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From Hanoi: The Capital of Vietnam to Hoi An: Tailor Shops by Day, City of Lanterns by Night

Our last day in Hanoi was really just the morning, which we decided to spend enjoying what the hotel restaurant had to offer as we had breakfast included with our room.  We stayed at La Siesta Hotel Trendy, the new sister hotel to La Siesta Hanoi Resort and Spa.  The restaurant in the hotel is the Red Bean Restaurant and has been rated as one of the top five restaurants in Hanoi. The included breakfast spread was a mix between a western style breakfast and a Vietnamese style breakfast, though other items could be ordered off the menu. Fresh fruit, home made yogurt, and an order of beef Pho made for for a great start to the day. We finished breakfast with a vietnamese egg coffee and a vietnamese coffee, checked out and ordered an uber. They also offer cooking classes, but we did not have time to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

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We highly recommend staying at this brand new hotel!  The service was impeccable and they made sure everything was perfect from beginning to end.  The room was very clean: bed bug free! We had one of the smaller rooms with a false window, but it was still a perfect size and had AC, so we were happy.  We definitely recommend checking out agoda to book your reservation or calling the hotel directly.  We can’t recommend a better place to stay as this hotel offers everything you need and is in one of the best locations in the city.  It is in the heart of the old quarter, but on a quaint and quiet side street so you are sure not to hear all of the honking and motor vehicles all day and night.

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Welcome drinks and snacks!!

An uber ride is most definitely the best way to get to the airport from the old quarter of Hanoi. Not only is it cheaper than a taxi, but you don’t have to deal with a taxi driver trying to scam you by not turning on the meter. When we got to the airport, after checking in online, we went to the baggage drop to check our luggage as most domestic flights in Southeast Asia limit carry on baggage to 7 kg. We flew Vietjet Airlines, an inexpensive alternative to Vietnam Airlines which I would definitely recommend.

On the flight from Hanoi to Da Nang, I was ticketed for seat 7A, so obviously I was “getting drunk on a plane”, thanks to Dierks Bentley. We attempted to order two beers, but they only stocked the plane with a total of 6 and there was only 1 left.  The flight was smooth and only took about an hour.  The flight attendants were very friendly and we definitely recommend using the budget airline VietJet for travel while in this part of the world.

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If you are going to Hoi An from Da Nang airport and you want to save some money, book a transfer from the airport through the Hoi An shuttle bus ahead of time.  Our taxi ran us about $450,000 VND and the shuttle bus is $110,000 VND per person.  If you want to catch the shuttle bus without reserving beforehand, you will have to wait a few hours at the airport for the next available bus.

When we got to The Almanity Hoi An Resort and Spa, we checked in, dropped our stuff in the room and went directly to town. Only a ten minute walk from the old town of Hoi An, Almanity is close enough to the action but far enough away to enjoy some peace and quiet. As the entire town of Hoi An is recognized as  UNESCO World Heritage Site, you may be asked to pay an entrance fee of approximately $6.00 USD. This entrance fee is viewed as a donation to maintain the old town, but also grants you access to six different sightseeing attractions including the Japanese Covered Bridge.

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A big thanks to our Romacan friend Jenna, for recommending Bale Well for one of our meals.  When we checked into The Almanity, the staff all agreed that we should eat at Bale Well.  They showed us on a map where to go and instructed us to take the “tunnel” from one of the main streets.  By tunnel, they meant alley way, but we were able to find it thanks to a large sign on Phan Chau Trinh Street.  Upon our arrival we chose to sit outside at the row of tables that line the street in front of the restaurant. There’s no need to look at a menu as Bale Well offers only one set course. Skewers of pork come fresh off the small grill just outside the restaurant, along with rice paper, lettuce, a basket of basil, mint and coriander and their version of house-made kimchi. We were also served egg pancakes, native to Hoi An, and a deep-fried spring roll with whole shrimp, both of which can be put into your roll as well. Initially, we were complexed by how to dive into all the food placed in front of us. Sensing our confusion, the waitress came over and showed us how to make our wraps with the rice paper. This meal was absolutely delicious, and for only 240,000 VND ($10.75 USD) for the both of us it’s definitely a great option for the budget traveler!  There was more food than we could possibly finish.  Our meal ended with a choice of mango or chocolate pudding, we tried one of each and they were a nice, light finish.

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Steps to the perfect roll:

  1. Take 2 sheets of rice paper and layer them in the centers
  2. Add veggies, lettuce and fresh herbs
  3. Add kimchi and carrots
  4. Place meat in the roll and pull the stick out
  5. Roll it up and enjoy!

Next we headed back to our hotel for a spa journey.  Read our review of the Almanity Hoi An Resort and Spa to find out about our experience at this highly recommended hotel.  Also, we enjoyed breakfast daily and took a cooking class with the head chef, which we discuss in another post.

While one day is more than enough time to take in the old town, be sure to head back in the evening as Hoi An is famous for its handmade silk lanterns. Since we stayed two nights, we went to the night market on the second night, but you can still do it all in one night.  Many of the streets are closed down to motor traffic, so it is a very pleasant stroll through the streets in the evening.  There are beautiful lanterns on display for purchase as well as hanging through the streets.  You will see locals selling boxes of candles to send floating down the river and you can opt for a boat ride down the river to take in the beauty of this city at night.

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We enjoyed some street food, our favorite being the banana pancake, which was a crispy pancake with slices of banana inside and seasoned with sesame seeds. This was one of Jessica’s favorite things she has eaten.  We also tried a red bean filled doughnut and one of the mini crabs from the street food carts.  The doughnut was good, but we recommend trying the actual round doughnuts that are dipped in sugar rather than the filled ones.  The crab was super crunchy and lacked a lot of meat.  It was a medium spicy to our standard, but the women described it as mild; so for those of you who do not like spice, be forewarned.

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Since we covered everything during our first day, we were able to enjoy one day at The Almanity, which offered spa experiences, yoga sessions, cooking classes and a beautiful courtyard pool.  Our next stop is Da Nang for some fun at the beach and more culinary experiences!

Follow Your Tummy…

Jess and Steven

April 24-26, 2016

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