A Travellerspoint blog

Travel Day: Hanoi to Siem Reap

rain 88 °F
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It was another loooooong travel day. It's definitely more difficult and time consuming to travel through Southeast Asia in comparison to Europe (or Japan), for example. We started our morning off by waking up at 4:30 am to finish packing up; we were scheduled to leave for the airport at 5:30 am for an early flight. Justin didn't sleep well last night, so he was able to watch the end of the Euro 2016 final, where Portugal beat France. Unfortunately, his idol Cristiano Ronaldo was injured shortly after the match started. The game started at 2:00 a.m. and he watched it off and on until it finally finished at 4:30, just as I was getting up to our alarm! We couldn't fully pack last night because we needed to let our clothes dry longer through the night. Packing was pretty easy and we're getting back into our routine in terms of how things should fit in our bags.

Once we were done packing we said goodbye to our "marvellous" hotel room (misspelling intended) and headed down to the lobby. We were immediately greeted by the same man that we spoke to the previous night, which meant he'd probably had the whole night shift. He informed us that our car was outside and our to-go breakfasts, water, and coffee were already in the car. The hospitality from the entire staff was really spectacular. Our car ride to the airport was much smoother this time, probably because the traffic was a bit lighter. We passed through immigration easily and soon we were at our gate...over two hours early. I guess we take after Kuku (he always plans for avid time before flights)!

We puttered around the airport until it was time to hop on our flight to Bangkok. I swear the space between rows is definitely shrinking with each flight we take. Our knees were jammed into the seats in front of us, but I still managed to take a nap on Justin for most of the flight! I woke up to a jolt from our landing and soon enough we were ready to head to our next flight that would take us to Siem Reap, Cambodia. For some reason each time we've flown through Bangkok we've had to exit immigration and reenter even though we have fully printed boarding passes. It's an anomaly I still can't understand, but hopefully I can solve the mystery soon since we fly though Bangkok two more times! We grabbed some McDonalds once we got back in the terminal because at this point we'd been up for 7 hours or so. We ate at our gate and waited for our 30 minute delayed plane.

The flight over to Siem Reap was definitely our bumpiest yet. I dozed off yet again, but not for as long this time. We had some visa and immigration paperwork to fill out on the plane, and it was being made difficult by the turbulence. We finally touched group in Cambodia afterwards! The airport was very small and we got our visa on arrival very quickly. We found our driver from our hotel after making a quick phone call back to the hotel to make sure he was still coming. Our driver arrived with scarves for each of us and we had a nice and easy drive to the hotel (much less hectic compared to Hanoi). We were greeted with watermelon juice and pineapple and checked in right away. Everyone at this hotel is very nice and helpful as well; it seems they are trying to out-do our Marvellous Hotel in Hanoi!

We were shown to our room right after our snack and it did not disappoint. The room itself is huge and it's right on the big pool! We were thrilled to see such an incredible room. This room stands in stark contrast to the one we shared in Takayama ;) We spent a little bit of time checking in with family and trying to game plan the rest of our stay here. We hadn't done much planning in terms of how many days and when/how we wanted to get to Angkor Wat, so we had a ton to catch up on. About an hour later we figured we needed to go eat something so we could get back early. We took the free tuk tuk shuttle to the downtown area and walked around the fun shops and big pub street (we'll be looking into that street more tomorrow evening ;)). The hotel gave us a local cell phone for us to use when we wanted to get picked up! All we need to do is call the hotel and provide our location and the tuk tuk will be there in 10 short minutes! We walked quite a bit longer than we were planning and eventually found a delicious Indian place for dinner. We were pretty starving at this point, so we wasted no time in ordering butter chicken, chicken tikka masala, aloo gobi, dhal, garlic naan, basmati rice, and two draft beers. It was a feast!! We scarfed down our meal as more and more people started arriving. We stuffed ourselves as much as possible and finished almost everything.

Next it was time to find a market; there were surprisingly way more markets and convenience stores here compared to Hanoi, so we had no trouble finding one right away. We stocked up on four large water bottles, some snacks, and some candy. Then we called our hotel to catch a tuk tuk back. The tuk tuk arrived in less than ten minutes and we were off to the hotel. We spent another hour planning out how we wanted to see Angkor Wat and eventually decided to start with the standard "small" loop that takes you through many of the main attractions. Our hotel offers tuk tuk tours that take you around all day, which seemed to be a better option than riding miles and miles in 90 degree rainy weather on a bike. We arranged for the tuk tuk to take us for sunrise and they'll take us back to the hotel just before sunset (if we can make it!). The hotel also packs a breakfast for us to enjoy at Angkor Wat after watching the incredible sunrise. We have to be ready at 4:30 am to leave, so it's definitely time to hit the hay.

Fasten your seat belts and get ready to see some magical photos from tomorrow! Until then :)

Love,
Kaela and Justin

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Walking around Siem Reap town, and pub street ($.50 beers).

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Waiting in Bangkok for our (delayed) flight to Cambodia! These are our patient faces.

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Welcome presents at our hotel in Siem Reap.

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Our magnificent room.

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Our Indian feast!

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A late tuk tuk ride back to the hotel for the night.

Posted by JK_Adventures 07:34 Archived in Cambodia Comments (3)

Heating Up in Hanoi

sunny 99 °F
View Justin and Kaela's Honeymoon Adventure on JK_Adventures's travel map.

We had a fun day exploring as much of the old quarter as possible. Our morning started off with two different breakfasts. I went for the hotel breakfast with poached eggs on toast and a side of bacon, while Justin went to his favorite local spot for more Bún bò Nam Bộ! I think it's safe to say he's found a go to for Vietnamese food. After breakfast we waited in our hotel lobby to meet up with one of our friends, Jori Jasper. We know Jori from school at UH and she played softball while we were playing. She's now working on her JD and MBA!! She's in Hanoi for a month for a summer job with some other UH students from her MBA program. Jori and her friends ubered over to our hotel and soon we were off exploring the old quarter.

Since they are staying a few miles away, they wanted to experience the hustle and bustle of the old quarter that we've been living in the past few days. We started off going to the same area as the night market last night. We thought it'd be a good place to walk around and shop, especially since we'd just gotten such cheap watches in that area! We walked around in the blistering heat for about an hour before stopping off for food. We went back to the pho place we tried going to last night and it was open this time! Once we arrived most of the group decided it was too hot outside to force themselves to eat boiling soup, so only one person got a bowl. It looked delicious still! After our pit stop we started walking around the area by the smaller lake. A little while later more people started to get hungry so we led the group to Banh Mi 25, which is where we went when we first arrived.

We immediately ordered chicken banh mi and some local beers, and some of the workers remembered Justin and me from a few nights ago! Everyone was very friendly and we took a seat on the sidewalk in those very tiny plastic stools that scatter the walk way. The shop owners children delivered our food and drinks to us. There was something funny about a seven year old trying to carry a sweating bottle of beer to a table while practicing her English with foreigners. The whole group loved the food and the service and one of our new friends even tipped the little girl (the kid was absolutely stoked).

After our second stop on our food tour we thought it'd be fun to work up an even bigger sweat and walk around the entire lake, which isn't too big, but seems massive when it's over 95 degrees outside. We took a bunch of selfies on the way and got to catch up with Jori and learn more about our new friends. Since we'll all be at UH again in the fall, I'm sure we'll be seeing each other again soon! We made it about halfway around the lake before ducking into a reputable looking coffee shop in search of some air-conditioning and a pick me up. Luckily, we found both. Jori had a tasty blended coffee with jellied coffee slices inside and I ordered a standard blended coffee drink. We took our sweet time enjoying our frosty beverages before heading back out to the sauna.

Once we made it all the way around the lake we thought it was a good time to head back to the hotel and call and uber for the rest of the group there. We stopped at a few shops along the way, including a convenience store where we immediately bought some water to chug and rehydrate. Back at the hotel the uber arrived in no time and we said our goodbyes. Everyone was satisfied with the day's adventures and tour and ready for a cold shower. Justin and I wasted no time to rinse off and decided to hand wash some laundry at the same time (we were too late to have the hotel do it...whoops!). Once we got all of our laundry washed (which took an hour or so) and put out to dry, it was finally time to relax and cool off.

We watched a few movies on HBO and took some mini naps before heading out to the heat again in search for some dinner. We both agreed that we couldn't leave Vietnam without having pho at least one more time so we went back to the same street we went to yesterday afternoon in search of the mysterious pho restaurant we'd been searching for. We found it with ease and immediately ordered two boiling bowls of beef pho and two cold beers. What better meal to suit the weather, right? The pho was incredible and I definitely would've eaten there again if we'd found it sooner. The broth had a much more distinct beef flavor and it was fantastic. After pho it was back to the room to blow dry some clothes in an attempt to expedite the drying process and it was time to take another shower since we were drenched with sweat from our thirty minute outing (anytime we leave the hotel a shower is necessary because we start sweating immediately). We repeated our same routine from earlier consisting of movies and naps before heading out again for one last Bún bò Nam Bộ (Justin might have withdrawals once we leave here!). The heat had gone down to about 90 at this point, so we didn't sweat nearly as much!

We're back in our room now ready to head to bed. We have to leave at 5:30 tomorrow morning to catch a flight to Bangkok then another one to Siem Reap. We're both ecstatic to be able to see the number one destination to see in the world, Angkor Wat. Lots more pictures and stories to come! Until then...

Love,
Kaela and Justin

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Walking around the Old Quarter of Hanoi with Jori and everyone else! (all following Kaela's lead, as usual)

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Delicious Banh Mi 25.

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Some shots around Hoan Kiem Lake.

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Our last day in beautiful Hanoi!

Posted by JK_Adventures 14:40 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hot as Phở in Hanoi

sunny 98 °F
View Justin and Kaela's Honeymoon Adventure on JK_Adventures's travel map.

Today was a hot one! We started the day waking up earlier than usual, around 7:30 a.m. to get some breakfast and head out for the day. I haven't been feeling well the past day or so, and I didn't sleep well last night, so Kaela allowed me to sleep in for another hour. We then made our way up to breakfast and I had a mango crêpe and Kaela had the English Breakfast, consisting of two over-easy eggs, bacon, and a grilled tomato. We also each had a cup of the strongest coffee ever before heading back to the room to finish getting ready for the day.

After a brief game-plan, we decided that we would try to hit several major Hanoi sights today, most notably the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the One-Pillar Pagoda, and the Temple of Literature; quite the full-plate! We ended up leaving the hotel just before 9:30 a.m. heading towards the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, since we knew that this site closed at 11:30 a.m. We made it to the Mausoleum around 10:15 a.m. and we had to walk around nearly the entire facility to find the main entrance. Once we started to walk through, heading towards the metal detectors, Kaela and I were stopped by some women just past the entrance. They were pointing towards Kaela and saying that she is not allowed to wear shorts inside! This was the first time that we had heard of this rule, the people working at our hotel simply said that she had to have her shoulders covered, nothing about her legs! Unfortunately, this meant that we would be unable to see the One-Pillar Pagoda as well, since it was located within the Mausoleum facility. At this point, it was around 95 degrees and both of our shirts were soaked with sweat. What made this situation even more frustrating is that we even saw multiple other females enter the facility with shorts on! We were unsure if this was a standard stipulation, or if Kaela was just singled out for being.. Kaela (we looked up the entrance requirements later in the day when we returned to the hotel and we couldn't find anything about wearing pants, now we know for next time, I guess!). Kaela, unable to hide her frustration at this point, decided that we would not succumb to their high-pressure tactics and we moved on in search of our next site of the day: The Temple of Literature.

However, we made a brief pitstop at the larger of two lakes in Hanoi: Ho Tay. We haven't been to this lake or area yet, so we wanted to check it out, since we were within a 10 minute walk or so. We were saddened to see how severely polluted this lake really was; there was garbage and plastic everywhere! It was even tough to get a quality breath standing near the water since the smell was so off-putting. Nevertheless, we still walked around the lake to see what this area had to offer. There was a temple located in the center of the lake, and Kaela was still frustrated from being sent away from the Ho Chi Minh Masoleum at this point, so she wasn't thrilled when she saw a sign that said, in a less-clear form of English, that no shorts were allowed. We both poked our heads in and we took a few pictures but left quickly since Kaela felt uncomfortable. Also, this didn't seem like the best area of Hanoi to spend an afternoon in, so we started our walk back to the hotel, and lunch, since we were exhausted and covered in sweat.

The walk over to the Temple of Literature from Ho Tay lake was another 30 minutes or so, which felt like hours in this heat. Kaela, strategically, wore a white shirt today so that it would not show as much sweat as the grey shirt she wore to the Himeji Castle. Regardless, both of us were losing quite a bit of water. By the time we arrived at the Temple of Literature, we both had finished the one water bottle that we brought with us! I recycled the bottle (it seems not everyone cares about recycling here, or putting trash in its proper place for that matter) and we purchased two tickets for the site. We spend 30 minutes or so walking around and admiring the beautiful gardens and structures. This Temple is feature on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese Dong note and it was originally built in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius. This site also hosted the first university in Vietnam, also in 1070. After wandering around the grounds, and escaping the heat (but not the 90%+ humidity) on a shady bench, Kaela felt the need for a Coke to replenish herself for the walk back home, with a stop for lunch on the way.

We were planning on getting Phở for lunch, and we headed off in the direction of a place near our hotel. We haven't had much luck with our directions in Hanoi, and our luck didn't change now. We researched this location previously, and recorded both the address and the name of the restaurant (both synced to the same location on the same street). However, we walked the entire street and we were unable to find Pho Suong. Kaela even stopped inside a near hostel to inquire where the best Pho place was, and we were directed to the same location that we were previously searching in! We both agreed that the most likely location, was also most likely closed, so we continued our walk home and eventually stopped by the place we had for a late night snack on our first night in Hanoi, Bún bò Nam Bộ. This may be my favorite restaurant in Hanoi so far, at least in terms or street food. It has a delicious concoction of bean sprouts, rice noodles, basil, mint, and peanuts all covered in a delicious sauce. Also, when I top it with the special spicy sauce, it is as close to a perfect dish as I can ask for. We both had one dish (this restaurant only serves the one dish), and towards the end of our meal we met a nice couple who were also on their honeymoon. They just arrived from New Hampshire and we shared some travel tips and know-how about Hanoi with them before parting our ways. They were both a school teacher and and advisor as well!

We were exhausted at this point, so we walked the quarter-mile back to our hotel and collapsed into our room. We spent the next few hours relaxing and recuperating from the heat outside and the water-loss that we endured during our hike. We walked 7 miles by this point, and it wasn't even 2:00 p.m. yet! The housekeeping came around our room around 3:00 p.m., so we quickly went up to the restaurant for a coffee while our room was cleaned. We even stumbled upon another cooking class happening! Around 7:00 p.m. we started getting ready to head out for a quick night-time adventure and dinner. We were planning on walking through the night market and, once again, trying our luck at finding a different Phở place over by the market. We walked 20 minutes or so before stumbling upon the market, along with what seemed like tens of thousands of other people. We walked through looking at the various stalls. We paused at a few different tents selling various items such as shirts, jerseys, bags, and bracelets. However, the tents that really caught our eyes were the ones selling watches. I spent my time looking over each of them trying to find the perfect one. Kaela found one that she liked, which happened to be a Nixon (coincidently enough, she was planning on getting one when she returned). I also picked up an Omega watch, since I have been looking for a silver one lately and, well.. why not now!? After feeling content with our purchases, and noticing that we were both soaked with sweat again (Kaela wore her grey shirt from the Himeji Castle tonight) we headed away from the night market and on our way to the Phở restaurant. We must have gotten carried away in the night market because, once we arrived at the Phở place, our restaurant was closed! At this point, it was just after 10:00 p.m., and it seems nearly everything in Hanoi closes at, or around, this time. We started walking back to the hotel and eventually walked by a Banh Mi place, where Kaela picked up a Chicken and Herb sandwich to enjoy back at the hotel.

Exhausted after a long day of walking and sweating, we are both headed to bed right now. We have plans to meet up with a friend from Hawaii, Jori Jasper, tomorrow morning so we'll see if that works out! We will also continue our mission to find another Phở restaurant. Until tomorrow!

Love,

Justin and Kaela

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At the Temple of Literature, and Kaela's delicious celebratory Coke!

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Trying to survive the heat in Hanoi!

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Checking out another Temple (kind of) and walking around the Ho Tay Lake.

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Walking around the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum!

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An alley in Hanoi.

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My favorite food place so far, Bún bò Nam Bộ.

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The view from the balcony of our hotel (during our coffee break).

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The night market!

Posted by JK_Adventures 09:12 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Lazy Day in Hanoi

semi-overcast 90 °F
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As the title suggests, Justin and I had a pretty lazy and relaxing day today. Since we got back to the hotel so late last night, we both decided it would be best to sleep in as late as possible. But since breakfast ends at 10:00 we could only sleep in so much. We arrived at breakfast around 9:30 and the lovely hotel staff informed us that they were about to come check on us to make sure we were up for breakfast! Everyone at the hotel is very considerate and it seems like everyone remembers both of our names. Breakfast was delicious again; I had scrambled eggs with bacon on a buttered baguette and Justin got poached eggs on toast along with some spring rolls :) We finished up breakfast with the incredibly strong coffee that we had yesterday.

After breakfast we headed back to our room to game plan the rest of our day. Game planning didn't get too far and we ended up taking a nap instead. Our only plan after the nap was to go to our cooking class later in the afternoon. We both figured that we could use a relaxing day in the cool hotel to take a break from the intense heat outside.

The main event of the day was obviously our cooking class! We weren't too sure what we were walking into, but I made sure Justin went with me so we could experience it together. The class was very small (just us two along with one other Japanese lady). Once we arrived to the main dining hall (where we eat breakfast each morning) the room was transformed into a mini cook station with gas burners, cutting boards, and a variety of ingredients. The chef and staff informed us that we'd be making spring rolls and bún chả, which is a Vietnamese dish of grilled pork and rice noodle. The staff also told us that bún chả is especially popular now that President Obama was seen eating it when he visited Hanoi a few months ago (I guess we'll have to go to the same place he ate at!). The bulk of our cooking was actually the preparation. We had to cut very small pieces of different vegetables for the spring roll filling; ingredients consisted of carrots, bean root, some other type of root or radish, onion, green onion, two different types of very interesting mushrooms, rice noodles, and two scrambled eggs (we all successfully flipped an egg high in the air with a frying pan, by the way...a task I had never done before). The chef showed us different ways to cut specific ingredients; I think all of the helpers were nervous that we were going to chop our fingers off with the huge butcher knives they gave us because they were hovering pretty intensely (my dad does the same thing in the kitchen and he knows how much I "love" it ;)).

Once we finished showing off our knife skills, it was time to assemble the spring rolls, which was a deceivingly tricky task! They showed us a trick of placing a damp washcloth on the cutting board to place the rice paper on in order for it to soften a little bit before putting a spoonful of ingredients on it and rolling it all up. My helper was pretty jumpy at this point too and was only a step away when I broke the rice paper. I finally started to get the hang of it! Justin and I will need to do an assembly line in the future because this part took forever!! And he seemed to pick up the rolling a little bit faster than I did, but I had him beat on the knife skills ;) Once we all assembled at least TWENTY spring rolls EACH it was time to fry them along with little pork patties that we made. Frying was fun and easy compared to all of the rolling and soon enough it was time to eat!! The staff gave us each a platter with cooked rice noodles, greens (lettuce, basil, and mint), and a sauce for the bún chả that consisted of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, hot water, garlic, and peppers. We also got to carve mini pineapples to make pineapple jack-o-lanterns; we stuck mini skewers into the pineapple o lantern and put our spring rolls onto those skewers. We feasted for as long as we could before we were completely full with spring rolls and bún chả. Apparently the staff thought we needed to eat more since we barely made a dent in our massive pile of spring rolls, so they sent us back to our room with three to-go boxes of leftovers!

Once we were back in our room we decided it'd be best to take a nap from our kanak attack, so we showered and posted up for the rest of the night. Both of us dozed off at different points in the evening and we watched some movies along the way. Tomorrow is going to be an extremely busy day so we didn't feel bad about not leaving the hotel at all today hehe. We're heading out early tomorrow to beat the heat and the crowds when we visit the One Pillar Pagoda, the Ho Chi Minh Museum, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and possibly the Temple of Literature. Luckily, all of the sites are roughly in the same vicinity.

We'll definitely have plenty of pictures tomorrow! Until then...

Love,
Kaela and Justin

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Some pictures from our cooking class!

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Before and after cooking our spring rolls.

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Justin's pineapple :D

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Our delicious hotel breakfast!

Posted by JK_Adventures 08:03 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Venturing through Vietnam

semi-overcast 92 °F
View Justin and Kaela's Honeymoon Adventure on JK_Adventures's travel map.

We had another exciting, fun-filled, day in Hanoi today. We started off by waking up just in time for breakfast. The food was all delicious! It was a buffet of Vietnamese and Western food, and you could also order anything from the menu! We took our time sampling the various foods, I had plenty of spring rolls. Kaela ordered an omelet with everything in it and I had two eggs over-easy with bacon. Kaela loved the bacon so much she vowed that she would get it tomorrow. After finishing up breakfast, and having the strongest, darkest coffee we've ever had, we went back to our room to relax and plan for the rest of the day. I completed some work while Kaela looked up what we wanted to do throughout the day.

We eventually set out around noon, and our plan was to go visit the Hoa Lo Prison Museum. We made the 20 minute walk over to the location, picked up our tickets, and entered the site. The entire outside wall must be ten feet high or so, and there are glass shards that have been inserted into the cement, acting as a de-facto barbed wire system. We spent a little under an hour walking through the museum, and it was a weird experience, to say the least. It seems that this prison was under the control of various groups throughout its existence. Most of the museum was dedicated to how the vietnamese prisoners were treated by the French within the prison, stating that they were often subjected to torture-like conditions, and even executions. When Vietnam gained control of the prison, and the Vietnam war started, the prison was used to house American prisoners of war, including senator John McCain. The depictions and accounts of the Americans in captivity at the prison drastically differ from the previous ones. Many of the accounts of how the Americans were treated here describe their treatment as very good, allowing the Americans to play games, receive immediate medical care, hearty meals, and more. The accounts in the museum make it seem like the prison truly lived up to its nickname as the "Hanoi Hilton" and that the Americans were just on an extended vacation. All of this stands in stark contrast to the reports from Americans who were held in the prison during the course of the war, as they mentioned the extreme conditions they were kept in, often being subjected to various types of torture.

After finishing our tour at the museum, we went to try to walk around the French Quarter of Hanoi to see a different side of the city. We walked around for about 90 minutes, and we were unable to find a large area that looked distinctly French! Other than a few buildings here or there that seemed to have more of a European feel to them, the area largely seemed the same as the rest of Hanoi. At this point we were beginning to work up quite the sweat, since the temperature was in the low 90's, and we began a walk back to our hotel. We stopped at a new Banh Mi sandwich place on the way home to pick up a snack to hold us over until dinner. Once we returned to the hotel, Kaela quickly scheduled a foot massage (it came free with our booking at this hotel) while I worked out in our room. Once Kaela returned, we looked up a few places for dinner and decided to go to Ngon Villa, which is the number 1 rated restaurant in Hanoi! It specializes in versions of Vietnamese food.

We had a short 5 minute walk over to the restaurant and we were quickly seated. We had a feast, sampling many different types of Vietnamese food and attempting to eat our way through the menu. We both ordered the all-you-can-eat option, and we split each dish so that we could each experience the delicious variety of the cuisine presented. We had a fantastic time and we enjoyed conversing with our server, who told us some of his favorite spots and restaurants throughout Hanoi. After a fantastic meal, we left the restaurant and wandered around Hanoi for a few minutes on our way back to the hotel.

At a street corner, Kaela and I were approached by a group of four people who were looking for a bar to watch the Euro semi-final between Germany and France. Three of the people were from Germany and one was from Spain. Kaela pulled out her phone and found a nearby sports bar, and we were invited to join them. We ended up hanging out for a little over an hour, discussing various topics and getting to know one another. At this point, there was still several hours before the start of the match, so we decided to head back to the hotel to get some rest. It was a long day, so we went straight to bed once we returned. Another exciting day should be in store for tomorrow! Kaela even booked a cooking class for us both to attend. I guess we'll finally find out who the better cook is ;)

Love,

Justin and Kaela

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Walking around Hanoi.

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At the Hoa Lo Prison Museum.

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Some pictures from our dinner feast and Ngon Villa.

Posted by JK_Adventures 22:55 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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