This is one of my favorite travel photos. My cousin Frannie and me (Peter was also with us) visited Halong Bay in 2015. The bay was stunning but our boat ride was pretty horrible. We spent days walking around Saigon and Hanoi and were looking forward to a relaxing Halong Bay "cruise". I envisioned having cocktails at sunset and dining on fresh Vietnamese seafood dishes in an elegant junk boat with majestic sails. We paid for a "deluxe" cruise and were told that there would be 10 passengers. There were more than double the people on board, our room and bathroom were dilapidated and dirty and the blankets and towels had stains. The food was extraordinary terrible....moldy bread, instant ramen noodles and a puny fish divided by 6 people that was so small that by the time it got to Frannie and Peter all that was left was the head. Entertainment was beer pong with muddy looking beer served from a pail. It was an overnight "cruise" and early the next day, a man banged on our door and window, woke us up and commanded that we stay on deck till the end of the trip.
We were hungry, tired and felt duped.
Thankful for travel partners who, when all is horrible, can just take a selfie, laugh, and enjoy the ride.
If you visit Saigon and love crab, eat at 94 Quan Thuy, a no frills restaurant frequented by locals that serves delicious fresh crab dishes. The restaurant is small and clean, the food is served quickly and prices are very reasonable.
We stayed at the budget friendly Hanoi Pearl Hotel which included a good buffet breakfast which I enjoyed since Vietnamese ice coffee was included. The rooms were clean and comfortable and the location was excellent for exploring and shopping.
My "feels like a spy film moment" was when we went for a walk on an empty street and out of nowhere, a police car suddenly drove in and policemen barged into a bar in what looked like a raid. For a moment I thought that there was a curfew that our hotel did not tell us about. The policement saw us and for a frightening moment I thought that we would be arrested.
Peter's mom, who is from Hanoi, is one of the most gifted cooks. Peter and I have been together for over 15 years and one of her dishes that I absolutely love is her cha ca (the classic Hanoi sautéed fish with turmeric, dill and galangal served with vermicelli noodles) which she cooks on special occasions. I have always wanted to visit Hanoi and finally got the chance last March. We visited an old friend Sacha, who moved there to teach at an International School and spent four days touring and tasting different dishes.
A list of our best eats in Hanoi.