17.05.2016 - 19.05.2016
We arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam, on a delayed flight and got a tiny uber (taxi) to the hotel that we had to squeeze everything in to. It felt like the wheels were coming off; we were crawling along and watching people still active (seemingly buying and selling at markets) at around 2am. It definitely felt like we were in another country; the houses were narrow and tall even when they were surrounded by fields. We got to the hotel and went straight to bed.
We had a couple of days in Hanoi to ourselves before we were due to join a group tour. Hanoi felt very busy and chaotic, and it was really difficult trying to cross the road! There appeared to be very few rules regarding traffic. Pavements, it seemed, were designed for motorbike parking, thus you had to walk in the road almost everywhere. Everything felt very crammed in and living conditions seemed cramped. Lots of people sat on tiny low plastic chairs on any spare piece of pavement or road, where there would be someone serving some kind of Vietnamese cooked meal (often just sat on the side of the street with a big steel cooking pot and a ladle). The streets were always busy with thousands of mopeds, no matter what time of day or night.
One of the central areas of Hanoi is the large lake (Hồ Hoàn Kiếm) which is a popular spot at night, especially for couples. We visited a couple of times, and we tried to see as much of the city as we could in the limited time we had there. We visited a few temples, Ba Đình Square (where Vietnam's independence was announced in 1945), and the citadel, amongst other things. Here are a few snaps from our wanderings:
^Hồ Hoàn Kiếm: lake of the returned sword
^Inside a temple
^Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the former leader's body is kept
^By the lake at night
^Citadel, parts dating from the Ly Dynasty in 1010
^St Joseph's Cathedral: the oldest church in Hanoi, completed in 1886 and sits in the middle of the bustling city
^Trấn Quốc Pagoda: the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi, from the sixth century sits on West Lake
It seemed to be a lot more overcast in Vietnam (eventually also for the rest of our time there) and slightly hazy, but it was still humid and we got really hot and tired walking round the citadel which was huge! I found Hanoi to be far too busy for my liking, but Tim quite liked it.
We checked out of our hotel as we had to move down the road to another hotel where the tour started and included one night's accommodation (we would have stayed in the same hotel beforehand but it was cheaper to stay just down the road - the hotel was the same standard so we're not sure why). On our last night in Hanoi we met up for the first time with our tour group. We were a group of ten in total, plus a Vietnamese tour guide. We were all English-speakers from different parts of the world which was funny - we had expected more non-British Europeans. People's backgrounds were quite interesting too...
One Australian policeman
One New Zealander living in Sydney, Australia
One South African hoping to move to the UK
One American originally from Tobago but now living in New York
One Canadian doctor living in Australia
Two English girls travelling together
One English girl travelling alone who worked for a travel agent and got lots of discounted trips!
We would spend the next 10 days with them travelling through Vietnam. We went out with a couple of other members of the group for a meal, but most people were jetlagged having just arrived in Vietnam that day. It wasn't a late night as we had an early start the next day to begin our first real day of the tour...