Enjoying city life in Hanoi

Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
Trip End Feb 01, 2012

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Hanoi, Hanoi, the true meaning of a bustling city. The narrow streets are buzzing with motorbikes, people selling, people buying, people eating, people chatting. The air is thick with the smell of bakeries, fruit, seafood, some pleasant, some less so. The noise of traffic, horns, people inviting you in their shops, music surrounds you. A place where crossing the street is an adventure in itself. I was in love within the first 24 hours. This is what I've always imagined Asian cities to be like.

We made it here after a LONG bus journey which seemed to go on for ever. We spent 12 hours of being in a seat that was too small (ok I've put on weight but my bum isn't THAT big). The locals didn't seem to be too happy to share their seats with us, the guy next to me even leant in front of me pretending to sleep.  The people in the restaurant we stopped at first ignored us and then tried to rip us off so we didn't even eat. Relieved to have made it to Hanoi, we got into a taxi where the driver refused to put on the metre even though he'd agreed to do it before we put our bags in. We changed taxis and still got ripped off by a guy with a metre that went up very quickly and who spent forever searching for our hotel. Our hotel room stank of rotten eggs and it was only after threatening to leave they agreed to change our rooms. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I'm sorry, but our room really stinks we cannot stay in it
Hotel: Noooo, room does not stink
Me: I'm afraid it does. Very much so
Hotel: Can you come back later, we are eating (it was 10pm)
Me: Emm, NO!
Hotel: Sorry we are full
Me: Ok we must leave then
Hotel: Ok, Ok. (Gave us key for opposite room which took all of 1 minute)

While our entry into Vietnam had started to live up to the bad reputation this country has with some travellers things got much better once we'd had a good night's sleep.

The charm of Hanoi lies mostly in walking around the old quarter, sampling great food and amazing Vietnamese coffee that has an aftertaste of chocolate....divine!! For the 3 days we were there we did just that. One of my favourtie restaurants was a place called Quan An Ngan. It's a collection of street food stalls that have been gathered under one roof. The food is amazing and the variety is mind boggling. I walked round the whole place, with menu in hand pointing to things and asking the chefs to show me the name on the menu. It was foodie heaven!

In between our eating sprees and coffee drinking we actually managed to fit in some culture and   visited the Temple of Literature which used to be a University in ancient times. The temple is dedicated to Confucius which is apt. I stood in front a statue of Confucius and prayed for some wisdom only to find out it was a statue of one of the emperors instead. Oh well maybe he can impart some wisdom too!

It felt good to be back in a city. Don't get me wrong I have enjoyed being in all these lovely remote places but don't forget I was brought up in the 2nd biggest city in England & I have lived in London 11 years. So I guess I am saying that I am still a city boy at heart. In fact when Karen asked if I would like to stay somewhere remote when we continued onto Halong Bay, my retort was "If they have a floating McDonalds in Halong Bay it still won't be too touristy for me!" Ha ha. I guess I needed to be back in a city!

All this stuff we had heard about Hanoi did not apply for us. We really enjoyed it. Yes, there are lots of people trying to sell you stuff but is it really that different than back home? Instead of constant comercials or advertisments you get real people on the street. Everybody has to make a living. 

On one of the evenings we went to the Traditional Vietnamise Puppet Theatre. It is probably the best 1.50 I have ever spent! Basically you watch a show about life in Vietnam but with puppets that are in water. It is also accompained with traditional Vietnamise music. It is a great show and I highly recoomend it if you are in Hanoi. If you have kids they will love it and for 1.50 what's there not to love? 

I know Karen has already mentioned the motorbikes here but I don't think she has explained enough. When we say there are lots of bikes here what we really mean is imagine a motorbike grand prix and then add about 1 million bikes. Now imagine crossing the road! I have never seen anything like it. It actually seems physically impossible to have that many bikes buzzing around. Apparently Saigon (Ho Chi Mihn City) has even more. That I have got to see! 

You will all be happy to hear that the weather changed slightly when we were here. We had to wear our cardigans which is just out of order. We wanted a year long summer! Oh well, we will be back in the heat in no time. 

Our next stop on this amazing journey is very different. We are heading to one of natures true wonders of the world: Halong Bay. We can not wait!

We will see you on our Junk (traditional Vietnamise Boat) boat when we get there!

All our love as always,

Paul & Karen xxx
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andrewrainnie on

I ate at that restaurant as well! Lovely grilled mackeral.

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