Hey guys, I'm back with a lot of stories and experiences from Hanoi, Vietnam! :) Instead of doing the usual Instagram post of pictures for today, I decided to post about my top 5 in Hanoi! :)
#1 Crossing the roads is an art that you have to master.
According to the Lonely Planet, if there's a soundtrack for Vietnam it would've to be the buzz of the millions of motorbikes found on the streets and those street hawkers plying their wares in those characteristic conical hats. To visualize, here is a common sight to see specially on the labyrinth of Hang streets (Hang means merchandise) of the Old Quarter where I stayed at last week.
The streets are narrow and congested that's why crossing the roads is actually an art that you have to master in this country. Haha! It took me 2 days to finally get the hang of it and I realized the rule would have to be to never, never hesitate. I'm not really sure but traffic signs are not visible on the intersections and once you decide to cross, you just have to keep on going. Yay! It's actually a bit risky since these bikes won't stop for you but in my 4-day stay, I never saw one single accident. And get this, I even saw a fearless Chihuahua trailing behind his master without a lanyard or whatsoever in one of the streets. Even the pets have mastered it. Amazing! :))
#2 My favorite place is the French quarter. :)
South of Hoan Kiem Lake (a lake in the historical center of Hanoi) is the French quarter, an upmarket area home to the opera house, grand hotel, imposing colonial mansions and swish restaurants. On my first day tour in a motorbike (video found below), I was really charmed by this place. Somehow it made me wish that Philippines were once colonized by France. :P
Don't get me wrong but I do appreciate our Spanish "quarters" as found in Intramuros or Ilocos Norte. :) But that place got me really dreaming about the time when I will actually visit the real country. Aaah, Pareeee!!!
#3 Hanoi is not famed for its nightlife!
One of the rules of this communist country is that all bars must close by midnight. I mean, barhopping wasn't part of MY plan when I visited here but these European friends I met during the Ha Long Bay cruise and in the hostels were all keen on checking out the nightlife. So after some dinner and alfresco cocktails in a very good bar with a night view of Hoan Kiem Lake, we walked for some 15 minutes towards the other side of the lake where they discovered a bar that looks promising via Youtube.
The first word that came to my mind as soon as I entered was: WILD! Loud thumping music, a couple doing a raunchy number on the dance floor, a group of girls and boys circling their table in a choo choo train. These teenagers. We were then led to this sort of VIP seat at the back of the room (which actually made me wonder as I know these aren't usually available at such hour) and I was just halfway through my drink when poof! Music was turned off, balloons were popped and everybody started going home. Party's over. What an experience, hahaha!!! Not sure if these Slovenians are expecting some bar with an exception to the rule. But apparently I was told that there are really some secluded places where you can drink all night long in exchange for some steep price for a drink. :P
The other option I observed is to try a bia hoi, an open-air bar set on the side of the road. You basically sit on these plastic stools where they serve this local beer below. Nope never tried that and this beer too. Not a fan. :P
#4 Among the chaos of the streets, just look up for some elegant architecture.
I don't think I got tired admiring the house architecture there in Hanoi. I took a million of photos while walking around soaking up the sights and capturing each and every design. I really found this place so charming that I already thought about what I do if I live here in the future. Haha! I don't know how this idea came about but I can envision myself setting up a fashion boutique in one of the streets here. Weird! :D
#5 Ha Long Bay is nice but I still prefer our very own Coron. :P
For Vietnamese, consider it a partial view since I only went for a day tour and did the usual kayaking and caves exploring. But I've seen Coron too and I only can't do a kayak in there, I could swim and jump from the boat as well. Something I don't think one can do in that day tour. :P Over dinner, I spent some 5 minutes winning over my European friends to Coron by showing my pictures and some of them were sold. Haha! Really hoping to hear from them soon that they'd finally arrange to include Philippines in their Asia backpacking itinerary. :))
By far I can say that Hanoi is in the top of my memorable solo sojourn list. From Day 1, I never really felt like being alone in there special thanks to the wonderful friends I met on this trip. :) I will do a proper travelogue soon. Adios for now! :)