After the first evening in Hanoi we were able to start exploring the area. We were staying in the Old Quarter which was a labyrinth of lanes with all types of vehicles using them from coaches to cyclos to pushbikes. The people seemed to have a system based on anarchy when they were driving but there would have to be some level of respect between the drivers. Although traffic was frenetic we only saw 3 minor accidents in the 2 days there so far.
We stayed in a hotel in the Old Quarter called the Hanoi Diamond Holiday Hotel on Nguyen Sieu Street. Although our booking was wrong for the first night the hotel staff were sincerely apologetic and couldn’t help us enough to make our stay comfortable. The hotel is 2 star but have PC’s in the rooms which is a nice addition.
One thing I would also recommend is to take a Green Tourism electric car around the Old Quarter when you first arrive. This will help you get your bearings and will give you a nice preview into the street life and street food in the area. The cost was 250,000 dong per hour or 150,000 for half an hour. The bus could hold 8 or 9 people for that price.
There is great street food around where we were staying. Pho is eaten mainly as a breakfast dish so you may not be able to get it everywhere in the day. Walking on the streets one dish to look for is Bun Cha Mun which is Vermicelli noodles, lettuce, mint, basil that is dipped in a sauce/soup that comes with Spring rolls.
Another pleasurable way to spend the day is relaxing in the local cafe’s on the side of the street drinking cafe sua da.(Ice coffee with carnation milk). They usually make it with a mocha coffee so it is strong and very sweet.
After a couple days in Hanoi we travelled to Sapa and visited the hill tribe people, the Black Hmong and the Red Zhou but that will be covered in the next article.
After returning to Hanoi I found I was enjoying the city more and more you can spend the day drinking coffee at the roadside shops or as we did one afternoon, join in the drinking on the corner at the Beer Hoi bars with all the Vietnamese workers. The beer is 1 day old and is quite light to drink. The beer came with some beer snacks, peanuts and what we came to find out was shredded frog with a leaf as a wrap and chilli sauce.
The architecture of the city is interesting, in the last 20 years there has been a lot of building in the Old Quarter and a lot of the old facades of the historical buildings have been covered by new building. I think there maybe a chance the Vietnamese government can repair some of the damage that has been done to the historic fabric of the area and return some of the history to the district.
I came across 2 scams to watch out for, the first one the lady who was selling fruit asks me to hold her bamboo pole for carrying the fruit. Then she wants to take a photo of you on her mobile. Next she starts putting fruit in a plastic bag. Here’s the punchline 250,000 dong or about $12 for a small bag of fruit.
The next one is you get approached by a young Vietnamese woman who says “I am a student and I am raising money for Vietnamese Red Cross then she gives you a piece of paper printed in English, no letterhead, no identification and asks for cash.. Scam!
I have to make a special mention to the hotel that we stayed at the Hanoi Diamond Holiday Hotel. Our stay at the hotel was made fantastic by the great front of house staff Cherry, Hung, Jenny and Tracey. It was great to meet you and you made our stay an excellent experience.
Anyone looking for a hotel in Hanoi I would thoroughly recommend staying there.