In Hanoi we decide against typical sightseeing and instead see the city while getting things done:

One thing we want to do is book a tour to the north of Vietnam. We decide to study some travel brochures that our hotel has lying in the lobby and take them to our room after they allow us to. Very soon we settle on a tour operator that seems to fit our needs.

So, on our first day in this city with the colonial air, we walk through the bubbling old town, dodging scooters crossing our path, as the sidewalks are blocked by hundreds of parked motorbikes. We pass fuming kitchen stalls whose little stoves emit much needed heat on this cold, rainy day on our way to the guide who provides tours that don’t go to such heavily touristed areas as Sapa and Halong Bay.

Hanoi streets

We stroll along the Ngoc Son Temple in Hoan Kiem Lake, the main motive on postcards of Hanoi until we reach the French Quarter where “The B-Tourist” is supposed to have its office. We have the address and even though we cannot find anything looking in the least like a travel agent, we know it must be there, as we spoke to Mister Linh, the owner just a few hours before. We walk up and down the street unsure of where to go. We ask around, but nobody seems to know the organization and our cell phone’s battery is empty. Just when we are thinking about going back to the hotel an older lady sitting at the front of a narrow street selling goods, looks up at us in a questioning way. We show her the name of the company we are looking for and also the address which should be exactly where we are standing. She nods, pulls a business card out of her pocket with the B-Tourist’s logo on it and proceeds to call the number on the card with her mobile. Two minutes afterwards she motions us to follow her. We look at each other, shrug our shoulders and hurry behind the woman. We walk along a tiny alley that winds and twists and turns, until we are standing in front of an official sign and Mister Linh himself. He and his friendly smile guide us up two flights of stairs to a room I guess he calls his office. All of this seems quite weird and unimpressive, until he starts explaining his tours. Suddenly everything is very professional, we relax and one and a half hours later we end up booking a Ba Be National Forest trek.

Hanoi finding ways 1

Hanoi finding ways

Hanoi finding ways 2

Hanoi finding ways 3

After that little expedition we are in desperate need of a shot of Vietnamese coffee. Around the corner we find a cute, little café and take a seat. Within a few minutes V is in heaven. We have found the perfect coffee! It’s hot (what is not always the case here), it is strong and it has this wonderful chocolaty flavour so typical for Vietnamese coffee. We decide this won’t be our last visit to this place.

Hanoi Cafes

Another thing we need to work on, is our blog. So, the next day, after having breakfast in the hotel restaurant and putting up a “Do not disturb” sign on the knob of the door, as the room is not in a presentable state, we have a two hour creative pause in a coffee shop before heading back to the lobby to do some blogging. Sitting there in the hotel, getting ready to write, the receptionist approaches me, mumbling something about the brochure that we borrowed. He needs it back, it seems and I start to get up to march up the five floors to our room, when the guy stands in my way and says he would get it. I decline and tell him I would do it myself and wonder why he is still not letting me go. I push past him and start walking up the stairs. I realize someone from the hotel staff has gone up one floor before me….something is weird, but I cannot put my finger on it. Three people from reception look after me like scared puppies while I am now almost running up the floors towards my room, even though I am not sure why exactly. Panting I enter the room and search for the booklet, which is no where to be found. Fuming I sprint back down to the front desk and stare at the staff. I call out: “You already took the brochure!” I cannot believe they actually entered our hotel room despite the “Do not disturb” sign AND that they didn’t have the guts to tell me, but prefere to let me go up five flights of stairs. I don’t accept their explanation that they needed the pamphlet just then for another guest and let them know that apart from the fact that they could have asked us for the damn thing while we were having breakfast instead of searching through my personal belongings, their main duty as a hotel is giving their guests a sense of safety and privacy and first AFTER that they should want to earn a commission on tours! The next thing we do following this is look for a new accomodation for after our tour. When we return to the hotel in the afternoon the receptionist apologizes, handing me a small bouquet of pink roses. While I appreciate the gesture, I do have to wonder what I am supposed to do with flowers as we are leaving on our tour the next day and if a discount or something similar wouldn’t have been more appropriate.

Hanoi flower present

Another thing that needs to be done of course is eat. Apart from the very obvious coffee culture in Hanoi, the city has an abundance of yummie eateries. One finds the small food stalls specializing in one particular dish, there are the simple cookers just placed on a sidewalk with two chairs before it and then there are the many restaurants serving the most delectable foods. While we didn’t do much sightseeing here, we sure did some food tasting! One day I was even brave enough to try a Hanoi speciality the Caphe Trung, a concoction of coffee, sweet milk and egg yolk. It was to die for!

Hot Pot Vietnam

Dead Chicken Vietnam

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Vietnam Food

Food Vietnam

Hanoi food 3

Food Vietnam

Ca Phe Trung

We like the city despite or maybe because of its differences to HCMC. It’s not as modern and flashy as its southern counterpart, but has more edges and feels more Vietnamese. The small coffee shops at every corner and the old buildings display a certain charm. The shitty weather of course makes it a bit difficult to enjoy Hanoi in the same way we appreciated former Saigon.

Hanoi temple

Hanoi barber

Coffee Hanoi

Cafe Cong Hanoi

Hanoi

Hanoi rainy days

Our last evening in Hanoi, before we pack up and move on to Indonesia, is a special one. We meet a good friend from Munich for dinner who is in Vietnam on vacation with her boyfriend. She brings us desperately needed things from Germany that we are super thankful for…and that didn’t all survive until the photo was shot… 😳 We get a table at “New Day” restaurant, a place that already gave us great culinary pleasure before and sample the delicacies together with Silvi and Manu and have one or two cocktails and lots of fun with the waitress. Afterwards we go for a last drink, before having to say good bye to Silvi and the brief moment of “home-feeling”.

Gifts from Germany

Meeting friends in Hanoi

 

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1 Comment

 

  1. 20/03/2014  07:57 by R Reply

    Bouquet of roses - 30.000 Dong
    Your face on that picture - priceless!!

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