The realisation that the Mekong River and the Cu Chi tunnels weren’t in Hanoi only came to me after we had booked and paid for our plane tickets. I was a little bummed about that, but Hanoi offered something equally meaningful instead.
Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Coron lookalike, is a mere three-hour bus ride from Hanoi. Sweet.
“Night life or chill?”
That was the question we asked ourselves when we had to choose between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi when Cebu Pacific held a seat sale over a year ago. To take on the night in a bustling, electric city or leisurely walk about like the lolas we truly are—there really was no contest. Hanoi won by a mile and a cane shake at a bunch of young’uns.
Most seats on sale are on flights that depart and arrive at ungodly hours. That’s what we get for being cheapskates. They’re the kind of seats that require planning weeks prior to the trip, arranging airport transfers, and eschewing the #YOLO attitude a young traveler like myself would oftentimes adopt in the face of adventure.
We arrived at Hanoi at 2:00am. Our hotel, Tu Linh Palace 2, had arranged a $15 airport transfer for us and let us hang out in their “relaxing room” (the staff room) until we could check-in…at 10:30am. Eight and a half hours later. It was going to be a long night.
The relaxing room wasn’t much. A couple of hard couches and a mysterious pile of luggage in the corner. We watched the first few episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (whose opening theme would haunt us for the rest of the trip) until the hotel and the city started to come alive around 6:00am. We decided we would catch the sunrise from Hoan Kiem Lake, which was thankfully a few streets away from our hotel.
Hoan Kiem Lake, meaning Lake of the Returned Sword, is right in the center of Hanoi. It serves as a focal point for the city’s public life.
Our research told us March is the perfect time to visit Hanoi because the season was transitioning from winter to spring. We packed for warmer weather, but when we got to the city, we were looking at temperatures of 20 degrees and lower.
“I packed shorts.”
“Uh. Me, too.”
The highlight of my summer this year is my trip to Palawan, hands down, no contest. I went to Puerto Princesa for the first time with my family a few years ago, and I absolutely loved it. This time, I went to Puerto Princesa again and El Nido with my friends for Maika’s Liberation Tour (from med school) and my birthday (a happy scheduling incident). We had so much fun, we have a difficult time shutting up about the trip. Almost every day since we got back someone would say something about missing Palawan, and we would just die a little inside. Misha made an excellent iPhone video to commemorate this milestone in our friendship and also to tide us over until the next time we find ourselves drinking beer and coconut juice along the shoreline, swimming in the open water before anyone else, and getting gloriously tanned.
And here’s a fun almost-per-second commentary, just because:
0:01 – Everyone was nearly 3 hours early for an hour-long domestic flight. We weren’t excited.
In lieu of blog posts, I’ll just leave this video of our recent family trip to South Korea here. Because I’m a really lazy writer. No one’s surprised.
Aigoo, we went everywhere on this trip. I really put our legs to work (sorry, parents). We went to Myeongdong, the second happiest place on earth (just a touch below Japan, my first love). Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung, and Changdeokgung—Korean history is really interesting (really!). We got our royal on at Gwanghwamun Square. Went to Bukchon Hanok Village, a super lovely neighborhood. Yeouido where we saw cherry blossoms (and the best path ever because the pavement was padded with foam, a blessing for tired feet). N Seoul Tower with the lovely love locks. Gwangjang Market for legit japchae, kimbap, and the nicest ahjumma. Dongdaemun Design Plaza, land of all things cool and innovative. Ihwa Mural Village, creativity at every corner. Nami Island where my parents tried to recreate Winter Sonata feels. And Le Petit France and the Garden of Morning Calm at Gapyeong.
It was a great trip. It wasn’t without its challenges, but we got through it just fine. And it’s always fun when we’re together as a family. Koreans have this term called “healing time.” I think it means a moment when you get to take a break, relax, enjoy the environment and the people you’re with, and recharge physically and spiritually. We really had healing time outside Changdeokgung Palace.*
I shot this video on my iPhone 5 and my dad’s iPhone 6 Plus. 480p is as high as it goes. Hehe. I wasn’t able to buy a camcorder before the trip, so I made do with what I had. Everyone takes photos during trips, but I think travel videos are fantastic because you get to see your memories play out and instantly relive a funny story in 30 seconds. I’ll definitely be doing more of these in the future, hopefully with better gear next time. First travel diary trial: SUCCESS.
* inside joke