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Winter Christmas in Hanoi 2017 Day 1- Old Quarters, Bun Bo Nam Bo, Hanoi Night Market, Train to Sapa

Can't believe it's been half a year now and I haven't even started writing about my Hanoi trip yet! 
Ahhh! Looking at these photos bring back so much memories!!

We booked our flight ticket somewhere in November for RM1212 round trip for 2 pax (inclusive of luggage!!!) Such a deal! 
And if you're wondering why did we choose Hanoi as our destination during Christmas? 
It's because there's actually "winter season" in Hanoi! 
It may not be snowing, but you get to enjoy cold breeze throughout the day, with occasional temperature dip to around or even below 10'C! 

As for dressing guide, I would say, always bring a jacket. 
It's best to wear layers rather than thick sweaters! 
The temperature may be slightly warmer in the middle of the day and it can get quite warm in shops/ cabs etc cause they tend to ditch airconditioning altogether during this time of the year! 
Don't worry about being overdressed whatsoever as the locals tend to go ALL OUT with their outfit options, they're often seen adorning huge wool coats/ huge parka or huge sweaters.
Also, make sure to bring raincoats or umbrella as it's also the wettest season of the year. 

We landed at the Noi Bai international airport on 22nd December 2017 early in the morning. 
And the moment we stepped out of the airport, we were greeted with some cold breeze! 
That made us so excited for our week ahead, as it means we could do all the touristy things without sweating bucket loads! 


There are a few options to get to the Old Quarters.
The moment we stepped lugging our luggage, the cab drivers were all approaching us, trying to get us to take their cab.
But I have read horror stories about cab services in Vietnam,
so the BEST way was
to catch an orange coloured Bus 86 (30,000 dong) to the Old Quarters central
OR
take the shuttle bus from Vietnam Airlines (32k VND) at Platform 19 outside the international terminal (2. row), costs 30.000 Dong
Vietjet Airlines Shuttle (40,000 VND).

If you are keen in getting cab, make sure to use only services from
 Mai Linh or Vinasun 38 27 27 27.

After declining a few aggressive cab dealers, we found our bus and hopped on immediately.
We told the ticket admin where we were headed to,
and she was so kind to make sure we know where we should disembark.

But there was quite a distance from the nearest station to our hotel,
so we had to lug our luggage while tackling the insane traffic.
We totally did not expect the old quarters to be this huge.
It took us around 20 minutes of searching and getting honked before we landed at our hotel.

We were staying at the Guest House Royal Hanoi.
Although we were not staying over for the night, they still kindly allowed us to rest and refresh in their hotel. They also helped us to store our luggage while we toured the old quarters for the entire day.
And guess what?
All of this was without additional charges!

I highly recommend this hotel if you're following our itinerary!

Anyway, we left our bags, hydrated ourselves, used the loo before exploring the eclectic Old Quarters of Hanoi! 


Hanoi honestly has the most interesting mix of architectural designs! 
One minute you will feel like you're in a French town, 
and the next, it feels like China.
But of course, with the low stools and food stalls scattered all over the streets, this place is still distinctively Vietnamese! 


Honestly what got us most excited about Vietnam has got to be the food! 
So without further delay, we head straight to the infamous OBAMA restaurant, 
Bun Bo Nam Bo. 
I mean, if it's former President of the United States approved, this shizzzzz has got to be gooddd! 






And of course, we had to order the signature Southern-style beef vermicelli salad
It's slightly sour and spicy, it's basically a dry salad with a huge amount of condiment underneath. 
So make sure to give them a toss to ensure maximum enjoyment. 

While we were so excited about the food, D found out he has lost his wallet. 
I was told many times that pickpockets are very common in this place but we certainly didn't think we'd experience it. 
But that said, we didn't really have anyone who came really close to us while we were walking so there may be a possibility that D's wallet may have slipped while we were walking and taking photos. 

So we spent hours and hours trying to contact all the bank centres back home to terminate all the cards before we could continue with exploration. 

When it was all done, D was exhausted, more mentally than physically I suppose. 

So we stopped by a random food stall just right beside the street and ordered what everyone seemed to be having.


It is yet another salad, but this time with dried meats and loads of unripe mangoes. 
And it was really sour. 

We also sat on the low stools by the roadside and pretending to the locals for a while whilst we challenged our taste buds with all these new flavours. 

We continued to walk around the Old Quarters and basically just people-watching. 


We also had a stroll around the Hoan Kiem Lake just to take in the beauty that the lake is! 





We went back to the hotel for more hydration before headed out for dinner! 
As it was winter time, they have rather short day time too! 


We wanted to be in the moment, so again, we walked around the streets and picked whatever we wanted to eat. 
We finally decided on this stir-fried pho and pho bo stall.





The food was good but it was too pricey for a roadside food stall. :( 

We then walked around to look for fruit juices. 
And if there's one message to take home, that is, 
DO NOT BUY FRUIT JUICES in HANOI!!! 
They are all diluted and added with a ton of sugar syrup! 

After a quick wander at the Hanoi night market, we headed back to our hotel where we showered and packed our bags because we were taking an overnight train to Sapa
We informed the hotel staff that we were headed to the train station GA TRAN QUY CAP,
and the hotel staff was so kind to not only hired a cab driver for us, 
he even escorted us and carried our bags for us!

When we arrived at the train station, he helped us to get our physical ticket, which we have pre-booked online, and he then took us to our coach! 
Such incredible services! 

The tickets we booked were from Orient Express
Just because I don't like sleeping on a double-decker bunk in a train, we went all out and bought the VIP 2 Berths ($72USD for one person). 






Mineral water and snacks were prepared in the coach. 
There was also a water closet but D said it was really dirty so decided to not drink any water to fight the urge to use the loo. LOL. 

Overall I really enjoyed the train ride, though there was nothing much about it other than sleep. 
Although there were also some inconsiderate people who drank and played games throughout the night, I still had a fairly decent sleep. 

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