Strolling through Hanoi`s Old quarter – Shoppers galore

There is so much to see in Vietnam, unfortunately time was not on my side on this trip. With only two days in Hanoi and two in Halong bay, I had to make the most of the north of Vietnam, although, I will definitely return to explore Sapa, further north.

Hanoi is the bustling capital of Vietnam and retains its cultural heritage while Ho Chi Minh city has surrendered itself to civilization.

hanoi old quarter

hanoi old quarter

The first thing you have to learn in this city where rush hour never ends, is how to cross the streets and stay alive. Avoid just attempting to cross or waiting for the green man as he is mostly disregarded on the streets of the old quarter. By raising your hand up in a stop sign on both the right and left side you are signaling your intention to cross. While most cars stop, the motorbikes (majority) will just continue their way around you.

The one thing you will never learn is how to drive in Vietnam. With many vehicles driving on the wrong side of the road and overtaking without a care of the oncoming traffic, I was surprised I didn`t see any accidents. Yet there was no sign of road rage apart from the constant beeping to signal their presence, as if to kindly say ” move out of my way or you`ll get hit” while im in the passenger seat having a mini heart attack. So leave the driving to the more experienced.

With a population of roughly 9 million in Hanoi, 6 million own a motorbike mainly because they can`t afford the simple luxury of a car. Depending on the make of the car, it can cost up to 300% in import taxes.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Ngoc Son Temple

Whether you join a walking tour, or decide to explore on your own, most streets take you back to Hoan Kiem Lake. This lake is thought to be the heart of Hanoi by the vietnamese and traditionally, many couples take pictures here before the wedding.

You cannot visit Hanoi without buying a few of the Vietnamese craft. Whether its the traditional silk Vietnamese outfits, or the endless range of home deco, there is no doubt you will find something that compliments your taste and at a very affordable price!

Here are some of the items I bought:

IMG_7986

vietnamese buddha

vietnamese painting

vietnamese statue

I fell in love with the lacquer ware ever since my dad brought a lacquer painting back as a gift.

The main shopping street in Hanoi is Hang Gai however, most things here are marked up at a slightly higher price than what you would get on the side streets. I would advice looking at hang hom street . SonSon is the name of the shop where I spent most of my evening bargaining and the prices were nearly 20% cheaper than what we were offered in other shops. One rule when shopping, always bargain. Shopkeepers are usually willing to go up to 6% cheaper than the offered price, so try your luck and have fun!

Let me know how your trip goes or if you find other amazing stores! I will leave you with something my vietnamese friend, Rocky, said to me:

” Vietnam is poor, but Vietnam is happy”

A taste of Singapore in London – Roti King

Growing up in Singapore, I took the joys of greeting my taste buds with a blend of spices and herbs for granted. If there is one thing I truly miss, its the wide variety of food at every corner.

London is the city of street food but it still has nothing on a local hawker centre in Singapore, and it definitely does not compete in price. However, thanks to my dear friend Sarah, I discovered the closest thing to home in this big capital. She discovered this gem before it moved to Euston and became more talked about, check her review out here.

Today, Roti King is located near Euston station, hidden along a side road, and its exterior does not do it any justice. But when you step into the small gateway, the first thing you are greeted with is the chef making Roti freshly before your eyes and the authentic smells of South East Asia.

I have heard from many that the Chinese dishes here are not the best the city has to offer. However, I can definitely recommended the following dishes, they are the best Singaporean/Malaysian dishes I have had in Europe.

1. Roti or Roti Prata –  4-5 GBP

Roti Prata London

There is a reason this place is called Roti King. This perfectly light and fluffy flatbread of S.E.A is served with Chicken or Fish Curry or for those seeking the veggie option, you can have this with Dahl (lentil curry)

2. Mee Goreng 5.5 GBP

Mee Goreng London

A fried(Goreng means fried in malay) noodle dish which incorporates the many tastes of Chinese, Malay and Indian food.  It is usually slightly spicy but paired with sweet bean sauce, it is a match made in heaven. It is usually served with chicken, prawns and squid or tofu.

3. Laksa 5-6GBP

Laksa in London

Now this is definitely one of my favourites here. For those of you who love coconut based soups such as a Thai green curry, you will love this dish. Although this is a soup not a curry. This hearty meal can be enjoyed throughout the year but I had this during Winter and I walked out feeling warm and ready to bear the crisp air.

4. Char Kway Teow 6GBP

Unfortunately I got too distracted by the aromas of the dish that I had no time for a picture. I had to dive straight in. Char Kway Teow,fried flat rice noodles, is a signature dish across Malaysia and Singapore and I must say for a moment I forgot I was just off the busy streets of Euston. And although each bite was filled with a high content of saturated fat, it was all worth it.