Vietnam – Hanoi & Koto on Van Mieu

After Bali, the next part of our honeymoon was a 14 day tour through South East Asia. We booked a private, customized tour through Laos Tour Packages, a company that my in-laws have used before. Our itinerary took us through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, with 4 star accommodations in each city, a private driver and local tour guide. The package included all airfare in between cities, from Bali to Hanoi and from Bangkok to Hong Kong (where we were flying back to Toronto from).

This was my first experience with a tour package, and while the days were full, having the planning and research taken care of for this part of our honeymoon was a true stress reliever at a hectic time in life. We gave the tour company an idea of what kind of trip we were looking for (first time visitor, interested in food) and they put together an initial itinerary. We could then veto or add sights and attractions if we wanted to. Most days ran from morning to late afternoon with breakfast at the hotel and lunch at a local restaurant. We explored the cities on our own during the evenings and for dinner.

We arrived in Hanoi in the evening, and a representative from the tour company met us at the airport with our local tour guide and driver to bring us to the hotel. The SUV was comfortable, and again, most importantly, air conditioned. After helping us check-in, we bid our farewells and set a meeting time for the next day (9am). For dinner, The Hubby and I went down the street, to grab our first bowl of pho from a tiny shop recommended by the hotel front desk. This would remain one of the best bowls of pho we had the entire trip.

Our first day in Hanoi was a tour of the city that included visiting the Ho Chi Minh Complex, Temple of Literature, the Museum of Ethnology, a cyclo tour through the Old Quarter and a watching a Water Puppet Show. A packed schedule like this would become the norm for the next 13 days. I learned a lot about Vietnam’s turbulent history, much more than I knew before and from a perspective not common in Western culture, that was at times uncomfortable.

My favourite stop was the Temple of Literature, which felt like a calm oasis in the middle of the busy city, a snapshot in time. After walking through the serene gardens, we had lunch at KOTO on Van Mieu, located close by. The restaurant was run by KOTO, a non-profit organization with the aim to teach disadvantaged and impoverished youth English, cooking and hospitality skills. These skills allow KOTO (Know One, Teach One) graduates to find jobs and support themselves, moving out of poverty.

In addition to being a good cause, lunch at KOTO was delicious. We ate the set menu that had rice paper rolls, shredded chicken salad, duck, soup, vegetables and a stir fried beef. Our table was overflowing with plates. Each course featured fresh ingredients and plenty of colourful vegetables, mildly seasoned letting the natural flavours shine through. I love getting my fill of vegetables while travelling, a typically difficult task.

Menus were in English and service friendly. No one’s English was perfect, but we didn’t have any issues ordering iced Vietnamese coffee with some repetition and hand gestures. Lunch was satisfying and re-fueled us for the afternoon.

Vietnam – Hanoi & Koto on Van MieuVietnam – Hanoi & Koto on Van MieuVietnam – Hanoi & Koto on Van MieuVietnam – Hanoi & Koto on Van MieuVietnam – Hanoi & Koto on Van MieuVietnam – Hanoi & Koto on Van Mieu
Vietnam – Hanoi & Koto on Van MieuVietnam – Hanoi & Koto on Van Mieu

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