To celebrate the milestones in our lives, my friends and I decided to do a trip to Hanoi - one place we all had never been. This trip came at an opprtune time, just when I was stumped working on the Filip + Inna 2013 Collection. Travel, as Mark Twain has said, is fatal to narrow mindedness. My senses, in slumber, were waiting to be awakened.
We all agreed that we would see as much of Hanoi as possible, but it was going to be an easy schedule. On our first day, after a leisurely breakfast at the Sheraton, we hopped into a cab and headed to the Old Quarter. We wandered around for the most part of the day, walking through small streets and checking out small quaint shops. Vietnam is a shopper's delight with a wide array of products to choose from - fabrics, lacquer ware, embroidered linens among other things. On my last trip some years back - which took me to Hoi An, Hue, Danang, Dalat and Ho Chi Minh - I ended up shipping out chairs to Manila! On this trip, with a growing clothing business line, I was more content to enjoy the sights, sounds and the food!
The weather was very hot and humid so we ended up buying conical hats which served us well all througout the trip.
Walking through the streets of Hanoi, especially in the Old Quarter, you will find that the streets still bear the name of the commodities plied there long ago; and in some the tradition has been preserved.
After lunch we made our way to the Dong Xuan Market passing through temples and traditional medicinal shops with interesting snake wine and lizard preserved in alcohol. We could not resist buying some fresh lychees and atis from the peddlers.
Our second day brought us to Halong Bay. Rain was in the forecast, but thankfully the sun followed us to Quang Ninh Province, which is around three hours away from Hanoi. We got on a small boat with some other tourists and did a short tour around the bay which is quite stunning, very similar to our very own Palawan. We kept on looking for junks and sampans but unfortunately they have been overrun by the bigger boats.
A stop in one of the islands for the Dau Go Cave was very interesting as you will find stalactites and stalagmites that resemble human forms and animals.
On our third day, we went to the Ho Chi Minh Museum where you learn more about the history of Vietnam and the life of its great leader. We then headed off to the Temple of Literature, which is devoted to the teachings of Confucius, before grabbing some lunch nearby at KOTO (Know One, Teach One) - a social enterprise that helps disadvantaged youth, and gives them skills which can lead them to a better future. After lunch, we checked out the beautiful Metropolitan Hotel and the Opera House before walking back to the Old Quarter searching for pasalubong items.
On our last day, we paid homage to Ho Chi Minh then went off to have lunch at The Ly Club to celebrate our friend Caren's birthday.
The trip ended with drinks and a lovely dinner at The Press Club, before catching the Water Puppet Show and taking the midnight flight back to Manila.
Hanoi is quite charming and has done a great job of rising up from its war-torn past. As a result, the city has attracted investors and tourists and is now one of the better economies in South East Asia. There is much to learn from the Vietnamese - their nationalism, seen in the long lines going into the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, to their pride of their culture which is still very much alive and makes it appealing. Yes, my senses were awakened and its now back to the grind working on the collection - inspired at that!