The flight was scheduled at 8am, which means that we had to be at the airport at 6ish. We were just packing the night before and with just 5 hours of sleep, we were awake to embark on our trip. This trip was a family trip with my mom and my aunt. Had breakfast at 5 and was driven to the airport by dad and met up our aunt whilst waiting in a pretty quick moving line at the Tiger airways counter.
Almost forgot the insurance we bought online with Changi airport’s free wifi. Then it was boarding that was quite efficient too. We were seated near the end of the flight and amongst some Vietnamese on their way home, not the most civil lot as they were pretty loud and we were awoken by their constant chatting over their voices. Flight was early and airport was quite empty at that time of the day. We cleared customs quickly but had to wait awhile for the luggage but everything was smooth. Only the cloudy/hazy weather was a little disappointing as this would potentially be a photo wrecker. Made a beeline to the little lady holding a card bearing my name – our guide and it was a 1hr journey to our hotel.
While we arrived just before lunchtime at Authentic Hotel, the room wasn’t ready. So we left the luggages and walked to a nearby gold shop to change SGD to VND. The rate was pretty good too, something like SGD 1 to 16950VND. After that, walked back to the hotel where the bus was still waiting for us and went to lunch at a food court concept location, Quán Ăn Ngon, where different varieties of Vietnam food was sold at affordable prices. We ordered spring rolls, fresh and fried, Chee Chong Fun, duck noodle and wanton noodles. Spring rolls were good as expected, rest was ok.
We were driven to Temple of Literature where we saw a large number of young people wearing similar costumes. After enquiring more from the guide, we then understood that these people were graduates that just graduated and they were all here to take photos for their graduation. It had recently became a trend for graduates to come to the first university of Vietnam to commemorate the occasion, with the temple built in worship of Confucius. Though it was quite a sight at first, it became a nuisance in terms of photo taking. They were just everywhere!
The next stop was to visit the residence of the founding father of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh. Luckily, graduates were not really related to this attraction. However, the mausoleum was closed for maintenance and thus not open for us to see Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body. As the guide was giving us the details of the mausoleum ( such as the reading of the Declaration of Independence and the National Day and his death falls on the 2nd Sept), we managed to catch the changing of guards at the attraction, which was a really simple affair unlike some other ones such as the one in Buckingham Palace. This also takes place every hour so it was not really that surprising to see this activity take place.
After this, proceeded to walk to the presidential residence painted in yellow which we can only see from the outside. It only opens for receiving of VIPs from foreign countries and though we meet the foreign countries criteria, we were not classified VIPs. The compound consisted of various other buildings and a huge pond and some of the places where HCM previously stayed. Walked about the compound was easy. As we moved around the pond, we saw a fish jumping out of the water. It looked as if it was catching the hovering dragonfly above the water surface. Pity I did not manage to capture an image of it.
After exiting the compound and walking behind the mausoleum, we came to a single pillar pagoda that sat in the middle of a little pool of water. Interesting little attraction but did not spend too much time there. Since it was still early, the guide brought us to another location before going back.
Dong Xuan market, one large market that sold different varieties of goods, ranging from food to clothes to accessories to toys at really cheap wholesale prices. I tried looking for socks but didn’t like the designs. We got a really cheap giraffe soft toy for something like Sgd1.80 for our dog. I guess my mom and aunt had a nice time there since market was probably their “thing” though they didn’t buy anything too. We left the market after awhile and boarded the bus at the main road some walking away, since it was too big to enter the busy road leading to the market.
Once back at the hotel, we continued with check-in and paid the guide for the tour. We would continue the tour with them on the fourth day again but so far it had been busy but fulfilling day. Once in the room, we were really happy with the room, it was huge, nicely designed and clean at a decent price of Sgd 130ish per night. Only major problem was that the wall between the rooms were not very thick and we could hear the neighbors’ tv from our room. We had to call twice to the reception to first call them to tune down the volume and second time to get the hotel rep up to visit the room and request them to lower the volume. The other issue was that each room was only given 1 card and I had one time stupidly locked ourselves out of the room and request the hotel rep to let us into the room
We took a quick shower and proceeded out to the main road, armed with a photocopied map from the hotel and some notes made by out guide on our present location and a recommended dinner location. It was a straightforward direction to the restaurant but not easy since the map didn’t have all the names nor the exact location of the restaurant. We walked till we reached a decent restaurant and asked for the directions to the Highway 4 restaurant, shamelessly, but they were gracious to point us to the right direction.
Highway 4 was a nicely designed restaurant in a old 4 storey building. There were smoking and non-smoking sections available and we were seated at 3rd floor, some more exercises required on the already tired legs. The theme was designed like a Japanese restaurant, where we were seated on cushions with a low table but there is a space cut out under the table for the legs to be placed. Food was not too expensive and we ordered some Ala Carte dishes, the taste was not really fantastic though.
Took the same way back to the hotel and along the way, there was a dessert store that sold us local desserts that looked vaguely like Singapore “Dao Suan”. We sat on the little stools outside the store and using a higher stool as a table, we ate to our fill. It was quite tasty too.
Continued back to the hotel which ended the really long 1st day out in Hanoi. There was “Starmovies HD” channel but has nothing really interesting, so we slept early.