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.
Even if Sapa is a bit sophisticated, their food choices has redeeming qualities. Looking for a place to dine for the night, Sapa’s Gecko at the town center lured us with with its 10 USD full course meal posted at their menu outside. It was one of the best restaurants we tasted if not the best that was never topped during our stay in Vietnam. Will write full details on the Gecko real soon. We got out of the restaurant late past 10pm that night finding the town already sleeping. When we got to our lodging, the doors were already locked. We were locked out that we had to ask help from an establishment across to call up the hotel. Good thing they woke and we got in. I guess just like our provinces, people here rarely stay up so late,
It was rainy that morning that we decided to forgo the plan of visiting other attractions. Instead we stayed for breakfast at Ban Mai Inn just across the bus station. They have really good food and their native mountain mushrooms were the best we had tasted. We befriended the owner and bought a kilo of those mushrooms home. Close to lunch we took a few shots of the misty covered plaza just in front of the church.
By afternoon we checked out Pinnochio Hotel and took their van service heading to Lao Cai. They had to fill up the Van first which took rather an inconvenient amount of time. We descend the village and humidity started rolling in at the lower planes of Lao Cai in an hour. Checked with Pho Café on our reservations and finally got our train tickets. It was a good decision on our part since all train tickets were sold out by that time. Had dinner at the cafe and went to the station when it’s close to departure time. There were a couple of foreigners there asking about their tickets. They were really relieved that they found out that we can speak English. They had trouble about their reservations but we couldn’t help more.
Our berths were slight smaller than the last one we had but this is much cooler and comfortable. The train ride went smooth. Soon we found ourselves in Hanoi pass 4am. Since it was early morning and our flight is late at night, we decided to find a lodging where we could rest. We found Lotus Hotel at the Old Quarters with reasonably priced rooms. Traveling all the time can be exhausting that’s why on this last day we tried to catch up on rest.
At the old quarters, we had lunch at Little Hanoi, sampling their food fares and found their desserts really good. Got convinced by a few locals to buy some shirts and salakots. After much haggling they gave in on a very good price. After lunch we stayed the whole afternoon around Hoan Kiem lake. Named after the most popular district in Hanoi, Hoan Kiem.
Legend says that way back in the 15th century a magical tortoise gave Emperor Le Thai To a magical sword that helped him repel the Chinese invaders that time. After the liberation of Vietnam, the tortoise snatched the sword back and disappeared into the lake. Hence the name Ho Hoan Kiem which means Lake of the returned sword. Until this day, people still believe the tortoise still resides within the lake and there were so called reported sighting of this magical creature.
Hoan Kiem Lake is full of life from afternoon to night. From families having picnics, people practicing tai chi or simply hanging out enjoying the relaxing ambiance. There are eateries nearby. For our last dinner before we left Hanoi, we tried Huo Guom Café where we ordered their pastas and pizza pretty good while dining al fresco. Soon we took a cab back to out hotel since we’ll be leaving for the airport in an hour.
By 8 in the evening we were off to the airport with a taxi hired from our hotel. It was a fast drive to the airport and soon found ourselves in Noi Bai Airport short 30 minutes later. Bought some pasalubongs from the aiport’s duty free and waited for our 1am flight back to Manila. This caps off our Northern Vietnam Adventure.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.