Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Travel: Hanoi Day #1 - Hello Hanoi; Rising Dragon Cathedral Hotel @ Au Trieu St, Old Quarter

So, it's been ages since we've last done a travel post! Not because of a lack of travelling, because our trip to Hanoi has been pending since late 2012. Anyway I hope I can still remember enough from the trip to cobble out useful posts over our near-1 week trip. (And if not I always have Wendy's super-computer-memory to fall back on =D)

When people ask me why I chose Hanoi instead of the more urban Ho Chi Minh for our first foray into Vietnam, I honestly can't give a proper reason. Mostly it's because we knew we wanted to see Ha Long Bay, which is one of the wonders of the earth that's nearer to us in South East Asia

Before we went, we did some research on places to visit & where to eat, and orientated ourselves with the below map, where we mapped out the main districts we would visit from our base of Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter, where our hotel and where most tourists will spend most of their time exploring). 

We too spent most of our time wandering around the Old Quarter (Hoan Kiem), explored a little bit more of Ba Dinh & and the fringe of Dong Da on foot, and just cabbed to specific places in Cau Giay & Tay Ho which we knew we wanted to visit beforehand. Hanoi is far bigger than what we've mapped out above, with other villages outside of town where some opt to make day trips to see silkworms, or pottery productions.

The great thing is that Hanoi (or more specifically, Old Quarter) is very easy to maneuver by yourself with a map (these are provided at each hotel), because street signs are clear and every shopfront has the full address on it, unlike Malaysia. It was really easy, convenient and it made finding things a lot easier!

L: Getting a cab outside Noi Bai Airport; R: The toll booths; and pigs!

Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi is a bit like our Penang Airport; it serves international destinations, but don't expect it to be really big and bustling (although the latest renovations in the Penang airport have really spruced up the place!). The first issue when getting out of an airport is always getting transport to the city / hotel. At Noi Bai, there is an information counter which will gladly get a taxi for you, but charge you much more for it as well. I sensed something amiss with the USD 30 price, and ended up going with a man standing around that offered us the same trip for only USD 18. (Although... we gave him USD 20 and after rummaging around for change, he just hopped into his cab and drove off -__-)

Our destination from the airport? Rising Dragon Cathedral Hotel! As there were 4 of us on the trip, the task was to look for either 2 rooms or 1 big room that could fit all of us. RDCH was one of the few that actually could accommodate that requirement for one big room. Long story short, we had absolutely no regrets staying at RDCH, as the room was comfortable, service was excellent, and price was nothing to complain about!

The staff here generally multi-task at a host of duties, but they're always so cheerful and ever-ready to provide any assistance. Wendy usually gets them to help her with marking places on her map before we leave the hotel for the day. Another tip? If you need a cab, get the front desk here to call you one instead of walking out to hail one. The ones they call are metered, and they arrive extremely quickly (One even came in 10 seconds - imagine that! We had a real pleasant shock.)

The price for our family room worked out to be USD 300 for 4 nights, inclusive of tax and service charges, with breakfast every morning included as well. That's the equivalent of around USD 20 / RM 60 per person per night! Even better still, no deposit is needed, because the full amount is paid upon check out. Of all our trips, this has been the most value for money hotel we've stayed in.

How great was the room? I kid you not when I say this room in a small hotel in Hanoi city had some better perks than 5 star resorts in first world countries! For example, what hotel actually provides a laptop (although slightly outdated) with free wifi access these days? You'd normally have to pay an additional charge on top of already exorbitant hotel prices. Also, air-conditioning may be a given at all hotels these days, but how many actually have one with a funky design that adds to the charm? It's these little things that greatly enhance the overall appeal of the room. =D

Even though there were 2 single beds and a double bed in the room all in a row, it was still big enough for all of us to move around comfortably. The beds were also comfortable, with a super single-size mattress for the single beds. 

Even the bathroom was nice and large, with a very spacious shower area nicely partitioned off. The window at the shower opens up for a view of the small side street below, just in case you want to belt out a few hits for the common folk down below while in the shower. =D Thankfully, it also wasn't noisy at night.

Goes without saying that other basic hotel amenities are well provided for. We didn't make much use of the toiletries, but the safe and hairdryer came in handy! Bottles of water are also a must when traveling overseas. (We still buy more during the trip, but anything free is always welcome!)

And as if we weren't already getting such a great deal out of the room, we were also pleasantly surprised by the breakfast spread! While it doesn't feature lots of meat like bacon and sausages, the breakfast menu has 3 different styles of egg, 4 different styles of pancake, and some french toast too! Suffice to say over the 4 days we were there we got to try everything on that breakfast menu, because there's no limitation on the quantity you can order. =D

Dragonfruit is also very common in Vietnam. We gathered as much because every morning we would have this as our fruit without fail! 

And just to prove RDCH is just like any other Vietnamese establishment, they serve some Pho (either beef or chicken) for breakfast too! Granted it wasn't the best we had during the trip, but it came darn close. We really liked the banana cinnamon pancakes here as well.

As we mentioned, service here is impeccable, sometimes to their own detriment. There was one time our friend Mel asked for yogurt, but they had run out. Instead of  just saying it was finished, the poor waiter-cum-chef-cum-porter ran out to the nearby convenience store to buy some! Now that's what real service is about.  =D

We could go on and on about the fun memories we had staying at Rising Dragon Cathedral Hotel, but I'll just sum it up by saying if you ever think of visiting Hanoi and want to stay near the Old Quarter, we highly recommend them. Don't be suspicious because of the cheap price; what you get in return will be many times more of what  you spend.

Rising Dragon Cathedral Hotel Site
(formerly Hanoi Spring Hotel, near St Joseph's Cathedral)
No. 38 Au Trieu Street,
Hoan Kiem, 10000 Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: +84-4 3826 8500
Fax: +84-4 3938 1865
Email: [email protected]
Wi-fi & laptop provided in room

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