Vietnam, Day One

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“Let’s just go to Vietnam and eat.” It’s been nearly four months since I visited Vietnam with my sister, Melody, and like our previous trips together, food was a motivating factor on deciding where to go. Visions of street snacks and fresh seafood filled my imagination as soon as I purchased our tickets, and it wasn’t a coincidence that our flight included stopovers in South Korea. It’s true, K.R.E.A.M. (Korean Food Rules Everything Around Me.)

Flight to Seoul

Airplane food is rarely memorable, but I could hardly contain my excitement as I was served my in-flight meal of bibimbap on Korean Air, complete with a travel-sized tube of gochujang!

Twelve hours later, we landed in Incheon, right outside of Seoul. Determined to make the most of our short layover in what is the most incredible airport I’ve ever visited (sorry, Narita), we went straight for the restaurants.

Noodles with skewered fish cakes

Even airport food is top-notch in Korea, my sister and I soon learned at Bob & T cafe. I had a bowl of chewy noodles with skewered fish cakes, while Melody had a bowl of what can best be described as scalding hot pepper lava with beef and noodles. I love fish cakes, and the light, savory broth was just what I needed after a tiring flight.

We soon checked in to our connecting flight to Hanoi, and from there, took a late night taxi to our hotel in the Old Quarter. The next morning, we headed straight to Hoan Kiem Lake after quick breakfast of pho and coffee.

Ngoc Son Temple

Ngoc Son Temple, or Temple of the Jade Mountain, sits on Jade Island in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. We spent our morning walking around the 18th-century temple, exploring the bridge and pavillion, and generally trying to avoid heatstroke from the sweltering sun.

Soon it was lunchtime and we headed back to the Old Quarter in search of something to eat. We spotted an old couple grilling meat on the sidewalk, and unable to resist the smell, we sat down for lunch. “I’ll have two bowls of what they’re having” transcends all language barriers, and ten minutes later, Melody and I were crouched on the sidewalk, happily munching on shalloty, charcoaly, herby, bun cha.

Lunch in the Old Quarter

We spent the rest of the afternoon poking in and out of shops along the Old Quarter, and it was only a matter of time before we were hungry again. We stopped at Tamarind Cafe, a restaurant popular with expats, for a quick snack.

Mango with sticky rice

What’s more refreshing than mangoes with sticky rice? We washed it down with glasses of tamarind juice and nibbled at another plate of fruit before heading back to our hotel for a quick rest. At night, we walked over to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater to check out this art form unique to northern Vietnam.

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

The show was performed in a waist-deep pool, with puppeteers using rods to support the puppets under the water. An orchestra and singers sang the folkloric story being acted out by the puppets, to a packed house.

After the show, we headed back to our hotel for an early night’s rest. We had to be up early the next morning for our trip to Halong Bay, and hopefully, more delicious things to discover.