From one capital city to another. We arrived into the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi.
Our mini bus picked us up from the airport and took us to our hotel. Driving through the streets one thing became immediately clear…motorbikes and traffic!! Also, lots of tall thin houses! Interesting.
Walking through the centre of Hanoi on our orientation walk was mental!! There were motorbikes everywhere!!! They are priority on the roads and pavements, if you get in there way you’ll know about it!
We had to have a lesson from Mark on how to cross the road. You basically walk out into the on coming traffic and stop then walk slowly across whilst bikes are whizzing past you only a few inches away. It’s completely mad but it gives a really unique and electric feel to the city, which is fairly similar to Bangkok.
Our first walk around the city took the 5 of us to the central (rather green looking) Hoan Kiem Lake, which has special significance to the Vietnamese people.
Next we had some nice Vietnamese food, namely Bun Cha, and then went for a beer at Hoi Corner. This was such a cool place, lots of tiny seats were put out on each corner of these crossroads called Hoi Corner. You could then order some of the local brew. A Hoi Beer here costs just 15p!!!!! That’s nearly 7 beers for a pound! We sat watching the chaos of motorbikes hooting at each other.
This evening we would meet 11 new companions on our tour who have chosen to do the shorter legs of our tour (either Vietnam and Cambodia or just the Vietnam section). Firstly however we had a busy sightseeing schedule ahead of us so off we went again.
Our first tour was of Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. After passing the strict security measures we went in single file into the mausoleum where we were able to see Ho Chi Minh’s frozen body on display. It was a weird experience in a way but very interesting nonetheless. He is such an important figure in Vietnam and has had so much influence in the history of the country. Read more here.
After visiting the modern art gallery and pagoda outside the mausoleum, we went to the temple of art and literature, which is a huge temple made up of 5 courtyards dedicated to the Chinese philosopher Confucius.
Before our final activity of the day we had just enough time to pop into Fannys, an ice cream parlour which serves delicious ice cream of all sorts of flavours. We both had some extravagant sundaes full of different flavoured ice creams and lashings of some kind of liquor.
Our last included activity of the day was a visit to the water puppet theatre. The theatre was pretty small and most of the Westerners in the room were uncomfortable at the cramped conditions. The show was good fun though. This traditional art form consisted of different types of puppets appearing on the pool of water on the stage. The story (all in Vietnamese) was accompanied by singing and music.
Back in the hotel it was time to meet our new tour companions. They all turned out to be really nice and we began to get to know them over dinner in Little Hanoi, a traditional Vietnamese restaurant.
Our new group consists of Peter, Bridget and Markus, a family from Melbourne, Australia. Michelle also from Melbourne Australia. Megan and Peta cousins from Sydney. Paula and Lee, a couple from Bristol. Tina from Germany. And finally Tonia and Andrea, friends from Switzerland.
So far (as of writing 5 days on) it has been great fun getting to know these lovely people. We were unsure as to whether a big group might spoil the experience a bit but it’s been great. The tour allows you to have lots of free time to do whatever you want and you can stay with the group or do your own thing as you please. We actually prefer having a larger group since there are more people to talk to and share experiences with!
After dinner that evening we all went for another beer on Hoi corner before retreating to the hotel so the new comers could overcome their jet lag and get some rest.