I’ve been so looking forward to our time in Vietnam and arriving in Hanoi was honestly a dream come true. Being based in the Old quarter we’ve had the most wonderful time getting lost in little alleyways lined with family restaurants coming out of holes in the wall, everyone seated on tiny plastic stools on the street, leaning over steaming bowls of Pho. The streets are abuzz with activity as thousands of motorbikes obey the traffic rules: “Green, I can go. Orange, I can go. Red, I can still go.” Crossing these roads becomes a bit of a nightmare and you feel like a constant hazard.
On each corner there are Vietnamese ladies wearing their leaf hats balancing baskets of strawberries, tangerines, pineapples, bananas, fried treats and spring rolls in woven baskets either on their bicycles or in two baskets hanging on a stick over their shoulders. I just loved the feel of this city.
On our first day we visited the Hoa Lo Prison which provided incredible insight into Vietnam’s history of being part of France’s colonized Indochina. We also learnt more about Vietnam achieving independence through Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnam war. We then checked out the incredibly beautiful Temple of Literature complex which is located within Vietnam’s first university. The buildings all have a very Chinese influence and are covered in ancient Mandarin characters.
We also had a look at the One Pillar Pagoda and Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. Everything is rather strict here with lots of officials and signs saying keep off the grass and no chewing gum.
We’ve enjoyed some delicious traditional food here such as fresh spring rolls, a noodle soup called Pho, fried noodles with beef, Ba Minh which is a Vietnamese sandwich and Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk.
On our second day in Northern Vietnam’s biggest city we saw more of the French quarter. It was really strange walking along streets that just screamed Paris, yet were in the middle of a Vietnamese city. We saw the opera house and walked around the beautiful (but because of the weather: misty) Hoan Kiem Lake. This big lake in the middle of the city is a place of peace and serenity for all those sitting on its banks. There is a red bridge leading to the centre where another temple is housed.
We spent the rest of the day making the most of Hanoi’s wonderfully cheap and beautiful markets, doing some souvenir shopping. Tomorrow morning we set off early on a bus into the mountains near Vietnam’s border with China. We’ll be trekking through the rice terraces of Sapa, Vietnam. Hanoi has been an absolute treat and we’re so excited to see what the rest of Vietnam has to offer!