I feel good… La la la (a song… somewhere…)
A blogpost on my trip to Vietnam (obviously) 🙂
|What:||Vacation & Food|
|When:||Feb / March 2018|
|Visa||E Visa (click here)|
You cannot go to South East Asia and not go to Vietnam – Said-No-One-Ever-
Although, after the amazing stories from friends who visited, their history and numerous movies (yes, movies)… Vietnam made it onto the bucket list. To be completely honest, I had no expectation of my trip to Vietnam. I just knew it is close to China & Thailand, and that the photos of Ha Long Bay look idyllic. Very short, nothing much, I just knew I had to go (to Vietnam)… so I went (to Vietnam).
27 Feb 2018…
The air was cold, and the sky; grey. A stark contrast from warm sunny Thailand and Cambodia I had just visited.
Arriving in Hanoi a few things are clear
- It is cold, like really cold.
- The sky is grey
- People drive like maniacs… no rules!
- You can feel the communism in the air… well, socialism for practical purposes.
- And, it is Beyond Beautiful
* I was initially going to Hai Pong, Hanoi and Ha long bay, but got such a bad cold (luckily I packed Corenza), that I decided to only stay in Hanoi. Being ill, in a foreign land where 2% speaks English, you don’t want to dabble with your health (luckily I have friends, who have friends in high places who could have helped 🙂 )
The Street where I stayed in the French Quarter
So, here is the Lowdown… (look at my lingo… #UrbanDictionaryLikeABoss)
Hanoi is an Oddballof a place… But, I LOVED it!!
- Traffic is CHAOS (as mentioned earlier)
Absolute, absolute CHAOS (do not rent a car, I repeat do NOT rent a car) I don’t care how patient, considerate or amazing driver you are, you will go bat-crap-crazy).
- Millions of Mopeds
- Texting while driving,
- Driving in heels,
- Driving while drinking coffee,
- Turning in front of a bus,
- Driving in the opposite lane,
- 4 people on a Moped…
This is like Moped Mania. A truly impressive sight!
- Old meets New
Apart from the bright lights and millions of mopeds, there are old ladies in Grass hats, carrying their baskets and selling fruit, while next to them, there is a millennial “texting her bf, on IM, and sending a photo on Insta, dressed in suede stilettos” – ok, that is an assumption, but the stilettos, texting, and driving was true observations.
- Bright meets Dull
Old narrow French buildings seem to pop up around every corner (as Vietnam was a French colony). If it was not for the bright lights you might have thought you were in Paris – minus the Eiffel tower) and croissants… (ok, I did have a croissant, but it was prepacked in full of preservatives, but still quite good)
- The Seated Folk
Regardless of where you go, regardless of the time, there are always people seated; eating Pho and drinking coffee (that’s the life isn’t it?)
…there are old ladies in Grass hats, carrying their baskets and selling fruit
As you do, when you travel, there are the favorites, and here is mine!
Top 10 favorite things in Hanoi
1. Train Street
One of the coolest things to experience. SERIOUSLY!! A train comes rushing in between houses in a small dainty street, twice a day. The operation is something to experience. I will write a FULL post about this amazing experience. Watch this space!! An absolute must visit. Everyone drinks coffee and chats casually while waiting for a train to rush by within 1metere from them.
Info: click here (10A Điện Biên Phủ, Quận Ba Đình)
2. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh, leader of communist Vietnam was embalmed and laid to rest here in his mausoleum (which resembles Lenin’s Mausoleum in Russia). It is quite an interesting story, read more about it here). Guards are extremely stern and it is clear: “do not disturb”. You can just feel the socialism “radiating” from this center point. I cannot describe it, everything I have read of communism I could actually feel here. Such a stark contrast from the “freedom in the West” we have.
3. French Buildings
As Vietnam was a French colony (1887 – 1954), quite a number of buildings are built in a French colonial style, which is gorgeous, to say the least. I stayed in a French Villa, wooden floors, double doors, a veranda, high ceilings, narrow staircases, it really felt like I was back in France. it was the strangest feeling, it felt so odd, seeing the French buildings in a very non-French, Vietnamese speaking South East Asian city. I wanted to take photos of nearly every building I saw, so beautiful
4. Cooking Course & Food Markets
OOOOO, so much fun. This was in the Old Quarter in Hanoi and such an experience. Anna was a LOVELY teacher, she even taught me how to ask for lemongrass at the Market. I will be writing more about this experience, watch this space. If you also want to attend, go to ApronUp Cooking class and book!
The Market on the other hand… I have never experienced (or smelled) anything like this. The realization of how different cultures are in the way we cook and eat. The market was just eye-opening. I will elaborate more on this in my cooking class post. Definitely worth a visit.
Info: click here
5. Temple of literature
Built in 1070, with a strong Chinese influence, the serenity of the temple grounds are calming, to say the least. The beautiful buildings, Chinese writing, carps, blossoms… What a serene place. This was initially a university dedicated to Confucius. A beautiful place to visit, or simpy to sit and read or write.
Info: click here
6. Street Café’s
Street cafes are everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Regardless of which corner you walk around you will find people sitting, drinking coffee and talking in either serious or lighthearted voices, nothing in between. As a result, the air is filled with coffee aromas and the smell of food lingering in the air. You have to stop and enjoy at least one meal here.
7. Pho, Vietnamese coffee & Nutri Boost
Mother nature… Ok, let me try that again, Good Golly Miss Molly. Three of my favourite things to consume in the entire South East Asia could be found in Vietnam. Firstly:
- Pho (pronounced Foe): Vietnamese noodles with herbs, beef, and just njummyness. Nothing like it at home and a must try.
- Vietnamese coffee: Coffee + Condensed milk = Caffeine Dreams!
- Nutri Boost: A mixture of milk and juice that is so sweet, yet so delicious that I may, or may not, have consumed around four of them each day!!
Egg Custard Coffee
8. Uber Moto
Get your helmets… We are going to have some fun. Ok, so you get the tubes in London, Subway in the States, Taxis in South Africa and… Uber Moto in Vietnam. It is like Uber, but you are on the back of a Moped (Poegie !! The Afrikaans is a much better word). Your driver picks you up and you even have an Uber branded helmet handed to you. It costs around R3.00 (three) for a trip in the city on the Moped. And as there are almost no cars in Hanoi, this is a great, quick, and FUN way to get around!.
9. Hoa Lo Prison
History is written by those in power. Not really, but how it is conveyed certainly is. This has never been more clear than when visiting Hoa La Prison. A prison which was built by the French when they colonized Vietnam and used by the Vietnamese after world war two to keep American prisoners. A definite must visit.
Info: click here
10. Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts
You are quite clear on the history of Vietnam as enter the museum. You cannot miss their history as it is so apparent in their art. Combinations of Confucius, Vietnam war, communism and poverty are some of the main themes, and truly a great experience.
Info: click here
Hanoi is absolutelybeautifull, and I would love to go back. Next time: spending at least a week here and exploring all the beauty of Vietnam!
Love, Lien xxx
Shopping in Vietnam
- Pros: Clothing is extremely inexpensive
- Con(s): The mall I went to was underground, and it took me close to 30 minutes to find an exit.
The malls are Huge, and literally under the ground, there are almost no people in them, and the items… quite affordable… There is just one problem: You cannot get out of the mall… (almost). All the sings mention exit, and when you follow the signs… Boom, NO exit. I literally walked into a wall or a no access door, or a dead end..
I was close to tears from frustration! Ok, I am lying, I was actually crying in a mall with mascara over my face (like a damsel in distress). I couldn’t exit the building!! Eventually, I went back to where I entered (with an enormous mission), found the first sign of natural light, exited the building and vowed to never go to a mall in Hanoi ever again.