Saturday, 31 March 2012

Life in the fast lane; Hanoi, Vietnam

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
My four days in Hanoi flew by, everything seemed to fly by in Hanoi and nothing flew quicker than the traffic! 

Navigating the streets (for it was rare to find a footpath you could actually walk on), was a whole new and sometimes unnerving experience. Each time I made a successful crossing after having weaved, dodged and pirouetted my way through the traffic I felt like I had achieved the near impossible.

While I was waiting for openings on one side of the street my finger would start twitching for the camera and I would hang myself out over the gutter and snap the hundreds of faces that would be flying past me. It soon became a favourite pastime......these photos are a few of the end results.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
The Old Quarter

I loved staying in the old quarter of Hanoi, I spent most of my time there as it's the heart and soul of the city. I loved the vitality and frenetic pace and the remaining French colonial buildings are gorgeous, albeit rundown. Here the vietnamese seemingly go about their very busy lives paying little attention to the tourists.

The smell and sight of food is everywhere, it is either being prepared, cooked or eaten. Life seems extremely social with endless groups of the young and not so young chatting, eating and drinking while seated on teensy tiny little plastic stools that sit only a few inches from the ground. 

Women move gracefully through the traffic (unlike myself)! and balance their baskets brimming with pineapples and mangos (cut and ready to eat), as well as dragon fruit, paw paw and every other fruit and/or vegetable. Their heads and faces are sheltered from the elements by their traditional conical woven hats. 

The streets in the old quarter are named after the merchandise or produce that was traded there in the past, and today many of the streets still have their specialty products; some are lined with shops selling sunglasses others propaganda posters, fabric, shoes, jewellery or paper products.

The shops / houses in this quarter are typically only a few meters wide and up to 60 meters deep (apparently in the past shop keepers were taxed according to the width of their property), hence the living quarters were (and still are I imagine) situated in the back and the houses were known as 'tube houses'.


I stayed in (and can recommend) the Hotel Hanoi Elegance Saphire on Hang Bong Street, I adore this street name, its impossible to forget. Many of the street names in the old quarter start with the word Hang as it means merchandise or shop and Hang Bong apparently means Store of Cotton.

I also stayed in the Aranya Hotel it's on the same street and both are good choices.

Drop by the Metropole Hotel (situated in the Hoan Kiem district and close to the Opera House) for lunch, dinner, or as I did just for a pick me up cup of coffee. Its the Raffles of Hanoi.

Halong Bay

I dont think anyone can go to Hanoi without visiting the magnificent Halong Bay (a four hour road trip from Hanoi), that is unless you are me, and the boats are not permitted to leave the harbour because of bad weather! The 8 hour bus trip (there and back) in the one day along with the disappointment of missing 2 days and 1 night on the boat was not the highlight of my time in Vietnam I have to say.  However, I now have a very good reason to return to Hanoi. 

Tom Coc

Do make the 2 hour trip to Tom Coc, here you can cycle and boat your way through the Halong Bay of the rice paddies, the scenery is truly spectacular.

The boat ride is approximately 2 hours in total, and you may like to grab the extra oar and help your boat's oarsman/woman out every now and again, (I'm not totally sure if I helped or hindered mine, but it gave my arms a good work out either way)!  They actually rowed most of the way very skillfully with their feet.

Don't avoid this trip because of the number of tourists that flock there. If you leave it later in the day and visit the temples of Hua Lu before Tom Coc you may have less boats on the river in the late afternoon than earlier in the day. But check this out with the hotel.

And to finish off....... a few more faces on the move in Hanoi, enjoy your weekend.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Millie x

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