In 2007, Chen and I visited Hanoi, and it remains one of the most interesting places that I have ever been. Unfortunately, it was back in the days when I thought I could hand hold my camera at low speed and still get crisp photos. Experience has taught me that I cannot, but it has left me with many blurry photos of Hanoi.
Our hostel definitely remains the scruffiest place that I have patronised. The paint was peeling, the curtain was just a towel and a few window panes in the bathroom were missing (we had to improvise). That said though, it wasn’t uncomfortable, the air-conditioning worked beautifully, the floors were extremely clean (the Vietnamese seem to be sweeping the floors all the time) and the beds were comfortable. We slept like babies.
Our hostel, was located in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, right smack in the middle of market street.
We did some sight seeing and a lot of eating in Hanoi. The best baguette I have ever eaten was in Hanoi. We just wandered into a slightly up class cafe (not listed on Lonely Planet at that time, don’t know if is now) which seemed to serve locals. Ordered the famous vietnamese drip coffees and baguettes. It was so good that we ended up going everyday we were in Hanoi and sometimes ordering more than one serve of breakfast each. The name of the cafe, I will remember for a long time to come, it was Masterbake (say it quickly a few times, hehehehehehe)
We walked to the Presidential Palace which used to be the Palace of the Governor General of Indochina. And not too far from it was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh in a glass sarcophagus. Chen and I were just outside the building.
In the middle of the city sits Hoan Kiem Lake. I wouldn’t have included any photos because I didn’t get any good ones, except for something I saw that I thought I would mention. I saw a fully grown young man, walk up to the water, promptly pulled his pants down and peed into the lake!!! I couldn’t figure that one out, I didn’t see anyone else do so, but nobody except Chen and I seemed shocked by it. Finally, we thought, he mustn’t be very sane.
We joined a tour that took us to on an overnight trip to Halong Bay, a UNESCO heritage site that boasts thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. In writing this post, I read my Lonely Planet guide again on Halong Bay, and it says that “visitors have compared the area’s magical landscape of limestone islets to Guilin in China and Krabi in southern Thailand.” Wow! amazing, I have been to all three places!
Even though it was somewhat hazy when we where there, the scenery was just simply breath taking. Sitting in our Junk, wind in our faces enjoying the magnificent views, not many things in the world can be said to be so serene.
We were sad when the tour came to an end. We could have stayed for a lot longer. Can I chose between Halong Bay, Guilin and Krabi? Hmmmm…. I think I would rather not chose but be thankful that I have had the privilege to visit them all. Do not hesitate to go to any, they are all simply breath taking.
Some other more interesting things we saw and did in Hanoi include handicraft work, motorbikes that can give any truck the run for their money and eating at very low tables and stools (you really need to have good knees for eating in Vietnam).