Rest days in Hanoi

Days 159 -162 (!): 4  greedy rest days in vibrant Hanoi

14 – 17 Feb 2019

Where to start?! Hanoi stole our hearts (and our stomachs!) so we decided to take 4 whole juicy days off in this amazing city. We rarely take that many days off in a row but thought that this place justifiably deserved it. As our hotel was situated in the Old Quarter, we were positioned perfectly to soak up the dynamic atmosphere. 

The streets.

Centuries-old architecture, overwhelmingly French colonial buildings crammed together down narrow, busy streets, roughly organised by trade: This is the street that sells thread and sewing things; this is the street that sells flowers and fruit and vegetables; this street has mostly gold shops; this street sells stainless steel kitchen items… etc. We spent many hours wandering down the slender streets, dodging scooters, eyeing up the colourful souvenirs and gazing at the beautiful buildings, often draped with hanging plants from upper balconies. 

The food.

We were in heaven! Hanoi offered such a range of amazingly tasty Vietnamese food. I would go as far as saying Vietnamese food is now my favourite. Pho, bún chả, bánh mì and deliciously fresh spring rolls were just some of the exquisite foods we enjoyed. Mostly, we ate at the street stalls in the Old Quarter, our knees protesting from the teeny tiny plastic stools. Once, we treat ourselves to a meal in a popular restaurant which was more expensive than normal, but we found ourselves actually preferring the cheaper meals we had from the run-down cafes lining the pavements. 

Many local women sold fresh fruit from their bicycles.

The people.

A Vietnamese student called Hai got in touch with us via Instagram after seeing from our ‘Stories’ that we had just arrived into Hanoi. He asked if he could meet us and offered to show us around the city. We jumped at the invitation and sincerely enjoyed an evening with him. Hai took us to different eateries where he ordered us some new, heavenly Vietnamese foods to try; he directed us to the Hanoi Opera House, where we sat and watched the world go by whilst discussing Vietnam and its cultures; he took us to the best place to try the exquisite Vietnamese egg coffee; and we enjoyed one too many beers down the popular and crazy-busy ‘bar street’. 

A park area near the opera house and the ‘French Quarter’.

Hanoi Opera House

The view from where we sat outside the Opera House as the sun set.

The popular bar street, crammed with tourists and locals alike.

We also really enjoyed randomly meeting other tourists who we sat next to in cafes or bars. It made a refreshing change to talk in fluent English to other people besides each other, hearing other people’s inspiring stories and sharing our own tales of our adventure. Meeting people is one of the things we love most about travel, and we were lucky enough to meet some absolutely awesome people who we hope to see in the future when we travel through their home countries. 

These guys were about to begin a motorbike route through areas of Northern Vietnam. We really enjoyed a few hours chatting with them.

A rather tipsy Lucia here! The guy on the right had recently had a nasty motorbike accident.

The ‘tourist attractions.’

We spent many hours walking many kilometres around Hanoi, venturing outside of the Old Quarter to other areas of the capital, to experience the multitude of attractions on offer. The Vietnamese Women’s Museum was a real highlight where we learned more about the role of women in this country. We also visited Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and Ba Dinh Square, the Presidential Palace, North Gate, West Lake, Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hanoi Opera House, the stylish French Quarter, St Joseph’s Cathedral and the bustling night market. Our favourite place was the Old Quarter, however, where I spent many hours sitting enjoying a delicious coffee, watching the world go by. On our final day in Hanoi, we visited the popular train street, and it was clear to see why it is so popular. The train street is located between Le Duan and Kham Tien street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, which was conveniently only a few minutes walk from our hotel. The narrow lane the train travels down, Ngo 224 Le Duan, is a ‘normal’, residential street occupied by locals and small cafes catering to the twice-daily influx of tourists arriving to watch the train pass along the tight street. Said tourists are ushered to the side, backs pressed against a wall as the wider than expected train travels faster than anticipated! It was a surprisinly thrilling experience, one which we are very glad we made the effort to see. 

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The Presidential Palace

West Lake

Vibrant and busy train street.

Locals moving well out of the way whilst tourists eagerly await the arrival of the train.

Time for admin.

As always, we took the opportunity for some much-needed admin. Between us, we washed 5kg of clothes (!) and spent some time going through our kit, deciding whether there was anything we could live without to make our load lighter. One of the reasons we haven’t published a kit list is because we constantly alter what we carry; Adam is particularly ruthless at times, gifting items to hotels or hostels in an effort to streamline what he has. As to be expected, we also caught up with video editing (Adam) and my journals. 

The cafe culture.

There are possibly hundreds of coffee shops in Hanoi, the vast majority of them positioned in the lively Old Quarter. Tourists and locals alike, particularly young adults, sit for hours, nattering, people watching, drinking the delicious coffee and eating sunflower seeds, the shells scattering across the grimy floor. I enjoyed giving Adam some space to video edit in peace, whilst I took my laptop, book or recently purchased wool and a crochet hook and sat in a cafe overlooking the city streets.

Relaxing and watching the bustling city go by.

Celebrations.

Two out of the five nights we stayed in Hanoi we allowed ourselves to let our hair down, enjoying the 16p beers and having a good old time with random people we had met that evening. Luckily, our heads were not too sore the days after, but let’s just say it’s a good idea we didn’t cycle on those days.

Adam’s not too happy with us finding his ‘look-alike!’

So after four awesome days in the capital, it is time to get back on the bikes. We have around 400km to cycle to get to the Vietnam-Laos border. In 7 days, that’s an average of 57km per day we need to cycle, which is a comfortable average. 

Farewell Hanoi! It’s been an absolute blast – but it’s time to explore some more of Northern Vietnam, the beautiful country she is. 

 

Filming Gear for a Bike Tour - 2019
Leaving Hanoi by bicycle

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