We spent a few days in Hanoi, the Capitol of Vietnam and the second biggest city after Ho Chi Minh City. We stayed in the Old Quarter of Hanoi which is the primary location of travellers because of its central location, various eateries and drinking holes. It’s a nice city with a lake and plenty of other sights, shopping and overall indulgences.
The Hanoi weekend Night Market is seemingly endless and by far the largest night market we’ve been to. It was filled with the typical merchandise that you’ll spot at all other markets. Once you’ve seen 10 stalls you have pretty much seen the breadth of goods on offer and there are only so many times you can look at a ‘good morning Vietnam’ t-shirt. We concluded however that when it comes to fake goods, Thailand’s quality for fakers reigns supreme. Looks like we will save our buying spree of faux Ray Bans and Beats by Dre head phones for our trip back to Bangkok before we fly home.
It seemed a bit strange to us that more Ho Chi Minh (HCM) idolising attractions were in Hanoi, rather than the city named after the man himself. Hmm not sure about that one? We trekked miles through the city making our way past the HCM Museum and the house he once dwelled in. They must have been doing some restoration work though because there wasn’t much of a house standing there.
A stop on most tourist’s hit lists is the Temple of Literature. The temple only costs $1 per person to enter and is a quite a sight with 5 courtyards and beautiful ancient architecture. There were a few photoshoots going on too.
It’s a temple of Confucius. The temple was originally constructed in 1070 and was Vietnam’s first University. We learned something interesting about the beliefs of Confucius. Confucius was the originator of the golden rule that most of us try to adhere to on a daily basis, “do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”. I think all of us can identify with and even stand behind that all important rule.
Vietnam’s 50 year Independence Day is coming up on the 10th of October. The celebrations have already begun and luckily we found ourselves in Hanoi over the weekend to join in the festivities. Every evening the streets of the Old Quarter were filled with sounds of music and circles of people with bobbing heads all soaking up the party atmosphere.
There were about 5 or 6 streets with different acts. One of the streets had the more traditional style of music and theatrics, but the other streets were filled with renditions of pop music. There was one group in particular that had no t which the locals seemed to enjoy. rouble getting the intoxicated young Western kids dancing in the middle of the circle. Not that it would take much anyway. The locals were loving the scene laughing and recording videos on their phones.
The 4 piece band did amazing instrumental cover versions of songs like Maroon 5’s Moves like Jagger, Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, Adele songs and many others. The lead guy whaled out the tunes on his electric violin with style and skill. It’s always great to see real local musicians play. The best part was that we got to see some of the acts from our balcony at the hotel. It was nice to still enjoy the street celebrations, but to be able to get away from the sweaty crowds too.
Our final day in Hanoi, we visited the Urban Street Flea Market in the Tay Ho District. We deduced that this district must be where all the expats live. It just sort of had that vibe and there weren’t any main touristy things to do. Although a flea market was exactly the type of shopping I’ve been searching for, we were a little disappointed in the market itself.
The venue was cool, the vibe was too, but the size was a bit smaller than we thought and we were hoping for going into it. To Stephen’s disappointment there weren’t many items available for men either. I of course found a couple things to buy, but that’s never difficult for me. We then walked back across the city, taking in the sights. Luckily it was one of the rare occasions that the sun was hidden behind the clouds making the trek more enjoyable because we weren’t dripping in sweat when we reached our final destination. Winners.
It’s a bit strange visiting big cities sometimes. There’s a part of you that doesn’t want to deal with the chaotic hustle and bustle of the overly crowded metropolis. Generally you end up walking miles after miles and even sometimes in circles. All in all Hanoi was a nice place though surrounded by water and plenty of green space. There are plenty of shops, however, as we have heard repeatedly in SE Asia “same, same but different” (but not really all that different). Like the markets, you come across carbon copy shops a lot. There must be a few suppliers out there rubbing their hands together, or swimming in their piles of cash like Scrooge McDuck.
Hanoi is worth a few days stop off between SaPa or Halong Bay. That said, it didn’t have the unique identity of a city like Hoi An. For us, we have enjoyed the more scenic sides of Vietnam much more than the big city stops along the way.
Some more photos
Next stop Cat BA Island,
Stephen and Katie x