Hanoi Travel Blog› entry 10 of 12 › view all entries
We had 3 seperate stays in Hanoi (arriving from Hue, returning from Sapa and returning from Ha Long Bay) and it was a bit of a disappointing place for us. Our final hotel (the Little Hanoi Hotel) was again excellent - very clean with great room facilities and friendly staff - accomodation standards for us as "backpackers" on a world trip have been consistently excellent.
We were staying in the "Old Quarter" of Hanoi, although it didn't feel that different to the rest of the City - just more congested and compact. We had a few days wandering around, although this is easier said that done because the narrow pavements are invariably blocked by motor-scooters, so you are forced to walk in the road and hope that the traffic (which largely consists of motorscooters than cars) drives around you!
We visited the masoleum of Ho Chi Minh (which was a strange experience, you half expect him to sit-up and stretch into a yawn given that he still looks like he is only sleeping!), the Temple of Literature (which has been bastardised by the arrival of tat-hawkers and tacky souvineer shops!) and the Emerald Lake amongst less notable tourist haunts. We certainly wished that we didn't spend so much time in HAnoi (certainly we could have done with a couple of days in Mui Ne and Hoi An, or even Sapa) as despite the claim that it is a "very charming and atmospheric city", it didn't really do much for us.
Jeremy took another cookery course (at KOTO) that was excellent! We also took a recommendation from the Lonely Planet (although we wondered if we were heading to the right place as we walked-up the rickity steps!) to the Vu Du hair salon - a veritibly oasis of tranquility in the lake of bilge water that was Hanoi! No wonder it is a favorite with the ex-pats, definately highly recommended by us!!
One thing that we noticed in here was the marked difference in the people compared to the rest of Vietnam. In Saigon (which nearly everyone in Saigon called "Saigon" but everyone in the north of Vietnam called it "Ho Chi Minh City"!) the people seemed more easy going and friendly, despite the fact that it is double the size of Hanoi and very much more chaoitic. A couple of guides said similar things - the people in the North (the bedrock of communist support in Vietnam, compared to the South) have a very different outlook to people in the South - "they would rather save and work studiously for the future rather than buy designer jeans and drink western alocohol". An interesting observation. We also found the food much nicer in the south in general, although we would certainly say that all the food in Vietnam that we had was very, very good.
We left Hanoi a little disappointed with our time there in some ways and sad in some ways that we were heading to our final destination of the amazing 7 months that we have had away.