Hanoi, the first place we visited in Vietnam. And what a great way to be emerged into the country. Full of hustle and bustle, yet at the same time having somewhat of a calming effect on me. We flew in from Hong Kong, which was not the original plan. We planned to take a train from HK to Nanning in China, then another train and perhaps a bus to the border, then onwards to Hanoi. Tickets were ever purchased ready for this 2 day long journey. But, a major flaw in the works occurred when we went to collect our shiny new Vietnamese visas stamped nicely into our passports. Had a look at mine, lovely, perfect. Look at Ed’s, his was to enter the country a few days after mine which caused us to be in a little bit of a pickle. So, because we could, we decided to stay in HK until his visa was ready to go (this was a very costly decision). We got a semi-refund for our train tickets, found a place or two to stay and then made another whimsical decision and booked a flight to Vietnam for a few days later. This is what I love about travelling, the freedom you don’t experience anywhere else to do whatever the hell you want, wherever you want. A nice round figure of £1000 later, we landed in Hanoi airport. (Note: HK is ABSOLUTELY doable with no money, see Hong Kong!)
So, anyway, Hanoi. We arrived and swiftly checked into our lovely hostel ran by some cool Australian folk. Then we ventured and explored. People watching from a little shop window was a favourite thing to do here. Watching the Vietnamese weave effortlessly on their scooters on the ridiculously busy and bumpy roads, looking at the street sellers with their various offerings; it was a great insight into the daily life of the people of Hanoi.
Teaming with backpackers, it was clear that travelling around Vietnam may not prove as challenging as China had. There were hostels dotted about all over the place where we stayed, in the Old Quarter. Every one of them offering all sorts of tours and deals. This may all sound abit Costa del Asia for some, but this was not the case at all. At least, we didn’t think so. Whilst there was Westerners at every which way we turned, they seemed to blend nicely into the Vietnamese ways and crossed the roads how the Vietnamese did. (This takes some doing to begin with, but once you master it, you’re laughing)
We watched a traditional water puppet show whilst in Hanoi. Again, full of Westerners so the authenticity did wear off pretty much as soon as we got into the theatre. But then the musicians began to sing and play in a haunting way that is unfamiliar to our English ears.
We rode in a tuk-tuk, a cyclo, a local taxi. Whilst none of it proved to be much effort; every one (almost) could speak enough English to entice you into their shop, restaurant, or use their service. However, I loved the place. The narrow streets in the old quarter which were home to some magical shops, the ease of it all and the total calmness I felt despite being amongst the chaos of traffic and people was unbeatable.