I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Six years is quite a long time to return to a place. Hanoi was such a favorite destination of mine back then. Yes I’ve treaded the streets of the Old Quarter before, went to an overnight cruise at Ha Long Bay and even enjoyed the misty coolness of Sapa Valley during my first visit in Northern Vietnam. But I don’t mind going back to see what has changed that’s why I didn’t think twice when an invite for a familiarization tour of Hanoi, organized by Cebu Pacific Air and Stratworks came in the email. There’s the certain comfort of stepping back into the familiar and also a certain anxiety to see how things have transitioned from now to then.
After an afternoon spent hopping through the villages of Sapa, we went back to town and had a wonderful food find. Just at the back of the public market is a new bali inspired restaurant and lodging where we tried an ala mode carrot and banana cake with home made ice cream. Their carrot cake was one of the best we tasted. Went back to our lodging for a short rest for dinner. Tomorrow we’ll head back to Lao Cai in the afternoon and the next day would be our last day in Vietnam.
We arrived late in the afternoon in Hanoi, coming back from Ha Long Bay. We stayed for a while at the Handspan office to rest and confirm our train tickets for the night. We are set to take the night train to Sapa that evening as well. Since we had some time to kill, we decided to do a brief walk around the Old Quarters. Pretty busy street, mostly of low rise houses with old French facades. Would have been great to take a lot of photos but it was sun down already and the way the things those motos drive by, it’s kinda hard to take out your cameras in the streets. For dinner that night we decided to eat at Vietnam’s oldest restaurant which opened in 1871, Cha Ca La Vong Restaurant.
I’ve been eying Ha Long Bay for some time now. In fact, I was supposed to go here on my first visit to Vietnam but ended up in the central area instead. But that place didn’t disappoint as well since it has 3 World Heritage sites that each yielded a unique experience: from the elaborate citadels and tomb raiding at Hue, warping back in time at the French Colonial streets of Hoi An and exploring the Ancient Kingdom of the Champas at My Son. But the natural wonder of a karst-filled bay has quite an appeal that I went fidgety with delight when my buddy Oggie informed me he was going to northern Vietnam. After much convincing and being accompanied by a
clown good friend, I just couldn’t pass this up and joined the trip.
“Same Same… but different” is one of the popular quotes you’ll see and hear when you visit Vietnam. And it’s funny in much ways this is how I saw things as well during my recent visit to Northern Vietnam with my buddy Lagal[og]. I guess it’s one of those trips where I’m reminded more of home and really appreciate what we got. Don’t get me wrong, Vietnam and it’s natural wonders have a unique charm on their own, but I found it not that far being a neighboring country of the Philippines.