As previously mentioned in my Ho Chi Minh post, I have made the most of my stop overs in Vietnam. My second long stop over was in Hanoi, I visited here before heading to Laos and Myanmar in my 2017 winter vacation. I’ve heard great things about Vietnam as a whole, in particular central Vietnam and the southern coast, but not so much Hanoi. “It’s too busy”, they said, “There’s not much about it”, I heard. But I’m always up for visiting somewhere new, and flying with Vietjet to Hanoi was a lot cheaper than flying to Laos or Myanmar from Busan. I had just under 24 hours there, so only managed to get a little taste of the city.
I landed in Hanoi airport after an okay flight with Vietjet, they weren’t going to win any awards for comfort or service, but for the price I really couldn’t complain. One thing I like about Vietnam is the public transport from the airports. I again got a shuttle bus (No.86 from outside arrivals) and soon arrived at my hostel. I stayed at Luxury Backpackers hostel which was close to the cathedral and Hoan Kiem Lake, and only a short walk from the Old Quarter. The hostel was great, the dorms had capsule style beds, with curtains for privacy, and had a nice chilled out, yet social feel. It was very modern and clean, and a great price. From here I freshened up and went in search of some of Vietnam’s famous coffee. I had read about Hanoi’s egg coffee online, and was dying to try it! One place kept on popping up when researching the best place to try this, and it was Giang Cafe, located near to the Old Quarter. It was a little hidden, having to venture down an alleyway to find, but once you were there it was full of little stools filled with locals, always a good sign. I tried the egg coffee hot (as recommended by the waiter) and was not disappointed. It was a strong coffee, topped with a custard-like dreamy froth. I guzzled it down so quickly, and wish I had drank more whilst I was there. A quick stop at Quan An Ngon for a banh xeo, and to the lake I headed.
Hoan Kiem Lake is a huge lake close to the Old Quarter where you can spend an hour or so walking around and people watching. There is also a temple there (across the red bridge) that you can pay to look around. It was nothing special, but nice enough. Walking around the lake you had plenty of students approaching you, wanting to interview you to practice their English. I’d heard about the water puppet show, which was located near the lake, but decided against it, as I’m not really a puppet show kinda gal. I went back to the hostel where I chatted with my dorm mates, but after they chose Burger King as their dining option, I decided to go it alone, and head back out discover what dishes Hanoi had to offer for dinner. I could not decide between banh cuon (steamed pork wraps) or xoi xeo (sticky rice), liking the sound of both from my research. I walked around hoping I’d decide when I got to a restaurant, and somehow ended up passing on both options, instead trying a banana flower salad. This was slightly similar to Thailand’s papaya salad, which is what attracted me to it. I enjoyed this at Bon Hue, a place near to my hostel which had a huge menu.
I had passed the cathedral in the day, but decided to go and have a further look now that it was darker. Despite it being well into a week of January, it was still apparently Christmas in Hanoi. There was even a carol service going on. I thought it was just Korea that seemed to keep on the Christmas celebration way past our English superstitious deadline, but it seems like a lot of Asia do the same also.
I got a nice, early sleep at my hostel and got the bus back ready to head to Laos. I was relaxed about my 24 hours in Hanoi, and could have done plenty more, but knew that the next few weeks were going to be hectic, so I’m glad that I reserved my energy for my main travel adventures.