Published: January 3rd 2011December 29th 2010
I've been writing my blog for two months now, through great walls to fallen armies. I've seen sights the eye cannot recall and experienced times which I still can't quite comprehend. This last week proved to be the start of a new chapter and I'm struggling to put it into words...
So you remember Melissa, the girl I met in Chiang Mai, well on the 27th Dec she flew into Hanoi to spend a week with me travelling Vietnam. I'd met her a few days before following a chance meeting at a Thai BBQ. Sometimes luck smiles on you.
We spent two days in Hanoi and we couldn't have picked a more magical place to start our journey. Its difficult to describe its charm or relay its energy. Motorbikes weave and buzz around you, streets become impromptu restaurants and boutique shops flatter you with their wares. Hanoi has so much to offer, so where better to start than with a visit to the water puppet theatre and a bite to eat at Highway 4. I'm not sure what we expected to see at the show. I'd read so much about it in the guide books, but I don't think
either of us were that impressed. Still we did laugh at some of the acts, perhaps because its easy to make your own story when there are no words.
If the water puppets were a dragon fruit, all colour and no fun, then Highway 4 was raspberries with cream! A multi-storey culinary maze which offers great tapas and rice wine by the bottle. The food was gorgeous and the portions ridiculous. We had five portions of tapas, but the plates resembled those served at a main meal and the rice wine was the perfect foil for the cocktails we had at the dragonfly bar afterwards.
Both of us had spent the past month working hard, so some chill time was the next days priority. We headed out for a wander and chowed down on some delicious pho at one of the many street food joints. Luckily we didn't get any of the cow balls piled up in the counter! En-route to our hotel we came across a little coffee shop selling Vietnamese coffee. We asked if we could sample a cup, so in the middle of the shop they made us a table and served us some delicious
Weasel No.1 Like Kopi Luwak the weasels digest the beans before *ahem* depositing them. The coffee tastes amazing! Whoever worked that one out needs a medal... or a psychiatrist!! The central lake provides a gorgeous backdrop to the city, so much so that there is a constant procession of wedding couples having their photo taken there. We spent the evening sitting there finishing off the rice wine we'd brought the previous day and putting the world to rights.
We'd booked flights for the next day to Saigon, so got up early for breakfast and some last minute shopping. Somehow we both lost track of time and realised we had to be at the airport in 30mins with an hours journey to get there! Whoops! Luckily we'd got flexi tickets and were booked onto the next flight. Phew! We got into Saigon that evening and checked into our hotel for the night.
In the morning we walked around the city. Saigon (Officially Ho Chi Minh) is a vast contrast to Hanoi. Bigger and brasher than its cousin in the North, it feels more New York than Paris. We grabbed some breakfast at the Ben Thanh Market, rice, omelette and
pickled cabbage before continuing to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the war remanents museum. None of them seemed open, so we went back to the hotel to freshen up before heading out to the Sheraton hotel. The views here are amazing, well they would be if you could actually get to level 23. The top floors are restricted! Undeterred we took the lift to the 21st floor and then walked up the service stairs and sneaked out into the bar. The views of Saigon were amazing as were the drinks. From one extreme to another we headed back to the hotel, only to stop at a local street bar and enjoyed some tiger beer. We sat on kindergarten stools on a street corner having just come from Saigon's most exclusive hotel and laughed at the contrast!
The next day we had cocktails and ice cream at the X-Cafe before heading to Mui Ne for the start of our New Years Eve celebrations...
There are more photos below