Thursday, 4 February 2016

vietnam adventures | hanoi

vietnam, hanoi, hoan kiem lake, old quarter, pho, spring rolls, thang long water puppet theater
Hoàn Kiếm

A throwback to when I visited the capital of Vietnam with my travel buddy. Our weekend getaway involved becoming millionaires (in Dong, not GBP unfortunately), spontaneous sightseeing, learning the art of crossing roads, lots of pho and experiencing the coffee culture. We stayed at a hotel called BOSS LEGEND (hell yeah) in the Old Quarter. Our room was massive (although dark wooden interior usually gives off a kinda haunted vibe, no?) and we also made use of the hotel's disco jacuzzi.

The Old Quarter is a hub of motorbikes, markets and cultural landmarks. We were 5 minutes away from Hoàn Kiếm Lake and immersed ourselves into some Vietnamese culture via the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. Although I couldn't tell you what the show was about because, if there was a plot, it was all lost in translation. The weather started turning cold and murky, so the photos turned out quite grey, but thanks to the little kid who livened up our photos at the lake with his continuous photobombing.

vietnam, hanoi, hoan kiem lake, old quarter, pho, spring rolls, thang long water puppet theater
Photobomb 1 | Photobomb 2 | Photobomb 3

The Temple of Literature was also on the agenda, although we didn't make it very far after realising we weren't adhering to the dress code rules plastered over the entrance and decided to past on possibly awkward or disrespectful encounters. No shorts or short skirts, guys! We also had a spa day at La Belle Spa, entailing the best full-body massage I've ever had and also, to balance it out, the most painful body scrub I've ever had too.

vietnam, hanoi, hoan kiem lake, old quarter, pho, spring rolls, thang long water puppet theater
The Temple of Literature | Tuk tuk mania in the OQ | View from spa

Night-time Hanoi is pretty enchanting - the Huc bridge at Hoàn Kiếm lights up red, lights are strung on trees and motorcycles still rule the road, even at late hours. We toured around the Old Quarter's night life on a tuk tuk/xe lam and also taxi-ed to other parts of Hanoi for dinner. En route to Tràng Tiền, which is kind of down the road from the OQ, it transitions from hipster bookstores to the likes of Diors and Cartiers.

vietnam, hanoi, hoan kiem lake, old quarter, pho, spring rolls, thang long water puppet theater
Sightseeing on the tuk tuk

Funky B on Tạ Hiện Street was another random find on a bar-hunting mission. Tạ Hiện seems like Hanoi's version of Hong Kong's LKF; apart from whilst everyone stands/drinks/dances/throws up on the streets of LKF, Tạ Hiện is a little more sensible, albeit equally as crowded. Hanoi has a very prominent street culture where the Vietnamese sit on mini plastic stools outside to drink or eat and Tạ Hiện is lined with street food and beer places.

Because of my ongoing issues with hyper gastric acidity and 99 problems, we opted out of trying street food, though I wished I tried bánh mi. And since the currency conversion meant we were loaded with hunnets, we had gourmet every night for dinner instead. If only life was that affordable in the UK...

vietnam, hanoi, hoan kiem lake, old quarter, pho, spring rolls, thang long water puppet theater
Gia Ngu Restaurant | The Gourmet Corner Restaurant | Funky B

1080p, woooo

Monday, 1 February 2016

night-time dōtonbori

dotonburi, shinsaibashi, osaka, night life, night time, japanese food, takoyaki

Dōtonburi is pretty overwhelming at night when there's queues everywhere. The area is a hub of nightlife, restaurants, shops and neon lights, paying homage to 3D seafood plaques and the Glico man. We weren't on a food mission (although we should have been) because of our un-strategic holiday planning. We ended up going to a random restaurant overlooking the canal for the best grilled eel though, after a stint of souvenir shopping. I went overboard in a souvenir snacks shop with mochi and giant Meiji Apollo. In hindsight, I should've got the rainbow Pocky and retro Pretz. Next time, next time.

dotonburi, shinsaibashi, osaka, night life, night time, japanese food, takoyaki

After dinner, me and Izzy decided to go karaoke. Just the two of us. Yup. Apparently, karaoke on your own is actually a thing in Japan and single karaoke booths actually exist, so we thought a 2-man karaoke room wouldn't be hard to find. And it wasn't. We picked a random one of many, and struggled with the pricing and room booking and free drinks and generally everything because of the general lack of English that Japanese speak. Our room was tiny, and literally just for 2 people, catered with 2 seats, a Japanese-only system (and pretty 'sick' reverb and bass) and some instruments. We were having technical issues with one mic and I kept on having to phone the reception with my limited Japanese of "Eigo o hanasemasuka?" (aka Do you speak English - which no, he didn't). But besides not understanding anything, we had a pretty amusing time and the English song choices were better than any karaoke place I've been to in England and Hong Kong.

dotonburi, shinsaibashi, osaka, night life, night time, japanese food, takoyaki

The place, albeit pretty crowded, makes for a nice night-time stroll when the crowds start dying down. We also hit up the 300 yen store and also got hot milk tea in a plastic bottle from a vending machine. Which is essentially kinda the same as going to a Poundland and just getting a hot tea from a coffee machine, but everything is just cooler in Japan. And, for the lols, below is when my panorama was photobombed by a thousand nostrils.

dotonburi, shinsaibashi, osaka, night life, night time, japanese food, takoyaki