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Hanoi Travel Blog

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In front of my hotel (it was over 90 degrees at 8 in the morning)

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.

Fountain roundabout (Hoan Kiem lake in the background)
Despite this, we were both excited to head out and explore a bit of the neighborhood. 

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.

Bia Ha Noi! Very refreshing
Countless others sat on benches and enjoyed fresh fruit or cold drinks. By now the temperature had reached 100 degrees and we decided it was time for us to get some refreshments too. 

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).

The water was so green I couldn't see anything below the surface
Despite the attention, we were able to enjoy our time and admire the views. As with most of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem was heavily polluted. The sidewalks and buildings were quite dirty and the water had so much pollution that you couldn't see below the surface. The water had turned a sickly green. It was unfortunate to see such a beautiful place in such a state.

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.

Disney in Hanoi
Vietnamese food in the US is quite spicy, but the food in Hanoi was on the blander side. I was constantly asking for chili and/or some sort of spicy sauce. After lunch we decided to wait until the evening before we went back outside. The heat was unbearable during the middle of the day, so I passed the time by taking a nap. 

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.

Sunset over Hoàn Kiếm lake
I had never seen that many foreigners in Korea, so it was a bit of a shock. Even more surprising was that many foreigners were accompanied by their families. With all the motorbikes, pollution and otherwise unmentioned dangers, I couldn't imagine bringing my family to Hanoi for a vacation.

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.

Delicious dinner
There are no vantage points and streets are poorly lit, so it is very easy to get lost (and get lost we did). We spent nearly two hours wandering around before we reached our destination. We arrived soaked with sweat, exhausted and famished. I approached the Maître d' and asked for a table for two. This was a classy restaurant by Vietnamese standards, and most of the staff spoke a little English. He asked if we had a reservation, which we did not. He glanced at me and said, "sorry we are full". Michelle and I looked at each other with disbelief. We had come all this way there is no way they could be full on a random weekday. Sensing our shock, he looked at us and laughed, "Just Kidding!" he said. We let out a great sigh of relief as we were led to our table.
Crazy street scene. I really can't get over how many motorbikes there were

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. 

kkrater says:
Vietnamese beer is very refreshing! I'm not sure what my favorite is. maybe 333.
Posted on: Jun 02, 2011
ngan says:
I like Hanoi but I like Sài Gòn beer more. lol
Posted on: Jun 02, 2011
Hadi25 says:
Love Ur Pixx And Details ...
Gd Job Buddy ...
Posted on: Jul 11, 2010
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In front of my hotel (it was over …
In front of my hotel (it was over…
Fountain roundabout (Hoan Kiem lak…
Fountain roundabout (Hoan Kiem la…
Bia Ha Noi! Very refreshing
Bia Ha Noi! Very refreshing
The water was so green I couldnt …
The water was so green I couldn't…
Disney in Hanoi
Disney in Hanoi
Sunset over Hoàn Kiếm lake
Sunset over Hoàn Kiếm lake
Delicious dinner
Delicious dinner
Crazy street scene. I really cant…
Crazy street scene. I really can'…
Middle of Hoàn Kiếm lake
Middle of Hoàn Kiếm lake
Another angle
Another angle
Look at all the motorbikes!
Look at all the motorbikes!
Building near Hoàn Kiếm Lake
Building near Hoàn Kiếm Lake
Modern buildings in the distance
Modern buildings in the distance
Michelle blazing trail
Michelle blazing trail
Watch out for the motor bikes
Watch out for the motor bikes
Ga Ran Kentucky :)
Ga Ran Kentucky :)
Hoàn Kiếm Lake
Hoàn Kiếm Lake
Another angle
Another angle
Michelle taking pictures (looking …
Michelle taking pictures (looking…
Chao :) ie Hello
Chao :) ie Hello
Old colonial architecture
Old colonial architecture
Modern shops in colonial buildings
Modern shops in colonial buildings
Cafe by the lake, gorgeous
Cafe by the lake, gorgeous
Trying to point at the pagoda, but…
Trying to point at the pagoda, bu…
Near the lake
Near the lake
Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh
Confucian scholar?
Confucian scholar?
Bridge gateway
Bridge gateway
Michelle on the bridge
Michelle on the bridge
Cool building near Hoàn Kiếm La…
Cool building near Hoàn Kiếm L…
Streets in the old quarter
Streets in the old quarter
Another angle
Another angle
Im feeling tea
I'm feeling tea
Wet market
Wet market
Sinh Cafe was a successful tour ag…
Sinh Cafe was a successful tour a…
Super market in Hanoi
Super market in Hanoi
Scary amusement park ride
Scary amusement park ride
More scary amusement park action
More scary amusement park action
Entrance to the amusement park
Entrance to the amusement park
Not sure what Im doing, or whats …
Not sure what I'm doing, or whats…
Cathedral in Hanoi
Cathedral in Hanoi
Notre Dame of Hanoi?
Notre Dame of Hanoi?
333 Beer
333 Beer
Delicious snail spring rolls
Delicious snail spring rolls
My photography skills on display...
My photography skills on display...
Chili pepper and MIchelle
Chili pepper and MIchelle
Enjoying more Bia Hanoi
Enjoying more Bia Hanoi
Jam! I cant believe its the same…
Jam! I can't believe it's the sam…
Lizard in our hotel. So cute
Lizard in our hotel. So cute
Wet Market in Hanoi
Wet Market in Hanoi
Hanoi
photo by: mario26