A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about hoi an

Vietnam.... we meet again!

Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City

sunny 31 °C

Those of you who have been following my journey from the beginning, or even if you’re just popping in for a quick visit will know or quickly learn that I’ve already been to Vietnam.
As with Thailand, this time in Vietnam is with my fiancé - Selfie addict extraordinaire!

We flew from Krabi to Bangkok with Thai Lion Air – surprisingly excellent cheap flight provider and their baggage charges are actually reasonable unlike Air Asia which I’ve found to get more expensive over the years. Plus, the seats on Thai Lion Air are wider than most, with good leg room and general space between rows so you don’t have the seat back in front of you inches away from your face and the seat belt is longer than most Asian flight operators so you can get that weird feeling of pride when you can pull the seat belt in and have lots of excess!

We had about 8 hours between our arrival at BKK airport and our next flight from there to Hanoi so we got some food in the 24-hour food court and then went to a temple across the train tracks from the airport.
Now, I’d read online there was a walkway that took you over the road and train tracks and landed pretty much in front of the temple, but us being idiots we ended up taking a different walkway in the opposite direction then had to traverse the road and train track on foot (luckily we’d put our bags in the left luggage hold!).
After an hour or so of walking we finally got to the temple, which wasn’t much to look at but interesting to pass time I guess, and then found the aforementioned walkway straight into the airport.

Our flight to Hanoi was fine, with no problems and the hotel we’d booked – HAAP Viet Travel Homestay – was great, they even picked us up from the airport free of charge and we had our first taste of Vietnam’s Pho for breakfast (a delicious noodle and beef soup/broth).
As expected, the fiancé took pictures of the whole experience so you can see the room below:


We only stayed there for one night as it is only really useful/practical for airport proximity and I’d consequently booked us into an AirBnB serviced apartment, which to be honest, felt like our apartment after only about 1 hour of being it. Such a strange feeling of instantly being at home. Our AirBnB host was Nam and we’d definitely recommend him and this property.


The fiancé left his phone in the taxi and Nam quickly called HAAP Viet Travel Homestay to get the taxi info and then he called the taxi company and within 15 minutes the phone was returned (for a small fee of about 20p!). He will be forever grateful to Nam for the swift recovery!

I love AirBnB (provided the hosts are not horrendous human beings or the property isn’t as described which sometimes happens unfortunately) – it saves you money by being able to cook your own meals as opposed to eating out every day/night and gives you a real base to work from.

Of course it is not really any different to booking a self-catering holiday but when you’re booking stuff on the fly/as you go AirBnB is great.

Good grief, it sounds like I work for AirBnb but I do not – if anyone from AirBnb is liking this free advertising, feel free to shoot some coupon codes my way! Haha!

Hanoi is like most big cities but I don’t want to generalise as we didn’t go out of our way to see every corner of it during our stay.
We went across town to the Vinpearlland aquarium in Times City - that’s this weird, but massive mall in a new-ish area/complex place. It was all a little fake/staged.
The aquarium was expensive for what was there and not really worth it but it was nice to spend some time out and about and we got some food in the mall as well.

Apart from that we didn’t really do anything.

As a side note, if you want to go to Halong Bay it is actually better to go to Hai Phong as it is closer so it’ll cost you less than going from Hanoi and you can fly to Hai Phong as well which is good.

If you don’t want to fly anywhere in Vietnam, you really don’t need to and can do what we did by taking the sleeper trains.

You can easily book tickets on 12go.asia where you can input your destination and travel date and it will give you all options, 2nd class seaters and sleepers, 1st class sleepers and even VIP Sleepers.
The 2nd class ones are not very nice, especially for long journeys and the ‘beds’ are hard.
We chose the 1st class sleeper to go from Hanoi to Da Nang and then got picked up by our next AirBnB place in Hoi An from there.
We had a sneak at the ‘VIP’ sleepers and they looked much like our own cabins with maybe slightly thicker ‘mattresses’ so we were ok with not paying more for them unnecessarily.

So the 1st class sleeper has 4 bunks, 2 on either side with a small window bench/table between the lower bunks.
We were on the top bunks both times we took the train and they were pretty comfortable with space for luggage under the lower bunks and a little cubby for smaller bags etc over the door for us up top.
There’s snacks and drinks for sale as well as hot food if you want to buy it, which we did as our journey was 12 hours!
Rice with chicken and vegetables and some other undisclosed meat products but it was warm and tasty so no questions asked and barely any money paid!
We paid about $100/£80 for two beds on the sleeper but realistically it meant we didn’t have to pay for accommodation for that 12-15 hours and we didn’t have to get a flight and pay extra for luggage, plus we got to see some of Vietnam’s countryside and mountains on the way so not so bad!

We arrived at Da Nang train station and our driver was waiting for us so we got straight into the car and made our way to Hoi An (about 45-60 minutes away south of Da Nang).
We’d booked another AirBnB place (Green Areca Villas) but this was more of a guesthouse/hotel and we were pleasantly surprised by the general look and feel of the place – quite high-end without being priced as such, and a pool!
It wasn’t as close to things as I’d hoped and after being in Thailand where there’s a 7/11 or Family Mart on every corner/street to a little shack with some snacks and maybe a beer or cola was annoying.

We rented a motorcycle for a day (150,000 VND - $6.60/£5) to go to the old Hoi An town which I’d visited previously but he’d not been (obviously!) so off we went.


I’d forgotten how beautiful it is there with little streets and lanterns, the river, the old Japanese covered bridge, lovely! Plus, the fiancé loved it too and I loved watching him love it! *gush*

We went during the day and then back again in the evening when all the lanterns were on and it had an exquisitely ancient, mystical feel – if you’re a fan of Ghibli movies it was very Spirited Away!


We mainly just enjoyed the pool and ate at the hotel which would explain our nearly 2,000,000 VND ($88/£67) bill at the end (room rate + 2x transfer to Da Nang train station + motorcycle + food + minibar!) – Life!

Ah yes that reminds me, throughout our journey things happen that are, how shall we say, annoying as balls? However, the pair of us has taken to looking at these things/experiences as just another example of life and the many delightful and horrible experiences it can throw at you so when something happens (a wrong turn, an expensive indulgence, a faux pas) we would simply say to each other, “Life!” and carry on!

We took the train again from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City, this time around $90/£70 and 20 hours!

Our hotel was horrible, despite positive reviews, but cheap (there were rats in the ceiling!)

Again, we didn’t do much but there is a lot to do, especially Museums etc.

We went to the Zoo and Botanical gardens then walked down to the Notre Dame inspired cathedral and post office before admitting defeat from our tired feet and heading back to our hotel.

As the Mid-Autumn festival happened during our time there, I did a little research for where to go and found an apparent evening palooza at the Crescent Mall so we hopped in a Grab taxi and went across town.

For those of you who don’t know Grab is the Asian equivalent of an Uber and you can get cars or motorcycle taxis from an app on your phone – very useful and efficient!

When we arrived at Crescent Mall there were thousands of people so we thought we were on to something good… there was nothing really.
There was a fake mini Hoi An that had been erected for the event but you had to pay to get in and from peeking inside, totally was not worth it.

So we went for a walk around, grabbed some cheap, hot food from the Circle K (convenience store), took some selfies and then got another Grab taxi back, right before the heavens opened!


The rain has been following us from country to country!

Luckily, the following day was clear and sunny for our trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels – home of the Viet Cong fighters during the Vietnam war. Something I’d done previously, but was now enjoying a second time with the fiancé.
It really is interesting and worth a visit, plus you can go inside the tunnels and see the bamboo traps the Viet Cong used to trap and kill US soldiers.


Here endeth our time in Vietnam – on to Laos!

Posted by Lady Mantle 00:38 Archived in Vietnam Tagged zoo saigon hanoi botanical_gardens hoi_an notre_dame fiance ho_chi_minh_city sleeper_train cu_chi_tunnels japanese_bridge vietnam_train 12go.asia Comments (0)

Vietnamese Cooking... the recipes!

I apologise for the wait....!

As promised, here are the recipes and instructions for the food we learned how to make at cafe 43.

Steamed Chicken in Banana Leaf

1 tsp smashed ginger
1/2 white onion
1/4 red pepper
bunch spring onions
small handful of sesame seeds
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp garlic
1 x tin foil piece
1 x banana leaf
200g chicken fillet - thin slices, no bones.

1. Add the garlic, pepper, salt and sugar to the chicken and mix together - leave for 3 minutes
2. Slice red pepper into thin slices.
3. Quarter, then halve the onion and peel each slice
3. In 2 tsp oil (coconut or olive), add the ginger and stir for few seconds.
4. Add the chicken and stir for 1 minute.
5. Add the onion slices and red pepper slices and cook for 3 minutes
6. Put mixture into the centre of the banana leaf
7. Add the spring onions and sesame seeds
8. Fold leaf from corner to centre x 4
9. Wrap banana leaf parcel in tin foil
10. Steam it for 5 minutes on top of another banana leaf/in a wicker (duck pancake) steamer.


Papaya Salad

1 cup of mint
1/2 cup of peanuts
1/2 cup of fried onion bits
1 tsp ginger
1/2 lemon
1/2 green mango
1/4 green papaya
1/2 carrot
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/4 tsp sugar
100g minced shrimp (chopped very small)

1. Add garlic, pepper, salt and sugar (1/4) to shrimp
2. 2 tbsp oil in the pan - add the shrimp mixture - stir for 3 minutes
3. Grate carrot and papaya into long slices
4. Wash and drain
5. Add 3 tsp sugar, ginger and lemon juice to carrot and papaya - leave for 3 minutes
6. Peel skin from 1/2 mango and grate like carrot and papaya
7. Squeeze excess liquid from papaya and carrots
8. Add shrimp mixture, mit, onion and peanuts to the remaining ingredients and mix together gently

  • Tip - Use some prawn crackers as bowls and enjoy


and the main event!

Pork filled fried squid

1 x squid (whole, with innards removed and washed)
1/2 white onion
1/4 carrot
bunch of spring onions
100g minced pork
chopped garlic
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
vegetable oil

1. Add garlic, pepper, salt, and sugar to pork - mix - leave for 4 minutes


2. Cut and dice onion into thin slices
3. Cut and dice carrot into thin slices
4. Chop small spring onion

5. 2 tbsp vegetable oil into hot pan
6. Add pork mixture and stir for 1 minute
7. Add white onion and carrot
8. Cook until soft and then add spring onion
9. Stir for 3 minutes on a low heat
10. Using a long-handled teaspoon, spoon pork mixture inside the squid and push down (tight!)

  • The squid is super slippery, so nails help to grip it!*

11. Use 2 toothpicks to close (should look like $ from a birdseye view!)
12. 2 tbsp oil into pan and add squid - medium heat
13. Turns brown on cooking side, turn over to brown other side
14. Serve on bed of lettuce and cut the top of the squid (with scissors) into slices but not all the way through!
15. It should look a little like sushi rolls, as long as it was compacted enough before shallow frying.

  • Tip - make a dipping sauce out of 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp salt, and the juice of a small lime!



Posted by Lady Mantle 08:08 Archived in Vietnam Tagged food travel vietnam travelling hoi_an foreigners cafe_43 cooking_course stuffed_squid papaya_salad vietnamese_recipes vietnamese_pork_stuffed_squid squid_recipe steamed_chicken banana_leaf_recipe Comments (0)


Mui Ne, Hoi An (and My Son, Hoi An)

semi-overcast 25 °C

It was dark when we arrived at the bus office in Mui Ne, barely any lights were on in nearby buildings and the only people that seemed to be around were those that had been on the bus with us or were waiting to get on.
A little walk down the road was all it took to find our hostel.
The dozing guard soon regained consciousness to open the petite, I suspect merely decorative, waist-high gate and showed us to the reception.
We collected our door and locker keys and were shown to our very crowded 12 bed room, trying to make as little noise as possible to not wake our new roommates.
The next day, nearly everyone had checked out so we got some lunch in a restaurant across the road then headed to the pool, metres away from the beach.


We stayed there basically all afternoon, indulding in juvenile swimming challenges and just chilling out.
We made friends with two lovely ladies from England, Alison and Becks, and spent the remainder of our time in Mui Ne hanging out with them and one of there friends.

90_20140209_225426.jpg 90_20140209_224120.jpg 20140209_174900.jpg

We had dinner, breakfast and then dinner again with them and didn't do much else!
More hours at the pool were logged than anything else, and then we all left on the same day.
There wasn't masses to do in Mui Ne, at least not where we were, but we appreciated that.

Hoi An

We got on the bus to Hoi An on the Monday at 1pm and arrived Tuesday morning around 6am.
We had a nap midday as we didn't get a lot of sleep on the over-night bus, then we went out for some food.
Our hostel gave us a map and we were off.

The streets of Hoi An reminded me of a place I went to in Beijing, only pretty much every shop was for tailor made clothes or shoes!

DSC_0703.jpg DSC_0702.jpg
270_DSC_0701.jpg DSC_0700.jpg
DSC_0699.jpg DSC_0704.jpg
DSC_0707.jpg DSC_0710.jpg
DSC_0712.jpg 270_DSC_0715.jpg
DSC_0716.jpg 270_DSC_0722.jpg

Ricky found some cowboy boots that he wanted made to measure, and I found a beautiful, Chinese style top that I too had tailor-made just for me.
It's quite a novelty having clothes made specifically for you.
It's not the same when you do it yourself!

We booked a tour of My Son for the following day and arranged a cooking course across the road in Cafe 43 for after, and then we met up with a new friend and had dinner together.

DSC_0732.jpg DSC_0733.jpg
DSC_0734.jpg 270_DSC_0735.jpg
270_DSC_0736.jpg 270_DSC_0737.jpg
270_DSC_0738.jpg DSC_0739.jpg
270_DSC_0740.jpg 270_DSC_0741.jpg
DSC_0742.jpg DSC_0743.jpg
270_DSC_0744.jpg DSC_0746.jpg
270_DSC_0747.jpg 270_DSC_0748.jpg
DSC_0750.jpg 270_DSC_0751.jpg
270_DSC_0753.jpg DSC_0755.jpg
DSC_0756.jpg DSC_0757.jpg
DSC_0760.jpg DSC_0761.jpg
DSC_0763.jpg DSC_0764.jpg
270_DSC_0766.jpg 270_DSC_0773.jpg
DSC_0774.jpg DSC_0775.jpg
DSC_0776.jpg DSC_0777.jpg
DSC_0778.jpg DSC_0779.jpg
DSC_0780.jpg DSC_0781.jpg
DSC_0782.jpg DSC_0784.jpg

After we were made aware of some issues with Ricky's Chinese visa, it put a dark cloud over our visit, but nevertheless we went to our cooking course anyway and were taught and made Pork Stuffed Squid, Banana Leaf Baked Chicken and Papaya Salad.... yummy!
(Recipe and instructions to follow in another blog!)

20140212_163749.jpg 20140212_172201.jpg
20140212_175536.jpg 20140212_175349.jpg

My back was hurting so I went for a massage, and although relaxing, resulted in a massive peeling symptom to occur as I got sunburned pretty badly in Mui Ne :(

Oh well, went to Moe's Tavern for a drink and some pool to top off an overall quite enjoyable day.

DSC_0728.jpg DSC_0729.jpg
DSC_0730.jpg DSC_0731.jpg

Hoi An may well be my favourite place in Vietnam!

Posted by Lady Mantle 05:51 Archived in Vietnam Tagged temples mui_ne hoi_an my_son tailor_made_clothes moe's_tavern cafe_43 cooking_course stuffed_squid banana_leaf_chicken papaya_salad boat_trips japanese_bridge Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]