"Hanoi, Vietnam" Vietnam by chizz
Vietnam Travel Guide: 12,844 reviews and 32,315 photos
After years of longing to visit Vietnam, my wait came to an end in February, 2008 when me and my husband set off from Dubai to meet up with the Explore travellers in Hanoi. The flight was a long one, with a 6 hour stop over in Kuala Lumpur, but all went well and we were met by our taxi driver in Hanoi which we had arranged though our hotel. Glad we had, as the airport was very crowded and we were very tired!!! After a 30 minute journey we finally reached our hotel, Golden Sun, which was a 5 minute walk from Hoan Kiem Lake. It was a basic but very clean hotel and the staff were very nice and helpful - best of all, it had a power shower with lots of hot water!! (and very comfortable beds!). Never one to show my husband any mercy when travelling, I allowed him to have a few hours rest before we ventured out to look around the surrounding area and get something to eat. The first thing that struck me about Hanoi was the large amount of tourists walking around and the fact that it had started to rain! - oh no! Of course, I got sucked into the shopping as soon as we arrived - copies of travel guides on every street corner, imitation bags (even Crumpler, which I'd been after for ages!), cheap watches (which I needed for my trips), t'shirts, conical hats, etc, etc.
My main aim was to get tickets for the Thang Long water Puppet show which I had heard was very popular, so off we headed to the theatre which was 5 minutes from our hotel. Most shows were sold out, but we managed to get second row seats for the next day at 10am which was great to get some close up shots with the camera! For dinner, I was desperate to eat some of the famous PHO, but the restaurant I had been recommended didn't start serving until 7.30pm and we were HUNGRY! Along the same street (Ly Quoc Su), we stumbled upon "La" restaurant (which I had seen on other travellers' recommendation pages). Had a great meal here of lamb curry and a few drinks and it was cheap in our opinion, probably not by local standards, but compared to the UK/Dubai - VERY CHEAP! After our meal, we decided it was time to get a good nights sleep, ready for day 2!!
Had a nice breakfast of banana pancakes at the hotel and chatted to some fellow travellers from Canada. Made our way to the water puppet theatre for the early show which was quite popular. On the way we saw a parade of some sort complete with Chinese dragons, drums and dancers, all in traditional costume, so took a few shots. The theatre was very cold which made me feel for the puppeteers who have to stand waist high in (presumably) very cold water in order to work the puppets! The theatre is very small with a brightly coloured centre stage and has it's own live orchestra to provide the music. I, for one enjoyed the show which lasts around 50 mins and shows mini dance performances by the different puppets while a live commentary (in Vietnamese) tells the story. The history of the water puppets dates back to the first century A.D. when the farmers in the northern rice paddies used to put on performances with hand made puppets for their entertainment, so it's great to see the tradition lives on today!
Leaving the theatre, we decided to take a taxi to the Museum of Ethnology which was highly recommended by fellow travellers. Here there are over 15,000 artifacts from all over Vietnam and it shows examples of traditional housing in the outside area, handicrafts, archaeological finds and information about the different peoples and tribes that exist in the country. All in all, very interesting. From there, we got a taxi back to Hoan Kiem Lake and decided to go and see the Ngoc Son Temple which sits on an island in the centre of the lake, connected by a red bridge. More shopping was done before having a nice pizza at the "Stop Cafe" near our hotel on Ngo Bao Khanh - a lovely little street with lots of small restaurants/bars.
This morning we decided to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, so we set off early to walk to the site. Thankfully there weren't too many people there in the queue, and we didn't have long to wait until we could enter. First, you have to pass your bags through the x-ray machine before leaving any cameras/bags at the luggage counter. From there you join another line to make your way into the Mausoleum which is heavily guarded. Hats have to be removed as a mark of respect before you slowly file past the glass covered tomb of the late Ho Chi Minh, who looks very peaceful it must be said. The queue must constantly be kept moving, so you don't really get much time in there, but it is interesting nevertheless.
From the Mausoleum, we decided to walk to the nearby Fine Arts Museum which was nice to look around for an hour or so. We then walked to Hao Lo Prison where many patriots and revolutionary fighters were kept in horrible conditions. After the liberation of N.Vietnam, criminal offenders were kept here and several American pilots whose planes had been shot down over the country. The "Hanoi Hilton" as it is sarcastically dubbed is quite a sombre place to visit, but is interesting all the same.
Our meeting with our fellow travellers was due to be held at 6pm, so we made our way to our new hotel, the Chains First Eden. After sorting out our documentation and meeting our guide, Thw (pronounced "Tu") and the other travellers, we decided on an early night ready for the start of the tour the next day!
SEE MY TRAVELOGUE FOR DETAILS OF MY TRIP!
- Pros:Cheap, lots to see and do, friendly people
- Cons:Hectic traffic, crowded
- In a nutshell:My favourite destination (so far!)
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