We flew in to Hanoi late afternoon and got on the shuttle bus to the centre as soon as we got off we were hassled by motorbike drivers wanting to give is a lift.We started walking towards the Old Quarter aided by our guidebook to try and find somewhere to stay.The first places that we looked at were quite expensive so we carried on looking.It was dark early and it felt much later than it was so then next hotel offered us a room for $20 so we took it.It was nice and had a big bath, something we have both missed.Cable TV was also included and we were a bit gutted to find that, that night Liverpool were playing Portsmouth in an Asian cup final in Hong Kong - If we'd have known we could have gone!After a much needed rest we headed for a toasted sandwich and a look around.The roads are so busy with scooters that to cross you just need to walk and hope that they go round you.The pavements are also not worth having, locals have small stools which they sit on in the street meaning that you have to walk out into the street and into the path of incoming scooters to get past them.We noticed straight away the road noise all these scooters do is blast their horns to tell people to get out of the way and to let people know they are behind them.Apart from scooters there are only a few cars and quite a lot of cyclos.Jus t by the lake all then traffic had stopped to watch an acrobatic show that had been put on, it was really good, they had a mime performance, acrobats and 4 people on roller skates throwing each other around on a rope like contraption.We stopped for a beer and watched the street it was pretty hectic and we are really intrigued as to how you can get 4 people on a scooter comfortably without it toppling over?Back at the hotel right outside our window a building site had been set-up.We stuck it for an hour and then insisted we were moved to another room, but they did not have one, this resulted in us leaving at 1am and finding another place to stay.
Day 2 found us moving to yet another hotel and the last one was a bit expensive but at 1am you just need to sleep. We had some breakfast/lunch and then had a wander around the narrow streets.We headed towards the lake and sat and watched some locals fishing.We then took a cyclo around the streets.A cyclo in a man on a bike type contraption with a big seat on the front, we sit in the seat and the man cycles us around for an hour, poor bloke.It was a really pleasant and we got to see a lot of the busy Old Quarter.We headed for a Vietnamese tea and then to watch some live music in the city's jazz bar accompanied by a couple of cocktails.
On our third day we woke really late and moved hotels again to an $8 per night room, here we also booked our onward open bus ticket, Ã¯Â¿Â½12.50 to travel from Hanoi to Saigon with 6 stops en-route.We also booked our 3 day, 2 night trip to Ha Long bay, which is north of Hanoi and a World Heritage site.One of the main tourist attractions in Hanoi is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and related museums.The day was hot and it was a bit of a walk so we thought we would just head off and see how far we got.We stumbled across the Vietnam Military Museum and decided that it would be a nice stop off.The museum focuses on the whole Military history, including the war with the Chinese, French and also the Americans in the Vietnam War (the American War as it is known here).The museum was really good and focused more on the war with the Americans, in the courtyard there are some intact American helicopters and planes, which were captured by the North Vietnamese Army during the war, pretty amazing.It was so hot that after we left the museum we decided not to head to see the mausoleum but to get back to the city centre.We had a really nice traditional Noodle soup for tea in an internet cafe, while we called home.That evening we had tickets to see a traditional Vietnamese Water Puppet show, this is a puppet show set in water accompanied by 5 musicians.It was an excellent show, very clever how the puppeteers (behind a screen, waist deep in water) control the puppets and make them do tricks, flips the best bit was the underwater fireworks.
Day 4 - off to Ha Long Bay (please see that entry)
The day after we arrived back from Ha Long Bay we were booked onto a Vietnamese cooking class.The first activity of the day was being taken to the local market, where they sell absolutely everything from fish, fruit, veg, spices, meat and flowers to clothes and shoes.It was pretty hectic but a good experience.All the fish and meat are prepared at the market and we saw prawns being shelled and even a fish with its head cut off but the head half was still breathing.One lady had brought 2 live fish they were in the basket of her bike the next thing you knew they had jumped out and were on the market floor.Our first dish was Vietnamese Spring Rolls with dipping sauce.Spring Rolls are a Vietnamese dish containing crab, pork, vegetables and noodles, they are then shallow fried and served with a sweet chilli and garlic sauce.The ones we made were not the best shapes but tasted lovely.The second course was freshcatfish, we had to marinate the fish and the it is shallow fried it is served in fresh rice paper and you make a pancake out of it and stuff it with the fish, fresh noodles, carrot, onion, chilli and pineapple if you want, this is again served with the dipping sauce.It tasted so fresh and was surprisingly soft as the fish had been cooked for quite a while.The next dish was a Royal Rice, this is a sort of fried rice, but rather than being mixed together it is layers and presented on a plate, both of ours got stuck in the bowls, but Wayne being the chef that he is managed to salvage his while my near enough collapsed on the plate!The pudding was sweet potato and ginger but this is semolina based and had to set so we were only told how this was made and some variations we could try, it was a strange dish but worth a taste.The website is www.hanoi-cooking.com if anyone wants to have a look at the recipes.The afternoon saw us chilling before we were picked up with our backpacks on the back of a scooter to be taken to the overnight bus.This was not the safest way and not what we were expecting but apparently the minibus was not available - next best option stick 'em on the back of a scooter in rush hour!
We are now leaving Hanoi and heading south and we both feel that it is the right time!