Vietnam

Vietnam

When was the rating made?
We were there July 1 – July 11, 2007

Where did we go?
Hanoi
Hoi An

Hanoi

Accommodation

  • Anise Hotel – located near the Old Quarter, this new hotel is a solid option. The prices are inexpensive, but not bottom of the barrel by Hanoi standards. The service is attentive and the hotel was quite clean. 3 stars.

Restaurants

  • Bun Cha – This street food is available all over the city. It is a delightful taste of barbecued pork and pork patties with pickled vegetables, fresh vermicelli noodles, flavorful herbs with a spicy dipping sauce.
  • Pho Bo – While Pho is readily available all over the country, its home is in Hanoi. Opportunities to eat this delectable soup are available at every turn.
  • Bobby Chinn’s – This famous and overpriced (although still very reasonable by NYC standards) restaurant provides good food (mostly non Vietnamese) in a setting that will feel quite familiar to Westerns. The most enjoyable part of the restaurant is the funny (and a bit provocative) menu with inclusions like “I’m on a diet” in the dessert section for $0.00 and an option to pay the staff $5.00 to tell you that you are beautiful all night… it includes an autographed menu. 2.5 stars.
  • Cha Ca La Vuong – Cha Ca is a traditional Hanoi dish of fish barbequed and served with lots of dill, other flavorful herbs, fresh vermicelli noodles, and peanuts (added to your liking). It is definitely worth a try and this restaurant is used to having foreigners come by, although it still feels like an adventure. 3 stars.
  • Seasons of Hanoi – This restaurant has an extensive Vietnamese menu in a lovely air conditioned setting. The service is great and the prices still feel completely reasonable. Most mains are between $3-$6. 3 stars.
  • Beer Hoi – Grab a fresh beer and eat a delicious and local meal at the ever popular abundance of Beer Hoi establishments in Hanoi. These are open air places, normally with tiny small plastic chairs where you can get cheap food and even cheaper beer and feel like a local… even if they do charge you double. Several are concentrated on Ta Hien Street in the Old Quarter.

Activities

  • Cooking courses at Hoa Sua School. This is a charitable school that teaches young people a variety of skills in the hospitality industry including cooking. The school raises money through a variety of methods including teaching traditional Vietnamese cooking to tourists. We loved our class here and would recommend it very highly. The experience not only teaches you specific dishes, but also provides an interesting cultural experience.
  • See some pagodas – We visited the Thay and Tay Phuong Pagodas outside of Hanoi on a tour with Buffalo tours. The pagodas were filled with many different representations of buddha and provided an interesting insight into the spiritual side of Vietnam. On the same tour, we visited Duong Lam village. The ancient village is still a vibrant community that provides a look back in time in Vietnam. The old houses and traditional methods used in the village are quite interesting.
  • A side trip to Halong Bay is considered “a must” when visiting Hanoi, but due to a poorly timed typhoon, our trip was cancelled. We hear it is really beautiful though.
  • A trip to the mountain town of Sapa is also supposed to be a gorgeous side trip that we sadly missed. The scenery is said to be amazing and the mountain air can provide a nice respite from the heat of Hanoi.

Hoi An

Accommodation

  • Long Life Hotel (Thanh Xuan) – This hotel has received very positive feedback from other people for its nice rooms at a very low price. However, I found its cleanliness was not up to par with other places and we decided to move on after just one night. 2 stars.
  • Ha An Hotel – This is the place to stay in Hoi An. The service is fantastic, the breakfast buffet is very generous and the rooms are quite nice… and all for $40/night. Seek this place out. 3.5 stars.

Restaurants

  • Morning Glory Restaurant – This is a tasty place offering local Vietnamese cuisine in a lovely restaurant setting. There are also cooking courses offered at the restaurant. 3 stars.

Activities

  • Tailor-made clothes!! This is a reason to divert your trip and come to Hoi An. Even if you aren’t a big shopper, there is nothing like handing over a picture of an outfit (or many) and having it made to order with everything you would like. The best shop in town (by far!) is Yaly. They have several locations in town. The prices are fixed and while the prices are higher, the quality is much higher than anywhere else. For fun, casual clothes, it might be fun to try out a few other shops you discover while walking down the street… don’t forget that price often matches quality.
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