17.10.2016 - 19.10.2016
Our journey back to Hanoi started with an early morning ferry crossing from Cat Ba, followed by the drive from Haiphong to Hanoi. We arrived back at our hotel just before lunch to check in and collect our bags that had been stored their since we set of to Sapa a week earlier. The chaos of the city seemed even more intense following the peacefulness of Tavan and Halong Bay.
Having already spent some time in Hanoi we had a familiarity with the city on our return which was a great advantage.
The location of the hotel is perfect, nestled in the old quarter and close to everything.
The food and drinks we had everywhere were just awesome, whether at a restaurant, cafe, coffee shop or street side food stall.
We visited some amazing, hard to find cafes and coffee shops that we would never have found if not for specific instructions: down dark corridors or alleys ways, through communal living areas, up narrow stairs to places which provide amazing views and equally amazing food, coffee and drinks. Special mention has to go to Dinh Cafe, L'etage, Hanoi House cafe and Nola
The mausoleum being closed for renovations and therefore being unable to see Ho Chi Minh's body, as morbid as that may seem.
Confirm a price for a taxi before jumping in- we did on the way to the mausoleum and the metered price was 55,000D but in the way back the meter was rolling along until we bailed at 100,000 and indicated we had driven 10km 😳
Remember to take your tablet out of your suitcase to avoid having to unpack everything at check in 😜
Hanoi Luxury Spa for some 'man-scaping and much needed foot repair after a few weeks of traveling and trekking with wet boots through the jungle.
Wandering the city at night, which looks completely different than during the day- although the traffic chaos is continuous. On one corner of the lake kids were showing off their free line skating skills - no idea how they do that 😳. If the number of motorbikes parked up around the fountain in the middle of the roundabout was any indication, this was the hanging place for the young. And couples in love could be seen meandering or sat chatting around the lake.
In the morning we headed to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex but found the mausoleum closed for renovations. Within the complex were the One Pillar Pagoda-a buddhist temple, and the museum- a huge concrete soviet style building dedicated to Ho Chi Minh: the founder of modern Vietnam, which was very informative with arty exhibitions.
The afternoon was spent wandering the streets and sampling street food sat on little stools at the different pavement stalls. We headed to St Joseph's, a neo gothic Cathedral sat within a little plaza and was fortunate to find it open. Inside was just beautiful with the stained glassed windows and carvings.
Our travels took us passed the Hanoi Gallery which sold hand painted posters, and we couldn't help but purchase a couple that represented our travels through Vietnam
Later in the day Johnny finally had the 2 weeks of facial growth removed by cut throat razor at a tiny barbers shop down a back street before a relaxing massage at the Hanoi Luxury Spa.
Eating and drinking:
We picked up pastries from the Family Bakery to have on the journey back to Hanoi, but instead of the yumminess we were expecting they were dry which was disappointing.
And before boarding the ferry at Cat Ba we had one last yummy Vietnamese coffee from Nghia Cafe.
Quan Bia Minh -looked empty downstairs but was busy on the balcony upstairs and provided a great place to watch the street life below. The Bun Cha here was just awesome.
L'etage is accessed through a narrow corridor into a communal courtyard and up stone steps. Leaving your shoes at the door you enter an interesting room on the 2nd floor with a balcony overlooking the lake. A great place to grab a coffee or juice and watch the hundreds of motorcycles passing by below.
Fragrance restaurant offered us an authentic hot pot for dinner with a huge portions of fish, clams, large prawns, calamari, tofu, pork, beef, chicken, veggies and both rice and egg noodles. Quite expensive at $40USD considering our usual spend for dinner, but nothing in comparison to what it would cost in Australia.
Phuong Linh- we went upstairs to the second floor balcony to watch the world pass by below whilst drinking coconut coffee and egg coffee.
Hanoi House Cafe is found down an alleyway and up a set of dusty stairs to the second floor, where you can sit on the extremely narrow balcony overlooking the busy street below and facing St Joseph's cathedral. We sat here writing our journals sipping Sapa herbal tea and passion fruit juice whilst listening to the cathedral bells ring.
Our last meal was spent sharing a table on the pavement with locals at New Day. The simple and very busy cafe served authentic Vietnamese in good sized portions and was yummy especially the lemongrass and chilli chicken and beef with black pepper sauce.
Nola was the last stop for drinks. Walking down a corridor lit by decorated soda bottles and up a flight of stairs brings you to a dark bohemian style room from which open a labyrinth of doorways and other stairs leading to small cosy seating areas.
May De Ville Old Quarter- our rooms this time were at the front of the hotel with windows overlooking the hustle and bustle of the street below- which is a little noisy at night but great to hear the goings on of everyday life. The location of the hotel was just perfect, nestled in the old quarter but near to the lake, and close to all the coffee shops and eateries that have been recommended by others or in lonely planet.
May De Ville Old Quarter: http://www.maydeville.com/oldquarter/home.htm