Arrival in Hanoi, Vietnam

Today was the start of our trip to Hanoi and Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. We relaxed and slept in today since our flight was not until 4pm. Plus Ron needed to recuperate from lack of sleep during exams. We ordered in McD for lunch because we were too lazy to go out. We had a taxi van take us to the airport which we found out was a bit more expensive than taking 2 taxis, at least for a flight at this time in the afternoon. The taxi van holds 7 passengers and it cost 42SGD while a taxi holds up to 4 passengers and it costs about 16-20SGD depending on traffic.

We took Tiger Airways for the first time and it’s in the “Budget Terminal” at Changi Airport. At SFO there are so-called budget airlines but they don’t have a separate terminal, they are just usually farther away from the main entrance and exits. Tiger Airways is actually in a separate “Budget Terminal” complete with purple sign touting “BUDGET TERMINAL” and yellow painted walls. Inside was warehouse like and Tiger was the only airline. But after the check-in counters, the terminal is like any other airport terminal fit with shops and eateries.

Of note, I think all public bathrooms should have these:

Boarding our flight:

The flight was about 3 hours and the time in Vietnam is 1 hour behind Singapore. We arrived a bit late because we were delayed at Changi for about 20-30 minutes so it was around 7:30pm. We had booked a tour sometime last week so the tour guide Handetour was coming to pick us up at the airport.

We had an hour ride into Hanoi and they just dropped us off at the hotel, Chains First Eden Hotel. Our tour wouldn’t officially start until the next morning but the guide advised us to walk a few blocks down the street to the “old quarter” and around the lake to find a place for dinner.

We got settled into our rooms then decided to venture out to find dinner. It was a bit crazy because you’re trying to cross the street but there is a swarm of motorbikes coming your way and they don’t really stop, they just swerve to avoid you. You’re risking your life to cross the street… but surprisingly no one seems to get hit as the bikers have pretty quick reflexes.

We ended up having dinner at a place above the Visitor’s Center near the lake. The restaurant was called “Bunta: Everything is Bun”. “Bun” meaning noodles! We had a fantastic dinner, except maybe the portions were small but I filled up at the end with a three color drink dessert, one of my favorite things to get at a Vietnamese restaurant.

The menu:

Bia Ha Noi (Bia = Beer):

Spring rolls with pork:

Spring rolls with pork and shrimp:

Yummy dipping sauces, one ginger-like and the other peanuts:

Bun Bo (spicy beef noodle soup):

Additives for my soup (the green curly things are “morning glory” and the yellow strips are “banana flowers”):

Ron’s dinner of Bun Thit Nuong (grilled and shredded pork dry noodles):

Three color (actually four…) drink, from bottom to top: yellow bean, green and red gelatin with water chestnuts inside then topped with coconut milk and ice.

We had a pretty satisfying meal for less than 10USD per person.

We took a walk partially around the lake and then hailed a cab home. The cabs here fit 7 people. It was a nice car actually and the cab driver was funny, I don’t think he really understood us well so we’d ask him a question and he’d turn up the stereo. We were blasting “Missing” by EBTG until we got to the hotel. It was 58,000VND (less than 4USD, the conversion is 16,000VND to 1USD).

We had breakfast at the hotel included for the morning and our driver with tour guide was picking us up at 8am, so we headed straight for bed.

Just some other travel notes if you’re interested in travelling to Vietnam:
Our flight cost 380SGD RT per pax from SIN to HAN.
The visa took about a week to get and cost 70SGD per pax (we had to go to embassy, they don’t have e-visa applications yet).
The whole tour was 173USD per pax (not inclusive for all meals but did include all accomodations, transportation, and tour guide) and you’ll see in the next few posts what we did on our tour.
Dinners cost approx 10-15USD per pax depending on what beverage you had.
They expect tips! but you don’t need to give much, a few USD is enough. Be nice but don’t be conned.

For slideshow including a few other pictures, click here or see below.

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