26.06.2016 – 30.06.2016
It was sad to leave Korea behind, a country we both love, but Hanoi charmed us straight away. When you arrive in the city, although it is not as clean and modern as Korea, is it the beautiful lake in the middle of the middle of the old city that makes Hanoi special. Our task for Day 1 was to scope out the city, so we could show Nathan’s family around when they arrived on Day 2. We were both excited to see Gary, Rechelle and Micah; so much so that when we arrived at the Sofitel Metropole, we were unaware of a second entrance. They had arrived, checked in and were waiting in their room before we even knew they were there. Safe to say Gary was very excited to see us, borderline tearful.
After a short tour of the city, it was time for dinner. Vietnamese food is incredible; between fresh spring rolls, fresh salads and Banh Mi, it’s hard to beat. Day 3 started with a market tour and cooking class. We learned to make fresh spring rolls, banana flower salad, ginger chicken and even sampled some fried silk worms for good measure. Earthy taste. Our day finished with a traditional Vietnamese Water Puppet show. Interesting.
The next morning, we were up early for our Cycling Tour. We drove to the small village of Duong Lam, outside of Hanoi, and were given our bicycles. It was the highlight of our week being able to slowly cruise through the streets of this old village, that has progressed very slowly over time. Walking through temples and houses that are centuries old not only gives insight into how many locals live, but appreciate many of the creature comforts we take for granted. Then next leg of the tour went through local rice fields, the colours were unreal, before we ended our tour we were treated to lunch at the house of a local family.
For the afternoon we toured the major sights of Hanoi city. The pick of the bunch was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, a sight of great significance for the Vietnamese. The gardens around the Mausoleum and the Yellow House are beautiful.
Hanoi is a “must do” if you visit Vietnam. These are many adventures to be had. The local night market and art scene are comprehensive and there is lots of good food; either from the street of restaurants, you are spoilt for choice. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Sofitel Metropole, enjoying afternoon tea and cocktail hour daily, a substantial upgrade from Hostel life.
OUR FAVOURITE BITS
- Bike riding through the ancient town of Duong Lam.
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (walking around the gardens, and seeing the “Yellow” House).
- Cooking class.
- Walking around the lake. Enjoying watching the locals, and seeing their daily life.
- Staying at the Sofitel Metropole. Having afternoon cocktails!
- Bianca getting her haircut. It was a salon down a side street and the hairdresser spoke VERY limited English.
- Carrying a small amount of US dollars. Although this seems silly, and not often necessary. The US dollar is still active in some situations, and generally in small denominations. Services may be negotiated in US dollar, and it’s easier to pay direct in USD than try and convert back to Vietnamese Dong, as then you have to negotiate a conversion rate, and not be ripped off twice!
- Trying some street food, like Banh Mi.
- When arriving at Hanoi Airport, take the Vietnam Airlines shuttle bus to your hotel. Much cheaper than any other option. Even though you still need to negotiate, $5USD is the rate. Don’t make them tell you otherwise.
- Exploring the city by foot. It’s a beautiful place and worth a good walk, day or night.