As we (I was now back with dear Ciara, my partner in Asian bike journeys) set to hop back on the red carcass of the squeaky bike we had hired, the clouds started to come true on their threat of rain....
Feb 19: Day 10: HanoiI had plans to go see the Halong bay. But the cave had taken the most of me. I slept more. I stayed at hotel Hanoi Graceful. 27 USD, last day so spend a little. Then went out for lunch at Namaste Hanoi. Very good Indian food. Next stop: The Train street. Yeah, this is quite famous amongst people travelling to Hanoi. Google about it. The train comes at 3.30pm. I have it in my video.Read More
Feb 19: Day 10: HanoiI had plans to go see the Halong bay. But the cave had taken the most of me. I slept more. I stayed at hotel Hanoi Graceful. 27 USD, last day so spend a little. Then went out for lunch at Namaste Hanoi. Very good Indian food. Next stop: The Train street. Yeah, this is quite famous amongst people travelling to Hanoi. Google about it. The train comes at 3.30pm. I have it in my video.
Hanoi is famous as the Food capital of vietnam. We tried endless veg varieties in vietnamese cuisine and it was too perfect. You can see countless roadside restaurants with great dim light ambience and vast varieties for seafood lovers. We stayed hanoi for 4 days and on 3rd day we had a tour to "Halong Bay".
My friend and I started the trip with Hanoi, Vietnam's Capital. It's a busy city that wakes up early. Life begins at 7 am here. You'll find the city buzzing with horns of cars and motorbikes (common mode of transport). Every shop/business establishment has a Vietnamese flag. The driving (left-side) and traffic are similar to that in India, where no traffic rules are followed and you can cross the road whenever you wish to. However, the population density per sq.km is very low. One of the most noticeable things about Vietnam is the number of women driving bikes.
Ha Noi, the capital of Vietnam! The oldest city in the country, where every nook and corner oozes with culture!Either you'll love the city or hate it - there'll be no middle ground.Hanoi was my last stop during a breezy trip to Vietnam, a country which has been on my to do list for the longest time.I first visited Ho Chi Minh, followed by Nha Trang and then finally stopping in Hanoi. Initially, I thought I would pen down my experience in Ho Chi Minh and Nha Trang. However, by the time I got onto the flight back to India, I was in love with Hanoi. I wish I had lost my passport and would never have to leave the city. Unfortunately, for me, my friends dragged me onto that flight back home (damn!)Hanoi, as a city, is influenced by South East Asian and French architecture. And it is exactly this mixture of architecture which makes it so beautiful. A city which, bustling with activity has a quaint old charm attached to it, providing the warmth for a travellers heart. Where the modern culture seamlessly blends with the old school charm. Where you have cafes on (literally) every street, and look at the world passing by (while sipping on the best coconut coffee you would have ever tasted).As a tourist, you will be restricted to the Old Quarter of Hanoi, which is a beautiful chaotic mess of narrow streets and numerous cafes, within walking distance from the Hoan Kiem Lake. Besides the Lotte Towers, which offers a breathtaking view of the city, all the touristy attractions are within walking distance (if a kilometre or two isn't much of a walk).Having said that, we only visited the One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, since we already had our overdose of the Vietnam war whilst in Ho Chi Minh.But anyhow, coming back to The Old Quarter. Every street is demarcated by the merchandise it sells. From fresh vegetables and fruits to artefacts, you have a street for each.Hanoi is also a city known for its art. If you have the slightest interest in a pretty looking canvas, the various art galleries in the narrow lanes around Haon Kirk Lake are a must visit. While some are original oil paintings by upcoming local artist, most of them are imitations of famous painters. And trust me, even a novice like me, managed to pick up some "art" from Hanoi.The food in Hanoi is worth mentioning too. The French and Vietnamese cuisine here are taken very seriously and flavours are much more distinct than the rest of Vietnam. (I am a strict vegetarian, so follow my advice and optimise your use of google translate. Just type out, "I'm vegetarian, no meat, no sea food. Please help" and show it to your server. Trust me, the hanoian server will go out of his way to serve you an excellent dish). DO NOT miss out the bakery products and road side baguettes and noodles! You would have never tasted simpler but better tasting food in you life (even if your vegetarian!).The place to be at night is the Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen streets of the Old Quarter, where you can see a pool of people sitting out on plastic stools sipping away on their bia hoi (draught beer) and slurping away on their noodles. While the streets shut down by midnight and the city is literally dead by midnight, the pub owners on the streets will hustle you inside for the underground party scene, which is so energy driven, while shutting down the outside area. The insides turn out to be even more vibrant, cause you end up sharing your table with other travellers and enjoy sharing experiences while enjoying the local bands playing away some amazing music. Also, be mindful of the fact that the Vietnamese like their cocktails to be pretty stiff. So if you think you have the capacity to drink 5 cocktails in a night, my friend, you will be wobbling away with the second drink.If you have two days in Hanoi, like I did (and I regret not having more time) do not bother going to the museums, since you will do enough of that in Ho Chi Minh. Just kick off your shoes, get a book, get inside a cafe, get some Vietnamese coffee or a drink and look at the world pass. The images of the beautiful Architecture with the beautiful hanoians walking by will last you a lifetime of pleasant memories and leave you with a feeling of wanting to never leave.
I skipped through a lot of country from Hanoi to be here, by way of two weeks spent helping a thankless invalid. I might have been on my way to Cambodia, as originally planned. But who sticks to an original plan these days? I hopped over going to mountains in Sapa, or running through caves in Ninh Binh, and stopped for a walk through Hue’s old war- ravaged citadel, on the way to historic Hoi An. The Viet 'Cong' (the American label for the guerrilla troops of South Vietnam and Mekong who fought alongside the the North Vietnamese), had given the yanks too much credit in assuming that they wouldn’t desecrate these momentous temples of Vietnamese religion and culture, in their bid to chase down Communism.Holy places have a habit of making me wistful. I began to mull over whether I could ever leave Asia. Imagining myself another life where I am ‘settled’ requires decoding of the word itself. ‘To settle’. The verb defined in the Oxford dictionary with more than three meanings. Here are the top three: to reach a conclusion or agreement to a problem; to reach a decision; to come to a dissatisfactory acceptance.To ‘settle down’ is to accept an unrealistic and bogus idea of existence. Even those who think their life is mapped out will find surprises, whether good or bad. And those whose definition of adulthood is based on ownership of some form (cars, careers, mortgages and kids for instance) are only defining their experience of the world through MONEY and possessions.I don’t think that the Cham emperors of the past, when building their red mortar worshipping grounds, would have ‘settled’
The day I arrived at Hanoi I had 7 days to go with absolutely no plan, a number of backpackers (going from north to south) suggested going to Sapa and Ha Long bay one can easily spend 2 nights at both these places. After 2 days of exploring the city me and two other backpackers (who I had met in Phong Nha) decided to go to Cat Ba Island by ourselves.Reaching the island:
The strange thing about the oldest part of Hanoi where we were staying is that each street is dedicated to the specific trades/businesses that are based there…e.g. China bowls street (Bat Su), roasted fish street (Cha Ca), silver or jewelries (Hang Bac), women accessories (Cau Go), shoes and sandals (Hang Dau), silk (Hang Gai), mixed fruits (To Tich), combs (Hang Luoc), jars (Hang Chinh), tour services (Ma May), candies and dry apricot (Hang Duong), fried/roasted sour pork hash (Tam Thuong lane on Hang Bong Street), bamboo products (Hang Buom), etc.After the madness of the old town, we decided to wander the other direction which was actually still mental, but much easier to walk around without fearing for your life every two secs. On the way, we passed two stalls… Whole dogs baked in the oven and piled up on top of one another a table, ready to be sold as meat….
It’s totally insane walking around Hanoi; It’s like the Saturday before Christmas every day. Pavements are filled with mini plastic chairs (think first day of school), parked and moving motorbikes, open fires for cooking, barbers using cut throat razors, beauticians attending to peoples toenails with paint scrapers, welders throwing sparks on your flip-flops and bamboo ladders… The roads are for lorries, jeeps, cyclos, motobikes, ‘pope-mobiles’ filled with Chinese and women carrying and selling fruit, donuts or sticky rice and they’re all moving in whichever direction and speed they like! That just leaves the gutter above the sewers for the pedestrians.. And even there you’re definitely not safe! They’re all obsessed with face masks to stop smog and germs which feels a little weird when they’re cooking and eating on the pavements in what can only be described as…You can’t walk two steps without hearing ‘madame Madame!’ from the women trying to sell us food or clothes and the guys just hoot, ring the bell or just whistle or yell hey hey to try to get us on the back of their motorbike/taxi! Really missing the tuk tuks round Hanoi, all they have is cyclos -bicycles with a scooper on the front or getting on the back of a motorbike. We had to go for the cyclo option one night, which was absolutely terrifying! Some old guy cycling really slowly while we sat in the front like a couple of babies in a push chair, being pushed out into traffic. Words cannot convey how terrifying it is to attempt to cross the road in this town! They don’t stop even at pedestrian crossings. Traffic lights are ignored and driving on the footpath, across a park or the wrong way down a one way street is totally acceptable!
When we finally landed in Hanoi late that night, we still had to face a 45 minute drive to the centre. Let the mayhem begin! No rules, drive wherever you like in any direction, just beep your horn or flash your light and hope that you make it through! The first hair raising moment came when a motorbike came over the grass verge and sped past us going in the opposite direction on the motorway. Of course we we’re shocked at the time…but that was really just the beginning!
Hanoi is undergoing a rapid transformation. You can dine on the wild and wonderful at every corner, have all kinds of meat. One of my favorites would be the ban mih,which is the traditional subway, sample market wares, uncover an evolving arts scene, then sleep soundly in a little luxury for very little cost. It is important to roam around the streets with a map as the city has a lot to offer around every corner.Meet the people, delve into the past and witness the awakening of a Hanoi on the move. You can run around the central lake in the mornings and then break some sweat in the open gym next to the lake itself. To have a feel of traditional vietnam it is important to stay in the old quarter. My advice to break the night : little hanoi hostel. Places to visit: Hang duong street, Night market, Ba Vi National park, the french quarterHA LONG BAY
Located about 2 hours drive from Hanoi, Ninh Binh offers some peace from the hustle and bustle of the cities, you can sail down the river in Tam Coc and visit the old capital while taking In the beautiful views that surround you in the county.8- Try some of the unusual street foodVietnam, like most of the Asian countries is known for its street food. While I stayed away from the dog and cat meat which is everywhere in the town we lived, we eat street food a lot and even tried some of more unusual dishes such as frogs and birds. You can also have some of the insects, however after trying them in Thailand, once was enough for me!9- Visit Uncle Ho in HanoiRead More
Located about 2 hours drive from Hanoi, Ninh Binh offers some peace from the hustle and bustle of the cities, you can sail down the river in Tam Coc and visit the old capital while taking In the beautiful views that surround you in the county.8- Try some of the unusual street foodVietnam, like most of the Asian countries is known for its street food. While I stayed away from the dog and cat meat which is everywhere in the town we lived, we eat street food a lot and even tried some of more unusual dishes such as frogs and birds. You can also have some of the insects, however after trying them in Thailand, once was enough for me!9- Visit Uncle Ho in Hanoi