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Published: November 26th 2018
back to the same hotel, Holiday Diamond, slap bang in the middle of the old quarter - brilliant location and the hotel was clean, staff friendly and rooms pretty good.
We got in about 5.00pm, a quick change and out to meet the Danny, the son of friends in Guildford and his girlfriend Tiff. We met in Cafe Nola a bohemian cafe tucked away through an alleyway and above a shop.
Using google maps we found our way to where it was supposed to be but couldn’t find the door. Looking bemused a kindly rickshaw driver offered to take us there. However we declined and asked someone else who pointed to the door behind us! Who knows where we would have ended up if we had got into that rickshaw!
A couple beers later with Danny and Tiff and they shot off to a better offer and we headed across to ‘New Day’ which they advised was one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Hanoi - pretty damn good it was too.
Heading back to the hotel later via a bar we came across a couple of bands taking turns to play in the middle
of a crossroads, apparently the streets are closed to traffic mid evening which is great for wandering about.
Second day in Hanoi saw us checking out various sights and almost getting run down by a train.
For a change we checked out ‘atlas obscura’ a great website for finding slightly different places to see on top of the usual tourist things you have to do.
This took us to see a series of ‘trompe l’oil’ paintings on the side of a railway arches which had all and sundry trying to take pictures, putting themselves into the frame. All a little difficult as the pavement was being taken up by an increasing number of motorbikes being parked just in front of the paintings.
We then wandered the town through various markets and past barbers located on the streets with a chair and mirror stuck on a wall - good job I didn’t quite need a haircut!
Afterwards we found our way to Railway Street where a couple of times a day, a train hurtles through a series of narrow streets in the bustling, maze-like Old Quarter. We took up our position and got the ideal spot
until we heard the train coming from the other direction - oops.
As the train arrives the local bar staff gather up their stool and tell us all to stand back against the wall before the train shoots by about 6 inches from your nose. An interesting experience!
Later that evening we wandered to the lake and the more modern shopping district. Again the roads were closed and kids were driving toy cars all over the place - really good idea.
The following day saw us visiting the women’s museum, a fascinating perspective on the role women have played in Vietnamese life as well as during the wars- well worth a visit.
We then said goodbye to Hanoi for the last time before flying off to Hue.
Once there we got out to grab a bite to elect and found Hahn, a busy restaurant No1 in the lonely planet guide and fortunately only 1 minute away from where we were staying - great food and cheap beer a good combination and worth a visit.
Initial impression is that other than traffic on the main roads Hue certainly not as busy as Hanoi and a
less vibrant nightlife.
Next day we hired a dragon boat for just the 2 of us to take us on a half day tour along the river to visit the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady and the tomb of Tu Duc, the latter being particularly interesting, before dropping us at the citadel.
A great way to see the sights and because we had the boat to ourselves (well other than the boatman and his family) we could go at our own pace. Having said that we were a tad surprised when we stopped at the tomb and were told we ‘could’ walk but we were better off getting on the back of a couple of bikes and paying them an extra 100 dong each for the ride there and back.
However to say that we were taking our lives into our own hands would be an understatement. Younger bikers who were overtaking lorries with a ditch about 6’’ away on dusty and uneven roads. Sue had done a lot of research about who was driving the motorbikes that we were on the back of in Sapa, reviews, insurance etc & now here we were! They did manage
to get us there & back. Not to be repeated. Sue said that she had never had a panic attack but felt that this could have been the first!
Dropped off at the Citadel as we returned but as he clearly didn’t want to pay any mooring charges we had to jump off onto riverbank at the nearest point like refugees.
A slow trip via a rickshaw often going the wrong way against the traffic trying to find cashpoints that would take the card then ensued . And 30 minutes later we were back at the front gate entering this once magnificent and still well preserved walled City.
The Citadel on the side of the Perfume river also houses the imperial citadel and the purple forbidden city.
As we walked back to the hotel we spotted a new walkway over the water and thought that it would be nice to do. Looking for a way in we saw a sheet of metal about to be re padlocked and we managed to get through onto the walkway. It was only after walking along for 10 minutes that we realised that there was no official way out and
eventually we had to climb over a wall to get back onto the road. It was clearly not yet finished and it now made sense why there were only young people on it except of course for us.
We had earlier spotted a nice restaurant near the Citadel and that evening went back to it - Dinner at a great french restaurant Les Jardins de la Carambole.
Interring side note re eating. We have found the best food in either the more expensive restaurants or the really cheap ones - the ones in between somehow generally manage to deliver fairly bland food.
And then tomorrow we are off to our final destination in Vietnam, Hoi An. We have heard good thing so looking forward to it.
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