Ladies Market bargain backpack crammed full of kit, one last trip to the post office to post my sixth and final parcel home and I was finally mentally and physically prepared for vacationing in Vietnam!
I arrived a little before 4pm at Hanoi Airport and boy, the contrast between Hong Kong and Hanoi was evident from touch down, but the third world vibe always gets me a little excited cause it oozes a sense of adventure and challenge which is just up my street! What was also heightening my excitement was meeting up with Kenny, it’s always nice to see a familiar face after a year!
We’d organised an airport transfer from the airport to the backpackers to avoid being scammed by the myriad of con artist taxi drivers, that they warn you about. While waiting for our transfer we got down to some much needed banta from the year apart and before we knew it we were in a car headed through Hanoi city towards the Drift Backpackers.
Hanoi is a hustle and bustle of bikes and people where French colonialism collides with third world reality and it makes for a wonderful visual and ambient fusion. After unloading
our bags in the very fancy backpackers we picked up a map and headed out in pursuit of some food and to get our first glance of the place they call Hanoi city. Our first taste of Hanoi was Hoan Kiem Lake which was teaming with people all taking in the warm Friday evening weather and beautifully illuminated Tortoise Tower, also known as Thap Rua, that marks the Lake. A short walk along the banks of the lake and you encounter the unmistakable craziness of the Nha Tho area with a mad roundabout that is just a whirlpool of bikes, pedestrians and vendors. Once we had managed to maneuver ourselves through the chaotic intersection we slowly drifted around the Hang Da market and then went in pursuit of some traditional street food to fill our ravenous stomachs. It took us some wondering around before we found a spot that we deemed suitable for some chow. Now I am pretty hardy when it comes to food and it takes a lot to put me off so having a whole boiled chicken, head and all, watch over us as we consumed some scrumptious chicken noodle soup on a plastic chair among the
locals on the side of the road didn’t really bother me and in fact Kenny fared pretty well, seeming equally unperturbed by our previously feathered onlooker!
The following day was set aside for wondering the Old Quarter. There are so many quaint streets and stalls that comprise the Old Quarter maze, so it took us the better part of an entire day to take in St Joseph’s Cathedral tucked amongst the amazing French Colonial building facades, to slip into a random temple here and there (where yet again the whole boiled chicken reared its head, this time on a temple altar alongside a Smirnoff Spin....go figure) and to just mingle among the day to day goings on of the Hanoi hustle and bustle. We managed to escape lightly after being accosted by some fruit vendor ladies who quite literally grabbed Kenny and I, plonked two gang hang rong (or carry baskets) on either of our shoulders and proceeded to take a photo, lump us with bags of bananas and pineapples and then demand a fairly hefty sum of money for their ‘services’. Thankfully I’m all too accustomed to bargaining and getting conned so we managed to part without any
claw marks and just fewer than two dollars.
After a wonderful afternoon of checking out the sights, sipping coconut milk and stopping for coffee to watch the frantic intersection at Nha Tho from above, at Highlands coffee shop, we headed back to our base to freshen up before a night of yummy Vietnamese dinner followed by a little cultural affair at the water puppet show!
While getting ready we were chatting to one of the girls in our dorm and we mentioned that we were headed to the water puppet show and she, while trying to be diplomatic, intimated that the show was overrated so admittedly Kenny and I arrived at the doors of the theater with rather low expectations and boy were we in for a pleasant surprise! The puppets were absolutely wonderful, the traditional music set the tone for a really memorable hour and I would truly recommend a visit if you are in the area. The puppets are beautiful and they are maneuvered through the water in an amazing synchronicity by eight highly skilled puppet masters, it really really was a lovely experience and I’m sorry that the British girl didn’t come away with the
same level of enjoyment!
After the show Kenny and I headed out to check out the Hanoi night life but after exceeding the average age of the occupants at the Hair of the Dog by at least 10 years and deciding that the scummy street side bars were also not looking particularity appealing we headed back to the 8th floor of The Drift to indulged in a cocktail and befriend a group of Brits that were due to join us on our Halong Bay adventure that was kicking off at 8am the next morning!
Hanoi is a fun hustle and bustle city, a great introduction to Vietnam and a super base for overnight or two three day trips.
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