Right off the bat, Hanoi was charming. It was old-school, modern, unique and in all the right ways… I may have formed this opinion in just five days but allow me to explain…
From moment one, our chosen dwelling (Little Hanoi Hostel) greeted us with the most genuine and warm welcome. We chatted to the lovely Vietnamese receptionist about travel – he gave us maps, advice about the city and seemed to genuinely enjoy his job and want to help us out to the best of his ability. From my limited personal experiences of Vietnam, this was very unusual. The room it’s self, at just $6.25 each/night, was luxury. A king-size, hardwood bed dressed with crisp, white sheets and a super soft duvet. The ensuite had a bath (unseen in guesthouses in SEA), hot shower andspotlessly clean, western, flush toilet. The room also boasted a wall mounted, flatscreen TV, a writing desk, AIRCON (!) and a city view. This touch of affordable luxury, in the heart of the old quarter, was a great base for exploring the city by day and by night.
By day, I would recommend a trip to the Vietnamese Water Puppetry Theater… I know, visions of a cringe worthy, dubbed, Punch and Judy spring to mind but just go. I’m not saying it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen or that both Rich and I didn’t accidentally doze off in the middle but I did enjoy it and it was definitely unique. For just 80,000 Dong, you can witness masterful puppeteers perform traditional Vietnamese stories to a soundtrack of live instrumentals. Conveniently located in the centre of the city, right on the banks of the Hoan Kiem lake, the theater is the perfect jumping point for many other tourist attractions, pagodas, restaurants, bars and shopping.
We opted to ascend to the astounding heights of the sixth floor of a nearby cafe for an unnecessarily expensive chocolate milkshake and spent hal an hour watching the world go by. I also took some stalker pictures of this beardy character going about his shifty business on the street below.
Come nightfall, head outside and gorge yourself, street-side. This life-altering BBQ popped up on the street corner at about 6pm and didn’t have a spare stool all night. Literally overflowing off the pavement and into the road, locals and tourists perch on child-size stools with a Beer Hoi in one hand and a BBQ’d mollusk in the other. Don’t worry about seating, cutlery or any of that palava, just grab a basket, fill it with what ever you fancy and hand it to the BBQ master. As if by magic, you are whisked (pushed) onto a stool and handed a beer. Moments later, your overambitious order is plonked down or what ever surface happens to be in front of you. Be it a tray, a dirty plate from the last diners or probably your lap, it doesn’t ruin your dinner.
We spent $11 each (super pricey) and ate our fill of tender steak kebabs, whole frogs, squid quarters, sweetcorn, bread and honey, grilled pineapple, razor clams, whole dressed crab, short ribs, mushrooms wrapped in bacon and salmon steaks. Heaven.
After dinner, head to Hanoi Rock City for some good times and some great live music. Downstairs serves up skateboarding, chill-out areas, wall art and exotic cocktails while upstairs houses the stage. I have tons I could say about the emerging music scene in Hanoi but that’s worthy of another post in it’s self. Hanoi is a great city with much more to offer than you would probably expect. I didn’t but the t-shirt, but it’s true… I ❤ Hanoi!