48 Hours in Hanoi, Vietnam

One must travel smoothly, slowly and steady – that’s the total opposite of our Hanoi experience.

It was rough, fast and exciting! 🙂 Rough because there was only 1 flight available daily from Manila to Hanoi via Cebu Pacific – and it’s midnight! There was literally no sleep weekend for me and JR. Mainly me, because I’m very thrilled about this trip. I planned this several months ahead. I have this big vision of Hanoi in my head – it’s chaotic, colorful and tasty, It is indeed! Hanoi, particularly Old Quarter where we stayed is small enough for one day of sightseeing but it requires a lot of walking. But not to worry because the weather is perfect and it allowed us to roam around without sweat (March 23-25, 2017).

The City

It’s a mix of urban life and scenic greenery. Old Quarter is decked with quaint houses and establishments against the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake as its backdrop. There are vendors everywhere wearing their native hats, rushing motorbikes that won’t stop for you, and coffee shops in every corner. If you walk towards the lake, you will escape the small roads that will lead  you to Hoan Kiem District – it’s surrounded by parks. Alas! You’ve reached the heart of Hanoi!

Old Quarter

IMG_7587 2Processed with VSCO with nc preset

Around 6 in the morning there are seniors doing aerobics/yoga with their red old-fashioned fans. During afternoon, it’s packed with tourists from different corners of the world. And in the evening it’s usually crowded in front of the Thang Long Theater for the Water Puppet Show.

Hoan Kiem District

IMG_1595 3Processed with VSCO with nc presetProcessed with VSCO with nc preset

 

The Food

There’s an entirely different world of food beyond Pho. We opted to go for the top rated restaurants to make the most our trip. I had several on my list but we don’t have enough time to visit each one of them, Madame Hien and Essence Hotel Cafe made the cut. It’s the most accessible within the vicinity of our plotted itinerary. I can still taste the fried pork spring rolls from Essence – it’s crispy on the outside and so much flavor in the inside. They also have superb customer service. The fresh rolls from Madame Hien is a must try too! Don’t hesitate to try other cuisines aside from Pho, you won’t regret it!

Essence Hotel Restaurant

Processed with VSCO with nc preset

BJVU4153

Madame Hien Restaurant 

Processed with VSCO with nc presetProcessed with VSCO with nc preset

Streetfood 

Never skip the vendors selling Banh Mi on the sidewalks, NEVER! The best grilled sandwich I’ve tasted for Php60.00!!!

Processed with VSCO with kk1 preset

The Coffee

It seems like they have a coffee social scene – it’s everywhere! Hanoi is known for their unique take on coffee and it’s definitely something that you wouldn’t want to miss! In our short stay, we only tried 2, both have egg coffee as its specialty.

Giang Cafe

Processed with VSCO with kk2 preset

Cafe Pho Co

It’s the definition of hole-in-the-wall. You have to walk a narrow alley to get to a house-like cafe. But what’s on the top floor will surprise you. Be sure to visit during sunset or at night.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Temple and Pagoda

It’s possible to visit all temples and pagodas in one day if you start early. You can rent a motorbike for $10 for one whole day. We tried to squeeze as many as we could in 2 days and decided to pick a few – my favorite amongst them is the Temple of Literature – a very picturesque attraction in Hanoi.

Temple of Literature – Temple of Confucius

Processed with VSCO with nc presetProcessed with VSCO with nc preset

Tortoise Pagoda in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Ngoc Son Temple

Trấn Quốc Pagoda

Processed with VSCO with nc preset

 

The Locals

If you are as jolly as Jr and I, who always wears a smile on your face, don’t change a thing. But don’t expect all locals to reciprocate. On an average of ten people that we greeted, only 3 or 4 responded with a nod or a smile. It’s not them being rude but it’s what they have gotten used to.

If you are traveling to SouthEast Asia, please give yourselves a favor and visit Hanoi.

Processed with VSCO with nc presetProcessed with VSCO with nc preset

A Taste of Davao

If you’re looking for the best experience for you and your family, Davao is the best fit!

I couldn’t squeeze everything in 4 days, there’s so much to see with so little time.

We tried to have a taste of both lands and waters in 4 days. Here’s a peek of our trip 🙂

IMG_6142

 Secdea Resort, Samal Island

Processed with VSCO with kk2 presetProcessed with VSCO with kk2 preset

Davao Crocodile Park

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a5 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

Bohol: 4 Day Adventure

Right after we celebrated our 3rd year anniversary in Leyte, JR surprised me with a ticket to Tagbilaran for my birthday. I’m so excited to take this trip because I’ve always wanted to see the Chocolate Hills. I heard several myths about it when I was in grade school and I remember believing them too 🙂 It’s good that I had 5 months to plot the whole itinerary and I’m so happy everything turned out as planned.

Let me walk you through our 4 day adventure.

Day 1

We stayed at Villa Formosa through Airbnb, it was the cherry on top of our trip. It’s a few minutes away from Dumaluan beach, away from the crowded Alona Beach. We did the right thing to stay on this side of the island because Dumaluan is divine! Since we arrived in the afternoon on our 1st day, we decided to just stay in Villa Formosa – the place is amazing! It’s serene – exactly what we’re looking for. If you opt to just relax, this is the best place! We had the pool and jacuzzi to ourselves during our whole stay, it’s well-kept and clean. They have a very accommodating staff that catered to our every need. They’re friendly which made our stay very comfortable.

Book Villa Formosa through Airbnb or you can visit their website directly.

We grabbed our early dinner at  DBR Grill in Dumaluan Beach Resort which is a few minutes away from our place. They charge P25 entrance fee though. We ordered calamari and prawns – the food is okay and the view is great!

 

Dumaluan Beach

Processed with VSCO with acg presetProcessed with VSCO with acg preset

Did I mention that this beach has creamy fine white sand and crystal waters?!

Day 2

And so our land shenanigan begins! For me, it’s definitely the highlight of our trip! We crossed out another adventure on our list. We rented out a motorbike for P500 for 24hours, the receptionist from Villa Formosa booked it for us. We drove from Panglao to Chocolate Hills in Carmen to Loboc River and back to Panglao. It took us roughly 2 hours to get to our 1st destination because we had to stop twice due to the sudden rain.

SAMSUNG CSC

 

Chocolate Hill, Carmen

360 degrees view of the Chocolate Hills – from Hilltop view. There are at least 1000 of these scattered hills in Carmen, Bohol.

img_4321

SAMSUNG CSC Processed with Snapseed.

We had to stop for photos at the Bilar man-made forest.

Loboc River Cruise and Buffet

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetSAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSC

img_4313For P400 you get to eat a Filipino buffet on a boat cruising Loboc River. It’s a must try! The river is so nice and calm, there are also local performers serenading guests during the cruise.

Day 3

We opted to just stay at the resort to relax and take a dip at Dumaluan Beach.  It’s not crowded and it seems like we had the whole beach to ourselves.

img_4392SAMSUNG CSC Processed with Snapseed.SAMSUNG CSC

We had our early dinner at Alona beach which is only a tricycle away from Villa Formosa.

img_4441

Day 4

At 6AM, we embarked on Alona Beach to Balicasag and Virgin Islands. It’s not what I expected but it’s always good to plunge into an island for the 1st time.  We availed a tour package that includes island hopping and lunch set meals. When we got to Balicasag we transferred to a smaller boat for snorkeling.

431

Virgin Island

SAMSUNG CSC Processed with Snapseed.

Bohol Bee Farm

SAMSUNG CSC Processed with Snapseed.img_4572

We got back at the resort in the afternoon and decided to have an early dinner at Bee Farm. It’s only 4km away from our resort. Everything they sell is organic, my favorite would be the Salted Caramel Icecream on Cassava cone. The interior is so lovely, every corner is Instagram worthy! The food is delish too! I ordered Seafood pasta and it’s so good 🙂

We went back to our resort at 6PM and packed our luggage. It’s always heartbreaking leaving a nice place but every after an adventure a new journey awaits! 🙂

That wraps our 4 day Bohol escapade. Don’t skip this on your list. It’s truly beautiful and full of culture. There’s so much to see and experience.

Santorini in Tagaytay

Last weekend we were so close to nature. I’ve never seen this side of Tagaytay until I booked an overnight stay at Estancia Hotel.

Quoting Mr. Morrie Schwartz, ‘I am drawn to nature like I’m seeing it for the first time.’

It has one of the best views of the lake and I felt so close to the sky at the same time, I was in between of Heaven and Earth. This is not a hotel review but an appreciation for the beauty of Taal from my Santorini inspired room. I wouldn’t say that it was my best stay in Tagaytay because it wasn’t, I wouldn’t say it was the best hotel neither. But it was a pleasant feeling waking up to such an amazing view. I still have the perfect picture on my head.