Crazy crazy Hanoi, after being big kids in the airport and treating ourselves to a proper coffee from Starbucks we were buckled into our seats on board the smallest plane bound for Hanoi. When we arrived it was straight through and onto a shuttle that would take us to the middle of the old quarter where all the hostels are. Being the first ones on the shuttle we had to wait for the man to fill it before he set off, 15 mins later and watching Brazilian girls argue over one dollar we left. The same girls that argued over one dollar got dropped off at a high rise five star hotel, we physically could not believe it! Anyway as we paid fair (6 dollars for the both of us for a 50 min journey) the guy kindly dropped us further into the old quarter. This is probably my favorite part of traveling, that you don’t have a clue where you are, dropped on a busy street with nothing but our trusty Lonely Planet guide. After quickly exiting Hanoi rocks where beer pong chants greeted us- I mean don’t get me wrong were both up for a good drink but tonight a decent nights sleep was more appealing.
We found a hostel hand picked from the Lonely Planet guide, greeted by the friendliest person ever we had to book into a dorm room for the night until a double room became available. I was just happy for a bed. Free tea, coffee and breakfast from the hostel staff was a delight to wake up to & set us up nicely ready to tackle the streets of Hanoi. The most important thing to remember when in Hanoi is look both ways, or four ways or just do a 360, these mopeds don’t stop, however they do beep to let you know they’re coming which is ever so polite, so it’s a case of run or die. Although all you can hear is beeping and you’re constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure a moped that’s piled high with chickens or bamboo isn’t coming your way. Hanoi has a real sense of community and a wonderful buzz about life, everyone’s on the go yet everyone looks happy. The mopeds double up for mini vans piled high and wide, they also seem to be a popular family car, kids either stand in front of the driver and hold on or are wedged between mum and dad, but that’s only if they are tiny babies.. I know, tiny people whizzing around these crazy streets… oh and there’s no helmet laws or road rules for that matter. The roads are about as crazy as the power lines too, it seems like instead of taking old dead wires down they add more wires to it and then some reinforcements so they don’t fall down, the power cables are crazy, how they don’t blow and cause some serious damage I don’t know but it seems to oddly work for them and I was probably the only person ever to be concerned about other peoples electrical safety.
Hanoi is built on a grid system surrounding the Ho Kiem Lake, which is where we were headed but kept taking wrong turns and ended up way out, guess who was in charge of the map. But its wonderful to get lost somewhere there’s so much to see, smell and taste. I thought the lake in Hanoi would be the main tourist hub but it doubles as a huge roundabout, making it slightly easier to cross the road as the masses of mopeds are only coming from one direction. The lake is a popular place to get married. Bride after bride we passed having her photos by the lake while her new husband looked on. We crossed the death trap road and found a huge statue of a late king behind a small park with a bandstand. This is where make up artists and hairdressers were sat getting the brides ready for the ceremony in the bandstand, so many beautiful brides and such a stress free way of getting married, this didn’t stop at night either, as we walked around the beautifully illuminated lake… maybe we just found a 24 hour marriage service.
Street food in Hanoi is literally street food. These tiny little kitchens set up on the pavement, plastic tables and tiny chairs so you sit in a frog like position to eat your bowl of soup, “pho” is the popular dish in Vietnam which is meat and vegetable noodle soup and its bloody delicious. Eating street food can sometimes be a risk especially with the meat as it can be a little bit dodgy however were under the assumption that even in restaurants the refrigeration cant be up to scratch. They do however just say meat or veg? veg just seems a little boring so we opted for meat every time.. Chicken, Pork, veg and noodles in a huge bowl of soup for 25,000 Dong, so about $1.50. I thought the food here was going to be super spicy but not at all just full of flavor, then they give you limes, chilies and a pot of garlic water to add yourself, cheap and amazing.
Vietnamese people are so far ridiculously nice, they are just so happy to serve you and make sure you are okay, especially our hostel staff in Lucky house 2. They helped us organize and plan our next destination and trips. Were not ones for organized tours but the places we wanted to visit had to be done through tours. After a 10km walk around what seemed like the whole of Hanoi, we stopped for a well deserved beer and watched the continuous stream of mopeds and street food vendors up and down in front of us. The sun was pumping down so it was the perfect time for a break. Some of the food vendors carry their goods on a huge stick over their shoulder with a basket either side and these are the only people that hassle you in the street to buy from them, even walking into shops you don’t get bombarded or things put under your nose. Don’t expect luscious Vietnamese handmade markets in Hanoi its very commercialized and proper clothes and shoe shops line the streets, most of the streets seem to be dedicated to one particular product so one street you’re surrounded by kids toys and games and the next street is full of bamboo ladders and other handmade bamboo goods. Back to the crazy lady in her pointy straw hat and basket of goodies, what looked like hard balls covered in something I thought was sugar… it literally could have been anything from fruit to meat. After paying 10,000 Dong which is under a dollar for a bag of treats (even though we only wanted one to try and we ended up with one of everything from the basket) and oh my they were treats! Sweet donut style little balls of goodness.. AMAZING! That good it was so tempting to stop all the ladies we saw with these baskets again. Looking at the map, pointing out somewhere and setting off just seems to be the best way, it’s also the best way to find things you never normally would.
We headed for the top of the old quarter to a market. I’m a sucker for any kind of market and this one turned out to be a food market, heaven. This market is the main hub for food trade in Hanoi, there was everything you could imagine and no one was hassling us at all. After working our way round, staring at a bucket of frogs and trying to work out what this weird little turtle animal was it was time to retire for more pork noodles and a chilled night in the hostel. Our hostel staff who get top marks from me for their tea and coffee making skills whenever they saw you enter were also super friendly and helpful when it came to booking our trips, going at it alone means paying over the odds when you reach the place, so we decided to book some stuff up. Our first trip will be to Sapa, we don’t really know what to expect as were not 100% sure what we’ve booked.. but for now we leave the crazy streets and beeping horns of Hanoi for some countryside.