Yeayy, finally I have the mood to write something about our latest family trip in late July. It wasn’t easy to blog it as so many unfortunate events happened after our return home. There was a car breakdown in the middle of the highway which we then had to call a towing service and left the car at a repair shop in Bandung (the latest news about the cost of the repair is that it will cost us the latest, most sophisticated macbook pro ). This week I started to have bad flu with lots of heavy coughs hurting my chest and tummy. Finally, I force myself to start writing about our trip to Vietnam before I forget too much about it.
From Jakarta we flew to Ho Chi Minh City and stayed there for 2 nights. Then, we flew to Hanoi and stayed there for 3 nights and managed to take a daytrip to Ha Long Bay. Although I have developed a very rough itinerary but once we got there we kinda just tossed it out of the window and just randomly picked some touristy spots on the day based on our mood.
Vietnam was very very hot as it is summer time from April to August. We would stepped out of the hotel for half hour and drenched with sweat already. As a result, we went around the city mostly by taxi which luckily was cheap but unluckily very tricky. Please do take this advice: only take taxi from reputable companies (Vinasun and Mai Linh in HCMC; Hanoi/Hanoi Tourist and Mai Linh in Hanoi). Make sure to familiar yourself with how the taxi of these companies looks like as there are many of their knock-offs. We learned our lesson for not paying serious attention on this taxi business and paid 4x times more and almost had Raissa’s stroller stollen. Also, when you want to pick up a fight (like Kris did) make sure the other person travelling with you already open the door first and step out (so another tip would be not to take taxi alone) of the taxi and collect your belongings then the other peson can start the fight. Otherwise, everyone would be locked up in a taxi (using child lock), drove away on driver’s wish while drivers pull out a stick to bang on his passengers until the passengers beg for mercy and agreed to pay the amount the driver asks for. Thank goodness it didn’t happen to us but it happens to many others including a friend of mine. So after Raissa and I stepped out and I, thank goodness felt something fishy, immediately opened the passenger front-seat door to take out Raissa’s stroller, only then Kris did start his fight and successfully threatened the driver who looked very scared and sped away as soon as Kris threw the money to the floor.
The toughest part about Vietnam for us was to find Halal food. It was a real scarcity. We were quite lucky because I was already warned by my aunt to bring some Halal and non-spicy food from home, which worked out okay for Kris and Raissa but not so much for me. I love food. When I travel, I want to eat what the local eats. I want to eat things that either don’t exist or very difficult (or too expensive) to enjoy in Indonesia. Plus, all the food we bring from home, naturally are instant food. It’s okay for a few survival moments but not for every meal. Oh please no. So I got cranky and determined to find Halal food in both HCMC and Hanoi, when I googled it came out with a few recommendations. Unfortunately, one which I aimed to visit in HCMC seemed to have been closed down or the information provided was wrong. We couldn’t find it. We finally had a dinner in a Halal Indian restaruant, which weirdly has a Jesus on a Cross above the cashier. But we did check if the food there is Halal and they said yes. At last, I had a grilled lamb for dinner. In Hanoi, we found a Malay restaurant (Nisa Restaurant) but only served Chicken Pho (Vietnamese Noodle) on the spot. Unless, we called and ordered other meal before going there first so they have time to do grocery shopping. The owner of Nisa is a very nice man though and it turns out that he’s half Malaysian (his mom), half Indonesian (his dad) and his wife is Vietnamese. Anyhooo, when finally back on Indonesia soil, I abandoned eggs, corned beef, sausages, noddles, and potatoes from my diet for awhile now. Because I had enough of those when we were in Vietnam.
Scary stories and the food challenge aside, we enjoyed Vietnam though particularly on the accommodation and craft shopping. Things are cheap(er), people are actually very friendly, and the country is clean. The cities are quite green and pedestrians can have their stroll on their walkway just like in Singapore (and unlike in Jakarta). Honestly, HCMC and Hanoi are so much nicer than Jakarta, and Jakarta is my (one of my fave) hood, y’kno!
I hope you enjoy the pics
Jakarta-HCMC (Air Asia), HCMC-Hanoi (Vietnam Airlines), Hanoi-Singapore (Tiger Airways), Singapore-Jakarta (Lion Air)
Phheewwww… I really did check out all possible options and combination and decided that the itinerary I chose might not be the cheapo cheapest but it was still quite cheap and most convenient for us (things considered were baggage allowance, transportation to airports, overnight stay, and time consumption, etc.)
HCMC: Saigon Mini Hotel 5 (nice)
Ha Noi: Hanoi Eclipse Hotel (highly recommended)
We booked the tour to Ha Long Bay through this hotel. The staff are so friendly, accomodating, and just simply easy going, yet very professional. The hotel location is also strategic.