5:30-6:15pm = Partay time!!!

Trip Start May 14, 2010
Trip End Jun 19, 2010

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Where I stayed
paloma cruise

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'll have to upload the rest of the photos later, out of battery in Hanoi airport...

He says:

We ended up staying 3 nights in Hanoi at a hotel in the heart of the old town that was a definite step above most of our accommodation so far.

Hanoi itself was great... Frenetic and mental but charming at the same time. There were scams aplenty, especially where taxis were concerned (we got done on at least 3 occasions, but you have to pick your battles and arguing over being ripped off by the equivalent of $3-$4 really isn't worth the grief). The traffic, oh my god... We had heard about it, read about it and been warned about it, but nothing prepared us for it. It is absolutely crazy and nothing like what we had experienced thus far (which had been crazy enough). How there are not more accidents is a miracle, but somehow it works and crossing the road becomes an extreme game of chicken where you have to stare down the oncoming traffic, the person flinching first losing, whilst also checking for traffic coming from any other conceivable direction. You really have to wonder what is going to happen once car ownership really takes off, because the only way it seems to work is because of the maneuverability of the billion motorbikes on the road*.

The weather was also much cooler than down south so on our the first full day we decided to spend the day walking around the old quarter checking out the street life, markets and historical buildings. The day was really fascinating and every stereotypical street scene was on display. We came away with the opinion that the city is one big department store, every street has its own specialty, in fact all the names of streets in the old quarter are named after what they once sold (we were staying on pipe street). One street would sell nothing but shoes, other herbs, another jewelery, another bamboo, and on it went. The streets themselves were also really quaint, no building seemed to be higher than 2-3 stories and all preserved some form of its original layout. The markets were also much bigger and contained even weirder things then further south, we stopped to watch one woman kill and skin a writhing mass of frogs and another who appeared to be selling mice and rats. We almost lost each other in the main clothing market and I bargained hard for a new belt.

Throughout the day, we were also on the hunt for some socks as I had been living on 3 pairs of socks since Hoi An where a mix up in the laundry meant that none of my socks made it home. This has proved to be a bit of an issue because western sized clothes, let alone socks, are in short supply but as I was wearing three day old socks and we were days away from going to Laos, Hanoi was going to have to be it or I was going to have to name my socks individually to match their developing personalities. We had no luck all day, we even tried using Google and eventually took a trip to a large mall in Hanoi but all came to nothing. Eventually we gave up and headed to a Bia Hoi establishment (essentially a local pub that serves fresh beer).On our way there we passed an Adidas shop and miracles of miracles they had 4 socks in the whole store that were large enough (I should have always known that beer always provides).

The next day we decided to get some culture so headed out to the Museum of Ethnology, which was really interesting. However, unfortunately someone who will remain nameless left our memory card in the laptop in our hotel so we have no photos for most of the day. The museum itself explained the ethnic mix that makes up Vietnam; explain the different cultures, practices and distribution. A particular highlight was that they had transplanted a number of traditional ethnic buildings and rebuilt them in the museum grounds, which you could then go and explore. After the Museum our plan was to swing past Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum and then go to the Hanoi Hilton (old colonial French prison that was used to keep captured American pilots during the war (including famously John McCain). However, unfortunately after visiting the Museum of Ethnology and HoChi Minh ran out of time and never got there.

The food in Hanoi was also a highlight and we ate extremely well, although nothing yet has been surprisingly good as the vegetable and rice dish I had in Dong Ha. One of the nights we decided to treat ourselves and go to a nice restaurant that has been set up to support and train underprivileged kids. After a slight delay caused by me writing down the wrong address and being taken on a very scenic tour of Hanoi we finally made it and had a fantastic meal in a swish old French mansion. We also had the best noodles of the trip so far at a small hole in the wall place at 67 Hang Diem St down from our hotel, which definitely need to be tried by anyone going to Hanoi.

For the last 2 days we have been to Halong Bay, we ended up booking a cruise through our hotel and I think we definitely lucked out. Our boat was incredibly luxurious, the food was amazingly good and kept on coming and Halong Bay itself was suitably spectacular (although I still think Tam Coc was better).

The staff were also characters, including a junior guide who Gaynor and I got talking to after dinner on the deck. He was from Sapa and part of the Hmong minority and we had a long conversation about his culture, his family's life and the differences’ between rural and urban Vietnam. He also took great pleasure in telling us about the Hmong engagement customs. in short, this involves kidnapping a 'pretty' girl from the local market, tying her up and taking her to your parents house where she is locked up for 3 days in a purposely designed room. During this time her parents and informed making them 'very happy' and the only access to the outside world she has is to her prospective mother and sister's in law. At the end of 3 days she is given rice wine and asked for an answer, if she says yes she is given 10 kg of hemp and told to make her and her future husbands clothes (this can take up to 5 months). He himself had only tried to kidnap a bride once, but in his own words, she was 'too strong' she apparently struggled, pushed him over and gave him 3 kicks in the guts whilst he was down for good measure. He now has a girlfriend in Hanoi (sounds a lot safer).

Whilst on the cruise we went Kayaking to one of the floating fishing and pearl villages, went to the 'Amazing' caves, went squid fishing, had a cooking class and had a 'sunset partay' from 5:30-6:15pm (it rocked...). It was all fantastic, and it was really good to be pampered and looked after for a couple of days after what has been a pretty full on period of travelling.

We are currently on the bus back from Halong Bay to Hanoi where we are going straight to the airport to catch a flight to Luang Prabang.
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Annika on

The shoes!! drool.....

angelasusan on

Looks like you are having the best time - loved Halong Bay (that 'junk' was pretty unjunky). Hope to taste the fruits of your cooking class when you return!

All love (from Wilcannia RTC),
Mum xxx

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