Having booked a cruise to see the beautiful Halong Bay, I was in a dilemma on whether to proceed with the trip after watching news of violent protests in some provinces in Vietnam. As it was a self-planned trip, we can’t rely on tour agency to assess the situation in Hanoi. Thankfully, we could contact the Singapore Embassy and they updated that there is no security or safety issues in the capital city. Taking this opportunity to share with fellow travellers that it is important to register with MFA before travelling so that in event of any emergency situation, they can readily contact you.
We arrived in Hanoi at around noon and took a taxi to the historical Sofitel Legend Hotel Metropole where we would be spending a night before being shuttled to Halong Bay the next morning.
Not wanting to run the risk of getting an upset stomach for the cruise, we conservatively chose to dine only in restaurants for our first day in the city. We checked out the Spices Garden Vietnamese Restaurant in our hotel that serves buffet lunch. As they serve a variety of Vietnamese dishes along with International dishes, we reckon that its a good way to ease us into the local cuisines.
Starting with a huge choice of salads as starters, I immediately found my favourite dish: Banana flower salad. The banana flower is commonly used in Thai & Vietnamese cuisine and has an aromatic flavour. The banana flower salad was light and refreshing.
Although I did some prior reading and shortlisted some famous street food to try, there were still many unfamiliar Vietnamese cuisines. Actually the base ingredient is the same, steamed rice roll (Banh cuon)/ tapioca roll with different ingredients such as Shrimp (Banh bot loc) and Pork.
For those who are adventurous enough, you get to try the half hatched duck egg here too.
Perhaps the only dish one that we are most familiar with is Pho. Chef prepares the pho in the small cart after we placed our order with a choice of chicken or beef. Adding a dash of lime and chilli sauce to taste.
We hadn’t really got much appetite after the flight, so didn’t eat much. Took some international basic dishes such as sushi, fried soft shell crab, fried rice etc. Finished our meal with fruits and desserts.
The service was good and staff could converse with us in simple english. The dining hall was spacious, bright and elegantly decorated. Being a restaurant inside a 5-star hotel, the meal doesn’t come cheap – especially by local standards. It costed us S$50 per person for the buffet lunch. However considering that its a blazing 36°C outside at 2pm and we were waiting for our room to be ready for check-in, this would be the best lunch option for us.
Other photos taken:
After check-in we immediately went out for a walk around the area, notably the Hoan Kiem Lake, to do some sight-seeing. The most interesting activity was to challenge crossing the streets. We got the hang of it after a while, just step out and cross the road in a nonchalant manner with consistent strides. The motorists and cars would automatically adjust their speed and steer slightly away to weave pass you. It is important to note “Do not reverse and do not suddenly dash across the road” and you’ll be safe.
I did some shopping at the shops along Nha Tho Street. Lovely teddy bears with the iconic Vietnamese conical hats found at “Nagu” #20. Wonderful linen bags found at “May” #7.
We headed back to our hotel for a “Bunker Tour” organised by the hotel. The bunker was recently uncovered on the hotel compound during their renovation and was opened to guests for guided tour.
I liked the ambience of the cafe/bar at the corner of the hotel. Don’t the cafe resemble those you see in France? We soon realised that the Colonial-style hotel is a popular location for wedding shoots, we saw couples posing in their wedding gowns whenever we passed by.