Trip Start Sep 16, 2012
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Monday, September 24, 2012

We set out to do nothing today but in Hanoi thats impossible.

Most people when they travel to Hanoi stay in the old quarter, the old quarter near Hoan Kiem Lake has the original street layout & archictecture of the old Hanoi. The old city consisted of 36 streets most of which now make up the old quarter. Each street then had merchants specializing in a particular trade like gold, silver, masonory etc etc. The street names nowadays still reflects this although few of them remain exclusively in the same trade. I could navigate my way towards our hotel once i hit shoe St from chicken St.

Hanoi sometimes is known as the city of lakes, among its lakes is Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Sword lake it is the historical & cultural centre of Hanoi of which the old quarter is situated around. Every morning about 6am you see all the locals stride towards the lake for their morning excercise so i thought i would join them this morning for a stroll around the lake. I was amazed it seemed like the whole of Hanoi come to the lake to exercise, there were groups of people all around the lake doing group exercises, aerobics, ballroom dancing, running, badminton, soccer, random people doing push ups/sit ups. It's a sight you must see when you travel to Hanoi. I walked the whole lake which took about an hour, probably because i was stopping to look at the exercises.

About 10:00am we decided to go out for a coffee, Vietnamese variety, i was hooked. We walked down to Highlands coffee, which is on the 2nd Flr of the complex thats situated above the main intersection in the old Qtr. We could have sat there all day watching the traffic & people weave in & around each other, again another amazing sight & a must see. Di enjoyed her coffee & i loved my iced coffee again. 

We then decided to continue a walk thru the old qtr to Ma May St as Di had spotted a top that she liked on the cyclo tour we did on the first day. I didn't think there was much of a chance of finding the shop but she did. She bought the top for around $15, we did a bit of other shopping, i bought a couple of t-shirts but found the sizing a bit small, or maybe i was a bit bigger than the average Vietnamese.

We headed to Green Mango for lunch, as i heard good things about it. It was a great setting & we were seated out in a lovely courtyard. Green mango has a great Viet cuisine & western menu. Di ordered fish & chips & i ordered a Chicken Snitzel, both were great. we also had a couple of beers each of course. Now, we hadn't planned to shop after coffee so i didn't have that much dong on me & was worried about having to much dong anyways, as its useless anywhere else. I had done the sums in my head & i thought i was ok, but when the bill came (600,000dong) i was about 100,000dong light, so for the first time in my life i was looking at doing the dishes. I decided to leave Di there as collateral & caught a taxi to motel to get my card out & go to atm. Of course the taxi driver had no idea where Hanoi elegance was so we got lost, then went up & got my card & went to atm, no dong in atm, went to another atm & got some dong finally. Now at this stage i was tempted to find a bar put it down to experience but thought i should probably return to the green mango to get my camera & pick up Di as well. The difference between Di & myself is i would have ordered a couple of beers while i waited.

We asked the hotel to organize 2 tix to the water puppet theatre as i thought we should do it, Di wasn't that keen but we went along to the 6:30pm show. I must admit i may have dozed off but Di kept nudging me as it was my idea to go. I'm not going to say it's a must see, but been there done that.

We then had drinks & dinner back at the hotel on the terrace bar, another beautiful night.

We are off to Halong bay tomorrow for 3 days, & return to hanoi just for one night, so i will sum up Hanoi here.

Firstly, i booked the Hanoi Elegance Diamond for a total of 6 nights as i had read some great reviews of the place. We have travelled a fair bit but we both agree it is the best place we have ever stayed. From check-in to check out after we returned from Halong bay, the service was 5 star, we were upgraded to Family room at no xtra cost, the location is perfect, terrace bar & restaraunt has great food & is great for a drink. The service is outstanding, the young girl pictured in blog, of which i did'nt catch her name, is so beautiful & she made sure our stay was as good as it was. I don't know how but she knew it was our anniversary & on our return from Halong bay, she had some lovely touches to the room. She also made sure Di had a good supply of the home made cookies in the room in the afternoons. Hanoi elegance cannot be classed as 5 star as it has no pool, but who comes to hanoi to swim? I cannot recommend this place highly enough & thank you everyone at Hanoi Elegance Diamond.

Hanoi itself kind of grew on us, the first drive from the airport & our introduction to the old qtr via the cyclo tour was overwhelming, but by the end we really enjoyed the lovely tree lined streets that make up the old qtr. The incessant horn tooting, the free for all on the roads, the death defying walk across the roads, the coffee, fresh baguettes, bia hanoi, Nem Hanoi, Pho Ga, the history & hardship of the Vietnamese people all make this place a great experience to see. I will say, in Hanoi it does seem hard to engage the locals for a smile, but when they do, they light up. Most locals seem hesistant & indifferent to westerners, i can understand why, they are not as welcoming as say Thai people & thats the conundrum in Hanoi. as more & more tourists come it could be difficult for the locals to be more welcoming. Most people that visit Hanoi do so as a stop to access Halong Bay or sapa but there is alot to see. In some ways we won't be rushing back to hanoi, but would return in heartbeat for Hanoi Elegance, a fresh baguette & Bia hanoi. Confused? we do hope to return one day as we visit the Sth Vietnam & beaches.

Ok we are off to Halong bay tomorrow & i know i am behind on my blogs.

CYA soon.

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