The first few days in Vietnam have passed already. I began my trip in the capital city, Hanoi. I’ll tell you babies about my time there, since I’m heading to Sa Pa which is in the northern- and mountain area of Vietnam. First step, make sure you book a hostel or hotel in the old quarter of Hanoi. It’s where the most backpackers and tourists are, plus, the most things you are going to do are located there or near that area.
I took a taxi from the airport to Hanoi. Take a white taxi with a red line on it.Those taxi’s can be trusted. They don’t rip you off by driving you criss-cross through town. Don’t get upset by all the honking from the many motorcycles and cars. Everybody drives as crazy ass bitches. Just cross the street like it’s your last time on this earth and put your I don’t care face on. They will drive around you. There are almost no traffic lights and everybody ignores them anyway when there happens to be one.
Just walk a bit through the old quarter to get familiar with the way of life here, before going anywhere. Ignore the street vendors because they will keep on coming. There are lots of little Vietnamese food places where you can eat some delicious food and drink cold ice tea. You can also book a street food tour at Friends Travel Vietnam. It’s not pricy at al, make sure you ask for Sidney. He is a Dutch guy who traveled to Vietnam almost ten years ago and never left. He is very helpful and gives a lot of good tips about what to do and where to go. You get a nice cup of Vietnamese ice coffee at his office that is located in de old quarter. They have a lot of other very cool trips to do as well. You can even book in advance and e-mail or Facebook-message with him about it. I did that for my trips to Sa Pa and Halong Bay. Sidney told me that it was Vietnamese Independence Day on the 30th of April. Almost every Vietnamese plans their vacation around that day so everything was fully booked. I met some other backpackers who didn’t book in advance and were left with nothing to do besides staying in Hanoi. Many hostels and hotels offer tours as well but you never know how good the quality will be. I played it safe and booked in advance with a good tour operator.
There are a few really nice rooftop bars in the old quarter where you can relax for the evening. I visted a few and the most amazing one is located at Hang Gai 11. It looks like a store on the outside but when you go in you’ll notice it’s an alley. Walk further back to reach the stairs. You can order your drinks there downstairs before heading to the fifth floor for an amazing view over Hanoi and it’s beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake. Don’t worry they will bring your drinks upstairs later. You should definitely visit the Hanoi Social Club. They have great burgers, blueberry and coriander gin tonics and good Wifi. Drinking gin tonics helps to keep the mosquitoes away. Also a lot of this stuff called Deet helps.
There is not really a vibrant nightlife in Hanoi. But you can buy a bottle of booze or two and chill around the Hoan Kiem Lake when everything closes around eleven PM. The lake is next to the old quarter and it’s the place where everybody chills out at night. I met some funny locals there and drank some of their homemade alcohol and tea. Some guy even gave me a rose because he thought I was beautiful, which made my night! There is somewhat of an underground clubbing scene. Just ask where to go on this Facebookpage.
The Ho Chi Min mausoleum is worth your time, I think. Ho Chi Min signed the declaration of independence, so he is a big deal in Vietnam. There is also a museum about him and other Vietnamese history. Make sure you are there before eleven AM and check if it’s close. Otherwise you pay a taxi and end up in front of a closed door, like me. Wear an outfit where your legs and shoulders are covered. It’s wise to always put pants and shirt in your bag for when you stumble upon a temple. There are some other museums to visit but they didn’t seem that interesting to me.
There is a water puppet show that was very nice for about fifteen minutes, too bad it lasts for 50 minutes. You want to eat your own shoe for the other 35 minutes. I was happy I went when I was finally outside again. I think my friend Bono still has nightmares about it, haha. It makes for a good story.
I believe two days and nights is more than enough for Hanoi. You should check if there isn’t like a national holiday when you want to be there. Here national holiday’s mean that the police is extra strict and everything closes early. The city was a lot more vibrant when I got back from my trip to Sa Pa. That’s because celebrations of Independence Day and Labor Day where over. But still I think that two days is enough because almost everything is walking distance and there isn’t that much to do. Before you leave make sure you took a bicycle taxi at least once. You will fear for your life but its’ really funny to do. Go easy on the price the poor little person is working so hard.
Next travel blog will be about the beautiful rice fields of Sa Pa.