On our tour to Hanoi earlier this year, we booked a day trip to visit the more touristy area at Trang An and Bai Dinh Pagoda.
These day trips can be booked while you’re at Hanoi via various agencies, or you can do it online and have everything arranged ahead of time. We did the latter, and sure enough on the day of travel, our tour guide appeared at the lobby of our hotel at 7 in the morning to pick us up.
Bai Dinh Pagoda, with the biggest bell in Vietnam
The small tour bus then rounded up the rest of the visitors before heading to our first destination – Bai Dinh Pagoda. It was a journey of about 100 km that takes some two hours. The transportation infrastructure at Hanoi isn’t exactly superb, but at least it was paved roads all the way.
After stopping at the front gate, you have to purchase an “electric car” ticket to get to the actual pagoda/temple area, so we did just that, hopped on the extended cab golf cart, and went on our merry way.
Buddha statue wrapped in gold
The temple complex was huge. The main area houses some pretty impressive Buddha statues wrapped in gold, and there’s even a 22 meter giant bell tower that’s said to be the biggest in Vietnam. Unfortunately you don’t get to bang the bell though.
this is the longest corridor in Vietnam too, apparently
Additionally, there’s also this super long corridor (longest in Vietnam) that has various stone statues of Buddha’s students along the way.
All in all, this portion of the tour made for a good morning walk, and luckily the late winter temperature of 20 Celsius was quite conducive for such exercise.
this scene in Trang An looks a bit like from Kung Fu movie
After Bai Dinh, we stopped by for a somewhat forgettable buffet lunch before heading to the second half of the tour package – the river boat tour at Trang An.
While Halong Bay gets a lot of publicity and tourists for its beautiful scenery and rock formation, Trang An is often touted as the Halong Bay of land, so instead of out in the sea, you get a very similar view inland, and instead of big cruise ships, you get to be on a small boat.
goat on Kong Island
The advantage of being on a small boat is that you do get a lot closer to the nature than being on a cruise ship with way too many other tourists. The boats can take up to 4 person each, and usually paddled by a local lady, resulting in a very quiet and serene tour that I thought was very soothing. You’re also welcomed to help paddle the boat along.
my brother & mom, at Kong island
Other than the beautiful landscape, there’s also Kong’s island to check out, which is actually whatever that was left over of the movie set for Kong – Skull Island movie that was released in 2017. I thought it was quite cool actually, they even have some locals who play dressed up that you can take photos with, and nope, I did not participate in those kinda stuff.
hello fellow Malaysians on the same tour 😀
Overall it was a pretty decent day of tour, we got back to the city by evening, and I would recommend anyone who is planning a trip to Hanoi to check it out.
One of the more improbable thing I heard about Hanoi (or Vietnam in general) while doing research about the place prior to visiting was this “free food tour” thingy, cos you know, in my mind, how can anything truly be free?
HanoiKids free food tour at Hanoi
Well, as it turns out, there is such thing. The many different “clubs” that offers free food tour operates under a similar motto – in exchange for their service, the tour guides, usually university students, get to practice their conversational English, and all we needed to do is to pay for the meals.
Our experience at Hanoi was provided by HanoiKids, we booked the service online through their website, and sure enough on the evening of our appointment date, our guides – Mint & Mok, showed up at the hotel lobby as promised.
Both these girls are students from Foreign Trade University located just a few kilometers away from here. In fact, they didn’t even know each other prior to this engagement, which I thought was a pretty interesting arrangement.
first meal – herbal chicken noodle
Our first destination was herbal chicken noodle, or My Ga Tan. This is not entirely too different from our version of herbal chicken mee suah, but with darker broth that’s almost half way to bak kut teh taste, and “instant” noodle instead of mee suah. The chicken was rather tasty and really soft, there’s also a side of salt & chili padi should you want to kick it up a notch.
Address: Mỳ Gà Tần 24 Hàng Bồ, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
dry pho with steamed chicken
Next up was none other than the most famous dish in Vietnam – pho. In Hanoi this is usually served with chicken instead of beef, and the place we were brought to – Pho Ga Khanh Beo, has the more unique dry version.
The chicken was again very soft, with the overall flavor here more subtle than the beef version in Ho Chi Minh City, but does make for a good comfort meal as well. This isn’t entirely unlike dry version of kuih teow soup in Penang, but with more vege and nuts.
Address: Phở Gà Khánh Béo 22 Hàng Hòm, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam Hours: 5:30 pm to 11:30 pm
Grilled quail eggs at Nguyen Quang Bich Street
Moving on from those noodle dishes, we had this traditional street food that’s made of 3-4 quail eggs cooked with cheese, meat floss, fried shallots, green onion, sausage etc and served with tamarind sauce. It does take quite a bit for the lady to “grill” those tiny plates up but what you get at the end was quite a unique taste and experience unlike any other, now if they can just serve this at hotel breakfast egg station, my life would be complete.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert, and for this purpose we were brought to this place by the name of Hoa Beo for a spot of dessert. We ended up having yogurt, fruit jelly, and even mixed fruits with condensed milk. While they aren’t exactly very sophisticated, it was a good sweet note to this rather awesome free food tour.
Thank you Mint & Moc for the wonderful hospitality. Do check out HanoiKids if your’e heading to Hanoi.
Address: Hoa Béo 17 Tố Tịch Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
When in Hanoi, one has to of course, go to the many many cafes dotted around the city that embraces the coffee culture unlike any other South East Asian countries. While the traditional drip coffee is still king around here, there are increasingly more and more fancy modern cafes as the economic status of the country progresses.
Gardenista, French Quarter Hanoi
While walking around the Hoan Kiem Lake Park, a place anyone would surely visit while at Hanoi, we took a rest as this beautiful cafe that is Gardenista for a spot of coffee and a bit of rest after a long walk around the lake.
black coffee, extra milk coffee, coconut ice cream coffee
The cafe itself is almost half green house & half cafe, with plenty of plants both on the floor, the counter, and even hanging from the ceiling. The interior is separated into three distinct areas, with another outdoor section to boot. I think this place can easily house over a hundred caffeinated souls.
ambiance is as important as taste when it comes to cafe
We tried their standard long black, extra milk coffee that’s got a bit more milk than your usual latte, and my favorite – the coconut ice cream coffee. These were pretty good coffee, but I do think that the ambiance is what anyone is really here for. Would love to revisit and spend an afternoon with a good book (nay.. phone and data plan).
Realized it’s been a while since I last posted anything in Klang Valley, I suppose it’s appropriate to get back on talking about my favorite dish – bak kut teh. This is in fact the 60th such post on this blog, yeap, a bit much perhaps, but someone’s gotta do the job.
Teck Huat Bak Kut Teh, Bandar Baru Klang
Teck Huat bak kut teh is located at Bandar Baru Klang, a stone’s throw away from Aeon Bukit Raja, and less than a couple minutes away from NKVE toll.
If the name rings a bell, it is because the restaurant is operated by the same family that brought the country our very first bowl of bak kut teh, the inventor itself – Teck Teh, and if my information is correct, this is in fact the brother of Teck Seong, one of my other go-to BKT restaurant.
“pua pui chiak”, or pork belly meat
Teck Huat offers both standard bowl-type bak kut teh as well as in clay pot depending on your preference. I went with the former and yes, it does carry the signature subtle herbal note with some of the most tender pork texture just like the other Teck’s.
If you like one, you’ll like the other two.
sumptuous breakfast or lunch, take your pick
Unlike Teck Seong, Teck Huat usually operates till lunch, parking is also a simpler affair at this area, so if you long for some good old fashion bak kut teh, this is certainly a worthy place to visit.
In North Borneo, the most often talked about hawker dish by visitors is undoubtedly fish noodle, and justifiably so due to the abundance of great seafood here. However, for the locals, often times a good plate of Tuaran Mee is where it’s at.
Tuaran Mee Restoran, Inanam, Kota Kinabalu
For those who’re not familiar, Tuaran Mee is a type of noodle originally hailed from Tuaran, the district just north of Kota Kinabalu. The noodle carries a texture that’s unique to its own, which I can only describe as having a springy texture almost but not entirely alike a mixture between yee mee and kolo mee.
I really like it, and think it’s about time someone introduce this to the West Malaysia scene.
Without driving up to Tuaran, one restaurant that offers a unique take on this dish is none other than the aptly named Tuaran Mee Restoran at Inanam, located some 15 minutes away from the city center.
The menu is found hung on the wall and giving diners a choice of noodle that are fried, in soup, or even in claypot. You then pick the different ingredients of choice – seafood, beef, or pork.
seafood Tuaran mee with lehing, love it!
Most interestingly though, you get to add Lehing, the locally produced alcohol.
For obvious reasons, I had my Tuaran mee with seafood and Lehing, resulting in a dish that had that extra sweetness from the extra dash of forbidden condiment. The seafood was competent, and I thought I really enjoyed the accompanying chili sauce as well. I’d recommend this to anyone.
seafood meehun soup
My lunch partner had meehun soup with seafood that came with plenty of those fresh vegetable that Sabah is known for and reportedly happy with her decision as well. It was a good meal, and I think I’d be back there again hopefully in not too distant future.
Address: Tuaran Mee Restoran mile 6, Jalan Tuaran, Inanam, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah GPS: 5.993625, 116.129537