Every Holy Week the Agcaoilis make it a point to travel to a different country. For this year we travelled to Hanoi, Vietnam; just 6 days after wrapping up our Holy Land tour. Sophie is surely fast becoming a jetsetter, having travelled to 11 countries in just her 17 months of existence.

Well, I wasn’t really keen on doing this tour. Maybe because South East Asian countries never really interest me. One, because I find PH far more interesting than the nearby countries in terms of natural wonders, and two, because of the hot weather. I tire easily and lose interest when its too hot while touring. And this was what happened in Hanoi when we had our city tour. It was just too hot, that even Sophie was sweating like crazy it looked like she just came from shower everytime we walk.

Anyway, what I find interesting in Hanoi were the foods. I was not normally adventurous when it comes to international cuisine, and having just finished our Holy Land tour where I realized how much I hated (as in totally) Mediterranean food, I wasn’t ready for another food adventure. So, it came as a surprise that I like it. Well, some of it at least. Vietnamese food weren’t so bad after all, maybe remove the cilantro (they put tons of it) and they taste good, even for a picky eater like me.

Some of the foods we had during our 4 day stay.

street fruits
I think the one that looked like mango was the only edible here. The other two, esp. the red one that looked like sineguelas, were absolute no-no. It was too sour. These were sprinkled with sugar and chili and cost 50k vnd or approx. 100 php.

We also had our lunch at the supposed most famous restaurant in Hanoi.

Hanoi’s most famous
We walked from Hotel de L’opera (where we stayed) to here which was like 2 km under the scorching heat. The place looked like a small filthy carinderia which goes up to fifth floor. It was packed with foreigners and locals alike, and we finally settled to 4th flr. They only served 2 kinds of foods from which they are famous of, the grilled pork with rice noodles and crab spring rolls.

grilled pork

crab rolls

rice noodles
It was delicious of course, like my mother in law says, “mura na, madumi pa” (cheap and filthy). She was so grossed out by the place that even though the food tasted great, she only ate a little. Funny thing was, it blacked out the moment we started eating. It was so hot and dirty and packed with people and  even though its the most famous here I’m never eating here again. Ever.

By dinner time we just ate inside the hotel’s Vietnamese restaurant, Satine. We wanted to be sure the quality of the foods we’re eating, I guess. I must commend their spring rolls, they tasted great. The others were blah. I wished that I ordered for a clubhouse instead.

breakfast chicken pho
We stayed in Hotel de L’opera for 3 nights, and good thing that they have an acceptable array of foods during breakfast, continental buffet. Sophie somehow loved their chicken congee, which is a good thing. I was thinking that she wouldn’t eat Vietnamese food and I brought several cup noodles along with us.

On our city tour the next day, we were brought to a nice European style restaurant during lunch called La Tonkin. We were served with Vietnamese food again, but all were good. Again, Sophie had her chicken congee which tasted so good that I ate over half of it.

Now this is the more interesting part. There was an ice cream shop near the hotel called Kem Trang Tien since 1958. We think its very famous because we passed by a couple of times and it was packed with people and motorcycles going in and out of the area. So after the tour we walked and gave it a try. It was located in a small complex, with 3 stores selling the ice cream and parking lot for the motocycles. We were all excited to try because all people inside were happily chitchatting and eating their ice cream. It has only one flavor (vanilla) in sugar cone.

Kem Trang Tien famous vanilla ice cream
How I wish that the ice cream tasted as good as it looked. It was awful. I didn’t know the exact ingredients for an ice cream but this one clearly lacked sufficient milk and loaded with sugar. It also has a bitter aftertaste, even the sugar cone. I guess I was waiting for the taste to get better, but it didn’t, so after eating some, I unceremoniously threw it away. Really, what a waste of effort and excitement. The locals have an out-of-this-world standard of a good ice cream. I would prefer our dirty ice cream any time of the day.

Some of the foods at Bhaya Cruises

shrimp roll and breaded squid

chicken and mushroom egg soup

mango salad

grilled shrimp with tartar sauce

opera cake

fresh oysters and shrimps

sea bass curry

light breakfast 😉

seafood pasta and fried squid
On our last night, we went to the famous Halong Bay. We boarded the Bhaya Cruises for our overnight cruise. In fairness, almost all foods were great, the taste somewhat caters to the foreigners, which was all the better for me.

famous beef pho
I’m not a fan of noodles, and I couldn’t really say whether I like their Pho or not. I think its acceptable enough. Maybe remove some of the cilantro, or better yet, nothing at all, then it’ll be okay. Here, pho’s are everywhere, even on breakfast. Cilantros are everywhere on their food, too. On our four days here, one food that stood out is their spring rolls. They make really good ones. So in my short experience of Vietnam, Vietnamese food is all about spring rolls and not pho.