The Far East Experience

An account manager in an advertising start up, Tania Shah is a young Hyderabadi who enjoys reading, travelling, and exploring new places and cultures. “Travel broadens one’s horizons, and learning different cultures and cuisines is the best part of it,” Tania says. “It brings in a new perspective at work and provides inspiration and ideas in my day-to-day life.” Most recently, she visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and then went over Bangkok in Thailand along with her mother, for a week. The mother and daughter duo take us through their break from the hectic routine of daily life.

The two were keen on exploring every street and corner of Hanoi, which is known for its old architecture and rich culture. “Having heard so much about the famous condensed milk coffee on ice and the egg coffee, we decided to explore all the local hubs. By the end of the trip we were addicted to coffee,” Tania tells us. “It was heavenly and we literally had midnight cravings for it!” They suggest a visit to historically significant sites, such as the Hoàn Kiem Lake with a bridge and tower; the Temple of Literature; the West Lake and the Water Park; and the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long, also known as the Hanoi Citadel. Apart from this, Tania advises us to visit the old quarter in Hanoi over the weekend. “It becomes a pedestrian street that bustles with locals and tourists,” they share. “And the street food in Hanoi, especially the banh mi – which is basically a baguette filled with veggies and meat – became our local favourite!”

The pair then went on to Ho Chi Minh City, where they visited the popular sightseeing spots such as the Cu Chi tunnels, Ben Thành Market, Independence Palace, Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, Pham Ngũ Lão Street, and the War Remnants Museum. “In Ho Chi Minh City, one must visit the numerous sky bars, out of which Eon 51 and Chill Sky Bar stood out the most for me,” Tania tells us.

“Another amazing experience was the one-day cruise to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The day cruise included a visit to the stunning Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave) which is a cavernous space with lots of big rock formations which the locals interpret as dragons and various other animals and figurines,” Tania reminisces. “The perfect end to the day was the bamboo boat ride at a floating village!”

Halong Bay and Hoam Kiem Lake are the most picturesque areas of Hanoi, according to Tania; these are the places she would advise a traveller not to miss. Vietnam had been on Tania’s bucket list for quite a while, and it most certainly did not disappoint one bit. “In fact, it surpassed all my expectations,” she gushes. “The warm people, street food, and culture were a breath of fresh air to me!”

The duo then went on to Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Known for its ornate shrines and vibrant street life, the city offered them a very authentic Thai experience. They visited the Grand Palace, the opulent former royal residence and museum; Wat Phra Kaew, the sacred shine with the world-famous reclining Buddha; and the riverside temple of Wat Arun with its distinguishing tall spire. Tania tells us, “The Chatuchak weekend market is a shopper’s haven, and my mother and I had an absolute blast there!”                                                                                                                  

- as told to Tanya