In the last two posts I gave you instructions on getting your Vietnamese visa & crossing the Chinese/Vietnamese border along with our adventures in doing so and our experience traveling to HaLong Bay. Today lets look at our wonderful trip to Hanoi, Vietnam. For us Hanoi has been by far the best place we’ve gone to on this 4 month adventure!
When we arrived we ventured out with a group of students we met on the train to see the red bridge in the center of the city. After spending some time with our lovely new friends we separated to head to breakfast & to check out Trip Advisor to figure out where we were staying. We found an amazing hotel called the Golden Cyclo Hotel. It was a much nicer & a tad more expensive than some others in the area at around $45USD per night but the exemplary service was very much worth it. If you are more budget conscious and $45 per night is more than you want to spend don’t fret, there are may budget friendly hotels & room stays throughout Vietnam for $10-20USD per night. We loved Golden Cyclo because of their service. We became friends with the staff & hope to hear from them again! They were very helpful in helping us to find places to go, getting us a scooter to rent, & assisting us to retrieve my lost passport(keep reading I’ll explain that in a moment).
Once checking in we got on the scooter we rented and began exploring the city. Much of our time in Hanoi was spent on their “interestingly” crowded streets exploring the city. Riding a bike or scooter in this city is not for the faint at heart. Before getting on one here, be prepared for thousands of scooters to be on the road at once and for everyone to be so close that at times it seems like everyone is touching.
We found a lovely restaurant where we got to speak with the manager for a bit about our travels & the area. The food was wonderful and again the service was phenomenal! After eating we went to visit the Hoa Lo Prison. This was the prison where prisoners of war were held in the Vietnamese war. For history, specifically war history buffs this is typically a must see on the Hanoi list of things to do. If you like the prison & also plan to go to the military museum be sure to go into the correct area as it is a bit confusing and it’s very easy to end up in Hoàng Thành Thâng Long Hà Nôi instead.
While exploring Hanoi we were blessed to get the opportunity to connect to some amazing people! One such person was an art collector who graciously entertained us for the day by showing us some wonderful local art he’s collected and taught us quite a lot about Vietnamese culture & history. After enjoying some tea with him as we chatted about culture and art joined us in going to the Temple of Literature, the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, & the Mountain’s Legend Co. The temple of literature has quite an interesting history that you can read when you enter and for thanks to our friend we got to hear stories of his childhood playing in the courtyard before it became a museum open to the public. The Fine Arts museum had many interesting pieces that depict Vietnamese history and are outlined according to that history & time frame as well as the medium they were done in. The Vietnamese style of lacquer painting is an interesting thing to see & if you have the chance to get an original do so. It will be a great memory to take home with you. He took us to a terrific lunch at a street place that served local Bun Cha. It was absolutely the best food we had in Vietnam! If this is your first trip through parts of Asia or Vietnam in particular do not shy away from street food. It is often the best you will eat in an area and contrary to popular belief not any more dirty or unsanitary than most restaurants in these towns. They typically all wash the same way and the only difference is the atmosphere and flavor of foods.
The Mountain’s Legends Co is a company that makes a quite famous coffee. Their coffee is made from civet feces and is quite popular around Asia. Before coming to Vietnam I had seen a documentary on this kind of coffee but apparently Robert had not or did not remember. As we sat down and they graciously gave us a cup of coffee to try along with a booklet on the history and process of the coffee roasting and where it comes from Robert looks at me with big astonished eyes as he realizes what he’s drinking. I was aware but as they say “when in Rome,” right and couldn’t help but giggle at his reaction. Now I know from a western culture it’s hard to convince yourself to have something of this sort but sometimes you just need to trust where you are and those who have taken you in. The flavor was good especially if you like black coffee, although personally I particularly loved the traditional Vietnamese style coffee that’s served with condensed milk.
Now it’s important to mention that we were supposed to leave earlier than we planned, but as fate has it I screwed up and lost my passport in a taxi on the way to the train station back to China. As you can imagine that adds a lot of issues especially since we were expected to be back in Yangshuo. This delayed our leaving a couple of days but allowed us to meet our friend above as well as stumble across a cafe owned by an Irish photographer which also happened that through that cafe we met the Irish Embassador to Vietnam. The hotel was most helpful in that time to assist us in contacting the taxi company which they had called for us and retrieving the passport from the taxi that we had lost it in. The train station was also very accommodating when they found out that I had lost my passport and the lady on the platform took us to the counter and had them refund our train tickets so that we did not have to forfeit our fare. One of the ladies at the hotel even tried to play a joke on us that they had not been able to get my passport back after the taxi company had said they had it. They were very welcoming and helpful in assisting us in every way! We’ve stayed in range of different levels and styles of hotels around the world and the Golden Cyclo was by far the friendliest hotel yet.
Once we got our stressful passport stuff sorted out we decided to spoil ourselves with a massage to relieve all that stress. The hotel reception referred us and scheduled an appointment for us at SF SPA Vietnam Traditional Spa. They offer a wide variety of services and are very relaxing. Robert got 3 different kinds of massages and I got a skin treatment massage to moisturize my skin (after 2 months in a small Chinese village I needed it!). Both felt wonderful and the prices were quite reasonable. Massages & spa treatments are something that while in Vietnam or China you should definitely enjoy as they are far cheaper than home and often times much better as well.
We had a blast during our time in Vietnam & can’t wait to get to see more of the country! We hope that those we met will maintain contact & become lifelong friends! Friends are friends no matter how far or near & they have a home with us in Hawaii anytime they want to visit!
Hoa Lo Prison: Hours: 8:00am-5:00pm every day including weekends & holidays
- email: email@example.com
- Phone: 04 39 342 253
Hoàng Thành Thâng Long Hà Nôi:Hours: 8:30-11:30am & 2:00-5:00pm, closed on Mondays
- Phone: (84-4). 3 7345927
- Website: hoangthanhthanglong.vn
SF SPA Vietnam Traditional Spa: Hours: 9am-11pm
- Hanoi Corner: Phone:(+844) 3926 2032
- Hanoi Lake View: Phone:(+844) 3926 2323
- Head Office: Phone(+844) 3747 5637
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com
- Website: http://www.sfintercare.com
The Mountain’s Legend Co:
- Website: http://www.caphechon.vn
- Phone: (+84) 8 3868 4678
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum: Hours: 8:30am-5:00pm
- Address: 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc St, Ba Dinh District, HaNoi, Vietnam
- Phone: (84-4) 3 823-3084
- Website: http://www.vnfineartsmuseum.org.vn
- Email: Info@vnfineartsmuseum.org.vn