08.11.2013 - 13.11.2013 24 °C
Hanoi has been our first stop in Vietnam, and what a way to kick off! Hanoi old quarter is the place to be with its hectic but exciting streets where each is teaming with mopeds whizzing past and shops selling all sorts of stuff!
There's an art to crossing the street - just take the plunge and step out (otherwise you'll be stood roadside all day!) and keep going, but slow and steady! The mopeds tend to weave past you, and cars do stop - most of the time! Between negotiating the busy roads and fending off the street vendors, Hanoi can be a tiring place... Especially if you choose the non-lazy tourist route of actually walking! So many people take up the offer of a tuk tuk or moped ride. To fend off fatigue, we just hopped into one of Hanoi's many cafes or coffee bars - our favourite was The Note Coffee. Located on the corner of one of the central streets, facing the lake, it served the best caramel lattè I've had. A cute touch is that each visitor is given a post-it to write on and then stick to the wall! Great fun sat in a window seat watching the hustle and bustle outside, whilst drinking coffee and reading everyone's notes. I would definitely recommend a visit there if you're passing!
Hoan Kiem lake is central to Hanoi's old quarter, so you can't really visit the city without seeing it! It's lovely that in a city so busy, there's somewhere to go that's so relaxing. With cafes, restaurants and benches surrounding the lake it's very much a focal point of Hanoi.
It's especially lovely taking a walk round the lake just as the sun's going down - a great way to finish the day!
Our first few days were spent anxiously awaiting the arrival of Typhoon Haiyan - after the utter devastation and tragedies in the Phillipines we were lucky to get just a few days of cloud and one night of torrential rain and wind. The night of which Ben dragged me out at 11pm to watch the Arsenal match, my sweet revenge was ripping him that they lost!
All the restaurants we ate at in Hanoi were really good - Little Hanoi and New Day being the best two, both are always super busy; a sure sign you're on to a winner! There's loads of road-side vendors selling wierd and wonderful street food, but with the restaurants being so cheap we didn't indulge in any fried frog! One night Ben and I had a tab of 6 beers, two mains and desert and it only came to £4.50 each!
Tuesday we decided to do the touristy thing and visited Hoa Lo Prison. It was only about a ten minute walk from our hotel so thought we may as well! It turned out to be lots more interesting than I expected, and although it's now just a museum rather than a preserved prison, it's been done in an authentic way so as to give you a real idea as to what the prison was like. There's lots of other museums dotted about the city too, and if this one was anything to go by, I'm sure they're all worth a visit!
We have both enjoyed getting to know Hanoi and exploring all it has to offer, but after 5 days we feel ready to move on to our next stop - the incredible Halong Bay.