Hanoi was my least favourite place that we have stayed, however it had one of my favourite hostels. After a gruelling 26 hour bus ride from Luang Prabang we arrived in the city of Hanoi, although we were a good 10km outside of town.
This is something bus companies do often in SE Asia. By stopping too far away for you to walk with your back pack, you are then at the mercy of the pack of tuk tuk and taxi drivers waiting with their inflated prices. Luckily armed with maps.me (best app ever) we started walking away from the aggressive sales guys who were very “grabby” (reminding me a little of India), and headed into the city. Only one road away we found a taxi driver that took five of us (in his four seats) and all five giant backpacks to the centre! It was very cosy!
The hostel was great! There was a lively bar and immediately on arrival we were thrust a free beer! Each dorm bed had a privacy curtain plus a little shelf and cupboard, private fan and light. It was great but not very social in the dorm room as everyone had their curtains closed. We did speak to Aussie guy in our room on the last day who lived in Hanoi. He said pretty much everywhere in vietnam was shit, apart from Sapa, where we weren’t going. However as he left, he also said he hoped his plane wouldn’t crash, so I guess he wasn’t a glass half full fella.
We explored Hanoi the next day. It was very much like India. However what was cool was that each road had a theme for its shops. So there was a street for clothes shops, a street for art, flowers, pots and pans, party stuff, sewing stuff!! So if you needed something specific, all shops that would sell that item would be close together!
There was the local market which is an OCD person’s nightmare. Piles of mismatched shoes and purses and stuff, with tiny gaps to squeeze between each stall. Plus it was unbearably hot. There were plenty of bars and restaraunts including a lovely cafe we went to twice called the note cafe. Amazing iced coffee and you get to write a sticky note to fellow travellers!
Crossing the road in Hanoi scared the shit out of me. It was so busy – Never have I seen so many bikes. We spoke to a tour guide who said you just decide to walk and go. The bikes avoid you, the cars and buses not so much.
You can close your eyes and go across – The danger is when you hesitate, or change pace, or go back – then you will get squashed! Well we are alive anyway and managed to cross the busiest road to see the lake in the middle of the city which was ok.
The reason we went to Hanoi was to see Halong bay. We booked a day trip, as we were short on time in Vietnam, which was 4 hours there, 4 hours to look round then 4 hours home. I really did have high hopes for this place. It was one of the sights we most wanted to see. And it wasn’t bad. But we felt a little like cattle being shooed down the same path in a line. We also had no english speaking guide which didn’t help. The port reminded me of a really shitty seaside town in England, it even had a floating puppet show!
We also got row-boat ride into some of the smaller pools surrounded by the cliffs and saw the floating village where people never go to the land.
We also saw a really cool cave that had been lit up with coloured lights!
It was overall a good experience but I think I might have built it up too much.
We were told Hue was a shithole so we were only staying for one night then moving on. We also were a bit worried about it being rough so we were a little suspicious at first. We had taken another night bus from Hanoi and arrived at 7 in the morning. Luckily the hotel let us check in early so we showered and went straight out after about 2 hours sleep.
I was so surprised by Hue, there were little roads with all the locals sat outside selling street food and coffee and everyone seemed really nice and smiley! Schoolchildren were doing surveys so we answered three of these for their english practise. People walked their dogs in the park and children played football. It just seemed normal – this is a lesson to not judge a place by what other people say.
We got there at about 4 and it closed at 5:30 so we never managed to see inside but the outside looked amazing! I haven’t got much more to say about Hue however I would definitely go back and explore further.
I had a picture of Danang in my mind before we left. I thought it would be a dusty coastal town, with shacks and everything a bit run down. Man was I wrong. It was a very “cityish” city. High rises everywhere and it seemed very metropolitan! We stayed 2 nights here at a lovely hostel called travellers nest. I got cocopops for breakfast which made me so happy!!!! We were a bit exhausted at this point (travelling quickly between places really does you in) so we thought we would check out the beach. I wasn’t even aware it had one.
The beach was better than most in Thailand and better than any others in Vietnam we went to. The sand was super soft and no stones or seaweed, and the water was lovely! This city is going to change big style soon.
On the beach there was building work everywhere and empty shells of huge soon-to-be-hotels. The scale of the buildings was massive- it sort of reminded me of miami! We ate at a place called Tam’s, which was our only cultural thing we did here.
The lady who owned it, and cooked, was on the USA’s side in the war. Danang was a place where the soldiers used to come for R&R and she has hundreds of pictures of her throughout the years with the soldiers and other vietnemese who were on the American side.