Published: January 3rd 2010December 19th 2009
I didn't actually eat here. I just thought the building was cool.
I arrived in Hanoi on the night of the 18th and took a taxi to the Old Quarter where I had reserved a room at Little Hanoi Hotel. I don't know if this was the real one or not, but it was a good one! There are lots of hotels with the same name in Hanoi, and tour agencies too, and they all claim to be the "real" one or the "original" one. Who knows? I think the Vietnamese may just be better than the Chinese at copying. At any rate, the Little Hanoi Hotel where I stayed is at 48 Hang Ga in the Hoan Kiem area of Hanoi, also known as the Old Quarter. It is in a great location and at 20USD a night, I thought it was a bargain. I had a clean room with TV and air con and that included either a Vietnamese or continental breakfast. It also included Kim. She runs the front desk most days and knows everything about touring in north Vietnam. She was extremely helpful, has a winning smile, and was so nice I didn't even flinch when she hugged me, and anyone who knows me knows I am not a
This was at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi
hugger, especially if I just met someone.
The next day I decided to take a walking tour of the Old Quarter and I braced myself for the onslaught of motorbikes. I was somewhat prepared after living in China, but holy cow. They were everywhere! Literally! Then I noticed something was different. Strange. Very foreign. Oh my God! They watched for pedestrians and made an effort to avoid them! I didn't have to fear for my life when I crossed the street! I'd already read in Lonely Planet HOW to cross. Slowly. Not timidly, but slowly. That way the drivers can anticipate your next step and go around you. The Chinese could really benifit, as could I, if they developed the skill of prediction. Instead, they seem to think two ojbects really can occupy the same space. But I digress.
So I had a bowl of beef noodles, slightly spicy and delicious, for breakfast at my hotel, and I started walking. I saw shop after shop after shop. I went to Vietnam with a certain amount of money in my pocket to spend and after one hour in the Old Quarter my budget was shot, even though the stuff
I bought was cheap. I spent 50USD in no time and I don't even like to shop most days. But this was gold! It was also tiring and loud and the motorbike pollution was choking me. I sat down in the Moca Cafe and had a coffee and blackpepper beef with fries. After that I just couldn't motivate myself to finish the walking tour. I'd spent enough and walked enough. I went back to my hotel via the French Quarter and visited the Temple of Literature (10,000 VND or about 50 cents). It was interesting and a bargain, but the French Quarter is nothing notable in my opinion. I read about it in a book, but it has obviously changed a lot in the last 10 years, and not for the better. Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum and palace are in the French Quarter, but I could not mentally face the motorbikes to walk there, and I could have gotten a ride on one for about a dollar, but I just didn't care about seeing it.
Unfortunately, the Old Quarter has not retained a lot of the French inspired architecture that made it great, but some is still visible above
Common sight in Hanoi
Motorbike Madam? Motorbike?
the shops which are just concrete block, or worse, corrugated metal. This kind of structure is everywhere in Vietnam. This is not a good thing. But, I liked the Old Quarter and it did have some great cafes, restaurants, and shops! Did I mention the shopping was fantastic? Oh, I just had to buy a pair of hand-made beaded sandals with recycled tires for soles on the way back to my hotel. They were 160,000 VND, which is about 9 USD! Can't beat it! And most of the gals working in the shops were so nice. Not once in the entire two weeks I was in Vietnam did someone say to me, "How many you want lady?" Not once. Obviously they knew I was not a wholesaler, unlike the gals here in China who obviously think I am...
No hotel for me tonight. I'm on the night train to Sapa, up north. A soft sleeper, four to a berth, is 25 USD one way.
There are more photos below