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“Let’s go to Vietnam!”
That’s the message sent via Skype by my good friend for 20 years, Erni, who has been longing for a holiday for so long. Why Vietnam? Seriously, I have no idea why on earth she wanted to go there besides yes…we have never been there before. Ha! So, a few weeks later we were set to go!
WHERE IS VIETNAM?
Ok, probably it was only me don’t know where Vietnam is. But honestly, I just knew that Vietnam is so close to China. Blame for my poor geography! Vietnam is a country located around 1374.5 miles or 2212 Km away from Singapore with Hanoi as its capital.
[Map Source: Lonely Planet]
WHAT DO WE THINK ABOUT VIETNAM?
Huh, what are you doing there? It is a battle field you know?!
There are so many other places to go, why would you choose there for holiday?
Those were few comments I got from people around me when I told them that I am going to Vietnam. It is a norm, considered Vietnam is also the 3rd world country and it should be not much different from Indonesia. But after the trip, I can boldly say that both countries are similar in some ways but different! :)
HOW DID WE GO?
We bought a travel deal to Hanoi from Street Deal Singapore which cost us at S$175 each pax including local tour and accommodation for 4D3N. We were set to travel on a budget. So, we did spend some time browsing through few airline websites for any on-going airfare promotions.
Only a few airlines fly to Hanoi. We chose Tiger Airways (Tiger Air) to be our carrier as there’s a promo 1-1 deal that time which make the airfare the lowest among other similar class carriers, around S$205 each pax (with 15kg check-in baggage on return flight only). Plus, the flight timing was not too bad, too. The outbound flight was in the morning and the inbound flight was in the evening. Tiger Air now departs from Changi Airport Terminal 2 since Budget Terminal has been ceased its operation.
At first, I still hesitated whether to bring my lappie together with me in case there are any works that I need to rush in last minutes. However, the final decision was…..to leave my laptop at home. We decided not even to think about works for those 4 days! Though in lieu, I have to get all works done prior to departing. But I think I have made the right decision which you will find out why later on. :)
The flight took off and 3 hours later we reached Noi Bai International Airport. As this is our first time to be in Hanoi and to be safe, we paid US$17 for the pick-up service from the airport to hotel arranged by the travel agent, Halong Tours Booking, where we bought our tour package from.
We got through the immigration checkpoint smoothly and while we were waiting for the pickup guy, not far from the exit gate, we saw one counter selling local SIM card which we eventually bought one called Vinaphone at around VND200.000 (S$11.90). The plan allowed us to make unlimited local calls (both incoming and outgoing) and also data usage for a month. Wow.. honestly said, we can’t find it at such price in Singapore. And surprisingly, their internet connection was fast.
After half an hour waiting…and waiting…we still haven’t found the person who picks us up yet and then we found out that there’s a miscommunication about the meeting area. We both were waiting at the different arrival hall. I didn’t understand why, but well, that’s fine. We were sent right away to the hotel which took about an hour ride by car.
ALONG THE WAY FROM AIRPORT TO HOTEL
I was surprised to see those horse statues from far. Got it? Far back behind on the photo. It’s one of the big property developers in Indonesia, Ciputra. They do the development in Hanoi city, too. Wow…
But unexpectedly, the hotel we were sent to was not Skylark Hotel as stated in the booking confirmation. Instead, we were dropped to Hanoi Romance Hotel. I have totally no idea as it’s arranged by my friend but I could tell that my friend was pretty pissed off with the travel agent staff. After several phone calls back and forth to Halong Tours Booking, the issue was finally settled. So, we stayed in Hanoi Romance Hotel on our 1st night and in Skylark Hotel on our last night. It was a bad experience since it was only our first day which our holiday was just about to start. I was just hoping that the rest of the itineraries which I also did ask assurance from the travel agent, would go as smooth as it should be.
The friendly staffs from Hanoi Romance Hotel assisted us to our room. Two thumbs for their services. Though we stayed there by accident, I am pleased to write my thought and personal rating about Hanoi Romance Hotel which I will post on the review section soon. :)OUR FIRST MEAL
After we settled our luggage in our room, we walked out of the hotel and roamed the nearby area for our late lunch. It was almost 4 pm. Our hotel was located in the alley and along the walkway, we saw few food stalls. But when we approached the stalls and asked for the price, most of them ignoring us. I guessed because of the language barrier. So, we walked from one stall to another until we found one stall who at least know what we were asking. It was a stall selling phở! One of the must-eat food in Vietnam. :)
It was nice! Priced at VND25000 (approx. S$1.50). To my surprise, I like Vietnamese food. We walked further down and noticed that our hotel was very near to Hanoi Old Quarter which was on our list. Not long after walked, there’s a trishaw guy approached us and offered us an hour ride around Old Quarter for VND150.000. We were not sure if it’s over-priced, but since we think the price was still not extremely unreasonable, so we took it up. Especially, we were still in “blur” condition on our first day and we thought it might help us to get familiar with the surrounding. :)
Looking at the people and surrounding, it reminded me of my hometown in Medan. Similar in some ways but yet different. :)
That’s Hanoi City at a glance. I will share more detail about my Vietnam trip on my upcoming posts. So, stay tuned! Btw, if you have been to Hanoi, feel free to share your opinion. :)
THINGS TO NOTE:
- Not all Vietnamese can speak English. So, it’s good to bring a pocket dictionary with you or be prepared to use hand and body languages :)
- If you are using a smartphone with smaller size sim card, you can request the seller to cut it to the size
- Transport fee from airport to Hanoi city is around US$17 in average for one way. Depends on the vehicle they use, it can take up to 4 passengers the least. We pay the fee on the spot and they only accept US$