Tam Biet Hanoi. You're Not On My Bucket List.

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How hot is it!

How hot is it?! It’s late October and I’ve just walked out of the air-conditioned Hanoi International airport and the heat and humidity has hit me like a ton of bricks. Instantly beads of sweat exuded across my forehead and the top of my lip. I think I want to get back on the plane – Tam Biet Hanoi.

For a brief moment… I regressed back to my first sauna experience. I’d perspired that much I swear I’d shrunken in size. But then again, maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part.

Xin Chào Hanoi
Hoan Kiem Lake bridge

Having now landed in the North of the country and based on the fact that Hanoi was closer to the North Pole, I expected a little less of both the heat and humidity but no; that wasn’t to be. Silly me.

Xin Chao Hanoi! (That was just about the limit of my Vietnamese) 😊

Organised chaos

I’d booked to stay in the Old Centre so I could explore and absorb as much of the history and culture that I could.  Talk about organised chaos!

Intersections weren’t the typical 2 crossroads like I was used to most of the time at home. Hanoi’s were of multiple roads, all meeting to create a major junction and there were ‘junctions everywhere!. It seemed that those who were the bravest kept moving to cross over first.  Cars and rickshaws and motorbikes all worked in unison and somehow, it worked! It was amazing to sit and watch.   

Organised chaos

While I’ve experienced other Vietnamese cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Nah Trang, Hanoi took me by surprise. I guess it was because with this trip, I was at ground level most of the time as opposed to viewing it from a bus which was the case on my previous trip. Then I was travelling with a dozen other Travel Consultants where it was whirlwind trip.

The population of Hanoi is approximately 7.8 million and I swear they were all in and around the Old Center! There are so many people either in a vehicle, in a rickshaw or walking: And the motorbikes!!

And while the streets have pedestrian crossings nobody seems to understand or just can’t be bothered with adhering to the meaning or purpose of a pedestrian crossing. There was only one rule! So, when you use a pedestrian crossing in Hanoi, and you will:  DO NOT STOP!!

Xin Chào Hanoi
Orderly organised chaos

Australian connection

The Hanoi Old Center Hotel was comfortable and in a great location plus it had a bonus! I was delighted in finding directly across the road The Artisan Buon Dua Le Café where it served western food as well as Vietnamese as the business had an Australian connection and influence.

Who’d of thought? A touch of home right in downtown Hanoi and that suited me just fine, especially after seeing others who’d eaten street food where the results weren’t a positive outcome. (Call me a chicken if you have to.) 😊

Hoen Kiem Lake

Rickshaw driver

The rickshaw ride around Hoan Kiem Lake was the perfect way to maneuver through the traffic mayhem without getting skittled!  My rickshaw driver is a very brave man. He’d just pull out into or across the traffic with no regard so I say ‘Kudos to him!’

I think the Rickshaws are a great way to get your bearings around the Old Center and I look at them as Hanoi’s version of the European Hop on Hop off Bus.

Xin Chào Hanoi
Turtle Tower (Tháp Rùa) in Hoan Kiem Lake

Go bush

As lovely as Hanoi is with offerings of great night markets and interesting culinary delights, (choose wisely when eating at the markets) it was not beckoning me to stay and while I may have been a little weary from travelling, my inner self was still restless.

I wanted to experience something ‘non 21st century’ and was hoping to visit an area that was truly old Vietnam or at least had more remnants of it.

It would be great to see a more relaxed community where barefoot children had no fears as they develop their entrepreneurial skills. To experience this I had to go out of town to where Vietnam offered unique countryside and where I would expect to find the more traditional culture.  I had to ‘go bush’.

Cyclist carrying wares trategically balanced

A big tick

I reached for some flyers promoting different day tour options that departed and returned to Hanoi. My day trip choice was offering scenes of monolithic mountains that abruptly rose out of the countryside and through the middle of a flat green valley a river snaked its way towards the horizon. Luckily, I could experience it in a day as this place was only an hour or so drive from Hanoi.

This trip sounded perfect as it offered history; Tick.  Another sector was a boat trip in a ‘traditional’ style sampan; tick and it’s a big tick for the cycling sector. Ever since I saw an Intrepid Travel brochure I’ve wanted to do some cycling through Asia.

There is also a hotel pickup and drop off plus lunch!

Brilliant!! I made a mental note to myself, ‘Must make sure to charge the camera’. I’d had a strong feeling that there was going to be plenty of photo opportunities.

Decorative wall

Overall

Looking at Hanoi overall, I’m glad I found somewhere to go to fill in my short period of time here. The Tuk Tuks are handy but other than using this city as a base to further explore the region, I didn’t find any exciting.

Resources

We found it easiest to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel.

Accommodation

Hanoi Old Centre Hotel. The hotel also have a tip on taxi concerns and scams on their warning page that is worth reading.

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