Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hello Hanoi! But only for 48hrs...

Trust us to pick the weekend when typhoon Nesat was slamming it's way across Asia to head to Hanoi, Vietnam. As we were bound for the airport, reports of it making it's way to North Vietnam were slightly troubling us - a slight exaggeration as I checked various facts about guidelines concerning landing in a typhoon, chances of plane flipping over etc etc.

Well we weren't going to let a thing like a typhoon stand between us and Hanoi! Just as well seeing as it didn't make it past the coast- and when we landed in Hanoi we were greeted with a downpour no worse than those in Singapore. Phew!

I'd been dying to get to Hanoi ever since I'd visited Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon. I was intrigued to see how different it would be. One thing's for sure - Hanoi is smaller, less densely populated with therefore less traffic. These things, coupled with it's scenic lakes and low-rise colonial architecture makes it a less frenetic and more picturesque city. I also wonder how the communism/capitalist differences weigh into this equation.

One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the city is to hop on a rickshaw. We thought this would be a relatively speedy way of sizing up the surroundings. Except we seemed to have picked quite possibly THE slowest rickshaw driver in the whole of Hanoi. It probably would have been faster if we had walked and this suspicion was backed up as every other rickshaw overtook us. This was just lovely as the heavens opened but the pace still did not change. Note to self: next time assess the rickshaw driver's energy levels before taking up his offer.
Though I look like I might be forcing a smile above, it is actually lovely just trundling along taking in the sights of everyday life in Hanoi's Old Quarter...



And to be fair how would I like it if I had to cycle around two lazy good for nothings on a rickshaw?

But aside from that it's a not-to-be-missed  experience of near death as you see oncoming traffic scrape past you in all directions as per this video. A great way to remind yourself that you are alive!
After all that it was time for some nosh. Seeing as we had been slacking it in the rickshaw thought it was time to put my back into it and make my own rice paper rolls at Koto (Know One Teach One), a restaurant and training school providing working opportunities for street children. As well as being a fab cause, it has a fantastic menu all of which you want to gobble up right there and then in laid back surroundings. 

Rice paper rolls before...
And after....
OK I'm not exactly a pro but it could be a lot worse! 

Just around the corner is the beautiful Temple of Literature established a very long time ago in 1076. It was Vietnam's first university serving educate Vietnam's administrative and warriors class. It's the sort of place you want to wander around, soak up the serenity and contemplate life and what a small spec in history and progress we all are. 


Time for some retail therapy. I was keen to check out what was on offer given that Ho Chi Minh ended up being a shopping bonanza. Binh Dinh market in Hanoi might be good for a mooch but it doesn't have the range or quality of it's bigger sister Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh.

Actually a lot of items can be found down the streets on the Old Quarter arranged by whatever it is you want, in shop upon shop selling the same thing. Anyone for some shoes?
If you're into a bit of retro the best bit about shopping in Hanoi I think are the old propaganda poster shops. Though there seemed to be a more commercially set up one, we found this brilliant one with an old auntie holding fort. It's a great place to spend half an hour browsing the designs and snapping up a few of your favourites...


And if a bit of fake is your thing then you need not be shy about it...
Time for some more food. There's no way you can be in Hanoi for a weekend and not lap up a bowl of ubiquitous Pho and the Blue Butterfly in the Old Quarter is one of the many places you can do just that. 
Come Sunday morning, a relaxing walk around Hoan Kiem Lake is not only a very relaxing thing to do as you take in the scenery...



But it's also a great sport because you might think it's beautiful the first time you see a couple having their wedding photography taken against the backdrop of the Lake...
but after 10 you're definitely counting. We got up to 25 just walking the length of the lake once! See how many brides you can spot buzzing around getting their photos done at this archway.

Being self confessed kids at heart we thought the perfect way to while away a Sunday afternoon would be to watch a performance at the Thang Long water puppet theatre. It's a tradition that dates back to the 11th century where the puppets dance on water not in one of the lakes as we excitedly first thought, but in a waist deep pool in the theatre accompanied by traditional background music. With the winding music and puppets, it's overall a rather surreal and mesmerising experience which you should only do if you're in the mood to totally chill and get into it and here's a little taster in this video:
As night time approaches, a great place for a sundowner is at the Intercontinental Westlake's Sunset Bar which is at....you guessed it...the West Lake. 
If you get there a little early you can sneak a peak at the locals fishing at the back of the hotel complex 
and then sup your drink as the sun sets to chilled vibes playing in the background. And so a perfect end to a whirlwind visit to Hanoi. 



3 comments:

Merlin Stone said...

Very special. Happy birthday!

passerby L said...

Your post is wonderful!! Now I feel like flying down to see it~! lovely pictures!!! And you should have given the trishaw man a redbull =p

But on the good side, you had more time to snap something you wanna snap while riding it eh?

Ms Demeanour said...

Thanks passerby L! Your comment really made me smile. I'm glad it made you feel that way. Yes you should definitely try to get there. Oooh yes redbull it will be my secret weapon next time. But to be honest as you say it was quite good that he went slow for the reasons you mentioned but also because it's much more of a funny experience having some slow mo than some whizzy chap!