Bia Hà Nội
Hanoi Travel Blog› entry 9 of 25 › view all entries
People who made my travels more enjoyable: Michelle (USA)
I didn't sleep well the night before, I think the shock of arriving in such a foreign place had my mind racing. I was wide awake by 6am and I began harassing Michelle. My argument for her to get up was, if we left now we could escape some of the heat. Oh how I was wrong! Since we were in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, the obvious first destination was Hoan Kiem Lake.
As soon as I stepped outside our room, I was hit with a wave of heat and humidity. Yes it was early in the morning, but it made no difference. The sun was beating down, motorbikes were zooming by and a cloud of dust and pollution filled the air.
Our first destination was Hoan Kiem lake. We pulled out our map and started to make our way toward this famous landmark. Hanoi has plenty of road signs (and the Vietnamese language uses Latin letters). Unfortunately, the city is not laid out in a grid and the streets run at odd angles. It is very easy to get lost, even if you have a map handy. We had a general idea of where the lake was located, so after about 15 minutes of walking we arrived at the shores of Hoan Kiem.
The lake was a quite beautiful and located at the heart of the old quarter. Motorbikes and cars sped around the perimeter, and hundreds of people walked around the lake enjoying its natural beauty.
We stopped at a little cafe that was located on the South-West corner of the lake. Michelle had some ice cream and I ordered an ice cold Bia Ha Noi. Since my trip began I had been sampling beers from all over Asia. I had tried a number of Vietnamese beers back in the States, but I hadn't had an opportunity to enjoy Bia Hanoi yet. It hit the spot! Not a ton of flavor, but very refreshing (perfect for 100 degree weather).
After we finished eating and drinking, we took a walk around the lake. Michelle and I drew a lot of stares (I think most people were surprised to see an Asian girl walking with a White guy).
After our tour of Hoan Kiem we made our way back to the hotel. It was approaching lunch time and we decided to try Bun Bo (noodles topped with beef and veggies). There was a "famous" Bun Bo restaurant located next to our hotel, which was quite convenient. I was a little concerned because the beef used in the Bun Bo had been sitting out in the sun for hours. Despite the poor hygiene neither of us got food poisoning, thank God! Another thing that surprised me about food in Hanoi, was the lack of spice.
After my nap I woke up and got ready for the evening. Michelle and I planned to walk around the Old Quarter and then eat dinner at a place called, "Old Quarter" (original I know). We left our hotel and walked back toward the lake. We wanted to explore the North-East area of the Old Quarter; we hadn't been there yet. On the way we admired all the souvenir shops and knick-knacks that were for sale. While walking we also saw a number of foreigners on the street.
During our walk we saw a wet market, a sketchy vietnamese amusement park and a Vietnamese super market (where we spent some time taking advantage of the plentiful A/C). After we cooled down, we started making our way toward the Old Quarter restaurant. It was a bit of a walk and we studied our map as carefully as possible so that we might take the best route. On the way we admired the sunset over Hoan Kiem Lake. It was really breathtaking!
As I mentioned earlier, the streets in the Old Quarter are not laid out on a grid.
Our meal was delicious. We tried several different kinds of spring rolls, noodles and other dishes. My favorite were the snail spring rolls! After our meal we walked home. Luckily, we did not get lost and were home in nearly 30 minutes. The streets were littered with motorbikes. Many people sat outside and enjoyed food and drinks. Considering how hot it was during the day, I wasn't surprised to see everyone out at night. I spent the rest of the evening waiting for the Germany-Spain game. Unfortunately, by the time the game started I was too exhausted to really enjoy it. I lasted about 30 minutes before I fell to sleep. Our first day in Hanoi had been very eventful. Tomorrow we planned to visit Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum.