Aug 27, 2017

Vietnam Travelogue: Pho, Vietnamese Coffee, Bun Cha, Water Puppet - Checked! (28 Jan 2016)

Barely 3 months from Taiwan trip, tanner half and I were bound for Hanoi for a 7D6N vacation. We booked our flight and hotel on AirAsiaGo for RM800/pax 7 months ago in June 2015.

IMG_9309
Our Room @ Especen Hotel
We chose Especen Hotel (28 Tho Xuong street) due to its proximity to the city centre, spaciousness and decent interior. Airport transfer service was offered at VND350k or USD16 per way.

IMG_9308
Our Room Especen Hotel
Our room looked exactly as listed on AirAsiaGo. Room was clean and prepped, bed was comfortable, shower was piping hot, I was pleased.

IMG_9310
View from Room's Balcony @ Especen Hotel
Located at 4th floor, our room came with an open balcony, with plenty of natural light and fresh air. The only thing I disliked about the room was the long and narrow staircases leading in and out of our room.

DSC_0437
Half Done Beef @ Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su (VND45k)
Within 250m walking distance from Especen Hotel was Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su, where we had our piping hot Pho! Depending on the cuts, their Pho selection ranged from VND45k to VND100k.

I loved the intense beefiness and sourness of the soup. The doneness (medium rare) of the thinly sliced beef was perfect. Help yourself with more limes and chillies on the tables.

Total damage = VND115k

DSC_0445
Nem Cua Be @ Bun Cha Dac Kim (VND15k each)
Another 300m walk from Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su brought us to Bun Cha Dac Kim, where we stopped for some Nem Cua Be (spring rolls). Nem Cua Be looked appetising with its golden crackly skin that threatened to fall apart upon touch.

DSC_0448
Dipping Nem Cua Be and Local Vegetables @ Bun Cha Dac Kim
So it did and melded into the chunky and juicy fillings in it. Just take a piece of Nem Cua Be, dip it into the bowl of sour sweet concoction that served alongside with big plate of fresh local vegetables.

Total damage = VND60k (Nem Cua Be x 3 + Hanoi Beer)

IMG_9314
Ca Phe Rhum @ Cafe Nhan (VND45k)
For dessert, we made another 500m walk from Bun Cha Dac Kim to Cafe Nhan for some Vietnamese coffee. Instead of ordering Ca Phe Trung (hot egg coffee), which was inexistent in the menu, we opted for Ca Phe Rhum (coffee with rum).

I personally find Vietnamese coffee strong, even on its own. Therefore, combining rum and Vietnamese coffee was something I found unusually kicky. If you are a hardcore coffee and/or alcohol drinker, you might want to give this a try.

Total damage = VND90k

Remainder of our afternoon was spent exploring areas surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake, where Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is located. Water puppetry shows were available at 4.10pm,  5.20pm, 6.30pm and 8pm. To avoid disappointment, we grabbed our 8pm water puppetry tickets while we were in the vicinity. Tickets were sold at VND100k per ticket.

IMG_9319
Banh Goi @ Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su
On our way back to Especen Hotel for an afternoon nap, we stumbled across Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su. Banh Goi is akin to fried dumpling filled with minced pork, onions, etc., which was served alongside bowls of sour sweet soup and fresh local vegetables. Crispy and juicy, it was great on its own. Dipping them into the soup accentuated the flavours more.

Total damage = VND50k (6-7 pieces of Banh Goi)

IMG_9328
Nha Tho Lon (St Joseph Cathedral) 
After 3 hours of nap, we began our hunt for dinner. On the way out, we took an alternate exit intentionally to pass by Nha Tho Lon (St Joseph Cathedral), which is located 75m away from Especen Hotel.

St Joseph Cathedral is neo-Gothic cathedral, featuring twin bell towers, elaborate altar and fine stained glass windows. Entrance via main gate was not permitted outside Mass times, however you may try to access the cathedral via the Diocese of Hanoi compound, which is located a block away at 40 P Nha Chung.

IMG_9330
Store Front of Bun Cha Dac Kim
Tanner half was so impressed with Nem Cua Be that we ended up here at Bun Cha Dac Kim again for dinner.

DSC_0450
Bun Cha @ Bun Cha Dac Kim (VND60k)
Bun Cha and Nem Cua Be were priced at VND60k and VND15k respectively. We ordered the Combo 1: Bun Cha va Nem Cua Be (Bun Cha with 2 spring rolls) for VND 90k.

The Bun Cha came with 4-5 big pieces of grilled pork in soup and a plate of rice noodles. It did not look pretty but sure smelled and tasted lovely! Smoked and charred, the grilled pork had consistent chunkiness with balanced meat-to-fat ratio. Not only it was juicy, it was flavourful.

Take a bite of grilled pork with rice noodles dipped in soup, you would surely fall in love with Bun Cha.

Total damage = VND105k (Combo 1 + Hanoi Beer)

IMG_9342
Fancy Lighting @ Hoan Kiem Lake
By night time, weather became windy and chilly. Silly me packed most summer clothes to Hanoi, having only one warmer jacket to hold the cold for the 750m walk to Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.

Plenty of street vendors buzzed around Hoan Kiem Lake at nights, selling all sorts of hot food and local souvenirs. Tanner half and I spent our free time before 8pm puppet show enjoying the lightworks and people watching.

IMG_9338
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Traditional water puppet show featured 14 pieces selected from the repertoire of 400 items of the ancient Vietnamese puppetry. Our 8 pm show was preceded with a folk music composition using traditional musical instruments before showcasing the following:
  1. Prelude of clown Tễu
  2. Thang Long festival drumming
  3. Dragon's dance
  4. Buffalo-boy playing the flute
  5. Agricultural work (rice planting, soil ploughing, water scopping)
  6. Catching frogs
  7. Cashing the fox that tries to catch ducks
  8. Fishing
  9. Xa Thương (a melody in the collection of hymns dedicated to the cult of Holy Mothers, a folk belief of the Vietnamese people)
  10. Phoenix's dance
  11. Lê Lợi returning the sword (Lê Lợi was a national hero, leader of the resistance against foreign invasion in the 15th century. Legend has it that he was granted a sword by deities. After his victory over the invaders, Kim Quy (Golden) Tortoise God appeared to claim back the sword as he was boating on a lake in Hanoi. Hence the name of the lake, Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword))
  12. Unicorn's dance
  13. Eight fairies' dance
  14. Four sacred animals' dance (dragon, unicorn, tortoise, phoenix)
My personal favourites were #6 and #7.

For those who are weary about spending VND100k for a ticket, I would say, "Give it a try, it would be the best time you spent in Hanoi", if at all.

IMG_9344
Nem Em Thuy nearby Nha Tho Lon (St Joseph Cathedral) 
After our water puppet show, we made our way back to Especen Hotel. Luck must be on my side for we came across a random shop selling rejected branded goods, where I grabbed myself a heavily discounted Levi's jacket for VND174k.

We also chanced upon this busy alley nearby Nha Tho Lon (St Joseph Cathedral). Swarmed with local diners on tiny chairs devouring platters of skewers, dining in Hanoi could not be more authentic than this.

IMG_9343
Skewers and Fried Sweet Potatoes @ Nem Em Thuy
Despite the language barrier, tanner half managed to order some food for us. We had our fried sweet potatoes along with some fish skewers (I think). Imagine piping hot food in cold windy night, these skewers, though not great, was comforting.

Total damage = VND100k

IN SUMMARY,

My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su - 4/5
    • Bun Cha Dac Kim - 3/5
    • Cafe Nhan - 4/5
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - 2/5
    • Nem Em Thuy - 1/5
  • Price
    • Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su - 3/5
    • Bun Cha Dac Kim - 3/5
    • Cafe Nhan - 2/5
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - 4/5
    • Nem Em Thuy - 2/5
  • Food
    • Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su - 5/5
    • Bun Cha Dac Kim - 5/5
    • Cafe Nhan - 3/5
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - 4/5
    • Nem Em Thuy - 3/5
  • Verdict
    • Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su - No Pho in Malaysia can beat that!
    • Bun Cha Dac Kim - Simply awesome Bun Cha. Where can I find it in KL?
    • Cafe Nhan - Not a big fan of liquor coffee myself. Give it a try if you are one
    • Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su - Totally worth the calories snacking on this
    • Nem Em Thuy - Comfort food in the middle of the chilly night
My personal hotel/attractions verdicts for:
  • Especen Hotel: Walking distance to Hoan Kiem Lake and local food. Spacious and comfortable room. It could use a fan for ventilation during winters. Do ask for lower floor rooms if you are not a fan of climbing narrow staircases
  • Hoan Kiem Lake: Big and tranquil lake where locals exercise in the mornings. Pretty lightworks in the nights. Good for dating or chilling.
  • Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre: Water puppet show was fantastic. Do not miss watching one of these water puppet shows!
  • St Joseph Cathedral: Pay a visit in the cathedral if you can. It looked gothically pretty in the sunsets.

DINING INFO:

Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su
10 Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 6am - 2pm, 5.30pm - 10pm
Tel: +84 4 3825 7338
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Bun Cha Dac Kim
67 Duong Thanh Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 11am - 7pm
Tel: +84 4 3828 5022
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Cafe Nhan
39D Hàng Hành, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 6am - 11pm
Tel: +84 4 3826 9861
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Thuc Donn 52 Ly Quoc Su
52 Lý Quốc Sư, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 11am - 10pm (based on Foursquare)
Tel: +84 4 3828 5922
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Nem Em Thuy
10 Ấu Triệu, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Operation Hours: 4pm - 11pm
Tel: N/A
Credit Card: N/A (We paid cash)

Jul 15, 2017

Taiwan Travelogue: Homeland Day (15 Nov 2015)

Alas, today was the day to head back to reality.

To start the day on a bad foot, we chose wrong for our last breakfast in Taipei with 水龍王魷魚焿. Not only the restaurant smelled afoul, it was literally empty. Silly us proceeded to order braised pork rice and braised minced pork rice with tofu anyway. The second we tried our first bite, we regretted it.

DSC_0434
Braised Pork Rice @ 水龍王魷魚焿
My mom's braised pork rice came with smelly bamboo shoot, overcooked braised pork with bland prospect.

DSC_0436
Minced Pork with Tofu Rice @ 水龍王魷魚焿
Mine was a mush of blended pork with barely balance in flavor and a heap of smelly bamboo shoot. Damn I hate bamboo shoot.

Total damage = TWD 180 (if only I could quantify the damage to  my soul...)

After our disappointing breakfast, we checked out from King Lei-Lei Hotel, lugged our luggages to Ximen Station and made our way to Taipei Main Station. Our initial plan was to grab bus tickets to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport from the ticketing counter in Taipei Main Station but luck wasn't on our side when we saw a winding long queue outside the ticketing counter.

IMG_8693
Spicy Noodles with Pork Slices @ Homee Kitchen
A cab driver near the ticketing counter poached us to share a ride with other passengers to airport. Considering we did not have the luxury of time, we obliged at the price of TWD500 for two pax. Within an hour, we arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and settled all the necessary procedures before having our quick lunch at Homee Kitchen in the departure lounge.

I couldn't be more blessed to have a bowl of decent noodles, despite the airport standard price tag and pitiful amount of meat.

Total damage for 2 pax = TWD 410

IMG_8700
Meal served on the way to KLIA
Not long after our lunch, our flight departed. This meal served on the way from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to KLIA marked the end of our "adventurous and eventful" Taiwan trip.

For the first time in our lives, we experienced overbooking with MAS, taking buses which did not run on consistent schedule in Jiufen, and looking for King Lei-Lei Hotel in rain. Bad experience aside, we did have our fair share of enjoyment in JiufenKeelungYehliuXimending, Beitou, Shilin etc.

Will I come back to Taiwan? Probably not Taipei again :)

Share This

Follow by Email

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...