Trip Start Mar 18, 2012
37Trip End Nov 01, 2012
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Where I stayed
Essence Hanoi Hotel
What I did
The flight out of Cambodia all went according to plan and we got a bit of dinner on the flight which was only 1 hr 40 mins. On arrival in Hanoi we got through immigration no problem - were glad we had got the Visas before we left as it makes it much easier.
We joined the scrum around the baggage belt and within a couple of minutes, Rena's case was off and it was just a case of Kenny's coming up the belt...... so we waited....... and waited. The crowd around the belt was getting smaller so we waited. In the end there were not many more than half a dozen people around the belt and we were beginning to fear the worst when - it popped out to a big sigh of relief from both of us
Our Hotel is in the centre of the Old Quarter which is an area of tightly packed houses and street. As we neared the hotel it got busier and busier until it ground to a halt at a junction that was surrounded by people sitting on small stools in street bars - 11pm was peak time by the looks of things. As it turned out our hotel was 20ft from this chaos and noise.
We stayed at the Essence Hanoi Hotel and after a welcome drink we were shown to our room on the 6th floor at the back of the hotel. Kenny had gone upmarket and booked the Junior Suite at at cost of £50 per night and it was great. Complimentary wine, fruit, water and a big room, great shower and very quiet. We could not hear the noise despite being so close.
In the morning we got to sample breakfast which had a great range of Vietnamese and western foods - best of all according to Kenny were the Coco Pops that he had every day.
Hanoi is quite different from HCMC. It is more manic and the drivers don't give way - they just point their bikes at you and hope you get out the way, so we had to be a bit more cautious crossing the roads.
Around the Old Quarter, the streets are filled with people cooking on the street
Over our 6 days we explored lots of different areas, mainly on foot and we felt very safe all the time irrespective of the time of day or night. Some of the key sights were:
- a traditional Tube house which has been restored
- Hoan Kiem Lake & the Den Ngoc Son Pagoda
- Hoa Lo Prison - known as the Hanoi Hilton by the captured American Airmen who were kept there in 1974.
- many of the sights around the French Quarter
- Dong Xuan Market - again a wholesale market that was incredibly busy
-the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
- the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum & House
- the Temple of Literature, Vietnams 1st University founded in 1070
Around the Hoam Kiem Lake is where young couples who are getting married come to have thier wedding photos taken so there was this surreal sight of dozens of Brides to be, in their best dresses walking about and posing with their husbands. It appears that they hire the dresses from the photographer and that they change into diffenent outfits in the park - which all seemed a bit strange
On Friday night we went to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and bought the best seats in the house at £3. The show had live, traditional music which was lovely and very haunting. The show was very good and was performed in a large pool of water that was the width of the stage. It was a really different theatre experience and we both enjoyed it.
Saturday, our day to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was also another experience. It only opens 4 days per week from 8 to 11 am so you had to be off your mark to get in. We took a cab to speed up the process, but he took the scenic route to bump his fare up, but it allowed us to see the Ho Tay Lake and the fare was still only £2.80.
When we arrived at the Mausoleum there were thousands of people. We had to walk about 500m to join the queue which was out onto the street by this time. We recon there must have been at least 75,000 people there an it just shows how well respected he is. After about an hour of queuing, being marshalled by stern looking soldiers and having dropped off the bag and cameras at security, we filed past his body. Quite a spectacle really if slightly macabre -he was looking in good shape considering he has been dead for 43 years.
Afterwards we went on to visit his house in the grounds of the presidential palace. As everyone enters they segregate westerners and Vietnamese as only the westerners have to pay. It was only 60p each so it didn't break the bank
Some afternoons we would sit on the tiny seats or stools at the streetside bar and just people watch. The street vendors are always trying to sell you something useless at a "very cheap price for you". If you want a snack you can order at a nearby stall and munch at your stool. We had Chips an tomato sauce!
The young people always want to practice their English on us. We were sitting by the Lake one day and 2 students asked if they could speak to us. We couldn't get rid of them so after about 15 minutes we made an excuse and moved on. Another pastime is to try and get thier photo taken with a tourist. I put it down to my good looks or possibly they have never seen someone with such white legs?
We ate dinner in the hotel twice which was great with a lovely dish of beef cooked inside bamboo. We went to an excellent Indian restaurant called Namaste one night and the last 2 nights we went to a place called New Day. It can only be described as a chaotic dump and we couldn't get a seat on the ground floor so had to go through the kitchen to get upstairs. The food was really good with big portions and we could get a main each plus a bottle of very palatable Vietnamese wine for under a tenner. Good news for a Scotsman!
Next stop the ancient city of Hue.