We arrived into Hanoi safely after our last long distance journey on the motorbike and settled for one of the most budget hostels we could find within the old town. It reminded us of some rundown student halls we’ve experienced in our time at uni but it was a lot nicer than some places we’ve stayed on this trip. After a stroll around the city we had a relax by the lake and feasted on some ‘choco-pies’ (South East Asia’s answer to the wagon wheel which we’ve become a little addicted to!) Our first day in the city was a relaxed one and we spent the rest of the day in some cosy little cafes.
The next day was another where we wandered about doing bits and pieces of nothing significant. Weaving in between the millions of motorbikes and street vendors. Encountering the odd nasty Vietnamese person who shouted us out of a shop for being ‘dirty’. That night we tasted some more local delicacies in the form of eggy soup with croutons, banana flower salad and Vietnams version of a fajita! All went down a treat. With full tums we headed to the hostel chain that we found in Hoi An who do a weekly pub quiz. Maybe subconsciously we felt the need to redeem ourselves after coming last place in the previous one. Our team consisted of two Austrian doctors and an American film buff and we came second to top this time. Redeemed! The quiz was followed by a game of Ring of Fire and a bar crawl which we quickly escaped as it was like being part of an embarrassing freshers student night (am I getting old?) We went for drinks elsewhere and met some fellow Brits who we shared more Vietnamese food with and lots of beers.
After purchasing our train tickets out of Hanoi we did some sightseeing at Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. The streets surrounding are blocked off from traffic and all around the mausoleum itself is lots of grassed area, so when you arrive at the building it’s surprising quiet for the centre of the city. This and the white-clad guards at the door give a peaceful if not slightly somber atmosphere to the place. We didn’t go in to look at his body (which lays in a glass coffin for all to see despite his wish to be cremated…) but just had a stroll around the grounds instead. The dish of the day was called ‘bun cha’ which is bbq meat and noodles which is up there with some of the best street food we’ve had so far. You’re probably noticing a food theme by now. This was a sad day for Chris as we sold the bike! It was definitely more of an adventure exploring Vietnam on our very own bike but I’m not sure my nerves could have handled many more journeys! We took to walking around the city from then on and managed to find some quirky cafes where we relaxed for most of the day, indulging on carnation cream and lime drinks that tasted like lemon meringue pie! (Sorry more talk of food!) As we strolled around we came across a service at the extravagant St Joseph’s Cathedral which involved lots of brightly dressed people stood outside and a lot of noise.
Hanoi was very busy and fast paced with mad traffic and unfriendly people at times although it also had lots of character and was a surprisingly nice place to relax. The streets were lined with shops selling various items of clothing and trinkets which originated from Sapa- our next and last destination in Vietnam. We’re getting the night train there to experience the full spectrum of transport options in the country and are hoping we find the Vietnamese trains as good as we found the Indian ones!
P.S. To family members, we’re now exploring Laos but have gotten a little behind with posts due to bad WiFi!