So after the beautiful sleepy village of Hoi An we were gearing up for the city life again in Hanoi! Not before another 24 hour bus journey.... the joys of cheap travel. We got picked up from the bus station and sat aboard the 'Luxery VIP' bus with the other passengers, we had a five hour bus journey to Hue, stopped for a few hours, (nothing much really to report from Hue, but to be fair we may not be giving it justice as we were limited on time) and then we boarded our last sleeper bus of this part of the journey..... Initially we were quite excited about this sleeper bus, from the outside it looked pretty snazzy, however....
The bunks were pretty slim, with your legs from the knee down being sectioned off undereath the persons bed who was in front of you. So no dangling feet over the side and was very constricting (even for those with short limbs, like myself, Louise typing. Also, my bunk was by the toilet, sad times indeed, I have never been more grateful for the strong scent of tiger balm and lavender oil).
Anyway, we arrived in Hanoi at 8am and as per usua,l the passengers were 'dumped' in a road left to fend for themselves and try to find their bearings. We, I have to say, did mavellously! We negotiated the taffic (not quite as in your face as Ho Chi Minh), with our backpacks through the intricate winding streets of the city to find the road our hostel was on. We turned onto Hung Ma, Hanoi Hostel, flasing neon sign that said we had found our home for the next few days.
We checked in and had a snooze, shower and back out again to explore the city. We are pretty good at map reading now, and Im not talking about your proper Ordenance Survey maps, these are maps without street names in some cases, but like true travellers we always get to where we need to be (a few detours on the way maybe).
Hanoi is a great city, much more friendly than Ho Chi Minh. The streets are alive with activity and each street name tells you what it sells. For example Hung Ma, where we were staying is the street of paper - so all along our road they were selling decorations, lots of red laterns and some Halloween stuff too. As we meandered through the city we saw the hardware streets, the shoe streets and the sweet streets..... could be very overwhelming if you just want to pop out for one thing and have all that choice in front of you!
We referred to the Lonely Plant and found a recommended place to eat - went there twice in fact. We saw all the street vendors selling the fresh fruit and then the more local dishes, including dog. Apparently, this is only eaten once a month and will give you good fortune etc, we didnt try any in case any of you were wondering.
We got our bearings pretty well with Hanoi, there is a massive lake south-east to where we were staying. Legend has it that there was a giant golden turtle in the lake who helped the King retrive his lost sword. There are still giant turtles in the lake but alas we didnt see any.
We booked our trip to Halong Bay through our hostel, something we were both looking forward to immensley. After a day of being at the hostel the helpful chap at the desk told us of the FREE BEER hour from 6-7 on the roof terrace. Woo weee! Highly recommend this place for anyone who is visiting!
On the days we had exploring the city we did the typical tourist trail. We went to the musleum, Ho Chi Minh isnt actually there at this time of year, his body goes to Russia for 'maintainance' for three months. We did see the changing of the guard though and noticed that they do stand very still like our own guards at Buckingham Palace.
Hanoi, again, like all of Vietnam has so much history which is etched into the streets and buildings. One minute you are walking next to a modern 21st centruy building and the next minute you are looking at an ancient monument depicting legends and mythical tales. The city itself has a lot of French influences, some of the building facades are pretty with their shutters, balconies and windows being something more from a French village, rather than an Eastern city. The streets are still mad, with traffic coming every which way at you, but we have got quite blaise about it all now quite franky and much to our mothers dismay I imagine, we now just walk out into the roads... buts its how its done around these parts.
Next adventure Halong Bay......