I arrived in Vietnam fairly late in the afternoon, slightly apprehensive of what the country had to offer. Along the way I had met a variety of people who had visited Vietnam and had very mixed experiences, including people spitting on them. First mission was to get through visa control. Due to the hysteria of swine fever, Vietnam had taken strick precautions. Well they asked you to complete a form asking if you had any of the symptoms- a definite preventive measure!!
The trip from the airport to the hostel I had booked took about half an hour, allowing me plenty of time to view the outskirts of Hanoi. Out of the many countries I have visited (excluding India!), Vietnam has been the most different to English expectations. For starters the architecture is different. The houses are very tall and narrow, often built detached which emphasises this even more. The front door is similar to our garage doors and opening into a large living room, shop or restaurant. The houses are also painted brightly, but the colours are not garish and work with the landscape. Surrounding the houses are often paddy fields. There is a mixture of new and old with motorbikes everywhere but people still using traditional farming methods involving oxen.
The hostel I had booked in was run by two Australians and a haven for all backpackers coming to Hanoi. Arriving quite late on I was met by a mass of foreigners standing around drinking. It was a joy to see!! I would recommend Hanoi Backpackers Hostel to anyone (especially as they have a happy hour including two for one!)
I only had the evening in Hanoi due to my tight timetable so I ventured out as soon as possible. Hanoi centres around a lake so I headed there to see what was happening. Nearby was a traditional water puppet show. Recommended as the best to see I duly bought my ticket and went to watch. It was initially interesting to see how the traditional opera matched the puppet movement and how it worked with the water. However, they did not have the movement of muppets and 17 scenes later I was really ready for it to end. I can imagine out in the paddy fields it would be very stimulating after a long days work, but in a theatre it grew quite dull.
Next was time to sample Vietnamese delights. I found one restaurant which sold every type of meat you can imagine, including cock's testicles. I didn't partake in that one!
That was all the time I had in Hanoi as the next day I was off to Halong Bay for a night, then down to Hue.