We actually took two flights, one from Hanoi to Bangkok and Bangkok to Sydney. This happened to be the most comfortable flights I’ve ever flown and I will detail why.
After we checked in, our tickets allowed us to chill out in the lounge before boarding. Granting us free food and drinks… you can bet I ran to check out the food. Pad Thai, chicken curry, sushi, cereal, an array of fruit, salads, and more! I was too busy eating to take picture. I also tried a Birds Nest drink for the first time (made with the snow mushroom). It had a very light sweet flavor, but nothing I could differentiate or compare to anything I’ve had before besides sugar water. Apparently there are health benefits, but whatever.
We were given piping hot towels on a tray – Really nice since I was sweating so much from thinking were were gonna miss said flight. Haha, but I washed my hands and wiped my brow. A nice gentleman came by asking if we’d like any reading material, offering all the newspapers and magazines. I took a Vogue (he warned me it was in Thai, I didn’t care). And as soon as we could grab a stewardess, decided to start with some champagne, why not! Later a stewardess came by to show us the menu. Considering this was only an hour and a half flight I was really stoked to be getting another meal… until I realized I was still full from the little bit I ate in the lounge prior to boarding, LOL. Kenny finished his plate and I did try all of my components. This chicken curry and rice was deliciousssssssss! Rice perfectly done and sticky, chicken well seasoned and super juicy. Tangy papaya salad with pork on the side and a coconut custard with pumpkin for dessert <<< YUM! I really love airplane food but this is NOT your average plate.
We got off in Bangkok and went through security again so we could take full advantage of the next lounge we could get into. Haha. It seems like I’ve eaten about 4 meals in the past 2 hours but who cares, it’s free right? This lounge had a way fancier set up and was quite busy as a flight was to depart around 1:30 am. We got in there around 11 pm. There were spicy ramen, chicken and shrimp wonton soup, vegetable spring rolls (I ate 10 of these with chili sauce), tom yum wraps, chicken puffs, mushroom quiche, three kinds of cake rolls (coffee, fruit, chocolate), pastries, papaya and watermelon. I’m pretty sure people were watching me eat, some ladies were curious, the Chinese had wide eyes. Yeah, okay.
Lounge #2. Yes we went into another lounge because it opened earlier (5:15 am) for breakfast! Again, taking advantage of a nice spot to hang out before we catch our next flight. Comfy chair, chargers, wifi and all that jazz. No boarding announcements here! Really relaxing! The breakfast menu was a little different – Offering hard boiled eggs, ham, steamed buns, breakfast pastries, salad bar, more fruit. I tried a cafe latte and got some weird milk bitter coffee thing from the machine. Later it looked like a few people were trying to fix it so I’m not sure what I actually got. Lol.
Next we boarded our flight and were guided UPSTAIRS to our section. We sat down to find toiletry bags, fluffy pillow and blankets. I was kind of cold somehow so I instantly ripped mine open and got cozy for the ride. Inside the bag was body lotion, all natural chapstick, eye mask, toothbrush/toothpaste/mouthwash, comfort socks, and terrycloth slippers for lounging, along with noise cancelling headphones. In the few minutes before we even took off we discovered that our seats (like our previous flight) fully reclined so you could sleep flat. Also have your legs our like on a lazy boy and turn on the MASSAGE feature in your chair which was also adjustable! The remote popped out of the arm and you could listen to all kinds of music or choose from some movies. I ended up watching Trolls, Argo, and playing some word scramble game.
Kenny had the idea to make mimosas so I asked for OJ and the most expensive champagne. I waited till they left before I completely sloshed the two together for my mimosa. Haha.
BRUNCH time! I always, always love fruit. This was apple, dragonfruit, papaya, and pineapple with a vanilla yogurt on the side with some butter for hot rolls. I was excited to see the mini strawberry jelly (just as cute as their mini salt and pepper shakers) lol. After I was done with my fruit the stewardess brought out the EGGS BENEDICT. My favorite breakfast, it combines everything good – saucy egg, salty meat, crunch to soak up the hollandaise. Yum. Behind that, which is hard to see in the picture is some sautéed asparagus. That was so dang good and I’ve never seen such cute asparagus.
DINNER iS SERVED!!! By far my most memorable airplane meal… I mean, 3 courses?!?!? Yes. Yes. Yes. I kinda forgot what I had ordered because the stewardess had come by while I was in and out of sleep and just kinda pointed to something. Thankfully it was the right something! First course was a smoked salmon with romaine lettuce and mango lemon basil cream. It was really tasty and refreshing. If this had been the meal itself I would’ve been just fine here. But no…
HALLELUJAH – Here is THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER EATEN ON AN AIRPLANE! Duck confit with garlic confit and juice, caramelized pumpkin, buttered needle beans, with parmesan. Duck… perfectly cooked. Moist, juicy… the brown garlic sauce soooo savory and I dipped everything in it. The pumpkins sitting in the garlic… just perfect. If I knew anything about preparing duck I would try to recreate this asap. Don’t mind my strawberry jam that I scooped out of the cute little containers because I wanted them. Also had some jelly and butter with my rolls because I felt like it.
This seemed very Danish (I’m actually not sure of the origin, just that we did this everyday in Denmark)! After dinner I was asked if I wanted the fruit and cheese course. Yes. So, I was brought my own personal brie and baked strawberries which taste just like gummy snacks but are all natural. Ah, Thai airways you will have me dreaming of another flight!
While most people go home for Tet, we decided to get away to Bangkok and explore some more. We had a few missions: check out the night markets, pick up some clothes for Australia, barber shop for Ken, manicure for myself, workout and of course trying a lot more food!
This is by no means a showcase of the most authentic Hanoi dishes, just my favorite places that we go back to for good food… fresh, affordable, quality food – ESPECIALLY if you’re missing anything familiar from home!
Joma Bakery — With a few locations you shouldn’t miss it — Healthy breakfast and lunch options, a few that I’ve tried (Hummus plate, turkey sandwich, chicken pesto sandwich, Philly cheesesteak and all of these come with a side salad!) After your meal check out the desserts! They have an amazing Nanaimo bar which is a 3-layer bar with chocolate base and coconut in the middle with chocolate on top. Along with actual brownies, cinnamon rolls, cookies, chocolate croissants and coffee you really can’t go wrong.
O’douceurs French Pastry and Bakery – Chocolate-y brownies, to die for truffles and yummy fruit tarts…Yes, I’ve tried them all
Namaste Hanoi – My first meal in Hanoi, quite the experience. The owner will help to navigate the extensive menu, asking you a few questions and writing down numbers on your table corresponding to dishes that he suggests you consider. He was definitely spot on with our meal!
The Republic – an Aussie bar with the best (really large portion) burgers in town (spendier but it is a nice enough place, the mixed drinks are okay, beer probably better lol). Also the wedge French fries are amazingggggg
Ca Cha Va Long – hailed as the oldest restaurant in Hanoi (circa 1871), they serve one dish and it is 170k VND. It is a catfish fried at your table in tumeric with a bunch of fresh greens like dill and leak. Totally worth it.
Sesame – Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant, not always the easiest thing to find but it does exist 🙂 Fresh and delicious food and lunch sets for only 60k VND! This place has lunch hours from around 10-2 and dinner from 5-9 or so. We tried the mushroom patties and pineapple cake — yummy!
Salt n’ Lime – This is the place to go if you are missing Mexican food, or dare I say Chipotle? This is what fresh and natural Mexican food should be and I believe once home you would actually miss the big burritos here! I know I will–They have a range of salsas to choose from and they are all tasty — The corn salsa, verde, roja, and garlic are the ones I keep returning to. No joke I crave these burritos DAILY!
Gelato Italia – The ONLY gelato in town, and it is wonderful! Nice flavors, extra creamy as gelato should be and they have sorbet options as well. We tried coconut, valentine (strawberries and cream), and rum raisin. It was a real treat enjoying such a good gelato outside of Italy.
Annam Gourmet Market – Import goodies and a bakery that serves pretty good macarons! (Also get the Salt&Pepper potato chips, so worth it) — They also have almond milk which is hard to find and other fun drinks to try. On the second floor going up the staircase they have things with reduced prices and we were able to get some good chocolate for half off!
Tracey’s Pub – Cheap burgers (about 130k VND) and beer, they call it husband day care!
May Taste – Lunch specials at only 60K VND that include drinks and dessert (bananas)! You can’t beat the amount (I wasn’t able to finish my meal) or quality of food for that price… they also have a delish pineapple smoothie
Cong Caphe – For those with caffeine running through their veins try a milder version of Vietnamese coffee with their coconut slush coffee combo only 45k VND
Japanese Sweets – A chain found in most “malls” here. They have mochi filled with ice cream and even mochi donuts (which I was told would take 20 minutes to make). I got a coconut cream mochi instead which was nice and not super sweet!
Pepperonis – Haha. We found this spot wandering late at night. Cheap pizzas, good drinks (this one on the left was called “Tropical” turned out to be a plain yogurt with ice mix 😛 The pina colada was relish as well! If you want a little more bang for your buck head to Dominoes (way better than the Pizza Hut’s I’ve encountered in Asia) and they give you dipping sauces for your pizza without asking for it or paying extra —
Starbucks – I’ve been surprised. Besides free wifi, they have different (better even?) food/juices/pastries than in America. In the States I would go there for an egg white breakfast sandwich or the egg white wrap. The menu never changed but here there’s been quiche, chorizo pizza, wraps and specialty drinks that are really good (and I don’t go to Starbucks often). Below is the sesame crunch frappe and a warmed blueberry muffin, mmmm
1. Crossing the street is a sport. No matter if cars and mopeds are “stopped” at a red light, they all continue to flow through the street whenever there is a chance. Where does this leaves pedestrians? Playing frogger for dear life!
2. Fruit is abundant, cheap, sweet and delicious. Mangosteen, pineapple, papaya, dragonfruit, vietnamese cherries, etc.
3. Merchants really want exact change when you’re paying in cash. They will try to search through your bills looking for smaller ones, which can be annoying. If I had exact change I would give it to you… right? I don’t.
4. The attitudes in the South are different than the North. For understandable reasons in the countries history… the South is a lot more relaxed and westernized. Hanoi is where the expats are which makes that city more expensive.
5. Ho Chi Minh has great food, cheap street food that is really delicious.
6. Business cards are the way. All shops and restaurants will have them near the checkout! If you want to get somewhere just show the taxi driver the business card — he will understand easily.
7. Service isn’t always great here but you don’t need to tip —
8. Do not drink the tap water. Ice is okay if it’s in cubes or cylindrical shapes. Beware the chipped ice.
9. Uber is cheaper than a taxi and a great way to get around the city
10. There are a lot of weird smells. I often wear a face mask when going out at a busy time but it help filter out the strange poopy smells and gasoline fumes
11. Be vigilant with your money, especially in markets. Check the price before you pull our your bills and never let them grab what they decide is the right price. Always double check your change, it wouldn’t be uncommon to receive the wrong amount back
12. If you rent or buy a moped here be aware that you would be riding illegally. You will never get pulled over or anything but if there was the unfortunate accident you will probably be gouged for money (even if the accident was NOT your fault) and without insurance be paying loads of cash to all involved
13. As in some Central American markets, they may want to seal up your purse or have you place it in a locker while you shop. Just be sure to take out your cash beforehand so you won’t have to loop back around to get it (or as I do, go without purse altogether)
15. Food portions at Vietnamese restaurants are a lot smaller than in America (obvi) but really they do not eat a lot here… so while a dish may be cheap you might also not get so much. This may be improving though with so many foreign travelers
16. I get the impression that everyone feels what they are doing is more important than what you are doing. For example… the way people drive on the road. While it would be more than possible to wait a few seconds for someone to turn or merge, a lot of honking occurs when it is not necessary. It seems very impatient. In the market when everyone is waiting to pay, others may try to cut you if you’re not standing close enough to the next person. Even so, it may be your turn and many people will STILL try to cut just because they have less items than you. I understand being kind and letting someone go, but it gets ridiculous when it happens 3 times in a row and its not because you have told them to go ahead, but they have just decided to “cut”. It is not so civilized yet.
17. Locals here walk slowwwwwww. They don’t workout or take the fitness thing seriously like we do in the US. Haha. They drive like maniacs and walk like snails. Oh well.