I have always wanted to visit Vietnam but have always been too lazy to get myself a visa. So this year in March I finally decided that it was time to stop being lazy and whilst I was in Bangkok I filled out the forms and got one, don’t know why it took me so long to do it was really easy and I had it in 2 days.
I arrived in Hanoi, the capital and was met with total chaos on the streets, of the Old Quarter which surprised me, even though I have been to Bangkok several times, Hanoi is so much busier, motorbikes everywhere and the famous cyclo bikes.
Also in contrast to Bangkok the buildings are all much smaller and almost European in size and style, which is probably from the time that the French were there, although it is very much Asian as well, a very interesting mixture that I liked a lot, a refreshing change from modern sky scrapers.
I visited the Temple of Literature, which is a little different from the usual temples you see in Asia, lots of open spaces and very peaceful, even though it seemed that half of Vietnam was there with me, and most of them were taking selfies.
No visit to Hanoi is complete without stopping at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where every year thousands of people pay their respects to Vietnams most famous figure of the 20th century. It is a strange place you can almost feel the Communist era in the air.
The temple Ngoc Son was next on my list, built alongside Lake Hoan Kiem and named for a Confucian Scholar. Its entrance is a huge pen shaped tower which seems to write on the sky.
As you would expect in Asia there is a wonderful street market for foods of all sizes and colours, this one is called the Dong Xuan. I love wandering around these sorts of markets, not only are they colourful, but you get a real feel for the local food and culture. I tried as many different things as I could manage, some wonderful rice crepes with a pork and mushroom filling, a BBQ soup, which is very different, BBQ meat served in a soup with rice and raw vegetables Pork Pate sandwiches (which sounds very European but is actually a local delicacy). A stew in a baguette which was an amazing experience and also traditional from the French era (the baguette is a give away of the French influence on that dish). Vietnamese food is good at home, but in Vietnam it is superb, I could eat it all day
Street eating in Hanoi is very much part of the local culture, everywhere you go there are little stools that you can sit on to eat, it is so much nicer than trying to eat standing up or walking around.
The Sofitel Legend Metropole is a truly stunning hotel, and is beautifully located right in the middle of the luxury shopping district, where you can find all your favourite brands. The shopping district is very different from the rest of Hanoi, with its beautifully repainted buildings all of which are lovely, yet in some ways lacks some of the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city.
I enjoyed my trip in Hanoi a lot and I can’t wait to go back to learn more about this city…2 days weren’t enough:)