It was an early start at 630 for us, but with the anticipation of the exciting day ahead it was easy to shoot up and pack or things…again and head down stair to enjoy a little breakfast with Vietnamese coffee aka the best freaking coffee ever! :p I kind of enjoy coffee a bit too much and based off of personal opinion and trying a lot if different coffees nothing beats a good old cup of Joe from Vietnam. This time I made sure to buy some for myself to bring back instead of giving it all away but don’t worry I like to share 🙂
Why is Vietnamese coffee so delicious?
First: It has a much longer roasting period.Like
the dark “French”coffee we often times enjoy,
instead of a high temperature roast it has a
long-slow roast resulting in a darker color but
not no bubbling or burning. The common burning
we we see in many American coffee shops today which
breaks down the sugar and oils.
Second: In south east Asia there is such a
diversity of beans available. They offer a wide
variety of bean spice blends and are able to
achieve a broad flavor range with their Arabic
blends appealing to our more sophisticated plate.
Third: The Vietnamese beans are generally roasted
in “butter oil” which may be switched for vegetable oil
on occasion but this tradition “home-grown” style gives
the beans a caramel-like coating and often
times a small amount of sugar, vanilla, or natural
cocoa is used to give it an even richer taste.
Even Robusta blends, which are made using unripe
beans do not hurt the taste of these traditional
Finally: It just plain rocks! I probably
shouldn’t have a Vietnamese ice coffee everyday,
but I definitely could that’s for sure!
Here’s a really easy way to make one at home:
1. Pour 2 TB of Sweetened condensed milk into a
glass filled with ice
2. Pour 60ml of freshly made espresso or
Vietnamese coffee into the glass 3. Shake and enjoy!
*If you’re looking for something a little less
sweet and creamy try using skim condensed milk
or evaporated milk. Trust me, you wont be
Our hotel was so nice to set everything up for my mom and I and really wanted to ensure we had a nice time while visiting Hanoi so we were actually the first ones to be picked up and the first to be dropped off upon our return from Ha long Bay. So, at 8am we jumped into our van and tooled around the city a bit to pick everyone else up at their Hotels.
Our guide was great though and made the whole experience quite enjoyable. It was fun to see the rest of the city before heading our-our 4hr. journey to the Bay. Keep in mind this four hour trip went by a lot faster than expected and we learned so much from out guide while we enjoyed the scenery and listened to his tales of Vietnamese culture and life. We made one “rest stop” break at a place that seemed to be your “typical” tourist trap but turned out to be very enjoyable. We saw some beautiful Artwork made by disabled Vietnamese and although it was probably pricier than anything we would find in the local Market, my mom and I each fell in love with a piece and felt as though our contributions went to a good cause and now we could take home a little piece of remembrance from out trip. They work actually quite unbelievable and all done by hand. I fell in love with an embroidered picture of a Vietnamese Lion. I told the man that my gift was to be here to learn, see, and experience Vietnamese culture and to share my journey with others. Upon hearing that there was no pressure for me to buy anything but I did love the realistic look of the lion and what can I say, I’m a sucker for animals 😛
Here is a picture of mine after grabbing a frame from IKEA and almost getting lost 😛
When we finally did arrive at the dock in Ha Long we-we were greeted by our captain and the rest of our crew jumped into a little boat and brought to our ship we would be staying on for the night. After a welcome drink and a brief lowdown of the Itinerary we were shown our rooms and given some time to settle in before lunch. Lunch turned out to be a 7 course meal! After plate number three we realized we better slow down if we were
expected to eat dessert too! Everything was delicious and freshly made by the Ships Cook. I couldn’t believe the amount of food we were expected to eat! Man they really like to feed us “westerners” 😛 With bellies full and ready to take a nap we checked out our digs for the night, and man did we luck out! Not only did the Hotel set up everything for us but they also gave us the best room in the house! We were on the 2nd deck away from the engine and right next to the dining room and hall bathroom.
Not that we needed it though because we had our very own bathroom with a standing shower, two beds, with complimentary fresh fruit and water. It was perfect and all we needed.
After lunch we had a little bit of time to rest get settled and prepare for our first adventure. We meet all the other passengers on the boat and became quite friendly with a couple from Australia who became our dining buddies every meal. In a short while we were instructed to jump onto a smaller boat that brought us to a small Island where we could enjoy swimming for a little bit as we waited for the group to us to return with the kayaks…We were pumped! I will say both mom mom and I and the Australian Couple decided to hang out on the boat instead of joining some folks for swimming because the Bay, well lets just say it’s not the cleanest. They are starting to change some of the boats they use now to be more environmentally friendly and you can actually find cruises which include taking some time out of your journey to spend an hour helping to clean the Bay. The government actually put a stop to the old traditional fishing villages to try and put an end to the mass pollution that was happening in the Bay area. The fishermen and their families were given houses in the cities but a lot have chosen to return to the Bay where they have been living for generations because the fishing industry remains a strong source of revenue for many. I did like how our cruise in particular did not go to the central Bay area where you will find over 400 “tourist” Day cruises and 200 sleeper boats. Instead we spent the night and a majority of the time on the outskirts and were able to witness the quaint and quiet beauty of Ha Long Bay away from the main polluted areas. If I do have the chance to return one day I would probably opt for an Explorer cruise in which I could help to clean up the Bay so future generations may have the opportunity to witness its beauty.
When our Kayaks did arrive my mom, and I was the first ones to jump in and hit the water! Although we were a little out of sync because we both like to lead :P, and I usually tag teaming with my sis to try and beat her and my dad we eventually got our rhythm down and had a very enjoyable time. We were a little ahead of the rest and our guide thought it would be funny to mess with us and shouting as us to go all sorts of directions which made it a bit confusing and a little frustrating at times, but other then that we had an excellent time rowing along the bay for a good two hours before heading back to the main ship.
Once back on the boat we showered and freshened up before heading up to the main deck to enjoy the sunset view, some fresh banana smoothies, and to mingle with some new guest who had joyed us from another tour group. It was a bit smoggy out which made it hard to take some good pictures but beautiful nonetheless. Somehow we had made impeccable timing and had just missed the tail end of the Typhoon that came through a few days before and hit the end of the Mid-autumn festal with a beautiful full moon. I spent the night listening to the stories of or tour guide who told me the Vietnamese version of the “man on the moon.” After which we headed down to the dining room for yet another 7 course meal!!!! Everyone a the table was a little more careful at sampling each dish as it came around considering they just keep feeding us 😛 I do recommend possible requesting for Non-seafood if your not a fan of shellfish like myself. Another girl at our table did this so were had the excellent option of not always having to eat the seafood, which were-were very careful about considering it was coming from the Bay. The food was all cooked well but its always better to be safe then sorry I say and keep in mind when traveling that your body just may not be use a different cuisine. Even the Vietnamese don’t use their tap water for drinking purposes so made sure to always use bottled, stay away from ice when possible, and always brush your teach with bottled water as well. Other ten that dive in and enjoy the fantastic Vietnamese cuisine!
After dinner, I decided to test my luck at squid fishing that night. Many of the guests turned in early or got a little impatient with the whole squid fishing thing, but I enjoyed the peaceful evening with some old fashion squid fishing. I will say I saw a huge jellyfish about every 5 minutes and never once did I see a squid but I had a really nice time casting my bamboo fishing rod into the Bay’s waters and what a wonderful way to end the evening. I try my best to actually experience when traveling to a new pace and what better way to do so than trying the local custom of squid fishing to the crack of dawn 😛