Incense Travel - BLOG

Where to Go in Southeast Asia 2020

Where to Go in Southeast Asia 2020

Asia is known as the largest continent in the world, both by land area and population. It’s home to nearly 4.5 billion people, more than half of the world’s population. The continent is too wide and diverse to conceptualize as a single digestible travel "destination", and we want to see it all. So we want to invite you to start with our hand-picked choices of where to go in Southeast Asia in 2020, which is overflowing with ancient cultures that would take a lifetime to fully explore.


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Confucianism & the Temple of Literature in Hanoi

Confucianism & the Temple of Literature in Hanoi

Confucianism is a social, moral, educational and political philosophy (or simply a way of life), which was initiated by the Chinese scholar, Confucius, who lived from 551BC to 479BC. His philosophy was later developed by his followers with the purpose of building a harmonious and peaceful society. The philosophy was then spread in Vietnam during the 1000 thousand years Chinese domination, and together with Buddhism and Taoism - they became the 3 main religions in the country.


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Where to Find the Best Bún Noodle Dish in Hanoi

Where to Find the Best Bún Noodle Dish in Hanoi

Much of living in Hanoi has to do with eating and loving some of the noodle dishes that have emerged from this exciting part of the world. Naturally, pho bo (beef noodle soup) noodle dish is a popular choice. If you’ve ever tried one Vietnamese food, it’s most likely pho bo. Made with beef stock and rice noodles, the beef noodle dish is a must-try on the streets of Hanoi. But there’s much more to Hanoi’s diverse noodle scene than this familiar noodle dish.


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The Remarkable Hanoi Train Street

The Remarkable Hanoi Train Street

I took some of my food tour clients to the “Hanoi Strain Street” yesterday, and it reminded me of a quote by Mark Twain: “I saw a startling sight today, a politician with his hands in his own pockets”. The Hanoi’s railroad has become an Instagram-famous street, where tourists come in hopes of a perfect picture with a unique background. I saw no politician there, but the increasing number of coffee shops with chairs sitting next the tracks are making it a startling sight.


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Hanoi Pastry Shops and Bakery Cafés

Hanoi Pastry Shops and Bakery Cafés

On my Hanoi food tours, I’m often asked “Where are the best pastry shops in Hanoi?”, which is a tough question. There are hundreds of pastries and bakeries in Hanoi, and it’s hard to whittle them down to just a handful of them. You can find both local Vietnamese bakery and foreign-chef owns bakery cafes in Hanoi, each has its own personality reflecting the neighborhood it’s located in.


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Pho Cocktail: A New Signature Drink of Hanoi

Pho Cocktail: A New Signature Drink of Hanoi

Gone are the days when a fresh margarita and Negroni at a night club or a glass of wine at your hotel bar were the only options for a boozy night out in Hanoi. Thanks to the game-changers like Diageo Reserve World Class, which generated an impressive group of talented mixologists, many of whom went on to open their own bars, so there is no shortage of spots to sip inventive drinks in Hanoi.


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Where to Find the Best Vegan Restaurants in Hanoi?

Where to Find the Best Vegan Restaurants in Hanoi?

When I was first working as a tour guide more than a decade ago, some travelers came to Hanoi and went to a vegetarian restaurant in the Old Quarter. The next day, they told me how stunned they were as there weren’t any mushroom or tofu on the menu. Yes, being a vegetarian used to be a challenge in Hanoi, but it’s not anymore! As the vegetarian dining scene has blossomed in the last decade, and there are more vegetarian (and vegan) places in Hanoi than ever.


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Our Trip to Ninh Binh, Halong Bay and Sapa

Our Trip to Ninh Binh, Halong Bay and Sapa

September is the beginning of the best time to travel Vietnam, as it’s the harvest time in the region. Visitors to northern Vietnam this month will have opportunities to see the golden color of the ready-to-harvest rice fields, spreading from Red River Delta to terraces on the hillsides around Sapa. On my most recent tour, I took my clients from Hanoi to Tam Coc, to Lan Ha Bay, and to Sapa. Following is how we experienced the destinations in our 7 days exploring northern Vietnam.


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To the Memory of Bui Xuan Phai

To the Memory of Bui Xuan Phai

Today marks the occasion of the 99th birthday of Bui Xuan Phai, who is seen by many as the most important Vietnamese painter of the 20th century. I want to share my clients’ recent visit to the artist’s son, artist Bui Thanh Phuong, in honor of his memory.


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Tipping Custom: Complete Guide to Tipping in Vietnam

Tipping Custom: Complete Guide to Tipping in Vietnam

Being a tour guide and trip leader for the last 12 years, I see that one of the most confusing things for visitors to Vietnam is figuring out the tipping custom. Unlike the United States and other western countries where tips are expected, and considered as a part of the wages paid, in Vietnam, tip is not a part of the culture, wherever you drink or eat. However, in the past decade, it’s become common to leave a tip when you are pleased with the services provided.


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