After spending the last couple weeks in tiny towns surrounded by limestone mountains, we were happy to be back in a city. The overnight bus from Phong Nha went smoothly and while we did manage to get some sleep, it is usually a very light and restless one. It didn’t help that we arrived two hours before schedule at 5am.
Our hotel was more than happy to accommodate the early check in at no extra charge, which we readily accepted. Our accommodations were in the old quarter where it was easy to find local spots to eat and we found ourselves taking advantage of that every day. If you’re looking for a great hotel with a clean, modern and comfortable atmosphere, I highly recommend staying here.
Click this link to find out more about staying at the Eco Hotel in Hanoi http://hanoiecohotel.com
We both wake up with a big appetite and we would either go downstairs and have breakfast at the hotel or walk down the street to find delicious home made street food. One thing we really loved about Vietnam was that everywhere you go, you can find a home cooked meal and you’re guaranteed to be satisfied with anything you choose. Meat and vegetable bahn mi for lunch, dumplings and steamed bao buns for dinner with a cold beer, what could be wrong with that? We never had to look too far to find something tasty to eat, mainly because there are chairs, tables and small grills set up on every block and if you we weren’t in the mood for that, Rach always had a list of the best local spots.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and with that knowledge we knew we had lots of exploring to do. After some much needed rest at the beginning of our stay, we were ready to venture the streets with our typical curious nature. We grabbed our cameras and made our way to the famous lakes that are ringed by shops, restaurants and locals playing games. Live music was everywhere as well as cafes that served up the famous Vietnamese coffee. We were reminded of Dundas Square (a popular place in Toronto for tourists and locals alike) in that there were street performers, people selling unique delicacies, T.V. stations interviewing people and just an overall sense of community. The extraordinary amount of shops that line the streets of Hanoi can be a lot to take in at first, there seems to be no shortage of miscellaneous goods that overflow out on to the streets. There are constantly people picking things up or dropping things off, strapping goods to the back of their scooter, no matter the size or weight. Sometimes we would see several pigs that were butchered and tied to the back of a scooter on its way to a restaurant. Other times we would see massive arrangements of flowers that were being delivered by scooter, the possibilities were really endless. Walking around is almost overwhelming in that there is so much to look at, the low makeshift grills that everyone cooks on, the locksmith cutting keys on the back of his scooter and the general constant busting of the city makes for a very interesting place to be.
As we made our way to different sections we noticed that the types of markets we would see would also change, wether it was fruits and meats in one place or spare scooter parts in another, it seemed like there is a section for anything you might need.
We spent one day following the guidelines of a photo tour that took us around the city to train tracks, local markets, historical landmarks and then back to the lake. We met great people, we got lost and found things that no tour could have offered.
We encourage everyone to stray from the beaten path once in a while and see where the road takes you.