* We were in Hanoi from June 13-15, 2015 and then again June 17-19, 2015
Continuing this blog is getting harder and harder, but we are determined! At the very least we need to share the amazing photos we took throughout the rest of our trip. Regardless, here is a tad bit about Hanoi, the city of all Vietnamese cities. Before we arrived my sister told us to expect it to be “Han-noying”. And although we didn’t find it to be as frustrating as she did, we did understand her sentiment. The scooter traffic was multiplied to the max compared to Saigon! Add bicycles, cyclos (bicycle pulled rickshaws), and cars to the mix and we would walk out of our hotel and spend what felt like 10 minutes trying to find an opening in the scooters to cross a small local street.
We stayed in the Old Quarter, a charming grid of streets that is hopping like a street fair all day and late into the night. The streets were originally set up to serve as market streets, with each street specializing in different products, like silk, herbs, jewelry, produce, etc. Now-a-days, there are store fronts and sidewalk sales for all sorts of objects and wares. I think you could pretty much buy anything in the Old Quarter. The houses are packed in tight with elaborate old facades that open up to larger courtyards that are home to multiple families. Trees have grown right into the architecture and in some cases seem to envelope the buildings. Our favorite part was every where we turned there were people eating delicious looking street food at all hours of the day. Tiny red plastic tables and tiny red plastic stools lined the streets, and even spilled out into the streets in some places. The tables were especially packed with people starting at happy hour time at an intersection called “Bia Hoi Corner”. Bia Hoi is a special local brewed beer served straight out of the barrels. They will fill any container you bring into their shops, from small cup to 2 liter water bottle! We got great travel advice from our friends Laina and Tim, who did a year long trip just like hours and were a big inspiration for us, to do a cyclo ride at night in the Old Quarter with a freshly filled 2 liter bottle filled with Bia Hoi. It was so neat to be a part of the scooter, bike, cyclo traffic conglomeration, exploring around the Old Quarter with our own fresh, huge bottle of beer!
Other Hanoi Highlights…
- We ate tons of street food! I had finally caught on that food bloggers love to talk about traveling and eating in Vietnam. A few minutes of Googling gave me a full list of street vendors and foods for us to seek out both during the daytime and at the night markets. It was like a scavenger hunt for us to find the specific cart or stall number that I had read about. This one meal called “Morning Glory Salad”, can’t remember the Vietnamese name, was delicious and so refreshing. One place we went to try to the local favorite of sticky rice with toppings we had absolutely no idea what to order, as there didn’t even seem to be a menu. Luckily we made friends with the couple sitting next to us and they ordered for us!
- We took daily walks around the Hoan Kiem Lake, which was very close to our hotel, and is a popular place for locals to stroll, exercise, give each other pedicures, etc. The views around the lake were superb from coffee shops and cafes across the street that wound all the way around the lake. One afternoon we drank sweet Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk as we watched the traffic circle the lake below.
- I woke up early one morning for a jog around the lake and saw a few square dancing classes, Tai Chi groups and large aerobics classes packed with older women. The aerobics classes were really funny to watch. Oh, and badminton too! There are badminton courts painted on the streets all around the park and traffic is diverted in the mornings so that folks can get their game on!
- We walked by the building that houses Ho Chi Minh’s body, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, to see the giant lines of people. We had opted not to go in because we had heard the lines are crazy and you have to get there early to wait for hours in the heat for a few minute glimpse. But you do get to see his mummified remains, which are only display for a short time each day. Creepy!
- We visited the Temple of Literature, a Confucian university built in 1070. During the Chinese dynasties that ruled Vietnam, famous scholars taught there and students lived at the temple and studied for 3-7 years to pass national scholar exams. The architecture was really neat, with lots of photo ops in ancient archways with pagoda towers in the background.
- We noticed that the Vietnamese love to give pedicures, at any and all times of the day. We would see people getting pedicures by their friends in cafes even!
- We went out on a double date one night with our friends we met at the hostel back in Nha Trang, Silvy and Ian. We hit up a BBQ our own foods at our own table dinner place, and then Bia Hoi corner and a few other bars for drinks.
- Mostly we walked around and observed daily life. There was a lot going on at any given time in the Old Quarter and we definitely saw our fair share of interesting people and buildings.
To see the full album of Hanoi photos click here.