Tag Archives: hanoi

Entrance to Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater (Hanoi)

~B~

Soon after learning about this traditional art special to Vietnam- I put it on my must-do list for the country. We knew we would have multiple opportunities to catch a water puppet show so we put it off in Ho Ch Minh while we did other activities which could only be found there such as the War Remnants Museum, the Cu Chi Tunnels, and so on. Our first glimpse of a water puppet theater stage occurred there, though, in the Museum of Vietnamese History. There was a room with a stage and seating off to the side of one of the museum rooms where you could catch shows at certain times. This show, while on a smaller “stage” than the show we ended up seeing, is allegedly quite good! We might have gone except that it was starting as we arrived so we didn’t have much time to debate the extra little cost (we were on quite a budget at that time). There were other options in Ho Chi Minh as well, but ultimately we ended up going to the famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theater after making it to Hanoi.

Water Puppet Theater Entrance

One special thing about seeing the show there is that water puppetry actually originated in north Vietnam (specifically in the Red Delta River area in the north) back in the 11th century. Apparently this was a form of entertainment used by villagers when their rice fields were flooded. They were sometimes used to celebrate the end of the season (and possibly on other special occasions). In the old days, they would build pagodas in the rice fields which could hide the puppeteers who would stand in the (waist to chest deep) water controlling the puppets. The water hid the puppet controls and served as a stage. Back then, they would also often be dealing with cold water which could have leeches and water-borne diseases in order to put on these shows.

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater was established in 1969 as a way to preserve tradition and increase tourism. The puppets they use are carved from wood and are controlled with bamboo rods and string. Scenes and skits performed in the show address aspects of daily life for rural farmers like fishing and farming, as well as performances relating to folklore, festivals, and more. Water puppet performers from this theater have toured 40 countries to put on shows as well. If you’d like to get a glimpse of what to expect, you can check out some videos on youtube.

Little Figures

Anyway, this was one of the first things we did our first time in Hanoi. Our last 10 days or so in HCM was spent away from District 1 (location of a lot of the touristy stuff) and was during the period of Tet so we had plenty of time to get work done and were able to go out and sight-see pretty immediately once we got to Hanoi. On our first day out we walked quite a bit but I believe it was the next day we chose to walk to the theater. It’s located near Hoan Kiem Lake and lots of other neat activities in the Old Quarter, but was quite a long walk from our Airbnb at the time.

Road near our Airbnb

When we got to the theater, they were sold out! Be aware that this could happen to you due to its popularity.

Crowded Theater

We did not find tickets available online at the time and it seems it may be fairly common for them to sell out early for the day and sometimes even the next day or two. So- we bought tickets for the next day, got some coffee (for Kyle) and tea (for me) and then wandered around the area proceeding to get quite lost, making our journey back hours longer.

Crowded Hanoi

The next day we were so exhausted we decided to just get a taxi down to the theater for our show time. The funny thing is that all of this could have been avoided because after our 10 days on Cat Ba we ended up staying at a place just around the corner from the theater! That’s how things go I guess! Fortunately, like everything else, transportation is pretty cheap there and our taxi ride only cost us about $2 and we walked the way back (pretty sure we got lost again).

Overall, we really enjoyed the show. I noticed from online reviews that it’s not everyone’s thing- but it was our’s! We weren’t entirely sure what to expect but here are some of the things we liked: 1. It was educational. I felt like I learned a little bit about the history of the area and even a little bit about current life for rural villagers in Vietnam. There were scenes of fishing, festival events, etc. 2. It was entertaining. The show even made me laugh out loud a couple times. 3. It was slightly interactive (like smoke for certain parts and dragons spraying out water- though not really at you per se). 4. The music. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra including a Dan bau, bamboo flutes, drums, and more plays as an accompaniment/accent to the show. There is also some Cheo (a type of opera) singing.

People playing instruments

The only thing that sort of got in the way for us was that we couldn’t understand what the puppets were saying (their “voice actors” spoke in Vietnamese). We didn’t mind because we were in Vietnam, but do feel we might have missed a few things or could have learned more if it was in English or we knew Vietnamese. Still, with many parts the music, tone, and actions of the puppets helped communicate things to us.

Here is the info:
Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang – Hanoi – Vietnam
Cost: 100k dong (~$5)
Times: I see varying things online so I would just check in person. Show times are mostly in the afternoon/evening, I believe, though.
Website: www.thanglongwaterpuppet.org
Other info: Shows last for one hour.

Combine it with: Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple, Hoa La Prison (the “Hanoi Hilton”), the Temple of Literature, the Museum of Vietnamese history, the Vietnamese women’s museum, the Hanoi Opera House, and more!

In front of HK Lake

And if you can’t make it here there are a few other opportunities (such as these) across Vietnam to see water puppet shows of varying sizes.

Vietnam Vegetarian Restaurant

Loving Hut(s) in Hanoi (Vegan Food)

~B~

I was happy to find that Hanoi is a place where it’s pretty easy to be a vegetarian (or even vegan- relatively). I could almost always find something vegetarian to eat at a given restaurant and there were a number of exclusively vegetarian/vegan restaurants as well. One, or rather, at least two, of these was Loving Hut.

Outside The Big Loving Hut

While I didn’t know about Loving Hut for a long time (but have been a vegetarian for a long time), if you are vegan or vegetarian and have lived in a major city, you probably know about it as it’s one of the few vegan chains out there. I first found out about it when I was in college. I would regularly feed the homeless with a group (though a couple times it was just me) starting my freshman year and the local Loving Hut would regularly donate food for the feedings. Thus it would usually be a stop on the way to downtown. While waiting, I would occasionally watch their (what I thought was) strange television programming. I thought it was just some Asian religion which they used as the basis for their beliefs. This, in fact, was true. I have since discovered that the founder of Loving Hut, Ching Hai, developed her own sort of spiritual method (the ‘Quan Yin method’) and has her own tv channel which plays in many Loving Huts. Anyway, despite the television programming featuring the founder, I’m not sure I even realized that it wasn’t just a local restaurant until several years later when I saw one in another state. Since traveling, we have found out that Loving Huts are all over the world (there are something like 138 locations) and the founder, Ching Hai is actually from Vietnam.

We went to two locations in Hanoi. The first place we planned into our itinerary on one of our first outings in Hanoi. We did not yet realize how veg-friendly the city was and wanted to ensure that I would not go hungry as we were planning to do a lot of walking that day. The second we just stumbled upon.

Loving Hut 1: 192 Quán Thánh, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Inside The Little Loving Hut

On our first stay in Hanoi we were staying a bit farther up/away from many of the more touristy activities. One day early on we were walking down this direction to see Chùa Trấn Quốc and to buy tickets to the Water Puppet Theater. We almost missed the restaurant as it was a little off to the side. Not surprisingly, the relatively small (it maybe had 6-9 small tables) restaurant primarily contained other westerners. Vietnamese will sometimes be vegetarian for religious reasons but it did not seem to be very common.

Waiting On Food In The Little Loving Hut

A board to the right showed various famous vegan people and the extensive menu contained many dishes with fake meat ranging from chicken and beef to tuna and shrimp. There were vegan versions of many local Vietnamese dishes. I personally tend to not be much of a fan of the fake meats seeing as I have absolutely no taste or interest for real meat but there were plenty of other options too. I don’t remember the name of the dishes  but I think we both ordered normal vegan-ified Vietnamese dishes and they were good. Our meals together cost 65,000VND (~$2.91).

Little Loving Hut Meal
Delicious Loving Hut Meal

Loving Hut 2: Loving Hut, 33 Bà Triệu, Hàng Bài, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Outside The Big Loving Hut

Not only was this the nicest Loving Hut I’ve ever been in, but it was probably the nicest restaurant in which Kyle and I have dined, ever! After finishing up at the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, we were hungry. All we had to do was walk down the street, though and we saw a Loving Hut sign. Yay! 

As we walked towards it, we could not discern the location of the restaurant, though. It looked like there was just a Loving Hut grocery store, something which I didn’t even realize existed. We were a little disappointed as we wanted to eat right then but then I saw another sign which said restaurant. I asked a guard who was standing outside and he said “Yes, right this way,” or something along those lines and escorted us into an elevator. ‘Uh-oh!’, we thought, both in the elevator and as we stepped out. I’m pretty sure the restaurant had only been open a couple months (if even) when we visited (March 2016). The waiters were wearing tuxedos and the decor was elegant. I would have taken more pictures (which don’t really do it justice) but we were pretty much being watched the whole time so I tried to be discreet. We were worried we might not be able to afford anything but we couldn’t really turn around now as there was a guard/escort at the elevator and it would have been rather embarrassing.

Dining Room Of The Big Loving Hut
Table Settings

They presented us with the menu and we were reminded that, while this was a very nice restaurant, we were still in Vietnam. Prices for many items were a little high for our very tight budget at the time, but it was all extremely reasonable (even cheap) considering the great quality of the place, service, and food. We ordered a single green tea to share in case water was not complementary (as we have found is the case in most restaurants in Asia). I think we may have received water, though. Because we were quite hungry, we also ordered an appetizer to share. We both opted for meals which were at the lower price-end of their dishes, with me getting the fried eggplant and Kyle ordering bun chau him chay.

Vietnamese Green TeaFried Spring Roll
Fine Dining Nem Chay
Fried Aubergine

Each time the waiter brought a dish, another waiter would stand there along side, lifting up the special platter covering thing (or that’s how I remember it) basically and serving us. I think they might have even had on gloves. I remember being just a little uncomfortable from feeling under-dressed (though they did not treat us in this manner) and because I did not know any further etiquette I might ought to have been practicing there but the food was well-presented and delicious.

Waiting For Food At Loving Hut

Our meal at this fancy vegan restaurant which included one appetizer, one drink, and two meals came out to 205,000VND (~$9.19) We were given a discount due to International Women’s Day (though it was not technically on the day- but that was great!) which reduced the price to 185,000VND and we ended up paying 200,000VND. Tipping is not typical in Vietnam but with the discount and quality, we had to do so. I think we thought about giving more but did not have appropriate bills to do so. Plus, we were still on a budget. We had decided to call this a sort of anniversary meal even though it was a little early.

They provided us with a coupon for a future visit and we did think about returning but did not have a ton of time left in the city and it was not super close to us so we did not end up making it back. I would still highly recommend the place, though and if you don’t go to the cafe at the Vietnamese Women’s museum, it’s a good option for a place to get food afterwards.  

From what I can tell online, there may be at least one more Loving Hut in Hanoi as well (looks like: Loving Hut Nguon Coi Restaurant, 3 Ngách 10, Ngõ 121, Phố Chùa Láng, Quận Đống Đa, Hà Nội, Vietnam) but I cannot verify anything about it as we did not visit this location.

  • If you are looking for more delicious vegan/vegetarian food in Hanoi, also check out: Bo de Quan
  • For good vegan/vegetarian food on Cat Ba island (just a few hours from Hanoi), check out: Buddha Belly
  • And finally, for a nice vegetarian restaurant in Ho Chi Minh, take a look at: Hum Vegetarian
Vietnam Museum

Vietnamese Women’s Museum

~B~

According to a Vietnam tourism site, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum is “one of Hanoi’s most overlooked museums and is also one of its best.” I have to agree. The museum was originally established in 1987, but has undergone a number of renovations since that time and had existed in its current state since 2010. It’s run by the Vietnamese Women’s Union and its purpose is to provide knowledge on the history and culture of Vietnamese women, including their role in the country’s past, present, and future. The union as a whole also seeks to promote gender equality.

When you arrive, there is a large open courtyard. To the left is the ticketing office, further up to the left is a special temporary display area/large room for the museum, and to the right is motorbike parking and a cafe/restaurant. Straight ahead is the main part of the museum. Pictured below: view of courtyard from somewhere inside the museum.

Vietnamese Women's Museum Courtyard

During the time we visited (March 2016), the first building on the left focused on women’s role in disaster relief and was pretty interesting! I think the exhibit may have been temporary but I’m glad we got to see it. The area provides information on recent natural disasters in Vietnam and how disasters affect men and women differently.

Disaster info room

One board told us that (according to a study by the London School of Economics), as a result of inequality, women and children are 14 times more likely to be injured or killed during a disaster. It provided examples such as the 2010 Pakistan floods (seventy percent of the 18 million affected were women and children). The study found that disasters have greater long-term impact on the health, learning, and livelihood of women. In a recent cyclone in Myanmar, over half of those killed were women and almost all women lost their primary income source. The large room also provided examples of how they manage with what they have, such as making lamps out of beverage cans.

Tools or something

Though I don’t remember hearing about them on the news, there were two Typhoons in 2013 which were pretty devastating for the people of Central Vietnam. Additionally, in January of this year (2016), Northern Vietnam experienced a record breaking cold-wave which killed thousands of livestock and crops. It also impacted forest there. Obviously climate change is mentioned as a likely culprit.

The frost 2016 VN

As of late, there has been funded training for women to learn to deal with such disasters. Many Vietnamese don’t know how to swim and the training provides/provided them assistance in learning how to swim, administer first aid, and more. It left many of the women feeling more confident and the education appears to have been very helpful. One woman was quoted as having told others in a certain area to change their crops from rice to lotus which more than quadrupled their profits.

At the time we visited (March 2016) they had another interesting temporary exhibition as well: a Comic and Cartoon contest.

Vietnamese WOmen's Museum Temporary Exhibit

This one was just outside of the main museum building. The theme was “Gender Equality: Picture it!” and the contest was organized jointly by Belgium and the UN Women Viet Nam and was originally launched November 25 2015 (International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women) with the 40 winners displayed March 1-10, 2016. It was a really neat display and while I would like to post all/most of the comics, I will just limit it to a few.

Poster Exhibit
More Equality Posters

The sign which provided the information on the contest also contained some facts about gender (in)equality in Vietnam. Over half of ever-married Vietnamese women experience some form of violence from their partner in their life, but only one percent of these cases lead to a conviction. Nearly ninety percent of women have experienced public harassment in public places. Of course, unfortunately, these numbers are not terribly far off from the rest of the world. In fact, according to this article, 100 percent of women in France say they are harassed using public transportation alone. You can find more on street harassment statistics here, and, if you would like to compare, you can also check out the 2010 CDC report on Intimate Partner Violence in the US which reports on violence experienced by both men and women.

Gender Poster
Gender equality posters

The poster also mentioned that a significant sex ratio imbalance in Vietnam (favoring males) has presented itself in recent years which is problematic and is likely responsible for more human trafficking and forced marriages. One in ten girls in Vietnam experiences child marriage. There has also been a recent decline in the political representation of women in Vietnam. One problem in Vietnam is the very deep-seated corruption at every level. We have some issues in the US with corruption, but it is not quite like Vietnam. There is also a growing problem with alcoholism in Vietnam which tends to be associated with abuse. You can see this featured in some of the displays.

Gender Equality Poster

Now to the main building! The main building of the museum is five stories tall and needless to say, we ended up spending quite a bit more time there than we originally anticipated. Honestly, we could have spent even more time examining the exhibits better if not for us getting so tired and hungry and my toe hurting.

There are three primary themes/galleries: Women in History, Women in Family, and Women’s Fashion. I wasn’t really aware of this going in and didn’t think that all of the exhibits were tied strongly to one of these categories, but we also saw a couple of other exhibits which may have been temporary as well. The categories are also divided further (such as by time period). All exhibits provide text in Vietnamese, French, and English. Through exploring the museum, we learned about women in Vietnam and their roles over time. We learned about family life in Vietnam, including interesting aspects of marriage, childbirth, surnames, customs and traditions, and more over time and among different ethnic groups.

For example, the Viet, Yao, Bru-Van Keiru, Ma, Hoa, and a few other populations are patrilineal meaning men are more important and privileged. There are also some matrilineal societies, though, including the Ede, Jarai, Churu, and Raglai, among others. Among these groups the wife’s name is taken, girls inherit wealth (with the youngest girl being the “most privileged”), and the oldest woman in a family has a “decisive role in family affairs.” Girls are preferred as children.

In the past, families were sometimes polygamous, but now monogamy is the norm. One board on marriage (hon nhan) reads: “Wife and husband are as inseparable as a pair of chopsticks.” Marriage used to be arranged, but today people have more freedom in choosing a partner. When it comes time for marriage, there are a number of rituals which sometime includes consulting fortune tellers in order to determine the best days for their engagement and wedding rituals. The Viets look for the “most auspicious timing” for a wedding date. The couple get married in the groom’s house and then live there afterwards. Among one ethnic group (the Sinhmun) the couples would have a first ceremony and then stay with the bride’s family and have a second ceremony eight or nine years later over at the groom’s family (pretty different)! Among the Taoi, people were required to file their top 6 teeth prior to getting married. We also learned about gift-giving and other customs. Don’t worry, there is plenty more to read about if you go there.

In addition to their familial roles, we learned about women’s role in work and war. We had learned some about the significant role of Vietnamese women in war efforts from our visits to the Cu Chi Tunnels, the War Remnants Museum (still need to write about this one) and the Hanoi Hilton/Hoa Lo Prison but learned a little more here as well.

War Posters

In one area we found a tool the women used to grind rice and flour. We struggled with it a bit. These two older American men who we think may have been veterans (also possibly a couple) encouraged me when I was struggling with it. They asked where we were from and seemed disappointed when we said Florida. They were from the northeast. We wished we had engaged them more but were just a bit shocked/excited to find someone else from the US (as almost everyone else we had heard/encountered at this point seemed to be French with a few Brits, Australians, and other Europeans mixed in).

Tool

The fashion section was quite large (an entire floor). We saw jewelry and clothing, both special and regular wear, from different ethnic groups and different time periods. We enjoyed looking at all of it and learning the purpose of the clothing.

Vietnamese dress
Vietnamese Clothing
Special VN clothingPink dress

The top floor was closed when we visited and I’m not sure what was inside (if anything), but other exhibits we saw were on topics such as music and religion.

Vietnamese Religion

One area displayed information on mother goddess worship (the oldest religion in Vietnam). One board read: “In the mother Goddess worship, women are the centre of the universe, looking after all four regions: heaven, earth, water and mountains and forests. Unlike other religious beliefs, worshippers find their expected desires and happiness right here in their current life. By following the Mother Goddess, their spiritual needs are satisfied.”

VN religion

There were a few areas throughout which also contained films/videos to watch (worth watching).

In the gift shop we bought one of our first souvenirs while traveling (a cat picture)! They also have old propaganda posters and things of that nature if you’re interested. We didn’t try out the cafe because I didn’t see any vegetarian food but as we were starving from staying much longer than we anticipated, we did look for a place to eat after we were done and what do you know, we found a Loving hut (a vegan restaurant with locations worldwide) right across the street from the museum. Surprisingly, it was a new and an interesting experience which should be its own post, though (or at least combined with the other Loving Hut we visited in Hanoi).

Visit and you will learn not only about the women of Vietnam, but about Vietnamese culture and history as a whole.

Here’s the info:

Address: 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam (see: http://baotangphunu.org.vn/Vi-tri-bao-tang/)
Hours: 8am-5pm Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Mondays)
Admission: 30,000 VND (~$1.34)

Riding A Motorbike In Vietnam

~K~

To preface this: as an expat, you probably shouldn’t ride a motorbike in Vietnam. If you’ve never been on a motorbike before, you absolutely should not attempt to ride a motorbike in Vietnam. So – I decided to try and learn how to ride a motorcycle in Vietnam. After all, how else could I expect to attempt a ride to Da Lat in a few days? It couldn’t be that hard.

Ho Chi Minh Traffic

Our AirBNB host had a bike that he allowed guests to use to get around town. I had never ridden one and was really only familiar with the principals of using a scooter. So I decided to give it a shot. All in all, it did not go very well. At first I could not figure out how to get into neutral so that I could even move it. After thirty minutes, I finally figured out how to work the clutch. But somehow I’d managed to get the key cover closed, and couldn’t figure it out.

Bike In The House

So away to Youtube and Google I went. This actually was quite helpful. I figured out what I felt I needed to know. I knew how to get the key in the ignition finally, how to switch gears properly, how to kill the engine, control the throttle, and brake.

In the private front courtyard I managed to get comfortable riding the clutch in neutral and jumping into 1st. I got used to the “friction zone”. As well, I figured out how to purposefully stall the engine – and more importantly not stall the engine.

Testing Out The Bike

So feeling ready to take a more serious attempt at riding, I went out and began to make my way out of the alleyway. It wasn’t pretty. The throttle was jumpy, and the bike jerked forward and back and I managed to “power walk” my way through the first alley. Turning down the second alley I suddenly came across what seemed to be the entire neighborhood out enjoying the day. It was obvious to the older adults that I had no business on a bike. Their faces only showed disapproval to put it lightly. I made my way past them though without any issues though (still hadn’t stalled the bike yet) and continued on down a third alley.

I turned down a fourth and final narrow alley which would lead to the roadway – and managed to run into a wall. Luckily no one saw that happen and there was no damage to the bike because I was going something like 2 mph. However, the children caught up to me quite quickly and were quick to point and laugh at my ineptitude. Watching the children mock me and looking at the busy street ahead of me, I decided that it would be beyond stupid of me to proceed out into the street. A Vietnamese roadway during the best traffic conditions is as bad as the worst traffic you’ve ever seen in a big city, during rush hour.

Ho Chi Minh Traffic

So I turned around and headed back towards the house. Once again, the elders shot ugly looks my way. Unfortunately, I messed up even further and managed to finally stall the bike directly in front of them. In shame and defeat, I got off the bike and pushed it back down the alleyway back to the house and right where I found it.

I could learn to ride, I had no doubt. But I needed more space than a narrow alley way and to not have the neighborhood shooting poisonous looks my way. Our host would be back the next day, and I’d just ask him to take me out somewhere to learn. It really is necessary here, because it’s just so inconvenient otherwise.

The next day came and went, our host was coming back from a vacation in Da Lat for Tet and got in late. I explained the predicament to him, and he seemed pretty amused. He then explained that I could just use the automatic scooter he had instead as it was much easier, and the next day he would assist me in getting a SIM card for my phone so I could have GPS.

I got up early the next morning, and we went on our way to get the SIM card. I hopped on the back of the scooter and off we went. Luckily, riding on the back gave me a quick eye-opener into how to manage traffic which is much less intimidating once you’re a part of it and not on the sidelines.

Once we got back, I then took the scooter for a spin around the neighborhood to gauge my comfort level with it. I was amazed at the difference. It was far smoother and easier to handle, and thankfully no gears to mess with. It was just get on and go. And the traffic really wasn’t too bad to handle – though admittedly it was completely different from driving in US traffic.

Since I felt comfortable, I came back and we prepared for our trip out to the Cu Chi Tunnels which would be a pretty serious test of our ability to ride a bike through Vietnam. It should have been a 40km trip each way – but things happen. You can read about our adventure here.

On The Way To Cu Chi
Riding Back From Cu Chi

There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re driving around in Vietnam. I think one of the most important things is to remember that although there are rules – there are no rules. You should be ready and expect anything to happen: people driving on the wrong side of the road, jumping into traffic, stopping randomly, cows and livestock in the road, and people talking (or stalking) you. So you have to drive defensively, but be sure to take initiative.

Because of this, you should always wear your gear. Getting a full riding outfit is pretty difficult unless you know where to look or brought one from home. But at the very least, you can always get a helmet. It’s the law – for good reason. Traffic related deaths in Vietnam are soberingly high, and it’s in your best interest to protect yourself. If you can’t get full gear in addition to a helmet, at least wear closed-toe shoes, sunglasses (for the sun and protecting your eyes from dust and such), and seriously consider wearing long-pants and sleeves if you take a prolonged trip. Getting a sunburn on your arms and legs is not fun as we discovered on our way to Cu Chi.

Sun Burn After Cu Chi

Cars on the road also always have the right of way and they will act like it. If you see one coming the other way, or from behind, just move on over as far as you can to the right. The cars, while relatively few compared to the number of bikes, are still readily found. They have no problem going anywhere on the road, and won’t think twice about running you off the road. They will usually at least give you the courtesy of honking.

Which leads to the next thing: honking isn’t rude, it’s just the norm. You can use honking for just about anything in Vietnam. But it’s main purpose to inform others that you are passing them, coming up behind them, or want you to move. It’s something I’m not particularly used to in the States, but here I have had to force myself to do it.

Your bike is almost certainly used. This means that it’s parts are possibly going to break, if they’re not already broken. You might as well assume that the speedometer and odometer aren’t going to work. Flat tires are a common occurrence (I got two flats in two days). And anything can break. The good news it that repairs are cheap (an entire new tire costs ~$20), fast, and just about everyone can fix basic repairs. A mechanic is seemingly always just on the next corner.

Biking In Cat Ba

When it comes to cops (which we thankfully have not had to deal with – yet), the best advice I can give is to relay what I’ve read elsewhere. Do your best to not draw attention to yourself (by driving properly) and don’t make eye-contact. If you should find yourself pulled over, then you should prepare to get fleeced. Vietnamese cops are notoriously corrupt, and they will ask for a “non-receipted fine” – read bribe. They’ll take what they can get from you, so it’s wise to have a “fake” wallet with only a few bills that you can hand off rather than a huge wad of cash. It is technically illegal for expats to ride and own bikes in Vietnam, you need a Vietnamese Driver’s License – an International Driver’s License won’t cut it. So when you get pulled over, the cops have all the power. If the option is open to you, speaking English and feigning ignorance might get you off the hook because they’ll get tired of trying to deal with the language barrier, but cops are more frequently speaking English or know someone who can, so this option is being less reliable. You can also call a Vietnamese friend who “owns” the bike who might be able to get you off the hook. All in all, it is illegal, but there are rarely consequences in Vietnam if you do ride.

So if you’ve decided that you really are ready to go anyways, you’re going to need a bike. The Top Gear Vietnam episode has inspired many people to make the ride from Hanoi to Saigon – an epic 2000+ km ride through the mountains, beaches, jungles, and valleys. We thought about trying it, but it’s not quite going to work out because we just have too much gear. But anyways, there are a variety of methods to obtain a bike. Buying new is pretty much out of the question because of paperwork and needing a license. Buying used is easy – just go to any bike shop and make a purchase. You can buy one used for anywhere between $150 and $400. You can also purchase from other expats who have completed their journey and are selling the bike before they continue on. If you go this route, you will have to sell your bike at the end as well though, so keep that in mind.

If buying a bike isn’t your thing, you can rent a bike. This is a great option if you’re just wanting to ride around town. But at the same time you can get rentals that will allow you to go from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh via http://flamingotravel.com.vn/. They have a wide range of options and great support for any issues you run into along the way. Renting, which can cost a bit more than buying depending on your intentions, does have the benefit of convenience. You don’t have to bother with selling at the end, and generally they’ll help if not take care of all repairs you may need to make.

Selfie Biking Cat BA

Our favorite place to ride was in Cat Ba Island. Here we pretty much had the island to ourselves and felt pretty relaxed riding around. It really was a great experience, although we did have to be careful to avoid the pot holes. Briana had a chance to ride around here, since the traffic was none existent and is a great place to learn in Vietnam if you’re uncomfortable.

Briana And The Bike Cat Ba
Briana And The Bike Cat Ba
Briana On The Bike In Cat BA

If a sense of adventure strikes you – definitely ride a bike in Vietnam. It’s a trip of a lifetime, just be safe!

Briana And The Bike Cat Ba

 

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Vietnamese Food

~K~

Vietnamese Food

During our time in Vietnam, we traveled through Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, and Cat Ba. We got to try a pretty wide array of the local cuisine, and while the list of indigenous foods is far more extensive than what we got to try, we found that we did get a nice sample of the cuisine.

Pho (Bo, Ga, Thit)

Pho

Probably one of the most famous of Vietnamese dishes, this is a noodle soup consisting of a thin yet flavorful, clear beef broth, noodles, meat, and herbs. It comes in several different styles: Pho Bo (beef), Pho Ga (chicken), Pho Thit (pork) and you can even find it with seafood and duck. There are many more varieties within those sets: such as Bo Vien (meatballs) and different cuts of meat. There are subtle, yet distinct differences between northern and southern style pho – the north is simpler (due to a poorer history) in it’s make. The south tends to have spicier pho, and offer a much larger offering of various herbs and spices to load into the bowl as well as including bean sprouts and lime.

Bun Bo Nam Bo (Ga)

Bun Ga Nam Ga

This dish I found in Hanoi from a place advertising itself as Pho Ga. But what came out was Bun Ga Nam Ga (chicken). Bun Bo Nam Bo (Beef) is delicious and reminiscent of Pho, but without the broth. instead, marinated meat is served atop white rice noodles with herbs and peanuts. A small amount of sauce similar to a spicy sweet and sour is found at the bottom to mix it all with. My dish also came with a side of broth.

Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue

Yet another soup, this time hailing from the Hue region in northern Vietnam. At first appearance, it will bear striking resemblance to southern style Pho – lots of herbs, spicy, and served with a slice of lime. But the real difference here comes from the broth and choice of meat. This is a pork based soup, and as such you’ll find pork loin, and pork knuckle in the bowl, though they often will include a few slices of beef as well. The big kicker here though, is the pork blood added to the soup that gives a very strong and greasy flavor. The taste is very good, but I found that afterwards I would always have a bloody aftertaste which I felt the need to rid my mouth of. Some will elect to skip the blood, but more often than not, it’s included.

Bun Cha

Bun Cha

This dish hails from Hanoi, but has spread far and wide among the country with regional variants. The dish is grilled pork meat, noodles, and herbs. It is served with dipping sauce on the side. In the south, particularly around Saigon, you’ll find it all mixed together in a soup similar to Bun Bo Hue. However, the cuts of meat are always grilled, and always fatty. In contrast to many other dishes you’ll find in Vietnam, it is not spicy at all – I found it rather sweet and savory.

Banh Mi

Banh Mi Chay

Next to Pho, this dish is also very famous the world-over. French baguettes became a norm in Vietnam during France’s extended colonial occupation of the country. While the French inevitably left, the food influence stayed and so the Banh Mi developed. A mini-baguette is stuffed with a variety of meat (typically sliced pork), pickled vegetables, and cilantro then given a once over with chili sauce. It makes for a great sandwich and you can find vendors pedaling them in every city and town on street corners – many cafes will also offer them. Since they’re made on the spot, it’s also easy to get a custom Banh Mi to your taste, so vegetarians will be pleased to find it easy to get one to their tastes.

Thien Nuoc Mam

Thien Nuoc Mam

I had no idea what I was ordering when I got this, but what came out was quite recognizable. Fried chicken wings. These aren’t your standard buffalo wings, but they are very similar. First chargrilled, then given a quick fry, they come out quite juicy, but with a slight crunch. The sauce I had was light, and very reminiscent of a BBQ sauce. It came served on top of sautéed vegetables and cucumbers.

Mi Xao Gion

Mi Xao Gion

I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture of the food while it was actually on the plate, but I did get a picture of the menu which has a pretty accurate representation of it.

Another simple, yet delicious noodle dish. Lo Mien noodles are fried to a crisp and then topped with sautéed vegetables, and various cuts of meat, swimming in a mushroom gravy. The gravy softens the crispy noodles, but still leaves a noticeable crunch. The meat can vary by the place, but mine came with fish balls, beef shank, beef liver, pork loin, and octopus.

Suon Xao Chua Not

My phone ran out of battery so I couldn’t take a picture, however you can refer to the menu picture above for the Mi Xao Gion.

This dish reminds me of Chinese food. It’s sweet and sour pork ribs. Sometimes it may be served over rice, other times noodles – but the core stays the same. Meaty and fatty pork ribs are pan fried then glazed with sweet and sour sauce and sautéed vegetables. Mine was served over fried rice and it was quite good. My only issue was attempting to eat the giant hunks of meat and ver much not-sticky rice with chopsticks.

Bun Bao

Bun Bao 2

These are stuffed steam buns. At first glance, they look rather plain and even unappealing. They’re a dull-white dough, with a quirky little twist on top. But inside they’re stuff with one or two hard-boiled quail eggs and sausage. The bun itself is moist and chewy with a mildly sweet taste, while the sausage has a pungent spice that compliments the eggs nicely.

Bun Thang

Bun Thang

This light soup hails from Hanoi, and has a distinct taste all its own. While it uses the same noodles as Bun Bo Hue, that is where the similarities end. This is considered a finicky dish, as it’s preparation is very exact: 6 month old chicken having laid eggs for only 1 week; evenly cut herbs of cilantro, green onion, and onion all laid underneath the noodles; scrambled eggs fried crispy then cut into noodles. Tofu and mushroom are added to the top. The bowl is then filled with a light chicken broth and topped further with scallions, red onions, cilantro, Vietnamese Coriander, shallots, thai chili, shrimp paste, and ca cuong (beetle juice). The dish is very good, and makes for a decent departure from pho.

Vietnamese Fried Fish

CatBa_Fried_Fish
While in Cat Ba, I tried out a little bit of seafood. One of the first things I got was fried fish. The fish on Cat Ba is quite good (though I have no idea what kind it is). The method of cooking is pretty simple, the whole fish is tossed in a pan and fried in butter and garlic. Eating off the bone is easier than I would have thought, and the skin turns into a nice crisp with a delicious flavor all its own.

Squid Salad

Squid Salad
Another dish I got on Cat Ba, the squid salad was not exactly what I was expecting – not that that was bad. It came as a little bit of vermicelli noodle, pickled carrot, and cooked (but cool) squid, on top of fried rice puffs. The dish was lighter than I was hoping for, but was delicious nonetheless.

Bun Nem Chay

Nem Ran Chay 1

This is a vegetarian dish that we got a from a Buddhist restaurant serving only vegetarian dishes. It’s rice noodles served atop a mixed salad of herbs and cucumber, and topped with vegetarian fried spring rolls. The spring rolls have a nice spice to them of cinnamon, clove, and anise, filled with mushroom. A light sweet and sour sauce compliments the noodles and salad along with a topping of peanuts. It’s a light, refreshing, and filling meal. Great for a hot day when you might want something cooler than hot soup.

Bun Rieu Chay

Bun Reiu Chay 2

This is a vegetarian styled dish based on meat rice vermicelli soup. This did not have meat, instead having fried tofu. This version is very different from the original, but does its best to keep with the inspiration. This soup has a tomato broth, and is filled with various vegetables and tofu. The non-vegetarian version contains crab and pig-blood. Regardless of the variety you try, it is very nutrient rich.

Bun Chuoi Dau

Bun Chuoi Dau

Yet another vegetarian dish we got – this was also a soup. This dish is a heavy, clear broth, filled with vegetables, noodles, and fried tofu. One of the highlights to this dish I found was the green banana. I’m not typically a banana fan (I actually hate them with a vengeance), but I found the green bananas to be a great addition, taking the place a potato normally would in a french style stew. This dish is very hearty, with a mildly sweet taste to it. I found myself ordering this multiple times.

Nem Ran (Chay)

Nem Ran Chay 4

These Vietnamese style spring rolls. Longer and thinner than the typical Chinese style spring rolls we’re used to, they are stuffed with pork, glass noodles, and vegetables and then deep fried to a golden crisp. Vegetarian (chay) versions skip the pork and will instead use tofu or mushroom as a filler. We got these while at a wonderful vegan restaurant in Cat Ba.

Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple Fried Rice

Briana got this while at Hum Vegetarian in Ho Chi Minh. Because of this, it was vegetarian (obviously). The key to this dish, which seems pretty ordinary and can be found pretty much everywhere is that it is served inside a hallowed out pineapple. Tiny bits of pineapple and peanuts are fried up alongside the rice (and meat if you choose that option) to create a sweet yet savory dish.

 

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Vegetarian food in Hanoi

Bố Dể Quán Styrax Vegetarian Restaurant (Hanoi)

~B~

If you are vegetarian, or even if you’re not, you should try to make it to Bo de Quan if you visit  Hanoi. It is a fairly new restaurant, only around since 2014 and in its current location since 2015, but I think it will be around for a while. If you would like to learn more about the origins of the place, I highly recommend this article which I was pretty excited to find because we had wondered about it.

Onto our discovery of the restaurant: Our first night in Hanoi we faced a number of problems. Not too surprising seeing as 1) we decided to go there only the night prior and 2) it’s Vietnam. Anyway, while I was waiting for a person that lived in the house (not even the host- she was down in HCM) to come and go into his locked room to fix the internet router, Kyle decided to scope out our food options.

Walk to the restaurant

What he discovered while he was out wandering (among other things) was Bo De Quan. At the time (February 2016) the restaurant was not yet on Googlemaps (or at least on in the correct location), but now you can find it on maps, Happy Cow, and TripAdvisor (though the picture does not look right so it’s possible it’s a different place).  It was a little less than a kilometer away from our Airbnb and we ended up trying it out the next day.

BoDeQuan
The kitchen
Seating at Bo de Quan

It was SO GOOD, arguably some of the best food we have tried while traveling.

Soup on a cool day

All of the options are vegan or vegetarian. Meals were around 40-45k dong ($1.80-$2). We ended up with a schedule which involved eating here for lunch and cooking our own dinner. While it may be a tiny bit farther away from some of the more touristy things, it is a cheaper option than many of the other exclusively vegetarian restaurants in Hanoi.

Bo de quan menu

The soups were perfect for the cool weather. They were also really filling. Here are some of the dishes we tried. Hopefully I’m matching them up/identifying them correctly:

Bun Rieu Chay / bún riêu chay

While researching this one, it looks like it is supposed to be Vegetarian Mock Crab Soup (though I am not sure what is supposed to be imitating crab). I looked up a recipe and it should contain tomatoes, various vegetables and spices, tofu, and cassava. Some recipes include other things like apples and pears but these were not in this soup. We think it is possible it contained cassava but think they put banana in our’s instead (surprisingly good). Everything else seemed to match up.

Vegetarian SoupBun Rieu Chay

Bun Chuoi Dau / bún ốc chuối đậu

This one translates as “Banana Bean Noodle Soup.” Now, Kyle does not normally like bananas but the bananas in these soups were different from the bananas we normally have back home and he really enjoyed both soups. In addition to the bananas and noodles, this soup contained potatoes, tofu, and mushrooms. When it’s not made to be vegetarian, it also contains snails and ham. Vietnam knows how to do soups!

bun chuoi dau

Bun nem / Bún nem: Translates as “Crisp parcels with vermicelli salad. Basically salad/lettuce, noodles, and spring rolls.

Spring Roll Salad

Hu Tieu Xao Noodles, vegetables, nuts- basically a stir fry

Hu Tieu Xao

We primarily stuck to the soups so we did not end up trying the other dishes, but I will try to identify them for you. Banh Xeo Chay / bánh xèo chay- vegetarian pancakes- looks more like an omelet,  com chay- not sure- various vegetables/tofu I think, nem chay – vegetable/spring rolls, bahn goi chay / bánh gối nhân chay- translates as “Vegetarian Cake’s Pillow” and may have vegetables, beans, peas, etc., and pho cuon- we think vegetable rolls. You can find a little more info in the article I linked to at the beginning.

Because vegetarianism isn’t much of a concept in Vietnam for the most part, most all of the other people we saw at Bo De Quan were foreigners. While I really think more Vietnamese need to try out vegetarianism, being around some foreigners was kind of nice for us. Despite there being a large and active online expat community in Ho Chi Minh, we rarely ran into other foreigners except in the most touristy areas. In Hanoi, we found the complete opposite. I guess instead of spending all of their time online, the foreigners in Hanoi are out doing things.

It seemed like many of them had established social groups. There was a group of women (British, Australian, and either American or Canadian) around our age or a little older whom we saw a couple times.  At least a couple of them were English teachers, while others seemed to be doing different things- visiting, studying, working online. We heard one say she was just fired from a Yoga Studio because she had been teaching Zumba with an expired certificate and someone had told on her to the Zumba board or whatever (I don’t remember or know exactly how it all works).

We saw other groups of people as well. I think if we stayed there for a while, we would probably end up developing a social group of our own. I pictured it. We had a conversation over lunch one day with a British man who had moved to the city and was working as a consultant for local businesses there. We talked about how Vietnam is really growing and has a lot of potential. We also talked about the American politics and Australian politics.

The owner and her family were really nice too. One day (maybe on our third or fourth day eating there), the mother of the owner gave us some melon as we were leaving. It was primarily her who we interacted/dealt with on our visits.

Getting Ready to PayFlowers

Here is some of the info so you can make it there:

Bo de quan

Address: 164 Au Co, Tay Ho District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Hours: We aren’t exactly sure, but we think it was something like 10am-8pm
Other: It’s cash only. Bring your dong.

On to Bo De Quan

Problematic Cat Cafe

Ailu Cat Cafe (Hanoi)

~B~

I am sad to report that the cat cafe in Hanoi- Ailu Cat Cafe, also known as Ailu Cathouse Club,  is the worst cat cafe we have been to so far (mostly due to the state and treatment of the cats there).

Ailu Cat Cafe

We made our way here at the end of a long day of walking around Hanoi doing various other activities (including the Temple of Literature and the Vietnamese Women’s Museum). Hanoi is really a lovely city to walk around, especially during the time we visited (February/March).

Near the cafe

There are stairs leading up to the cafe in front of what I think might have been a restaurant. We made our way up and did the standard take off our shoes and pay the entrance fee. This cat cafe had the cheapest fee of any cat cafe so far at 35,000VND/person (at least in March 2016, it’s possible it will be raised). This comes out to about $3.15 for both of us.

Ailucat house

The whole thing was rather strange because the person running the place at the time did not even offer us a menu or ask if we would like to order something to drink/eat. Usually cat cafes (at least at the ones we visited in Asia) like to try to sell their food as it’s a way they make money. The guy actually looked a little unhappy that we came at all. Not in an annoyed way, but maybe more in the ‘they are going to see how badly this cafe is run’ sort of way. I’m not sure.

White Cat

There were quite a few kittens but we did not get to spend time with any of them because a group of young girls (also the only other people at the cafe) was hogging them all.

Girls with Kittens

We made our way to the back and settled in some bean bags. Here are some of the troubling things I found:

Smiling Cat but maybe sick

1. Some of the cats seemed ill.

2. Several of the cats needed to be groomed and/or cleaned (such as cleaning around their eyes, brushing their fur, etc.)

3. I think at least a couple of the cats were not fixed! One of them seemed to be in heat.

4. Some of the cats had mental issues (possibly as a result of their treatment.) Some were very strange about things like eye contact (believe me, it was strange- I have spent time with plenty of cats and not encountered something quite like this) and others were extremely moody.

5. The owners/workers abused the cats. One time I saw a cat crawling up a toy having fun and the man working there kept putting it down for no reason. It seemed very mean. I also saw him hit a cat that was fighting.

6. On that note: the fighting. Now, you might think a little rough play is inevitable when you put that many cats together, but we did not notice any at any of the other cat cafes (or it was very light). We saw several cats fighting during the hour we were there. If you have seen the television show My Cat from Hell, which we actually did see on the tv in Vietnamese in Hanoi, you may know that there are certain things you can do to create an environment which will help with this kind of thing.

7. Cats in cages. We saw two cats in the back in cages. I don’t know why they were there but one of them kept crying. I understand that at some cat cafes they may move a problem cat/fighting cat to another room, but they need to have access to food, water, and a littler box at all times!

Person Tending to Cage

8. At one point I saw a cat on the balcony walking on the ledge! That is a little scary!

It is not really a surprise from Vietnam as the country isn’t known for caring about animals (quite the opposite), but we had had a good experience at ICHI Cat Cafe down in Ho Chi Minh so we thought it might be okay.

Now, despite their instability, most of the cats were very sweet and it was nice to hang out with them. One white fluffy one crawled up to Kyle at one point, kneaded him, purred, and finally settled and went to sleep in his lap. We felt really bad when we left and the cat had to leave his lap.

Crawling on Lap
Kyle with Kitties
Kyle with White Cat

All of the cats who would accept attention really seemed happy to receive pets.

Me with CatGray Kitty
Kitty in bean bag

There were also two cats that were very sweet to watch because they were always rubbing each other, giving each other baths, etc.

Cuddling cats

I can’t exactly recommend the place but at the same time I worry that they would give them even less care or something if they don’t get enough visitors so if you happen to be in the area, that is your call. I really hope they work to improve things.

Kitty walking

Wanna Waffle Hanoi Menu

WannaWaffle (Hanoi)

~B~

WannaWaffle (it actually is one word) is a restaurant located near tourist activities such as the Water Puppet Theater and Hoan Kiem Lake. While employees occasionally stand outside to encourage you to eat there, you may still miss the place (or if you are like us, you may avoid it because of this factor). The main reason you may miss the restaurant is: to reach it, you must first go inside a convenience store, go in a little ways, and then go upstairs. Once upstairs, you have the choice of two different dining rooms. Within at least one of the dining rooms there are both inside and outside seating options (outside being the balcony/porch.)

Room

Now Wanna Waffle does not just have waffles. Our initial motivation to go there came from a sign outside which showed sandwiches, including a vegetarian sandwich for a fairly decent price at VND36,000-VND45,000 (~$2 or less.) I was in the mood for a sandwich and Kyle wanted a regular meal as well so we each ordered one. I, of course, ordered the Grilled Veg, and Kyle got the Pork Skewer sandwich.

Sandwich Menu

We both rated our sandwiches as quite good in taste, quality, and value. On this first visit we also ordered a dessert: a single cookie. The cookie was freshly made and delicious as well. They also brought us water which was nice.

Pork Sandwich
Grilled Veg Sandwich
Fresh Cookie

We visited on second occasion as well. This time Kyle ordered the Egg-mayonnaise sandwich (he liked it) and I tried to get the veg sandwich again. They told me they were out which was okay because it meant I could get a waffle! The waffles are a little more expensive than the sandwiches (as in $3 instead of $2) so I needed an excuse (they actually did vary in price depending on which waffle you chose and can go higher, though.) I chose one of the more basic waffles. If we lived in Hanoi I think I would like to try more of them, though.

The waffle I ordered was a great waffle! It was not large, but was a little more filling than it looked. It was one of the best I’ve tasted. It seemed like a very carefully crafted waffle. The outside had a nice crisp (but not burned at all) but the texture inside was perfect, soft but almost like a custard but not liquid. The ice cream and sauces were also very good. It was fun to eat with the provided utensils.

My Waffle

In terms of other items on the menu there are plenty of drinks including smoothies, milkshakes, coffee, tea, juice, and more. In addition to the different types of waffles, you can also create your own waffle. There are various sundaes, parfaits, and also a couple other interesting regular dishes.

Wanna Waffle Menu

The decor is nice as well.

Wall Art
Seated Area
Waffle Art

The employees were also really friendly. They even gave us a list of other restaurants they recommend.

Restaurant Recommendations

Sweets and Bakeries in Hanoi

~B~

I just covered the bakery in Cat Ba, so I decided it was time to write about the bakeries in Hanoi as well. One of the few things I had read about Vietnam before going there (a travel decision made less than a week in advance) was the abundance of bakeries. Thus I was somewhat disappointed when we arrived in Saigon and they seemed to be few and far between. What I found was: if you are looking for the bakeries, go north.

Phuong Anh Bakery

Phuong Anh

Just down the street and around the corner from our first place in Hanoi was a bakery called Phuong Anh Bakery. Just as in Cat Ba, the proximity made this place a frequent of our’s for sweets.

Cute

They had a selection of cute and tasty desserts, mostly different types of cakes and cream puffs. I especially like the smaller cakes like the green tea cake (to which Kyle was not as privy) and the similar chocolate ones. Sometimes we would enjoy our baked goods alongside tea or coffee as we worked.

Tea cake and tea

Kyle especially liked the sweet pastry rolls (a regular bread roll that is sweet and a little flaky) and the larger cake pieces which had filling in them.

Cake and roll
Nearby cakes

We both enjoyed the little cream puffs.

Cream puffs

Depending on the day/time, this bakery was manned by different members of a family- usually the father or older son, though other family members were sometimes present.

The pricing worked a little differently here. We would choose our items and then they would get their calculator out, think about things and add up some numbers and show us the result. There was probably some sort of pricing system but they didn’t tell/show us and I’m not sure if it was entirely consistent. We were already used to this type of pricing from some places in Malaysia and other parts of Vietnam. Luckily, the bakery was quite affordable. We could usually get a few pieces of cake for just over a dollar.

Find it: This particular bakery does not appear online and is not on Googlemaps either. This is actually one of the things I liked about Vietnam- there is still plenty to discover that’s not on the internet already. If you’re looking for it, it’s on Ngo 124 Au Co.

Banh Ngot

Banh Ngot

What we deemed the closest true bakery to our second place, we went to Banh Ngot a couple times. They had a different and more varied selection than Phuong Anh including options with fruit and cream.

Options
At the bakery

One of my favorite items from there which was a concoction which I can only describe as a blob of chocolate and cream. Though many items were on the smaller end, they started at 3,000VND, only $0.13! Obviously many items were more, but most weren’t over 15,000VND ($0.67.) You could get a well-decorated entire cake for around $5.

Chocolate blob and cakeFruit dessertCake
Peach Cream

We came across another bakery one time while walking around at night which was fairly comparable to this one in terms of selection, price, and taste but I don’t recall the name.

Chocolate cakes

Find it: Tiệm Bánh Ngọt Bùi Công Trung, 20 Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Highlands Coffee

Highlands Coffee box

Sometime during our first time in Hanoi we were heading back to our Airbnb and I suggested we stop at the bakery. Kyle said we could do it later. Well, later came and the bakery closed.

Most likely not wanting to avoid ramifications of an addict not getting their fix, Kyle sweetly decided he would go on a night run to find me some chocolate. He returned with a brownie and a coffee bar, both of which were delicious.

Highlands coffee desserts

There are many locations for Highlands Coffee throughout Vietnam and I believe they now have locations Philippines as well. The chain which was created by a Vietnamese American in Hanoi about 20 years ago (the first time an “Overseas Vietnamese” was able to create a private company there) also serves coffee (obviously) and food. The cost for food and coffee is a little closer to western prices, so we otherwise avoided this place. Based on the quality of my desserts, I assume their coffee and food is pretty good, though.

Kem Ho Tay (ice cream)

Kem Ho

We were making our way back to our first Airbnb after a long day out and came across the perfect snack- ice cream! You can go inside and sit and get a nice ice cream dish but we opted for the stand outside so we would be able to eat our ice cream on our walk back.

Kem ho tayKem ho

We ordered one cone each. I believe it was 10,000VND each, so a little less than a dollar for both. Once we tasted our ice cream Kyle was quite happy as the flavor was coconut. It was pretty good. Another piece I found about this place online claims that you can choose what flavor you would like in your cone with the flavors being strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate. This was not our experience as we were not asked which flavor we preferred and we were then given coconut which is none of those but if you would like more information on Kem Ho Tay, I would still check out Travel Fish’s account of the place.

Find it: 1 Thanh Niên, Trúc Bạch, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Popeyes

Popeyes? Really? Yes, really. The closest bakery (Banh Ngot) to our second place in Hanoi was just a little farther than the first one and, at this point we were in the mood for a different kind of dessert.

Ice Cream!

I am not sure if I had ever eaten at Popeyes before we came to Vietnam but I have to say, I rather like it now. We would sometimes walk over for late-night biscuits and fries, but almost always, for ice cream, of course! Sometimes plain soft-serve, sometimes chocolate covered, sometimes both, each. It was such a lovely walk over too! We passed the lake with the bridge all lit up (I never could get a proper photo) and the fountain flowing, etc. Very pretty. And then the square with the food felt quite modern and classier than you would imagine for an area with fast food.

Fries and biscuits

2 soft serves and a large fry would run us VND47,000, about $2. A plain soft serve cost VND8000 and a chocolate covered cone cost VND10,000.

How to spot an American:

Ice Cream!

Where do you find your dessert while traveling?

Chocolate