Hanny hanny fanny, oi, oi, oi…
Welcome to the bustling metropolis that is the capital of Vietnam… Having heard the great tales of this city and how soo many people loved it, we had high expectations which were VERY quickly driven over by the 20+ hour bus journey (supposed to be 12 hours) from Hue; the cold and rain and not to mention being ripped off by the taxi drivers on arrival…. Aaahh, what was not to love?!
We had a full five days to spend in Hanoi, thinking that we would be doing a 3 day tour to Halong Bay, but judging by the weather, I sure as hell wasn’t going to spend my nights stranded at sea while being offered additional options of kayaking, swimming in the freezing seas and the ultimate activity for the vegetarian, fishing!
So, the first couple of days we wandered around the Old Quarter, which is full of little shops selling anything from souvenirs to light bulbs. As Valentines was coming, many of the shops had been taken over by an abundance of heart shaped biscuits and chocolate boxes and others were brimming with humongous teddies … Wonder what I was gonna get for Valentines?
Anyways…The real hip and happening places were the street food stalls… On our first night there; a Saturday night, the street food vendors were packed out with girls dressed up in pretty dresses and heels and obviously accompanied by the boys! These were the places to be and be seen at!!
We also found a lovely little hotel/travel agent/ foreign exchange company/ launderette which would clean our clothes for just over a $1 per kg! Sweet! (This is pretty typical pricing in SE Asia)… I’m sure they had many more services to offer but we didn’t dare to ask! … Rishi had already been offered his fair share of beer, cigarettes and marijuana during this trip.. (Excuse the pun).
Valentines day came and my God, the roads had been taken over with flower stalls now. Big bouquets of flowers EVERYWHERE you looked! .. Yes ladies, Rish did offer to buy me flowers but I really didn’t have the energy to haggle with the flower sellers for my own roses!
We did however visit a really cool restaurant for lunch called Qoan An Ngon. It’s like a food court or market but very aesthetically pleasing and you sit in the middle on long tables with other people (kind of like Wagamamas) and order from a super long menu. Rishi and I had the choice of about 4 items from the full selection which included way more than 100 dishes, but still it was sooo good. We tried papaya salad, noodles with veggies, garlic rice and a tofu dish… Washed down with fresh watermelon juice all for the grand total of $7.50. It tasted incredible. A MUST visit in Hanoi.
Nearby was the Temple of Literature, which is a univeristy and temple dedicated to Confuscius. A cute little place to see. It was interesting to see the locals praying to a statue of Confuscius who was a man made famous for his high morals and high regard for education. Not a God by any means, but certainly extremely respected. The Temple has tortoise statues which have big tablets on their back with names of the graduates who went through gruelling exams to achieve this status. Apparently if you rub the head of the tortoise, you will have good luck in your studies. I made sure Rishi rubbed the tortoise head for a good 5 mins!
It was enough with the museums for Valentines day, so we went to visit West Lake for a romantic afternoon of tea and cakes… Let’s just say it didn’t quite go to plan, although we did venture into a 5* hotel, which was gorgeous except for the tons of mosquitoes and ridiculously priced food, so we had to do a runner. 🙁
We ended the day with a cyclo ride around the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake…(Another MUST do!)
Followed up by a slap up meal at a classy indian restaurant.. Ok it wasn’t classy, but after 3 weeks, we’ve already started to loose our concern of what kind of establishment we eat in… Think our regular phrase of ‘it does the job’ sums it up!
After such a wonderful day in Hanoi… We really started loving Hanoi and understood why others like it too… we strolled back to our hotel and on the way decided to pick up our laundry…. But ta ta ta, the a**h***s had lost the two of my most favourite and expensive items I’d handed in!! We sat there for an hour while the guy laughed and IM’d on facebook… Nice… As I sat there pissed off and upset, I couldn’t help wonder… how he was accessing Facebook?! cos it’s banned in Vietnam. I’ve sure got my priorities sorted ei?.. Don’t worry guys, I did manage to get my stuff back the next day..
That was 2 days ago, yesterday we did a fab day tour to Halong Bay. (Separate post)….
hmm got too lazy for separate post… but yes we went to halong bay in the fog … hurrah, not quite what the pictures you see online show you but hey ho… we also got to see some awesome caves, so cant complain tooooo much!!!…
Today, we checked out the French Quarter, went back to the market style restaurant, where we tried a Vietnamese pancake… Again SO good and ventured over to the 7p ice cream as Mit keeps calling it (it costs 7,000 Dong now – about 25p) …
As we licked our lollies, dressed in full winter clothing we came to a busy crossing. Most crossings in Vietnam are an opportunity to contemplate suicide or test your skills at dodge ball but with motorbikes.. (I did get hit on my arm by a passing car the other day!!) We must have looked pretty stumped at this crossing as an old Vietnamese lady came beside us, smiled and through her gestures told us to walk with her across the road. She grabbed my arm, took us across, smiled again and walked off… Now, if you’ve been to any Vietnamese cities you’ll have noticed that the people aren’t particularly friendly (not all, but A LOT) especially as they are too busy trying to rip you off. But this gesture by the lady totally blew me away.. Definitely made me re-evaluate my perception of the Vietnamese people. You’ve got to consider how many tourists even bother to learn how to say hello or thank you here in the Vietnamese language.. I’d guess not many by the reaction we get when we say thank you in Vietnamese.. Hmm…
All of that however, did not even compare to our next stop. The water puppet show… YES that’s what we do! We spend our time watching puppets. Not sure if that means we are very youthful or becoming old fogies?…
Despite my reservations, the show was actually quite good. The music reminded us a little of indian bhajans, and the water puppets were quite impressive. The horsey puppet jumped through fire!!! How cool is that? To be fair at $3 each for an hour’s show, you really can’t go wrong!
After all that excitement, we are now sitting in Highlands coffee overlooking the Hoan Kiem lake, having eaten a scrumptious brownie and the best sandwich ever.. We started in Vietnam at Highlands Coffee and ending it there… Perfect end to a varied and interesting couple of weeks.