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In search of egg coffee... and other delights: 16 days and 16 nights in Vietnam

In search of egg coffee... and other delights: 16 days and 16 nights in Vietnam

Jan 11th, 2019, 06:47 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,924
In search of egg coffee... and other delights: 16 days and 16 nights in Vietnam

Hi everyone

I was going to title this "in search of Anthony Bourdain" but that would put too much pressure to be as interesting as he was! In a way though this is why I'm right here right now. Vietnam has been high on my list but I was actually thinking of Morocco and Sri Lanka first and Vietnam next winter. His untimely and tragic death made me tell myself "next new trip is to go where he loved" because I remember reading a number of times this was one of his favorite countries. Anthony this is for you, then!

Arrived late last night - technically today I suppose!

Easy and uneventful arrival - at both IAD and ICN I encountered *no* security lines. Not "small security lines" - NO security lines - I even had my own conveyor belt. Good timing as the TSA guy (who I thanked profusely as well as all the others I encountered) said I was right in the middle of the early and late morning rushes. Not sure why ICN was so easy too! I'll take it.

The Visa worked smashingly, thank you crellston! I had a driver waiting for me to whisk me to L'Opera, and thank you for that as well!

Despite being so tired (28-29 hours door to door) I got very little sleep in the wonderful and comfy bed. Jet lag - so tired and so Awake! So off I go and will report back later. Egg coffee will be among the first things I seek out.


PS I will be updating instagram more often than here, most likely, because I can do it from my phone and on the fly. skywalkerbeth is my handle.
flygirl is offline  
Jan 12th, 2019, 12:50 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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so glad I clicked on this, flygirl. I've not ventured into SE Asia yet but it's on my list so I'll be very interested to see what you have to say about Vietnam. Nor do i know that much about Anthony Bourdain so I'm looking forward to reading about him too.

And a live TR - even better.

Get some sleep and then keep it coming!
annhig is offline  
Jan 12th, 2019, 04:11 AM
Join Date: May 2003
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Glad your journey to Vietnam was uneventful. Iíll be watching for your next installment! Have fun!
Florida1 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2019, 05:25 AM
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Glad you made ok flygirl. Looking forward to reading more. I don’t do Instagram but will get my wife to check you out via her account.
crellston is offline  
Jan 12th, 2019, 05:58 AM
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I'm mourning Anthony Bourdain as well - happily Netflix kept up the episodes of Parts Unknown they were about to take down. Have been to Vietnam three times and enjoyed all three visits, so looking forward to more.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 12th, 2019, 07:01 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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flygirl...........here I am looking for you in Europe and...you are in Vietnam! Eager to read your report.....hope you will have a great trip.....both my kids went and just loved it. Maybe you will stop in Paris on the way back????????
Traviata is online now  
Jan 12th, 2019, 10:39 AM
Join Date: Oct 2012
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So excited to travel along with you, virtually. We’ve visited Vietnam & Cambodia as a land tour and Mekong River Cruise 3 years ago and now that we’ve seen the major sites, sights, we’re anxious for more travel in Vietnam. Your travels come at a great time as while I was reading your planning posts we decided to make an independent return later this year. Will anxiously read and devour every word of your travel experiences. The hard part is over, now it’s time for you to enjoy!
wunderbar2 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2019, 07:03 PM
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Wow thank you everyone! My posts may be short at times and if I don't address you directly don't feel bad I will come back and re-update later. I'm at breakfast and sorting out my day.

I am not sure how many are like me but my usual travel MO is to read a ton of stuff and absorb what the options are but unless something must be booked I plan nothing other than flights and hotels and then just show up and see where the day may take me. Breakfast and books figure into this! And now with the lightweight Mac Air I can do all my last minute stuff on the fly too. I was initially hesitant to even book the hotel breakfasts but yesterday I tried it out and it's full of fruit and other goodies so I decided it would be easier to set up court here each morning over coffee and yummies and figure out what I wanted to point my feet towards.

Yesterday I sent out the emails to the quality tour operators for Ha Long Bay and Ninh Binh and I await word. Most likely HLB will be Tuesday-Wednesday and NB will be Thursday as the latter part of the week seems less rainy in both locations (per yahoo weather app which maybe isn't the best place to look).

One of the operators has a rock climbing option for HLB as an activity - I've never done that before which gives it a plus for "why not". We'll see which one comes through. I'm seeing prices of roughly 300-350USD for the one night two days tour for the places I've emailed which might be 5 star. I will ask if they have 4-star and compare the difference.

Some short and sweet vignettes from yesterday!

After breakfast I finally had my first wander. L'Opera is in a fantastic location. Easy walking to a lot of things and much less frenetic outside the door than the Old Quarter. I walked up the side of the lake, dodging kiddos on their motorized small cars in the Walking Streets (they close down numerous streets around the lake from Friday night to Sunday night - love it!).

I finally hit my first destination - Giang Cafe - and had an egg coffee. OMG! It's coffee custard! There was a lot of hustle bustle and a number of non-Asians around me - a few accents sounded Australian. I love that the stools and tables are so tiny and short in many of the places I've seen so far - I wonder why that is, what is the story behind that? This one was small wooden stools and the tables were short and marble in the middle.

Then more aimless wandering. I didn't really have a plan just wanted to walk - remember I'm super jet lagged too! Photos and videos and marveling at the flowing river of scooters. The sidewalks are full of parked scooters so you have no choice but to walk in the street. They flow around you.

Two funny stories which I will cut and paste directly from my Facebook page to my friends, so I hope the emojis and whatnot show up. The photos and videos sadly do not unless I can figure out a way to post them, so that is what I was referring to when I said this postcard, this woman, etc. Here goes:

Funny story number one.

So I’m wandering and see this postcard. I remember that aha I want to see the train street. It a narrow street with businesses and etc on it and every so often a train comes down it like in postcard. No idea where it is.

I took a photo of this woman and turned around to see a guy in one of those pedal bicycle things with the seat in front motioning at me. Busy streets are full of touts! Anyway!

⚡️⚡️ brilliant idea!!

I walked up to the guy and showed him the photo of the train street and asked him how much to go there? He quoted a price and so I climbed into the seat. Red velvet and even had a fringe-y cover on top (Michael I thought of you because you always laugh at how I stay under umbrellas in sun!) and so all the scooter videos I just posted which look like I’m IN traffic?

Well that’s because I’m IN traffic.

Anyway VOILA he took me to the street and I got a few photos and asked a local waiter what time the train comes. We were two hours early but I found out starting at 330 they are hourly so gonna try again.

Funny story two also cut and paste from Facebook:

I took a few photos of the train street without a train and started walking back to my chariot.

These two women were walking towards me so I took a few photos.

One of them pulled a goodie from her carryall and strode up to me and waved it at me.

Tip: if you don’t want to buy something just say no thanks and keep walking. Engaging means you just bought something. I reached out and took the fried puff ball and took a bite. That was her cue to set the while thing down and fill a bag for me while her friend watched.

So i got back in my chariot this time with a bag of fried puff balls and something else on a stick. Then her friend came up and tried to offer me one too. Nope I’m good, no more puff balls.

Off we went and he pedaled me back to the lake.


Ha! After that more walking and random poking around and looking at things and going inside of alleyways along the lake front. Later that afternoon I wandered over to the Opera House and saw that the "My Village" bamboo circus would be playing three nights this week albeit at a different location (it switches off with the Opera House, some nights there and some nights not). So I have the schedule and as soon as I know when I am going to HLB and NB I will book it.

and now I'm off to figure out my day, will come back with more later!

Last edited by flygirl; Jan 12th, 2019 at 07:34 PM.
flygirl is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 12:04 AM
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Excellent stuff flygirl! Feels like I am there with you.
crellston is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 02:25 AM
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yes, me too, Flygirl. Did you have an idea of how much the bicycle rickshaw was supposed to cost? In Sri Lanka we asked in the hotel how much the journey we were about to take ought to cost so as to get an idea of what to pay. Ditto the puff balls? and how did you communicate with people?
annhig is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 08:39 AM
Join Date: May 2004
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I'm following along here as I don't do Instagram. Glad you made it fine to Vietnam. I'm back in my beloved Bangkok at the moment and am 2.5 weeks into being here. You popped into my mind yesterday when I went to Cotton House for my second fitting. I remember you and the Audrey Hepburn-inspired dresses. LOL! I can't believe that this is year 20 to Bangkok and that Cotton House has been doing my clothes for probably 15 of those 20 years.

I hope to throw Vietnam into my 2019/2020 trip. I keep putting it off. I thought that I would have included it on this trip, but instead have thrown in Jakarta which I will be in in a few weeks from now. But, I have done my tentative itinerary for 2019/2020 and will try to allocate 5 nights in Saigon, flying from Kuala Lumpur there. I have 6-6.5 weeks for these annual S.E.Asia trips.

My rule of thumb is that if I'm throwing in a new place to make it for 4 or 5 nights in general although I have done 2 weeks in a new place, like 2 trips to Ghana, back to back, and all 2 weeks based in Accra. But, that was a different situation. But, since these countries are so close to each other, then I basically stick to the 4-5 night rule in one new place although I might do more than one place within a country and extend the nights. If I hate the place, then I know I will be leaving soon. If I love the place, then I can go back at a later date like with Taiwan which I loved in Jan/Feb 2018 and did 5 nights in Taipei. I have already booked Taiwan for July 2019, along with back to Japan. My 4-5 night, in-the-same-place plan has worked well thoughout the decades and I've also used it for places in Europe and South America.

It will be interesting when you plan your Morocco trip. I seldom check the Africa forum. Morocco is very interesting. I was in Marrakesh for a week, back in the early 80s, when I used to live in Copenhagen each summer for 11 weeks and then go to Tunisia and Morocco from either Paris or Nice. I hope you mention on this forum when you will start planning the Morroco trip so that I'll then know when to go over to the Africa forum and follow along.

Take care. Have a great time!

Happy Travels!
Guenmai is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 12:35 PM
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Oh no!

I wrote a reply last night before I turned in and I think I forgot to hit send before I close the laptop . Ugh I hope it is still there when I reopen it in the morning. I am writing this using VTT on my iPhone so it probably sounds stilted lol

Quick question for y’all - what do you typically do in the evenings after dinner ? Last night I was so tired I did a walk around the lake and then I went to bed ( where I got three hours asleep and then woke up and tossed and turned). Tonight I did the night market and wondered around But ended up going to sleep a bit later but here I am again awake.

at any rate tomorrow night I would like to do something more social / have a drink, maybe some live music? Even though I am solo .

I saw a reference to beer corner by crellston. Where and what is that?

One night this week I want to see the my Village/bamboo show But that is probably going to be Friday I think.

today I must make the decision on my trips from here eek!
flygirl is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 05:00 PM
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Ann, I had no idea. I just asked the person. I imagine I'm getting ripped off but it's so cheap anyway I'm not going to quibble. Plus, in both cases (once today too) by the time I saw an available one I was glad to finally sit down! I walked 19K steps today even with the assist! Yesterday 15K steps. I will ask tomorrow to the concierge and see if I can negotiate a little. The pedicab drivers can at least quote numbers and know the hotel at least! This is my second visit to SEA and I quite like it. I visited Thailand in Nov 2014 - hard to believe four years whizzed by. When I finally get to Sri Lanka I will have to check out your reports!

Crellston, thank you for holding my hand throughout the planning!

Florida, thanks!

Thursday: you're another frequent-timer! Anything you wish you had known on trip one - even something silly?

Traviata - I dearly hope I make it to Paris in 2019. I will break a long streak if I do not. Have a great time as I know you always do there.

Wunder - cool! You mean my posts put it back on your radar again? That's great!

I found the post so here goes send....
flygirl is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 05:51 PM
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And now a little of today and yesterday.

Have you ever had the feeling, even though it's only day two of an eight day stay, that there are tons of things you wish you had time to do and you can already see your time is running short? I am here in Hanoi, still jet lagged, and here until Saturday morning but three days this week will be away - it's just today and I think Friday that I will be in town. I still have to book HLB and NB, and today is the day. I also want to do a food tour with Hanoi Cooking Centre and an early early morning market tour with Footprint. It starts at 4 AM! Oy.

Highlights from yesterday (running out of time so will come back and fill in blanks)

Hoa Lo Prison

Temple of Literature

Dodging a surprise scooter that came out of nowhere and getting vomited upon for my pains

Museum of Fine Arts

Pizza 4Ps down a charming laneway

Night Market

Today I am going to visit the women's museum and I've already booked the market and food tour with Hanoi Cooking Centre in the mid afternoon.

PS I read what VTT did to my post above in the middle of the night. Ignore all typos LOL
flygirl is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 05:54 PM
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Trip one was a long time ago - 2001. Things had changed even by 2004. I will say that while I like Vietnamese coffee enough that I bought one of those little metal filters and some Vietnamese coffee when I got home, I drink it black and hot, even in Vietnam.

Watch out for taxi drivers going the long way, or with "fixed" meters.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 11:56 PM
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To find Beer corner, just put it into google maps . It is a couple of street around Ta Hien 5-10 mins walk north of the top of Hoan Kiem Lake ( should be on our Hanoi food maps I emailed you). Bia Hoi @ 5k per glass and some exotic beer snacks - I usually get offered something by the Vietnamese fellow drinkers who seem to find it hilarious to see a westerner eating deep fried silk worms or pigs ears ( yummy,) . Some surprisingly good food there too. There are also a few decent bars and restaurants around those streets. I can’t recall the name of the place but there is a bar along the street which has decent live blues and rock - can’t miss it though as the bar walls are covered with giant murals of Keith Richard and Mick Jagger!

A bit closer to your hotel, there are a quite a few decent bars, some with music in the streets around St Joseph’s Cathedral, some with live music. Again, I can’t recall the name and it may be on the food map but there was a great microbrewery pub we visited with some other forum members a couple of years back

PS Just reading your posts is giving me Vietnam withdrawal symtoms
crellston is offline  
Jan 14th, 2019, 07:05 AM
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Ann, I had no idea. I just asked the person. I imagine I'm getting ripped off but it's so cheap anyway I'm not going to quibble. Plus, in both cases (once today too) by the time I saw an available one I was glad to finally sit down! I walked 19K steps today even with the assist! Yesterday 15K steps. I will ask tomorrow to the concierge and see if I can negotiate a little.>>

Not sure if I'm glad I mentioned this or not - you could have spent your entire trip in blissful ignorance.
annhig is offline  
Jan 14th, 2019, 03:54 PM
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Hi again! good morning!

This is going to be another abbreviated list and I'll come back later to fill in the blanks. The caravan to Ha Long Bay leaves in about an hour.

I am so glad I stayed near the lake. I am also glad I had the whole weekend to enjoy the Walking Streets with no traffic and the general street party atmosphere mere blocks outside my door! I really am struck by all the teenagers out dancing and singing in the streets, or playing some kind of footy game, etc... with all their stuff piled in the middle of their circle. Maybe I am sheltered but I don't see this in the USA - anyone else know differently? Seems very community oriented here?

Ann, I still have not asked although yesterday I did tell a guy who was going to pedal me from Cafe Pho Co to my hotel that 200K was too high and he countered with 150K. 6 bucks or so?

I have had egg coffee twice now and while I think I'd give the edge to Cafe Pho Co, it was so big I could not finish it. Cafe Giang is me-sized.

Twice now something I needed materialized out of thin air in the form of a street vendor. The train street story above and then as I was walking to my hotel I was thinking I forgot to bring a hat and since something this week will involve hiking that would be a good idea. Out of nowhere another street vendor gestured me to her big stack of hats she had perched on top of her bike. I found a really nice hiking hat with band to keep it on my head - dark green with the flag on front and the words Vietnam. I bought another one for my nephew in brown.

Crellston thank you for the tips - I did google it and saw that is the actual name lol. I will look up the Mick Jagger bar when I return...

Highlights from yesterday:

Finally booked what I want to see this week!

Ha Long Bay with Buffalo Tours
Ninh Binh /Hang Mua with Ethnic Tours (actually I await final word, it sounds like I'm in but they didn't confirm) on Thursday
Early morning tour at 4 AM with Footprint on Friday as soon as I hear from Ethnic I am good to go. They said either day works...

Vietnamese Women's Museum

Market tour and meal with Hanoi Cooking Centre

I did this yesterday for dinner - will update later.

Long walk back from HCC to my hotel

I was so full from the three course meal and beer with HCC that I knew seeking out even more beer wasn't going to work for me so I just continued on to the hotel. I have Wed, Thurs and Fri night to make up for it though!

More later, have to finish getting ready for the caravan to whisk me away.
flygirl is offline  
Jan 14th, 2019, 04:29 PM
Join Date: Jul 2013
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Donít forget to try the iced coffee too, itís marvellous. The museum of ethnicity is terrific if you have time, all sorts of life sized bamboo houses to scramble around in. Thanks for your report, despite four visits to Vietnam itís on the radar for another trip (close to us in Oz). Enjoy Ha Long Bay, we certainly did.
sartoric is offline  
Jan 15th, 2019, 12:02 PM
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,209
Hi fly girl,
Just joined in, love your descriptions, don’t know if you’re heading north?
We had a north Vietnam trip (photos here https://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]) followed by Cambodia. What amazing people and landscape.
Adelaidean is offline  

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