Highlands Coffee (Hanoi)

August 24, 2012

November 23rd, 2012. Hanoi Wonderful!

 

highlands coffee (hanoi)

highlands coffee (hanoi)

 

 

 

 

  Before our last tourist activity we headed over to the Opera House to take a coffee break at Highlands Coffee which is on the front lawn.

highlands coffee (hanoi)

highlands coffee (hanoi)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Opera House is gorgeous and it was such a joy drinking our beverages in front of it!

 

highlands coffee (hanoi)

highlands coffee (hanoi)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Despite being an overcast day i couldn’t help wanting the Watermelon Smoothie. Juicy, sweet, and so refreshing! Watermelon is always my favorite fruit 😀

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Bun Cha in Hanoi

July 7, 2012

November 23rd, 2012. Hanoi Wonderful!

 

bun cha (hanoi)

bun cha (hanoi)

  Our final day in Vietnam we drove in to Hanoi for a packed day of culture in the big city. It’s the capital of Vietnam as well as being the 2nd largest city in the country (the 1st being Ho Chi Minh City).  Before the sightseeing we were taken to a local Bun Cha restaurant. Must be Korean run because there was Korean signage.

 

bun cha (hanoi)

bun cha (hanoi)

 

 

 

  Bun Cha, I suppose, is the equivalent to the vermicelli bowl you’ll find here in North America, but It’s surprising how different it is!

 

bun cha (hanoi)

bun cha (hanoi)

 

 

 

The lettuce, sprouts, herbs, meatballs, rice noodles, and deep fried rolls all come out separately. They pour the “sauce” into the bowl in front of you and essentially you add all the ingredients as you wish.

 

bun cha (hanoi)

bun cha (hanoi)

 

 

 

   So so so good! The only thing is I wish there was cilantro…..but again, I guess they don’t have it in Vietnam, because every time we tried to request it they kept bringing back more sauce or meatlballs….LOL!

November 22nd, 2011. Ha Long Bay, Night 2~

novotel ha long bay

novotel ha long bay

 

 

 

 

It’s our final evening in Ha Long Bay and we wanted to do it up by hitting the dinner buffet ;D

novotel ha long bay

novotel ha long bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a nice cheese and cracker/bread spread that I just couldn’t pass up 🙂

novotel ha long bay

novotel ha long bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold Cuts

novotel ha long bay

novotel ha long bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mmmmm~ deep fried stuuuuuuuff~~~~

novotel ha long bay

novotel ha long bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And loads and loads of delicious desserts!

novotel ha long bay

novotel ha long bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was probably one of my most favorite stations this night.  I mean look at all the variety!

novotel ha long bay

novotel ha long bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuffed myself so full…!!

November 22nd, 2011. Ha Long Bay Boat Tour

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

  After all our island activities it was time to head back to the hotel…and what better way to enjoy the boat ride back than with a second lunch!

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Tofu, deep fried spring rolls, and some kimchi soup for a simple meal.

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

To end off the meal…one of my favorite fruit, Pomegranate, and a new fruit I love, Rambutan!!

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously…rambutan?  So so yummy!!!  It’s kind of like lychee in the sense that it’s got a transparent, sweet flesh.  It’s pretty darn yummy 😉

November 22nd, 2011. Ha Long Bay Boat Tour

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

Our major adventure here is the popular Ha Long Bay Tour.  Despite the ominous clouds we were told it would not have an effect on the tour, so we promptly arrived at the dock and was presented with our very own tour boat!

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

Lunch was a really cool experience!!  We docked at a floating fish market and were able to walk down and examine the variety of goods and buy what we’d like to take on board with us!

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fresh goods were surprisingly lively!  They definitely were alive, kicking and very jumpy!

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of our group tried catching them in nets…and were not very successful. Hahaha!!

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards we brought our haul onto our boat which the crew took back into the kitchen and start prepping our very fresh lunch

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s just cool to see sea-to-table unfolding right before your own eyes.  And these boat people are clearly very good at what they do because it takes them no time to turn the catch into something that looks very yummy!

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me tell you, being out on the sea really makes you hungry!

 

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super fresh sashimi with a soy sauce and spicy chili paste dipping sauce.

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I know these look creepy crawlies look a bit scary….but you pull the shell and legs off and you just get into some delicious, tender, shellfish goodness!

 

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

Again, just super natural crabs cooked in their own juices.  I’d say they weren’t the best crabs I’ve ever tasted, but they were juicy on the inside and had great natural flavor.

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

Now these clams?  Delicious!  I’m not generally a fan of them…but these were really great.  With the seasoned soy sauce over them they were plump, tender, clean and yummy!

ha long bay boat tour

ha long bay boat tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah, it was a great spread!  Fresh from the sea, simple, natural, no frills seafood.  We were full without feeling heavy and were quite ready for our next adventure!

November 22nd, 2011. Good Morning, Ha Long Bay~

 

novotel hotel - breakfast buffet

novotel hotel – breakfast buffet

 




  The breakfast buffet spread at Novotel Hotel? Fantastic!!!

 

novotel hotel - breakfast buffet

novotel hotel – breakfast buffet

 













  Cereal and Fruit Cocktails~!

 

novotel hotel - breakfast buffet

novotel hotel – breakfast buffet

 










  Waffle bar~

 

 

novotel hotel - breakfast buffet

novotel hotel – breakfast buffet

 










  Salad bar

 

novotel hotel - breakfast buffet

novotel hotel – breakfast buffet

 

 

 










  A full Pho spread

novotel hotel - breakfast buffet

novotel hotel – breakfast buffet














And best of all, a Congee bar!!!  So, so delicious~!!

 

novotel hotel - breakfast buffet

novotel hotel – breakfast buffet

 











  Here’s a picture of the obligatory morning pho 😉

November 21st, 2011. Saigon Day 2

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

 

 

 

 

  For our final day in Ho Chi Minh City we got a tour of the city itself and some historical landmarks.

  A morning full of sightseeing really had us all hungry! Our city guide took us into the city for the most popular Vietnamese staple…Pho!! And where better to go than a well recognized establishment..Pho Hoa!  Goodness, who knew I’d see a Pho Hoa here..I thought it was a North American chain…

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

 

 

 

 

  Since I didn’t have a chance to go to any other real pho houses while in Vietnam I can’t be certain that all of them are like this, but all the tables here were laden with various herbs, bananas, fried donuts and little boxes of rice.

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

 

 

 

 

 

  Here’s how it works: you eat it, you pay for it. Lol!! No, these aren’t complimentary sides. Anyways, we crammed ourselves in and left it up to the guide to just order us the standard pho.

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Let me tell you something about chilies in Vietnam. Those are some spicy mothertruckers!!! You put a few in your pho and in a matter of seconds the whole bowl turns into a fiery bowl of heat! I learned my lesson the first couple times, so this time i made sure to just put in about 3 slices, let them simmer and then took them out.

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just LOOK at that!  The soup is so clear, the green onions and basil are so fresh and vibrant….!  The noodles aren’t one big lump that we have to peel off and the meat is tender and falls apart just right.  It’s pho at it’s best.

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

 

 

 

 

 

  Pho was delicious, filling, and made us all sweat our butts off! I guess it’s true though, you fight heat with heat 😉

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

pho hoa (ho chi minh city)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh….one thing…….. towards the end of the meal….someone said they went to the bathroom and on the way saw an interesting menu item… Rat Pho….. uh….WHAT??!!!!!!!!!! 

November 20th, 2011. Hello Vietnam~~~

 

vietnam boat dinner

vietnam boat dinner

 

 

  After a full day of tourist activity we had one more left….dinner on a cruise boat!! It was decked out with lights, and there were pretty stewardesses greeting us at the front of the boat.  All aboard~!!

 

vietnam boat dinner

vietnam boat dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was already a table waiting for us on the banquet level.  

 

vietnam boat dinner

vietnam boat dinner

 

 

 

 

 

  Fried Spring Rolls, Fried Tofu, Steamed Rosy Fish with Ginger, Fried Chicken Leg, Sauteed Pork with Vegetables, Sauteed Celery Cabbages with Garlic and more!

 

vietnam boat dinner

vietnam boat dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

  It was a very full table~!!!

November 20th, 2011. Hello Vietnam~~~

 

vietnamese iced coffee

   vietnamese iced coffee

  Shopping at Saigon Square…..but I was more interested in what was going on outside. A little taste of the real Vietnam.

  I ducked in to a corner cafe to have my first fix of real Vietnamese coffee. WOW!!!! The coffee itself is extremely strong, but with the sweet condensed milk and the ice…..it’s just a delicious, refreshing, sticky sweet glass full of love

November 20th, 2011. Hello Vietnam~~~

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

   After a few activities on Unicorn Island, a canal boat ride and another boat ride we arrived at Coconut Candy Island and……….lunch!! Over looking the Mekong River, this little place specializes in the local delicacy…Fried Elephant Ear Fish! Caught straight from the murky waters of the Mekong. Well…when in Rome…..!

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

  So, this wonderful spread was waiting for us as we arrived. The Elephant Fish in the middle and on each of our plates and pancake. Time to dig in!!

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

We each had these Pancakes in front of us to start with.  Nice and fluffy, light and thin 🙂

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So our lunch attendant picked the fish apart and with the flesh, some veggies and some rice noodles wrapped it all up in a rice wrap and handed one to each of us.

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

How great does this look!  Wrapped right in front of our eyes~~!

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We dipped this Elephant Ear Rice Wrap in the individual peanut sauces in front of each of us and let the freshness just burst in our mouths!

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Shrimp yumminess!  Again, these were hand-peeled for us.  Tender, flavorful, and just so clean.

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

This very interesting puffed up Sticky Rice Donut!  Our server cut it up into pieces, and advised us to eat it with fresh basil.

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sticky, crispy, sweet, fresh, delicious!!

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some greens.  Nicely cooked, tender and vibrant.

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously a lot of Korean tourists must come by because the locals try to cater to a Korean sensibility when they see Koreans.  This was their version of Korean Kimchi Jjigae served in a flaming bowl.

coconut candy island - lunch

coconut candy island – lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gotta wash it down with some good ol’ Coca Cola 😉  Great way to polish off a great meal!  Sure, we were all super full, but somehow it didn’t feel uncomfortable or heavy.  Just this nice, satisfying feeling 🙂