Vietnam: Dong Xuan market and Che

I forgot to mention that we had returned the motorbike last night. So today we would only focus on old quarter, on foot.

Mid-autumn festival was at the corner, there were shops selling colorful lanterns.

We went to a place, called Cho Dong Xuan. It was the oldest and biggest wholesale market in Hanoi. It was a good place to look for cheap souvenirs and fabric, but not garments. The souvenirs sold were cheaper than other shops in old quarter if you bargain. But the clothes here was out of fashion.

In Hanoi, it was very common to see mobile sellers walking on the street, balancing two baskets on a bamboo pole with their shoulders, selling all possible things. We found one selling cooked crabs outside Cho Dong Xuan. There were already customers occupying the seats. If not, it must be a fun experience squatting down for the crabs.

Outside Dong Xuan market, there was this small lane, Pho Cau Dong selling food. I did not see any tourists in this lane, all the customers were local Vietnamese. So I presumed it was not a common place that tourists will come.

I spotted this signboard, Che and we decided to stop for a cooling drink.

The owner did not speak English at all. So I pointed at her two customers and signaled one each. She smiled and prepared the desserts for us. I was so excited when first che came with a cream caramel in it.

The second dessert was sua chua(yogurt dessert) and was served in a glass. I liked it. If you liked yogurt, then you would like it too. Both desserts were very nice, and what's more, it was only 20kVND for two desserts. For this price, I bet you could not even get one che in Quan An Ngon. Look out for this place when you visit Dong Xuan market!

Ong Duong
51 Pho Cau Dong
Cho Dong Xuan

Vietnam: Local breakfast

After so many days of hotel breakfast, we wanted to have something different. So, we walked to a very famous shop, Banh Cuon Gia Truyen which was very near to our hotel.

The restaurant signboard had English wordings. "Roll Over". That was the description for the food, banh cuon(rolled rice sheet). Banh cuon was a very common Vietnamese breakfast.

In the shop, banh cuon was freshly prepared. It was steamed on the spot.

There were also some side dishes, in case you want a heavier breakfast.

I noticed in Hanoi restaurant, even the owner provided dedicated rubbish bin for each table, there would still be rubbish scattered on the floor. Once, I saw the worker cleaned the floor, but the floor was dirty again before I could finish my meal.

It was weird that they had English signboard but not English menu. I did not understand the menu at that time, but here is the my best guess after searching the net now.
Banh Cuon Nong - rolled rice sheet with minced meat and mushroom
Banh Cuon Thit Ga - rolled rice sheet with chicken meat
Gio Lua - Vietnamese ham
Cha Que - Cinnamon Pate
Lap Xuong - Vietnamese Sausage
Trung Ga - Egg
Thin Dau Ca Cuong - Water Bug(Luckily we did not order this.)

Of course, we ordered Banh Cuon Nong. It came with a bowl of dipping sauce. The rolled rice sheet was very thin and smooth, and it tasted very good with the fish sauce. Perhaps, I should try adding fish sauce to Malaysia chee cheong fun. It should be good. ;)

We also tried out their Cha Que and Gio Luo(?). The square one was Cha Que, but I am not sure if the round one was Gio Luo. But I think it should, because it could not match to any other in the menu. :p

In total, we only spent 26kVND for breakfast.

Banh Cuon Gia Truyen
14 Pho Hang Ga
Old Quarter

Vietnam: Quan An Ngon, Water Puppet & Bit Tet Hai Ty

Quan An Ngon was tourist's favorite because it had wide range of Vietnamese food to offer in a clean environment. The efficient way to cover most of the Vietnamese traditional dishes in one meal would be a dinner at Quan An Ngon.

We arrived at 7pm and the place was already very crowded and packed. However, the waitress managed to find a table for us. So, we did not need to queue for a table. The restaurant concept was pretty similar to the hawker centre where there were stalls selling different type of local goodies.

The first that we ordered was snail dish, steamed snail in lemongrass. It was Quan An Ngon's signature. The snails were bigger than what we thought, but they were good.

I asked the waitress if we could have rice paper wrap with both shrimp and pork since they were the same price(55kVND). So in the end we had half plate of sugarcane shrimp and another half plate of meat balls. :) We had fun wrapping up the ingredients, dipping it to the sauce before sending it to our stomachs. You could not go wrong with this dish. Highly recommended.

Grilled beef in "ngon" style was just normal, nothing fancy(65kVND). It was also the first time I tried Che(shaved ice with coconut milk, tropical fruit and jelly) and I immediately fell in love with it. Consequently, I had Che twice the next day.

After the dinner, we went for water puppet show near Hoan Kiem lake.

It was a traditional show with orchestra accompanying the performance with traditional music and songs. We had no idea what they were singing though.

The puppeteers controlled the puppets behind the screen to perform different stories, such as fishing, boat racing, harvest festival and so on. The second picture was taken during curtain call. You could see that the puppeteers had to dip their legs in the pool for the performance.

On the way back, we stopped by Bit Tet Hai Ty stall for supper. Warn you. This was a truly roadside stall with questionable hygiene.

This stall served steak in brown sauce. I was still full and only tried a small piece of it, therefore could not give any comment. But judging from the empty plate later, I guess it was good. Price was not cheap though, a plate of steak and fries was charged 40kVND. But for a taste of local, it was worthy.

Quan An Ngon
18 Phan Boi Chau
Hoan Kiem Dist
Opens for lunch and dinner

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
57B Dinh Tien Hoang Str
Hoan Kiem Dist
15:30pm - 17:00pm - 18:30pm - 20:00pm - 21:15pm daily
9:30am Sunday
Ticket price
Type I: 60kVND/ticket
Type II: 40kVND/ticket

Bit Tet Hai Ty
20 Hang Giay (at Hang Buom)
Hoan Kiem Dist
Opens at night

Vietnam: Two Hanoi cafes in a day

When I looked at my Vietnam photo directory again, I noticed that we had actually visited two cafes in one afternoon. :)

The first one was Cafe 252.

There was a big menu outside to attract customers.

tempting pastry in display

There was not many customers at my time of visit. So we had a very quiet tea break. It was a good escape from the bustling Hanoi. ;)

I did not know that it was Lonely Planet's recommendation. Anyway, all information was well captured on the menu's cover. Good job!

We ordered a mini pizza at 25kVND. It was a very nice homemade pizza with thick cheese topping.

We also ordered a caramel cream at 6kVND and a glass of lemon juice with soda at 20kVND.

Cafe 252 had extensive menu and the food was not bad. However, the only Vietnam cafe that we could compare at that time was Banguette and Chocolat Sapa. Banguette and Chocolat Sapa definitely had better environment and food. But the price was higher too. If you were looking for some nice French pastry with reasonable price, then Cafe 252 would be a great choice.

Some of the menu that I had captured in Cafe 252.

The second break we took was at Cafe Mai. Cafe Mai had two shops facing each others at Le Van Huu. There was also another shop at Nguyen Du. Anyway, we went to Le Van Huu.

Cafe Mai

Vietnamese coffee bean for sale

This round, we ordered Mon Dac biet(iced fruit tea) at 30kVND and Moca Hao Hang(iced mocha) at 28kVND. The fruit tea was very fragrant and refreshing while the iced mocha was very strong and chocolaty.

Again, I had captured some pages of the menu for your reference.

Cafe 252
252 Hang Bong
Open daily from 7am to 8pm

Cafe Mai
1) 96 Le Van Huu

2) 79 Le Van Huu

3) 52 Nguyen Du

Vietnam: French lunch with Pho Ga as starter

A Hanoi food blog, Stickyrice led us to Tiem Pho Ga 172. It was very near to Temple of Literature(less than 5 minutes on motorbikes), so it was planned right after the visit to the temple.

The patrons were all locals. No one spoke English. Luckily the shop was selling one and only dish, Pho Ga(Vietnamese Chicken Noodles Soup). The noodle soup was topped with generous portion of chicken shreds. I was pretty sure that they were using free-range chicken as the chicken meat was firm and chewy. It was definitely the best Pho Ga that I had in Hanoi. Stickyrice ranked it as best Pho Ga in Hanoi. What do you think?

After that, we headed to Green Tangerine for lunch. Pho Ga was just starter. :) We wanted to dine in French restaurant, just like we wanted to dine in Portuguese restaurant when we were in Macau. But dining in any of these fine French restaurants in Hanoi would easily burn a hole in our pocket. After browsing the internet, we decided to go for the Green Tangerine set lunch which was comparatively cheaper.

The old French colonial's ambience was excellent with a choice of alfresco or indoor dining. We chose to sit in the courtyard for casual dining, so there was not much photos taken for the indoor.

Green Tangerine offered one main dish and one dessert at 163kVND(usd9.50) for lunch.

Left: Fish in Saffron served with rice noodles:"Cha Ca" style, Green Tangerine way
Right: Sliced duck filet in red wine, great and thyme served with asparagus and potatoes country-side style

The Cha Ca dish came first. We mixed all the fish and sauce to the noodles. It was great! The second dish was duck. The duck filet was tender and went so well with the sweet red wine sauce. The potato gratin was perfectly baked and I just wished that the portion could be bigger. All the dishes were decorated perfectly and the food was delectable.

Biscuit stuffed with fresh fruits in red berry fruit sauce, coconut cream.

It was finest quality of homemade ice-cream on a basket of tropical fruit cubes. The fruit sauce was not too sweet, just nice.

Frozen Green Tangerine in yogurt and Cointreau

This was best! A very refreshing dessert with yogurt and cointreau sorbet. We were glad that we visited Green Tangerine.

Tiem Pho Ga
172 Ton Duc Thang St
Opens from morning to night

Green Tangerine
48 Hang Be

Vietnam: Visiting places in Hanoi

Since we had to pick up the motorbike at Hanoi Guest House, so we had our breakfast there. But we had requested to have the next day's breakfast at Phoenix Hotel for a change. Hanoi Guest House offered standard breakfast, bánh mì(Vietnamese baguette) or Pho Ga(Vietnamese Chicken Noodles Soup) with complimentary coffee or tea.

After filling up the tank, we departed to Ho Chi Minh's area. This large area was devoted to HCM(HCM Mausoleum, HCM Museum, One Pillar Pagoda and Presidential Palace) and it had become a tourist spot in Hanoi. We managed to cover all the places in two hours except HCM Mausoleum.

First we went to HCM Museum which was constructed in 1990s.

Then, we walked to one pillar pagoda. The pagoda was built on one single pillar from the middle of a square lotus pond. Could you tell that it was designed to resemble a lotus blossom?

Every year, HCM Mausoluem will be closed for restoration and preservation work during autumn. So we missed the chance to see Ho Chi Minh's body. We could only take some photos at Da Dinh Square.

A closer picture to where the mausoleum was located.

We also visited Presidential Palace area, where HCM lived and worked.

After that, we proceeded to Temple of Literature(文廟). This time, we had to take motorbike as it was not within walking distance anymore.

The temple had a collection of turtle steles with the names of those successful in the imperial examinations. We also found altar with the statues of Confucius and his four closest disciples in the main hall.

HCM Mausoleum
GPS Coordinates: 21°2′12″N 105°50′5″E
8am-11am daily, close on Monday and Friday

HCM Museum
8am to 11am & 1.30pm to 4pm daily, closed on Monday and Friday
Entrance: 15kVND

Presidential Palace
Summer 7.30am to 11am & 2pm to 4pm daily closed on Monday and Friday
Winter 8am to 11am & 1.30pm to 4pm daily closed on Monday and Friday
Entrance: 15kVND

One Pillar Pagoda
6am to 6pm daily

Temple of Literature
GPS Coordinates: 21°1′43″N 105°50′8″E
15th April to 15th Oct: 7.30am-5.30pm daily
other days: 8am-5pm daily
Entrance: 10kVND/person
Brouchure: 3kVND/unit