[Sapa, Vietnam] Day 5: Packing

At lunch in hotel resto: 

Staff: So what did you today?
Me: Packing.

Staff smiled, and walked away.

Mark commented why did I answer “packing.” It might be misinterpreted with a bad word.

The thing is I really wanted to share with the staff how I had wonderful walk towards the upper part of the hill early in the morning, the fresh air, the beautiful flowers and view. But it would be useless, and would just create an awkward situation because she would have a hard time understanding it, and I would have a hard time trying to make her understand me.  To save the 2 of us from that awkward situation, I tried to think of the simplest answer I could give: packing.

(Lunch! We’re terribly missing Pinoy #foodie.)It’s our last day in Sapa; that’s why we’re packing. 

Basically, that sums up our daily interaction with the hotel staff of Sapa Garden Resort. They’re all nice and extra. But we always just turned awkward when they and us are trying to converse with each other.

They’re trained to make guests comfortable and welcome by  routinely checking on us (or generally as their customer relationship protocol) with a list of template questions. After staying here for a few days, we memorized the list of questions they would throw at us. It’s usually from: “How are you?” “How’s the food?” “What are your plans for today?” “The weather will be great today?” “Do you need any thing?” “Do you have a good sleep?” 

We do not really mind it. The problem is that it could get awkward because of language barrier. Sometimes, they ask questions that were out context like every time they see you in a day, they would mandatorily ask “how are you?” Sometimes, we’d meet them 5 times so we’d be asked “how are you?” 5x in a day. I wanted to share my day to let them know that I enjoy their place but then, as I said, it would put the two of us in a difficult situation instead. So we would just end up saying, “we’re fine” 5x/day. 

So basically that sums up our daily interaction with the lovely people of Sapa: “How are you?” – “We’re fine.”

And, yes, cheesy, I would miss them! πŸ™‚

Zwing and Nui. They’re assigned a Western name, but I tried to use their Vietnamese name. 

[Sapa, Vietnam] Day 4: From the Customer Support CapitalΒ 

Today was the fun run. We joined the 10K of VMM (story will be at runroo.com). 

It was also on the route used by guided trekking tours. So it was common to meet foreigners trekking on the way. And, I noticed that I was probably the only runner who was busy greeting “good morning” the other passerbys. It might be the language barrier; or it might be because I’m from the customer support capital of the world that it’s natural for us to be a greeting trumpet. 

And on this day, I confirmed that I could never be KPop when foreigners would ask me if I’m Malaysian or Thailand.  😑 Anyhow, I would reply to them, “From Philippines. Mabuhay!” 😂

A few friends who had been to Vietnam would always warn me about Vietnamese being rude. Thankfully, I never really met one until this day’s dinner when a resto staff shouted at me twice when I was about to bite into my BBQ. And, I think I felt worse about it when no one around me can interpret / explain / subtitled why he shouted at me. 

On the other hand, I don’t think they’re rude, or they meant to be rude. It’s just how they are. You can feel it especially with drivers / motorists. Pedestrians are regarded as less priority by motorists (They elevated the manners of the annoying habal2x back in my beloved Consolacion, Cebu when compared to them.). But then, I think if you look at them thru the lens of a Vietnamese, they are not really being intentionally rude; it’s probably just who they really are.

But still generally, Vietnamese are nice people. I always believe that human’s default setting is nice. 😍 

[Sapa, Vietnam] Day 3

We did nothing today. 😂 But I need to have a Day 3 entry. πŸ™‚

There are super lots of shops selling outdoor apparels & gears in Sapa, counterfeit of popular brands. Part of me want to buy, but I just cannot.

I think this is Banh xeo, one of my favorite in Phat Pho. It’s just that it seemed they have a different pronunciation of it here. Or, it’s us who pronounced it wrong.

[Sapa, Vietnam] Day 2: Do it for #feedgoals!

After claiming our race kit for 10K Vietnam Mountain Marathon, we went straight to hoping to find a quick “nature” trek.

(I think our main reason of coming here was for the fun run. We’re originally hoping to be in 21K but it seems like they’re popular now, and sold out quickly. Thus, we’re in 10K but I’m just happy to be as we’re really lazy with long runs for awhile.)

So on to trekking… Everyone points us to do the Cat Cat Village when we would ask for suggestion of a quick trek.  Sapa and Cordillera (or even Bukidnon) has similarities. One is that they have different tribes, and I think each tribe has its own valley/village like in Cordillera. Sapa has 7(?). One of the tribes is in Cat Cat Village (i dunno the name of the tribe). I think Cat Cat village has the (un)luck of being the closest to the Sapa town center that they became the default main attraction. 

When I saw the road going to the Cat Cat village with tourist vans zooming in and out, and souvenir shops lining up along the way, I was totally disappointed! I just wanna go back to the place we’re staying, and might as well just enjoy the view from there. But of course, I just gonna suck it up! @.@ It’s just one of those moments that you’ll think if tourism is good or bad. Anyhow, I’m not gonna bore myself writing about that.

There’s then there’s default entrance fee to the Cat Cat Village. It was really more of a curated theme park with “villagers” in full costume who looked like they were actors who were made to roam around the “village” to look like we’re in an authentic tribe village. I mean c’mon, I did not travel this far for this; we have so many of this back in my beloved Philippines (not really though?!?).

We’re about to get done with the Cat Cat Village when I saw a little detour that says “Gold Stream.” 

I was thinking this probably refers to the “Secret Jungle” part of the village.

We’re hesitant to trek it because no one is going there. But so happy we took the chance.

I was just elated to get away from the “civilization.” Tarush! See the buildings on the other side… Glad to get a bit away from it despite a quick one.

But truth is I just wanna take better #feedgoals photos. 😂😂😂

This was the “dead end” of the village map.

Though, you can actually cross the river, and continue trekking. But we’re not that daredevil; there might be some rules against it, and we don’t want to cross it. And, I guess this is the disadvantage of trekking in another country so thus the importance of a local guide. πŸ™‚

So let me just #bloggerpose. Do it for #feedgoals!

Tabing Ilog…
Legit locals passed us, who also took a breather when they reached the spot we’re in.

Going back to our place, we want to avoid the main road, and thought of taking a shortcut but it led us to a foot path that went up straight the “mountain/hill.” It did took us away from the traffic of touring vans and souvenir shops, and the scenery was beautiful but I was not that prepared with the steepness of the ascent! 

It seemed like Sapa had enough of my whining, and tried to get the last laugh by giving a kick on my butt by showing a more real Sapa trail.

I was already unhappy doing this going-home trek because it got hot, it was always going up, we’re not sure if we’re taking the right way, and most of all I was hungry already (we had not lunch yet as I thought it’s just gonna be a short trek).

If things get hard, #selfie!

Just when all our water bottles were emptied out, we finally reached the main road!

So #foodie!!!

(Sapa food may have now this touch of being Western like this bahn mi may be more of a burger than the typical bahn mi.) 

Sapa, thank you for that kick on my butt! We are now good! πŸ™‚

[Sapa, Vietnam] Day 1: Bus Ride to France

Best part of this day was the bus ride! 😂 Actually, half of the day was spent on the bus.

I thought we’re gonna be trippin’ like a backpacker but it was luxury. I was imagining that it was going to be crazy bus ride like in Sagada. But it was far from it. Vietnam’s road infrastructure looks like Chinese money is poured into it; roads are very wide unlike in Sagada where it feels like just 1 missed turn, and we might already go down the ravine. So I think if you want the thrill part of backpacking, Sagada is the way to go! Sorry, I can’t help to be extra on my country! πŸ™‚The views along the way is pretty too; they remind me of Philippines! 😂😂😂 Five hours on the road, the best way is to love the view, and…

…crochet! I just have to insert this just because!!!

Bus stop food though… πŸ™‚ I love surprises in bus stop.

My chopstick skills on focus!

I took a photo of the menu board of the bus stop because it has subtitles, which can be handy!

Food Fever 😂 Yes, I feel you, guys! The struggle is real…

At exactly 12noon, Sapa / Sa pa finally!!!

View from our room:

Sapa is picturesque. Reading that this was a French vacation place like Baguio was for Americans, it probably influences me to look at it that it does kinda looks like of those French scene.

It makes me feel like walking in the cobble-stoned alley of France.

Al fresco lounging… Lounging on street is a major big thing in Hanoi. While Sapa’s restaurants are also built to have al fresco lounging area.Louvre…This lake view is such a beauty though! Nasa Europa na ba ako? 😂

But then you get to witness the Behind the scene of pho, and brings you back to Asia.

Owkei, I gotta admit that I’m not that head-over-heels in love with Sapa as my first impression. 

There’s too many tourists including us. It’s like being in the Station 1-3 of Boracay. I know there’s a lot back in Philippines too but there’s just weird feel that like either they’re from the very “backpacker” group or they’re from the van-touring senior group, and all other in between. It’s like all types of tourists are here in Sapa. 

I think in Philippines, a certain place / city will be flocked by a certain type of travelers like Bohol is more of itinerary van-touring group; Sagada is really flocked with more of backpackers (Of course, there are other types but a certain type will be the majority.). 

Coming from eating Hanoi food, Sapa’s food is more expensive but the taste just does not match the prices. It’s not surprising that prices may be higher here but I hope it gets justified with the quality but 1st day experience did not give that impression. πŸ™ Plus having a lot of Western foreigners, they kinda need to make their food into something Westernized. It’s like of a fancy restaurant manned by an experienced carenderia cook. I am so sad to write that because really, I’m nice; I hate whiny. πŸ™‚

And the language struggle, it is kinda a notch higher up here in Sapa than in Hanoi.   I so wanted to connect with locals to get tips from them because google results are kinda too SEO-ed by travel agencies. If you look up about Sapa trekking, mostly, it will highly suggest for tour guide, which of course is important. But it’s just…

Anyhow, hoping to be surprised by Sapa in coming days… πŸ™‚

[Hanoi, Vietnam] Day 4: MONOTONY

Fourth day, and finally, I’m able to get a bit of the “rhythm” of how to go around our little corner in Hanoi. I think I’m really getting old, I just have no patience of doing the Top Things / Places / Food when traveling. I’m more looking for the “monotony” of life in this / that city. 

(We live in stock exchange area, but the compound we’re in feels like we’re in Urgello; and no, i has no hate with Urgello.)But first #selfie. Morning jog aka the hunt for breakfast!

Breakfast gets more colorful now! πŸ™‚

Bahn mi is courtesy from the lady on a nearby corner just outside the compound where we are airbnb-ing. She’s been my go-to for breakfast or lunch. I wanted to try the other Bahn mi, but I’m kinda attached to her already especially when I would just smile at her, and then she gets what I want: 1 spicy & 1 regular bahn mi. (Bahn mi starts at 15000VND. The bahn mi price has been like my gauge when judging other prices of food if it’s fair or not. And, bahn mi generally just)

The lady at the entrance of our compound has now also memorized what fruits I’d buy. And, though I want to change the fruits I would like to buy on other days but too lazy to find a way that we would understand each other. Thus, I always end up w/ dragonfruit & pineapple; and I’m not complaining! πŸ™‚And some random finds while doing a morning stroll.

After breakfast, adventure begins… 

…in the couch with needles / hooks and yarn! Gaaahhh!!! 😑 Mark needs to work though because “digital nomad.” And, yes, fast internet is not a myth here in Vietnam! πŸ™‚

Just when I get into the rhythm of Hanoi, we need to move to Sapa. πŸ™

(Out next door neighbor in the complex is a dress shop. They’re a contrast to the people busy lounging in street cafes.)

Our neighborhood.

Other random photos:

It’s usual to see couples in wedding costume having photo shoot. I dunno if it’s just cosplay or if they’re really having a pre/post-nuptial shoot.

Afternoon stroll…

[Hanoi, Vietnam] Day 3

Yesterday was our 3rd day in Hanoi, and I was still struggling on how to go about their food here. 

I guess I read too much about travel bloggers’ streetfood adventure but EXPECTATION-VS-REALITY is so strong for me.

If understanding restaurant menu is already a struggle for me, how much more when we’re in the streets. 

(I understand bun cha, and I’d been eating too many bun cha already. What are those other stuff?!?)Subtitles please!!!

Aside from the language, their way of making / consuming food is just all too new for me. It’s like they’re feeding a goat here, which I love! 

What am I gonna do with this forest?!?

Anyhow, I started to get a bit of a grasp on how food works here but still the struggle is real. From what I understand is that rice noodles is like their rice then it just then becomes a combination of what you add to it; then just dunk everything into the soup together with the noodles and whatever condiments you want.

Those siakoy also belong to the soup, judging on how others do it. 

So my rule of thumb in food here: it’s either dunk all the stuff on the soup or rice noodles, or wrap them with a bahn or rice wrapper (like that lumpia). 

And, Don’t get me started with CHOP STICKS! It always makes me question my being Asian. Seriously?!? It made me feel that I have no right to call myself Asian.

Funny, how being in another city in Asia always makes me feel less of an Asian especially when it comes to food. It’s just weird that I can easily understand pasta over noodles, ketchup over curry(?), and that it’s hard to get used to the Asian “spiciness”. πŸ™‚ And that my English is good, but I have to dumb it down because it’s useless (char); if only I could trade it for some chopstick skills.

But hey, I’m getting better at chopsticks! I don’t think I “finger” it correctly but it works for me. @.@
Flowers for the #bebeboy for being extra this day! @.@

[Hanoi, Vietnam] Day 2: #RelationshipstrugGOALS

I like aimless walk in Colon Street; Mark likes Colon Street but Haji Lane (SG) or Mong Kok kind of Colon Street. I love public transpo jeepney kind of rides: Mark likes public transpo like bus/trains or more preferrably Uber. I like streetfoods; he likes streetfood but Hawker kind of setup. I ask directions from random peole; he can go through messy roads just by looking at GPS.

Mark and I can be this extreme opposite (extreme for drama effect.). So when we landed in Hanoi, it was like “Oh, this is so I!!!” I was giddy! But Mark thinks he feels like he is always walking in Inayawan, Cebu every where. 

Probably what makes Philippines kinda “cool” is you can have the messy part and manicured part in 1 place; like you can have downtown / Colon, but then you can also escape to uptown / IT Park-ish. Or maybe, you can have Divisoria / Chinatown kinda feels, but then you can also find the 1st-world comfort feels by going Makati or BGC.

So I guess back in Philippines (or other cities we’d been to), Mark and I can just balance it out by going downtown then uptown.  But in Hanoi, it’s like pre-BPO Cebu; most area always has this downtown mode (or maybe we just did not look enough.).  It kind of throws Mark off; I mean he’s like an autistic kid who got too much sensory stimulation he can no longer control.

What a partypooper!

So how to work around it? 

No more of those search of the ultimate streetfood experience… We’re just gonna be like us in Cebu who eats Thai streetfood at a restaurant. 😂

Most blogs about Hanoi are from 1st-world people, and so they can really claim that food here is cheap. For me, it is cheap but it’s really not overly cheap when you have PhP money. A bahn mi on street usually starts at 15000VND; Pho at 20K+ VND. When you get inside a decent looking eatery, Pho can then start 50K VND; when you get inside a “fancier” resto, it can then be in the 80K+ VND (around Php180). So basically, you won’t really get broke when you just fine-dine (starve in between) your whole stay here.Cognitive dissonance. I think streetfood is popular here because there’s really not much difference in taste between a streetfood & fancy resto except that fancy resto’s have aircons, comfy chairs, and their menu has subtitles, and a staff who can speak English. So somehow there’s that struggle in myself that we should just “be trying hard local” but then we cannot because Mark’s cray-cray at the experience of eating at yet another carenderia in Inayawan (Cebu).

Bun Cha at May Taste

Uptown-ing! I searched for “business area” of Hanoi, and google pointed me to Tay Ho area, which has a lake on the center and mention of fancy restos around it. I’m imagining like we’re in IT Park with a lake in the center, cool!

So the lake at Tay Ho is beautiful. It was romantic gazing at the tall buildings on the other side of Hanoi.

I honestly do not know where’s the “business” part of it. But it seems like it’s a popular place for foreighners, where there are a lot of them lounging in few corners.

But Mark only saw the dog sh!t and trash (it’s like duh as if we’re not from Nangka, Consolacion, Cebu), and that it was so humid! ARGH!!! I screamed and snapped at him, but first #bloggerpose!!!

And another #bloggerpose, the only “sunset aura” I could get because we both hated each other already.

(Sunset on my face…?!?)

Gaaahhh!!! I miss a beautiful sunset #bloggerpose just because it was not uptown enough for him! 😡😡😡

[Hanoi, Vietnam] Day 1: Top Things You’d Do in Another City But Not in Your Own City

You know you landed in Vietnam when the airport smells like coriander — all the pho I could think of! Kidding, that was an exaggeration. We landed around 1am, which I think is 12am here (PH is advanced 1hour.) so we basically started here as the new day started. πŸ™‚

First impression was that Hanoi is definitely I, and it’s NOT for Mark. Being in Hanoi makes me think that this is how probably a 1st-world foreigner feels like when he landed in a 3rd world country, like Philippines. There are locals peddling rides when you arrived in the airport. Though, you can read Vietnamese words but majority has no “subtitles.” I become this foreigner whose English sounds “superior” but may still be useless. And, it’s my first time that our Philippines money has bigger value so it’s like you feel “rich.”

We’re getting “gors” / old for this #travelblogger thingy that we get too lazy about creating itinerary. So we just kind of wing it on our first day, and probably for the rest of our stay.

So things we do in Hanoi which we or more Mark will NOT DO back in Cebu, Philippines.

1. Ho Hoan Kiem Lake aka Plaza Independencia or malls or Philippines.

It’s in every top things to do blogpost about Vietnam. And, Hanoi has no big malls so it seems like locals go to their parks to chill so the place was jampacked. I tried asking a Vietnamese (but not Hanoi-an) what’s the event but he cannot give an answer so it’s probably just a Hanoi thing like Filipinos cannot explain why malls are packed.

But definitely, it was fun to people-watch. Hanoi People love to just lounge on the streetsides.

Outdoor boardgames, anyone?!?
2. Cafe Dinh or line for the most popular lechon / BBQ spot

Of course, we still do but probably when we only have guests from other cities or on rare special occassions. 

Coffee or more of coffee concoction is quite popular in Hanoi. I picked the top most rated in the Ho Hoan Kiem Lake area according to foursquare (my lazy secret to itinerary making 😂), Cafe Dinh. 

It was up in a “ghettoish” building (sorry for the description but I can’t find a better term, and just so you would know it’s very legit local place), it was small, and filled with people that I felt like backing out at first.

But totally no regrets. Definitely the epitome definition of “hole-in-the-wall.”

One striking thing we noticed in Hanoi is that majority of locals are iPhone users. Mark felt out-of-place with his selfie expert phone, Oppo.

But I definitely do this in Cebu… I’d like to think though.

3. Carnival aka Sinulog

There was a carnival show in the lake area, which probably attracted more people to the area. It was like we were in Sinulog. Definitely, I’m not doing this in Cebu. The last time I remember I took part in Sinulog was like 4th year high school, 1998?!? 

The weird thing about their carnival show is that the performers are Caucasian, probably Russians (it’s the closest to the Vietnam.)?!? 

4. Roaming the Old Quarter area of Hanoi aka Colon Street

Though, I love just aimlessly walking around Colon Street but definitely not Mark. After the lake area, we just went around, and I think we were going around what they call the “Old Quarter” area. You’ll pass by hardware stores, clothing stores, souvenir shops, restaurants, street food, and etc. In between, you’ll find many backpacker’s alley where “affordable” hostels are lining. 

And I felt like 70% of the people walking around were foreigners. It’s like walking along the Boracay beach from Station 1 to 3.  I honestly want to get far away from it. @.@ chos!

The best part though was I found a yarn shop!

5. Cathedral aka Cathedral

Our feet brought us to a famous tourist spot, St. Joseph Cathedral. I’m not sure if it was being used because it was close and it was Sunday.

I’m sorry but we have too many Cathedrals back in Cebu. Seriously, what we’re doing there?!? Well, we’re tourist. πŸ™‚

6. Posing with a street lamp / sign.

As much as I love #bloggerpose but definitely not with a street sign, right?

There goes my list of things we will not do back in Cebu, Philippines. 😂

More Day 1 ramblings:

They say that motorists here are notorious. Yes, if you’re from an orderly first world country. But if you’re from Consolacion, Cebu where habal-habal is the king, what notorious motorists?!?

This auntie though… Other motorists shouted at her, and they had a mini catfight! 😂

Wedding them Photo shoots. At first I thought someone had a pre-nuptial photo shoot but then I saw more of them in different corner. So it’s wedding cosplay photo shoot is a thing here.

Mark’s so “picky” with food so the most “streetfood” eating we had done was at the back of the place we stayed.

This was somewhere near our place we’re staying. Finding for the best pho, etc food is too tiring especially with too many people crowding a popular place and the no subtitles menu so we just drag ourselves to a place with no people. 😂

So there…

Day 1: San Miguel Street, Pasig

Nakarating na po ako ng Pasig! πŸ™‚

I’d been only able to stay overnight in Makati or Taguig when in Manila. So it’s something new to be in Ortigas / Pasig. It’s not as manicured as Makati or BGC but the place we stayed has this quaint charm, (or maybe I’m just not in the right place). We’re near Pearl Street which is some sort of food strip, I think.

Below are Some photos for documentation processes. As Mark would say, “there you go again with your Day 1, Day 2, Day xx blog posts. Why can’t you make deeper thoughts?!?” 😂😂😂

Always 1st must do when in new place: coffee!

At Where’s Marcial(sp?). It’s blahhh. Sorry πŸ™
At Gantsilyo Guru yarn studio. It was near where we stay.

Estancia Mall(?!) We had lunch at Wholesome Table. It’s hard to appreciate this kind of resto when you have ABACA resto chain in Cebu (it’s not like the holy grail but a good benchmark).  I mean when you wanted to get that new experience in new place, but then you feel like there’s just something like this (maybe better) back in Cebu minus all the frivolous labels like organic, pro-farmer, farm to table churva.  Sorry, I’m whining.

I went alone to SM Megamall. That mall is huge. Hopefully, there’s no important reason for me to go back there.

So proud to see my friend’s face, Karla, on display at SM Megamall.

Near the place we’re staying is a building complex, Pearl Drive, with some restos, which kinda give a hole-in-the-wall vibes (though most of the restos are actually from a chain, but they’re like all new to me). I think this was what made the place we’re staying interesting(?).

At Mister Kabab.