I have to apologize in advance because I waited much too long to write this blog post (9months) and some of the details of this trip have gotten a little hazy. I will do my best on this post and try not to wait so long in the future!
Hanoi Day 1
We arrived in Hanoi in the afternoon and made our way to the La Beauté Hotel which is located right in the middle of the Old Qaurter in Hanoi. As soon as our taxi began driving the streets we knew we were in for a wake up call. We have lived in Asia over 2 years now and have traveled in Asia extensively; the driving in Hanoi is on a whole other level. Especially in the Old Quarter, which is incredibly busy with people and stores stacked on top of each other, I am not sure how we didn’t see even one accident. In fact, the driving is so insane that our hotel provided us with instructions on how to cross the street!
First on our agenda was general exploration and FOOD! We walked around the Old Quarter and did some souvenir shopping. We ate a Banh Mi, which is a Vietnamese sandwich with meat, spicy sauce and lots of fresh herbs, from a little street vendor. This was only the first of many Banh Mi’s we would have and it was absolutely delicious. The streets in the Old Quarter are winding and very skinny and they all start to look the same especially in the dwindling daylight. We took a tuk tuk ride through town before it got too dark. I thought it was one of the best ways to see the city!
From Left to Right: Directions provided by our hotel. Enjoying a Banh Mi on the streets of Hanoi. A flower vendor rides her bike down a Hanoi road.
Out hotel gave us a recommendation of a Pho restaurant nearby so we began navigating in that direction. The Pho was different than I imagined. I always really enjoy eating it in the states where you add the sweet sauce and the spicy sauce and then pile the bowl high with herbs and veggies from that special little goody plate they usually provide. In Hanoi there was no goody plate and only the spicy sauce was available. The soup was still very good but it didn’t have as much flavor as I was expecting or that I have had from Pho places in America. I am sure that like most things, the places that are open in the states have changed their flavors a bit to please the American palate.
A big boiling bowl of Pho and a tuk-tuk ride through the city.
Hanoi Day 2: Egg Coffee
Day 2 was our only full day in Hanoi. We began the morning with Vietnamese Egg Coffee. This was not even something on our foodie radar but was recommended to us by the hotel. We found our way to a small café that is well known for the egg coffee and ordered two. We had no idea what to expect and, frankly, we were a little afraid. Eggs and coffee totally go together but eggs IN coffee is another story. It turns out that egg coffee is the single most delicious drink I have ever tasted in my life. Look it up and then go try some! It is a layer of very strong coffee with whipped egg yolks on top. I have since heard some people describe it is “liquid tiramisu” and they aren’t too far off. I still have dreams about egg coffee to this day…
The one and only…Vietnamese Egg Coffee. Life will never be the same.
Hanoi Temple Of Literature
Neither of us are much into museums but the Temple of Literature in Hanoi came very highly recommended by many people as well as travel books. It was a major disappointment. The place was full of school children who must have been on a field trip, but more than that, it just wasn’t that interesting. We walked through in about 20 minutes, as there was not really much to see or read. I would not recommend it and I imagine there are more informative and better museums elsewhere in the city.
The Temple of Literature and about a million schoolchildren on a field trip
How To Get Scammed 101
The Temple had been about a 20 minute drive from the center of the city where our hotel was located. We hopped in a taxi to try to get back so we could explore around Hoan Kiem Lake. We showed the taxi driver the business card of our hotel with the address in Vietnamese. A map featuring the large lake that is a major focal point in Hanoi that any taxi driver would know was also offered up to him. This sly driver decided to take us in the complete opposite direction for about 30 minutes. By the time we realized what he was doing and got him to turn around the meter had far surpassed what it should have cost us to get back.
How To NOT Get Scammed 201
It was obvious this guy was trying to scam us. We literally had to drive back past the Temple before arriving at the lake. When we got out we paid the driver the amount that the ride should have been based on how much we paid to get to the temple in the morning. He was not a happy camper and started to throw a fit but once I stood my ground and yelled back a little he crankily got back in his car and left. There always has to be that one person that tries to get you.
Water Puppet Show
Once at the lake we purchased some tickets to a water puppet show, which is a must-see cultural event in Hanoi. The show was about an hour and it really is pretty interesting. The puppets are on very long sticks that are held under the water. Only the puppets are visible so it looks like they are moving on their own. This show had fire, dragons and splashing! There was also traditional music being played and sung throughout the acts! After the show we went back to the Old Quarter and ended the night with 25 cent Vietnamese microbrew called Bai Hoi!