Vietnam 2013: Hanoi (09.25.2013)

Just like what I posted in my fb account, I am back in Vietnam, this time around in the northern part, Hanoi! there's something about Vietnam that makes me keep coming back for more, the good food, culture, history and the best part, cheap finds! 

Unlike Saigon, I find Hanoi a little bit tamed, less the hustle and bustle. For the first two days of our stay  it was raining cats and dogs! Surprisingly, Hanoi has four seasons, and the month of September was supposedly fall - autumn, the best time to visit Hanoi. The rain didn't stop us from seeing the beautiful spots in Hanoi.

We were on a red eye flight and landed safely around 1230AM, Hanoi being an hour behind Manila. Arranged pick up from our hotel for 18USD. It was almost an hour drive from the airport to Old Quarter. 

We stayed in Hanoi Apple Hotel located in Old Quater. Booked via Agoda for a Deluxe room which only cost around 700 pesos per night with free breakfast, just one of the things why I love Vietnam, cheap but quality accommodations. 

After getting a good night sleep, we decided to familiarize ourselves more with the city by doing DIY - walking tour, despite the wet weather, we have equipped ourselves with rain coats and salakots. One of the many firsts also in this trip was my friend James, tagging along. Yay! the more, the merrier! 

Unlike our previous trips, I was less prepared this time, didn't have a map or a list of the places we should go to, I figured out that we will be booking travel tours and it would save me the hassle of researching. Plus I won't pre-empt myself of what Hanoi has to offer, good excuse right?

My friend was booked in another hotel, which was like 5 minutes away from where we stayed, the plan was to meet us in our hotel at 7am after breakfast and roam around the city, guess what? he did what every tourist could have done on their first day, got lost for about one hour! :)) It happened to us too, in Saigon. It's hard to ask directions to Vietnamese people, most of them don't speak english.

It took us 10 mins to walk from our hotel to our first stop which is the Hoan Kiem Lake. The very accommodating sales manager Ms. Anna from our hotel, suggested we take the electric shuttle to see the shops around in Old Quarter.

I was impressed with their Green Tourism campaign, I am all for protecting the environment and clean traffic. I wish more countries would do the same to promote tourism and protect the environment. We payed 250,000 dong for one hour tour around the shops of Old Quarter.

The Old Quarter is filled with shops. According to wikipedia, there are 36 streets and you can choose from a wide array of stores from silk products to jewelry. I was actually impressed how every street is categorically arranged from clothes to utensils, name it and they have it. I think you can find whatever you need in this side of town. The people and sellers here are very friendly. 

The motorcycles could be overwhelming, since this is their primary mode of transportation. Given the increasing population and how small the streets, I think the motorbikes and traffic gives Vietnam more character.

Crossing the street wouldn't be challenging if these motorbikes are not around, rain or shine these motorbikes are everywhere. amazing how they can fit into side streets and not hit a thing. They also don't show so much road rage haha unlike in our country where road rage killing is rampant (i think!). I can't even imagine driving in this country, I give props to all car, bus and tourist drivers for managing the small & crowded streets in Old Quarter. I go oooh and aaahs, then I close my eyes for every motorbike - bus - van encounters haha but my love for Vietnam will never die hahaha 

Coffee being synonymous to Vietnam is one of the major reasons why I love their country, seeing the photo above reminds me of how good it taste and smells! everytime they open a lid, the aroma slowlys climbs out and it makes you wanna try the thick taste of their coffee, that's how good it is. 

After our Old Quater tour and shopping, we decided to explore the tourist spots near the lake; turtle tower, temple of the Jade mountain and the Huc bridge.

According to Legend, the sword of emperardor Le Loi is being guarded by a turtle. There has been sightings of the said turtle. Out of the 3 turtle sightings, 2 turtles was found dead.

We had lunch near the lake, the best way to experience culture is to eat where the locals eat lunch. In Vietnam ordering food is also challenging specially when the servers don't speak in english, but thanks to sign language, we get to communicate and understand each other. 

Our afternoon stop was the Hanoi Opera House, structure wise I like the Saigon Opera house, wait I'm not sure though haha but either way, taking from french colonialism and influence, they have beautiful structures/architetures in Vietnam. 

One thing I noticed during this trip is that I didn't take much photos, unlike my previous trips, for example, after seeing the opera house we went to a museum. I took time in reading and looking at the photos and artifacts that were exhibited regarding the history of Hanoi and their way to independence. Sometimes, we get so hung up on trying to document everything we see, we forget to actually enjoy the real deal. 

The rain was crazy and we were tired from all the walking, we decided to save our energy for our last stop and take the cab. 

Last stop for the day, St. Joseph Cathedral. A 19th century Neo-Gothic church. We said a little prayer of thanks and looked for a restaurant to have early dinner. Its been only one day but we miss eating rice haha. 

We were back in our hotel around 4pm, decided to rest some more to prepare for day 2, we have booked a tour to see more tourist spots in the city. oh Vietnam so good to be back, ended the day with another bowl of pho! 

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