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Hanoi’s Old Quarter in the rain

After an extremely uneventful stopover in Hué (so much so I’m not bothering to write about it) we caught our second night train in Vietnam up to the country’s capital; Hanoi. One of south east Asia’s most atmospheric cities, we were very excited to see what made Hanoi so internationally relevant and forward focused. After some trial and error we found a great room in a hotel in the centre of the old town, and spent 4 days overall soaking up the charms of this antiquated city.

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Me getting cosy for the long trip on the night train

Now I must confess something. Because WordPress is blocked in Vietnam, I got rather behind on writing these posts while we were travelling. Annnnnd I kind of didn’t manage to catch up so before long – boom. We were back in England. As I got caught up with one thing after another, my blog kind of fell by the wayside and now I’m woefully behind. So now, several months after returning, I’m making a concerted effort to get through the backlog and finish my trip. However, because it’s now about four months since I’ve been in these places, my memories are a little hazy. So please forgive me for writing some less than comprehensive entries about these cities!

Anyway, Vietnam has a pretty turbulent history and at the very least you’re likely to have heard about the Vietnam War (a.k.a. the American War). Consequently, Hanoi is a city of museums and monuments. We hoped to see several of them, but unfortunately many of them tended to be closed and only open at fairly inconvenient times – considering they were located a 40 minute walk in 30 degree heat away from the old quarter where we were staying. So we spent a lot of our time in Hanoi walking around the old quarter and doing a few other things.

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Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, awfully imposing, perpetually closed

The Old Quarter is great for tourists and locals alike. It’s always bustling, with restaurants spilling all over the narrow streets, countless souvenir shops and travel agents, and some great architecture and even culture on show. Because we were around during some sort of festival, we were fortunate enough to witness some bizarre traditional dances live in the street. We sampled a bunch of different foods here – some that easily come to mind include the waffles we had and also an Australian style burger (not so traditional I know). Like Saigon, the traffic in Hanoi was a bit of a nightmare, so weaving into the wild roads to avoid mopeds parked on the pavements was all part of the fun.

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The weird dance show we witnessed in the Old Quarter
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Stuffin’ ma face with a kebab

We hoped to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where, in true Communist style, you can glimpse the embalmed remains of national hero Ho Chi Minh. Unfortunately it was one of those places only open at inconvenient times, so we only succeeded in seeing the building from the outside. We did however manage to visit the Vietnam Military History Museum and find some cool war machinery.

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Just south of the old quarter is Hoàn Kiêm Lake which was a delight to stroll around in the evening (unfortunately it seemed every other tourist plus a barrel load of locals had the same idea), seeing the lights reflected in the water and meandering between the flowerbeds, doing your best to ignore the smog emanating from the roads. Aiming to save money Jake and I did this a couple of times, but the people watching made it worth it.

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And well that’s all I have to write about Hanoi really, sorry for a bit of a rubbish post! We liked Hanoi but to be honest it doesn’t stand out as particularly memorable for us. However what I haven’t mentioned yet is that sandwiched between the four days we spent here, we actually spent two days cruising in Ha Long Bay. So my next post will be all about that – with lots of pictures! Lastly, because Hanoi was our last destination in Vietnam, we were headed to the airport next for our flight to the next country. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…!

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