can, instead, dine at the Skyview Lounge or the Junsui Restaurant.Dubai Beach

Woollongong Beach or Kite Beach / Burj Beach

If the Burj Al Arab rates turn you off, you can enjoy the view of the iconic hotel instead! Look for Kite Beach or Burj Beach. Take time to catch the sunset. 🙂

Others

IMG_0162Souk Madinat Jumeirah is an interesting mall near the Burj Al Arab area. There are also some restaurants and pubs.

Ski Dubai at Mall of Emirates has the indoor ski slope and other activities if you want to experience snow in the middle of the desert. If you end up in this mall, try out the restaurant “Al Hallab”. Good food!

Skydive Dubai is also an option for you thrill seekers.

Post It UAEFerrari World in Abu Dhabi is another attraction for speed demons and roller coaster lovers. It’s the world largest indoor theme park! Lines can get long, though, so try going on a weekday.

There are other trips you can take outside of Dubai. You can go catch a camel race, for example. There’s the “Oasis City” Al Ain. Or you can step into the future with driverless cars and renewable energy at Masdar City.

My Top 5 Milk Tea Spots

Ang Mio Kio
You can check out a few other photos on my Instagram – MyJaninay

Milk Tea Madness around Metro Manila! Milk tea stands are sprouting up everywhere. It’s like the pearl shakes all over again; but now, these places have it all from pearl shakes to coffee-type stuff and, of course, ZE MILK TEA!

I understand it. Milk tea cravings haunt me. And I do enjoy the typical ones everyone tries like Cha Time, Happy Lemon, etc, etc.

But, for moi, my faves would have to be those in actual restaurants! Mm-mm-mm!!! So… I just want to share my favorite milk tea so far. You guys might want to try em out. Doesn’t hurt that in these restos, the food is good, too. You can enjoy lunch or dinner then cap it off with delish milk tea, as I do! WHEEEEE. I WANT.

In no particular order… Here goes!

5. Banana Leaf Asian Cafe’s Iced Milk Tea Hong Kong Style

SO GOOT. As for the food, my regulars are rotti canai with curry and the Hainanese Set Meal! That can feed 2 people already… Unless you feel like feasting which is perfectly fine in Banana Leaf because they have loads of tasty food. YEAY! There are a few branches all around the metro so it’s easy to find – Greenhills Promenade, Greenbelt, Rockwell, etc. Plus, they’re one of Philippine’s Best Restaurants in 2011!

http://www.bananaleaf.com.ph/

Thai Dara
For more photos, check out my Instagram – MyJaninay

4. Thai Dara’s Milk TeaI tried the quaint Thai Dara in Kapitolyo – you won’t miss it! They have another branch somewhere in QC as well. Their milk tea is gootenberg! And it’s great with spicy curry orders!

In case you didn’t know, milk relieves your tongue from the heat of spiciness. THAT is the cooling power of dairy!

3. Ang Mio Kio’s Milk Tea

Yummy Singaporean food in Ang Mio Kio – The Podium. And they have a range of delicious drinks like their milk tea and the milo dinosaur!

http://www.facebook.com/angmokiofood

2. Komrad’s Milk Tea

Komrad in Eastwood is a haven for people who enjoy spicy food. I LOVE IT THERE. Spiced up Chinese food for the win! But their hidden gem is definitely their milk tea. SO GOOD. I want to run over there right now and buy a glass!

1. Som’s Milk Tea

Som’s Milk Tea is sold in plastic bottles, like them typical PET bottles – very easy to hoard and stock in your refrigerator. And they’re REALLY good. I believe they have 2 locations – one is near Rockwell and the other is in the Maysilo circle across the Mandaluyong City Hall. I’d drive by there just to take a few bottles home.

ARGH. Now I’m craving for legit milk tea.

“This is madness.”

One of the most wonderful people I know, Misha, suggested I watch this documentary by BBC. It’s about a bus driver from London who goes to Manila with a challenge to become a jeepney driver by the end of the trip – DRIVE A JEEP ALONE IN MANILA (Siya pa nanunukli)! He lives with Rogelio (a jeepney driver) and his family and learns, firsthand, how tough it is to live in our country.

I cried. And cried again. The world is anything but fair. I urge you, if you have a little less than an hour, to watch the docu below – The Toughest Place To Be A Bus Driver. You can watch it now or later. But I assure you, it is not a waste of time. My thoughts and frustrations are below.

I will write about 2 things. You may read one and not the other. Or not read at all. But I’m hoping you read both! :p

Road Rage

I, too, drive through the streets of Metro Manila. I confess that I do scream, curse, and lash-out (in the confines of my car) at pedestrians and other drivers on the road, most specially jeepney and bus drivers. In these moments, I feel I live in a place that is the epitome of inconsideration. And, against all my better judgment, I get sucked into the bandwagon.

Inconsideration, in my opinion, is an extremely huge problem in our society. I’ve always believed that if people were more considerate of each other, lines would move faster, traffic would ease up, mall-wide sales wouldn’t give me a migraine, and stress levels of most everyone when outside the confines of their home would decrease.

But where does this come from? Why can’t most people think of anyone but themselves?

I guess the true questions is, “How can one be considerate when one’s mind is on survival mode? Can I feed my family today?”

Inconsideration stems from this dog-eat-dog world, the reality of day-to-day survival.

What happens to my road rage now? It’s so much easier to be angry, curse at faceless strangers and not care. But how can you be angry knowing what these people come home to? … Knowing they’re stuck in a vicious cycle of suffering they can never get out of?

Rage turns to sorrow.

Life. To live. It is more than just physical survival.

To understand this rant, you’ll have to watch the documentary… Or just keep in mind that millions of Filipinos live in the slums, in their makeshift homes. Many are young married couples with 12-13 children.

How can one truly value life but accept the condition in which so many Filipinos are living?

How can one value life and accept that people eat recooked rotting food from the trash if they eat anything at all?

How can one that values life be OK with bringing a new life into this world only to starve, suffer, and have nothing but survival in mind?

How can one value truth but withhold readily available information, that is common knowledge to most educated people, from the less fortunate with less access?

How can one be against the RH Bill? I really CANNOT understand. What are you afraid of?

More abortion cases? Please explain to me how this happens with less cases of unwanted pregnancy.

Are you afraid that our country will have a problem of underpopulation like other developed countries? Oh my goodness. Do you really think that it’s as easy as the simplest cause-effect equation? There are so many factors that will contribute to that future possibility. Besides, if you have people that value having a family, this will not happen. I am aware of most all methods of contraception but I still want to have my own children one day… When I can actually sustain them financially and emotionally. Values formation and valuing the family as the basic unit of society can be taught and developed.

Please help me understand… Because my brain can’t seem to wrap itself around this.

What kind of person would think that a young married woman living in a makeshift box with 13 (THIRTEEN!) children and barely anything to eat is wrong for taking measures to prevent any more pregnancies?

Would you condemn her to hell? Isn’t she already living there?

Heart And Seoul

Ja-Bin in Korea!

(Unedited Version of my Myx Mag Article)

I was in complete awe of Korea and in utter disbelief that I was sent there for work – to shoot a total of 9 shows and interview 2NE1’s Dara. It’s a remarkable place with breathtaking sights and, literally, breath-taking weather (It reached NEGATIVE 6 degrees one night!). As soon as VJ Robin and I stepped out of the plane, we were greeted by a waft of cold air that made me thankful for my scarf and beret… and Robin – regretful to have nothing but his t-shirt on (with jeans, socks, shoes, and, hopefully, underwear on as well).

As soon as we saw Myeong Dong, which is the area we would call home for 2 nights, our eyes widened and we simultaneously uttered, “WOW.” I was told that Myeong Dong is like the Makati City of Seoul. But, honestly, it looked nothing like Makati. People sashayed in their fashionable winter clothes. Beautiful pastel-colored shops lined the narrow alleys like sweet eye candy for us adventurous VJs. With such a beautiful backdrop, we got to work on the special Korean episodes to be shown on Myx.

Aside from feeding our appetite for adventure, we also made the most out of every meal of the day (which included merienda and a midnight snack). We sampled as many Korean delicacies as we could. We feasted on Ginseng Chicken, Bulgogi, Bulgogi Burgers, various street foods, and my newly discovered Korean favorite – Budae-chigae. We were thrilled to discover that cold weather makes your body work harder to keep you warm, thus burning the extra calories we consumed… Or at least that’s what we told ourselves to justify our excessive food tripping.

But the trip to Korea wasn’t all about feasting and frolicking. Robin and I were there on a mission. Without a crew or any staff from Myx to guide us, we were tasked to return home with a successful interview with K-Pop Superstar Sandara Park. Armed with our video cameras, list of questions, and bundle of nerves, we made our way to Dara’s TV Commercial shoot for Etude House (www.etudehouse.ph).  Even before we met her, we were impressed at how professional she was during the shoot. Watching monitors from a separate room, we saw how her eyes lit up once the director said, “Action!”

All intimidation melted once we met the sweet and soft-spoken Dara. Inspite of her flawless beauty, she has an air of humility that was exceptionally endearing. Not to mention, she still seems very attached to the Philippines and us Filipinos. She could not hide how much she missed the country and all her fans and friends back in the Philippines. Plus, she expressed herself tremendously well in Filipino, to the utter disbelief of our tongue-tied-when-speaking-Filipino-VJ Robin.

A photo from my Interview with Sandara Park in Korea!

Meeting 2NE1’s Dara was definitely the highlight of my trip. With the precious interview footage safely in tow, Robin and I headed home to Manila with a newfound love for Seoul Korea but also a greater appreciation for home. After all, if a K-Pop Superstar who is set to be an international sensation is proud to have lived in the Philippines, continues to speak in our language, and clearly misses the country and its people… Shouldn’t we also be proud to be Filipino? BAM!

Your Atypical Envoy To Quirky Hanoi

Hanoi is a some-kind-of-a quirky city – oddly different yet familiar.

Sidewalks lined with parked motorbikes.

Streets are ruled by motorcycles that weave through crowds and through each other, everyone moving along with an unwritten rule to preserve the flow. The rule? DON’T HESITATE. Yep. As soon as you decide to cross the street, keep walking forward. Don’t do the cha-cha-cha lest you confuse a driver and wind up wounded by a motorbike.

Lazy Sunday. My view while trying my first cup of Vietnamese iced coffee.

Sundays are lazy and calm… Until a group of local ladies find out about a sale in a shoe store at a street corner. Then a whole swarm of them will elbow their way to the pair and size they want and fight over voices for the price and a purchase. So many things are produced in Vietnam and so there are loads of things for you to buy… and for cheap! Clothes, shoes, and bags are only the tip of the Vietnamese Shopping Iceberg.

Pretty dresses for adorable babies line the walls of this boutique shop along Hang Gai Street (Silk Street).

Everything happens along the street, ON the street, and on the sidewalk. It made me wonder if they actually call them side-WALKs and not side-Whatever-You-Want-It-To-Bes. On a sidewalk, get yourself a mini plastic chair and table from a cafe and sip on their world-renowned coffee (iced on a hot day) as you watch pedicabs with foreign dudes taking pictures and videos. When the sun retires, join the locals as they pour out onto the street from the bar drinking not-so-strong beer while eating peanuts.

Locals drinking and eating peanuts on the street on a Friday night.

Most things are lowered. A lot of chairs and tables outside are low. Even dogs stay short. I saw chihuahuas and and other mixed breeds, all short. Also short, some of the vendors’ tempers. Like any other place, I suppose, there are some friendly locals and some not-so-accommodating ones. Most, I would say, are cordial. Save for the lady in some shoe store that swatted my shin with a slipper and a lady selling hats in the covered market. It’s as if her smile was worth a trillion bucks. HAHAHA.

So let’s talk about the vendors. A bit of a warning, they will charge you more because you’re a foreigner. A lady tried to sell me a munchkin for US$2! One hundred pesos, really? No way. :p Also, they may hound you. So it’s best not to entertain the vendors patrolling the streets because they might follow you down as Gin Blossoms said he would!

Read up on the local legends, particularly the legend of the Ngoc Son Temple seen behind me here.

Walk. Walk. Walk to the temples and museums. There is so much to learn and experience in Hanoi! As long as you’ve got your trusty Google Maps, you’ll be alright. And, AGAIN, be wary of snatchers. Some of them pass by you on a bike and swipe whatever you’re holding. Pretty crafty, they can be!

That’s me taking a break in the temple of literature. Thank you Franco V (He’s on Instagram) for the photo!

And let’s not forget the food culture. As long as you don’t really think about the whole cleanliness issue, you’ll have a great time trying a whole slew of Vietnamese dishes! Hehe. But, really, I enjoyed food tripping in Hanoi. I enjoyed it oh so much, I even prepared a video about it! So, since I can’t seem to find my writing groove, Let me leave you with a video I edited from my salvaged Hanoi footage. Also, if you decide to visit Hanoi, this may be of help. Enjoy!

Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel Basics

Hanoi is the Capital of Vietnam found in the North (vs. Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, the largest city in Vietnam, in South Vietnam). It is the second largest city in the country and  serves as a political center.

Vietnamese currency is the Dong with the smallest bill at 1,000! I was a millionaire in Vietnam… Which doesn’t say much, really. Exchange rates can be found here.

Language will be a barrier so it’s important to know a few basic phrases. Though they still won’t understand you unless you can pull off the accent as well.

(By the way, this post is more about the information and not much about the experience. The “cute” post with all the photos (at least those salvaged from my stolen phone) are  HERE. Hehe!)

How To Get There

Flying to Hanoi isn’t very convenient when coming from Manila. Most flights head to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC – commonly known as Saigon) but Cebu Pacific recently started flying directly to and from Hanoi twice a week. Unfortunately, the flight schedules are less than ideal in a city with a 12 Midnight curfew.

From Singapore, I believe Jetstar has affordable flights. And coming from HCMC, I’m pretty sure you can find cheap domestic flights! 🙂

From the Noi Bai airport, a taxi is the only way to the main city so make sure your Hotel provides you with a serviced car/cab!

Where To Stay

Most travelers stay in the Old Quarters or French Quarters. This area maintained the original street layout of old Hanoi with streets being named after the goods sold along it. And so, we have Silk Street and Leather Street and Silver Street and so on. There are numerous hotels to stay in here and you will be surrounded by great shops, cafes, and eateries!

If you don’t expect the sun and moon of the hotels, then you’ll be alright in Hanoi. I stayed in Hanoi Deluxe Hotel which was quaint but clean and comfortable with a friendly staff.

Hanoi Deluxe Hotel. US$18-35/room/night http://hanoideluxehotel.com/

Hanoi Old Centre Hotel. US$25-$60/room/night http://www.hanoioldcentrehotel.com/

Hanoi Elite Hotel. US$40-$90 http://hanoielitehotel.com/

May De Ville Old Quarter Hotel. US$50-$100/room/night http://maydevilleoldquarterhotel.com/

And here’s a big, luxurious one!

Hotel Sofitel Metropole Hanoi.  http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-1555-sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi/index.shtml

How To Get Around

Walk. All you need is Google Maps and you’re good to go! If you like walking as I do, most everything is walkable.

Taxi. They’re metered so you know exactly how much to pay. But most cab drivers can barely speak English and they may not understand your pronunciation so best to show them where you’d like to go on a map (Google Maps, you rock.)

Motorbike. There are guys in street corners that offer you a ride on their motorbikes. They overcharge, though, so best to ask your hotel how much it should cost. These guys are NOT legit. Hehe.

Bike. If you’re brave enough, why not ask your hotel where it’s best to rent a bicycle for you to use? 😀 If I stayed longer, I may have tried this out for an afternoon. 😉

Pedicab. I didn’t ride a pedicab just ‘coz I didn’t see any local on one. Loads of foreigners take pedicab rides around the old quarters, though! I’m guessing these guys have tourist rates, though. So, again, ask your hotel how much they should cost you.

Where To Go

Sightseeing

Hoan Kiem Lake. Ngoc Son Temple. Turtle Tower. The Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) is the largest lake in the city of lakes – Hanoi. It’s HUGE. In the north area of the lake is the Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of the Jade Mountain) which you can get to through the Huc Bridge (Morning Sunlight Bridge). The south area of the lake has the Turtle Tower. The legend that surrounds this lake is pretty interesting so read up!

National Museum of Vietnam. This is in the right side of Hoan Kiem Lake, separate from all the other sites below.

Temple of Literature. The most popular of all the Temple of Literatures (there are several), this temple served as the first university in Vietnam. Today, it is still one of the most important historical sites in Hanoi and even appears on the Vietnamese Dong – 100,000 bill.

Vietnam Military History Museum. Vietnam’s military history is very interesting as their wars against their (French, Japanese, American?) conquerors helped shaped the identity of the country. Naturally, there are 2 sides to every story. In the museum, you will see weapons, pictures of war, tanks and aircrafts, etc. The museum tells the story of a united Vietnam, never acknowledging South Vietnam’s government or their defiance of the socialist rule. Hmm. Pretty intriguing. Time to read up!

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. It is huge and the garden that surrounds the building is pretty,  but off-limits. I didn’t get to enter as it was closed (only open in the mornings) but in its central hall is the embalmed body of Chairman Ho Chi Minh. Every hour, the guards change. But, rest-assured, they all strictly enforce the rules – no shorts/skirts (don’t show your legs), no crossing of arms, no hands in pockets, no photography or video recording, no smoking, and no noise!

Ho Chi Minh Museum. This museum is dedicated to their late leader Ho Chi Minh and also tells the story of Vietnam’s struggle against foreign power. Once again, two side to every story. And… The winners often write (subjective) history. Which makes me question world history in general… Good thing I don’t know much about it. HAHAHA.

Shopping.

EVERYWHERE. I particularly enjoyed shopping at the boutique shops in Hang Non street!!! If you’re a lady looking to buy clothes and shoes… FIND THIS STREET. 😀 A whole bunch of local girls shop here so I’m pretty sure it’s the place to be!

Oh. And when shopping… Bargain!

Night Market. WATCH YOUR VALUABLES. This is where my bag got slashed and my phone got stolen. AYAYAY. ANYWAY. This happens Friday – Sunday night along Hang Ngang street and Dong Xuan street.

Outside the City

Halong Bay. One of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, Halong Bay is definitely worth visiting if you have the time. Tours range from day trips to weekend stays either in hotels or junk boats. You can ask your hotel about it, search online, or even walk around the Old Quarter to find agencies that provide tours! http://www.halongbay-vietnam.com/


There are loads of other interesting places to see like Sapa and the Cuc Phong National Park. You can bike around, trek, or lounge, it’s really up to you! Check this site to find out more. http://www.hanoitraveltours.com/

What/Where To Eat

Hanoi is one amazing food trip. 🙂

Cha Ca La Vong (Resto/Dish). 14 Cha Ca Street. Beware of copycats right across the original! Cha Ca La Vong, the only thing on their menu, is grilled fish cooked right in front of you with turmeric and dill leaves, served with rice noodles and peanuts. Put as much chili as you’d like. SO GOOD. I want to eat this again but the dish isn’t found anywhere else!!!

Bun Bo Nam Bo (Resto/Dish). 7 Hàng Điếu, Cửa Đông. A bowl of beef noodles and veggies. This isn’t as soupy as Bun Thang or Pho. It’s pretty good. But I honestly didn’t enjoy it that much. I guess it just isn’t my taste. But still, it’s worth trying for yourself!

Little Hanoi (Resto). Ta Hien Street. These guys have other branches but this one is the original. Order their fresh rolls, oh so good!

Bun Thang (Dish). Cau Go Street. Bun Thang is a soup dish (add chicken!) served in various eateries. Just pick a place on Cau Go street. This dish is de-lish!

Quan An Ngon (Resto). 18 Phan Bội Châu, Cửa Nam. This restaurant is a must-see. They serve Vietnamese dishes galore under a huge tent in a courtyard of an old villa. Waiters are very helpful. And it’s always full of both foreigners and locals!

Pho. I don’t think I need to tell you any more about Pho. Hehe. :p

Also try The Highway on Bat Su Street which is where I tried eating crickets! They have a whole slew of delicious familiar and unfamiliar dishes there you can try. And Gecko is another safe bet with various branches around Hanoi (Old Quarters, mostly).

Okie dokes! That’s about it for the basics. To find out more about my experience, check out my Hanoi video on my YouTube Channel or read the next post!