Silent night…Holy night…All is Calm…All is Bright…Can’t believe that Christmas is over, where has my holidays gone?! Speaking of holidays, it’s been 6 months since I last updated o.O. As Mr J did such good job of publicising my blog (which he is better at than actually contributing to it *ahem*), I now know that there are a handful who miss my blog updates, so here I am writing about our recent Christmas holiday in Hanoi, capital city of Vietnam!
It was Mr J’s and my first Christmas holiday outside of Singapore, and we were super looking forward to having a different experience from our usual staycations. And boy, what a different experience and extreme introduction to Hanoi we got! I would describe our Christmas Eve as the exact opposite of the christmas carol that began this blog post. It was not silent, and it was definitely not calm. Being a (crazily) detailed travel planner, I would of course have read numerous blogs and watched endless videos describing how chaotic the capital city was, but nothing would have prepared me for the actual scene. If you have been to Hanoi before, you will understand what I mean when I say that walking along the roads felt a lot like dancing tango with the god of death – an endless stream of motorcycles speeding down the road blaring their horns at you, just inches away from knocking you over, and narrow streets filled with roadside stalls, surrounded by tons of pedestrians sitting on tiny stools. Multiple that effect about 10 times and it will give you a glimpse of how Christmas Eve in Hanoi was! On the bright side, the rest of the days felt very peaceful to me after that…
Christmas dinner at Pizza 4P Ly Quoc Su
Let’s start off the blog post with a bit of sanity. After being picked up from the airport by our hotel transfer (Meracus Hotel 2, a lovely boutique hotel near Hoan Kiem Lake which I hope to have time to write about), we quickly dropped off our luggage and headed over to the restaurant that I have meticulously picked for our Christmas Eve – Pizza 4P at Ly Quoc Su. There is no lack of restaurant choices around this area; however, Christmas Eve is a BIG event in Hanoi and many popular restaurants that I contacted were selling set dinners only (in USD!). I wanted someplace cosy and casual without having to spend a bomb, and Pizza 4P (a famous pizza/pasta franchise in Vietnam with rating of 4.5 on TripAdvisor) happened to have an outlet within less than 5 minutes walk from our hotel. Well, it turned out to be a fantastic choice! I love the cosy ambience, service was good and the food was fabulous!
Pizza 4P Ly Quoc Su is a 2-storey building with an open kitchen at Level 1 where you can observe how your pizzas are prepared. Unfortunately for us, Level 1 was closed for renovation during our visit, which probably explains why there were less customers than I expected.
When you come to Pizza 4P, you must not leave without ordering the house-made Burrata Cheese, the sole item which gave Pizza 4P its popularity. What is Burrata Cheese, you may ask. According to the website, the “outer shell is a curd of mozzarella while the inside contains a mixture of curd and fresh cream”. All of the cheese used in Pizza 4P are made in-house in their own cheese studio using fresh milk from cows that grew up in the rich nature of Da Lat, a plateau region in Vietnam. Surely no cheese can get fresher than this!
We started off with the Smoked Burrata Bolognese Spaghetti, a tomato-based pasta with beef topping and a Burrata Cheese delicately perched at the top of the pasta. We were given 30 seconds to take photo before the waiter expertly cuts up the burrata and mixed it into the pasta. Since I was told yesterday that I had weird tastebuds (when I mistook quail eggs for potato!), I shall not attempt to describe what the burrata tasted like to me, but I think you can trust Mr J when he said that this was the best pasta he has ever had. So I asked him how was this cheese different from the ones he ate in Europe, and he said you can tell that this cheese is fresh because the taste is not too heavy (huh?). Anyway, if you are the kind that loves a heavy dose of cheese flavour, this might not be the one for you, but for a non-cheese lover like me, the lightness fits well with my tastebuds.
We ordered another half-half thin crust pizza to share – half Burrata Parma Ham and half Soy Garlic Beef. As I was already quite full from the pasta, the pizza tasted pretty normal to me. If I had to choose, I prefer the Soy Garlic Beef over the Burrata Parma Ham, purely because it has a different taste from Burrata. The beef cuts were tender and reminded me a lot like those you find on beef don. For Mr J, he did not enjoy the pizza much as he preferred his pizza to be more crispy. In fact, he proposed for Pizza 4P to be called Pasta 4P instead.
I think I became an alcoholic during this trip – almost all my meals came with a drink. The one on the right, called White Sangria, was hands-down the best drink I had in this entire trip. I think it is made of white wine mixed with fruits, with the fruit taste being stronger than wine, so that saved the day for me. And I am still keeping healthy with my daily dose of fruits ^^
Christmas Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral
After the very filling dinner, I proposed a walk towards Hoan Kiem Lake to bask in the Christmas atmosphere, and then route back towards St. Joseph’s Cathedral for Christmas celebration outside the church. It was a bad bad decision. By 9pm, the Old Quarter was jam-packed with families and couples alike. It was so crowded that there was barely space to walk on the lanes. Many streets were closed for pedestrians only on Christmas Eve so traffic was terrible, and we caught ourselves walking alongside motorcycles which took to the walkways instead of the roads. In fact, we could not tell which were pedestrian-only streets since, well, traffic laws cease to exist on this day. Pedestrians occupied the roads, and motorcycles occupied the walkways. And Christmas is not even a public holiday in Vietnam! I felt like I was transported back to China, squeezing back-to-back with people and linking hands with each other to barricade queue-cutters. It was pure madness, and I can’t say that I enjoyed myself much. Photos below were taken during the moments when I felt safe enough to take out my handphone.
When we finally caught sight of St Joseph’s Cathedral after what seemed like eternity, all we saw was again a sea of heads. Getting close to the stage was next to impossible. Well, at least the sight of the church and the sound of church bells did bring out some peace in me.
We left as soon as the mass prayer started (finally I realised who the crowd was, I thought it was just a normal Christmas celebration!). I must say that I was really glad to be back at the hotel, it was an oasis in the desert. Next up, Halong Bay! ^^