Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Travel: Vietnam - Hanoi

If you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen that I recently traded London's grey skies for somewhere a little very different. Vietnam was never on my travel radar before as I always assumed it was somewhere you had to "rough it" and my fear of cockroaches, hostels and er, carrying a backpack meant I never looked into it enough to dispel this. Rather than a Gap Yah-eqsue experience, I ended up seeing Vietnam on a family holiday organised by Kuoni which ended up being as far from roughing it as imaginable. I'll go into more detail on the tour, the logistics and practicalities on another post but firstly I'm planning a series of posts on the cities we visited and the highlights of what we saw - this was one of the most varied, interesting and hectic holidays I've been on. Five Vietnamese cities in nine days on a trip which saw us travel from the north to the south of the country by bus, boat, plane and pony... Of course, Vietnam has so much to offer and nine days isn't enough to see it all but as an introduction to this amazing country it was perfect and I'm now in a situation where I want to go back but not where I need to as we crammed so much in those nine days. Someone give me a beach holiday or spa break to recover now, please.
travel blogger hanoi
First up was Hanoi - the capital in the north of the country. We arrived around midday, swiftly checked into our hotel (the Movenpick - great location and reassuringly plush) and started our Vietnam experience with a cyclo tour around the old quarter. It took me a while to realise what was so bizarre about the streets - every street was dedicated to just one product. A street with every store selling mirrors was followed by the curtain rail street, the scrap metal street, the leggings street, the rug street and the plastic chair street. I guess if you live in Hanoi and need a rug, a plastic chair and a curtain rail to decorate your home then its clear where to go... Sitting comfortably in my cyclo I felt quite the "gap yah" tourist but once I'd got used to the traffic (it's hectic but not actually that fast - not usual to see girls wearing dresses and heels, touching up their already perfect make-up amidst the traffic) I settled into snapping the sights and taking selfies.

travel blogger hanoi

travel blogger hanoi

The next day we visited Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum. Not an activity I would have picked if it hadn't been for the tour - even at 10am the queues are long and people from all over Vietnam still come to pay their respects. My pale skin caught the attention of some ladies from the countryside in the queue who discovered that pale skin feels like...well, just like any other skin and then pushed right past us! Afterwards, the cheery yellow presidential palace and temple of literature were lovely even in a rather overcast Hanoi.

travel blogger hanoi

travel blogger hanoi

The afternoon was free to enjoy the city (Kuoni call this "time at leisure") - Hanoi is known for its cafe culture and (unlike parts of Asia) has amazing coffee. We sat on the balcony of La Place and admired the cathedral which didn't look dissimilar to the one I had to sit through services at during my school days but because we were abroad I duly snapped away. The best coffee in Vietnam is iced with condensed milk but there are also variants with egg yolk (I'm usually a soya cappuccino kinda girl so wasn't tempted by this). We wandered around the lake (popping over the bridge to the Ngoc Son Temple), around the silk stores and into a rather deserted designer shopping centre, taking in the old and the new to the soundtrack of a thousand motorcycles and liberally used horns. For dinner, I convinced my parents to go to Loving Hut which is a vegan restaurant and not a love hotel. They genuinely did love it - great service, amazing food and a lovely setting.

travel blogger hanoi

travel blogger hanoi

travel blogger hanoi

Have you been to Vietnam? Or is it on your to-go list?
lilylipstick
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2 comments

  1. Condensed milk yes, egg yolk nooo. Sounds gross! Looks fabulous though. Vietnam is somewhere I'd love to visit in the future. Just looks crazy different.

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  2. Although I'm writing this from a backpackers hostel in Fukuoka, I do actually much prefer a more luxurious holiday, haha! The Kuoni trip sounds like a great way to experience Vietnam if you're there for a short(ish) holiday. I haven't been to Vietnam (or in fact anywhere inSouth East Asia) but I would absolutely love to some day.

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