An introduction to Vietnam
I’m delighted at the opportunity to be writing blogs about one of my favorite places on this planet – Vietnam.
I had high expectations before visiting because it goes without saying that it’s got a good name for itself all over the internet, and it’s safe to say it didn’t disappoint. The versatility, food, religion and people…I mean the list could go on. And luckily for me, I get to write about all the best things the country has to offer.
It’s hard to know where to begin as when I look back on my time visiting Vietnam I’m just flooded with happiness and amazing memories. I only got to spend 7 weeks travelling from the very north to the very south, however, I could’ve very easily spent a lot longer there. I could even imagine myself staying put there for a while, the only reason I sadly left was that I had further travel plans around Asia. It makes sense for me to write about Vietnam, in the order of which I saw it, so that’s what I’ll do. I’ll include my own photos from around Vietnam too.
Vietnam was the first place I stopped on my trip, and many countries and many months later I still remember everything so vividly, it really was different from the rest. The minute I unpacked my bag, freshened up and stepped outside my hostel front door, I was totally consumed, not only by the heat but by the sheer buzzing life of central Hanoi.
I was staying in the Old Quarter, and in hindsight, it was the perfect location to be to keep myself occupied whilst handling my jet lag. I managed to forget the travel exhaustion by tucking into my first of many Banh Mi’s, beer Hanoi with ice to beat the heat on beer corner and by wandering around the night markets taking in all the smells, colors and walks of life. At first it felt so surreal, I felt like I’d been picked up and plonked into a movie set. I was totally overwhelmed but in a good way! It was so different to anything I’d ever felt, or anywhere I’d ever been. But I was immediately taken by the wonders of Vietnam.
I’d read about all these places I should visit whilst i was in Hanoi, which I did, but what I didn’t read anywhere was that some of the best times I had were the times I just sat still and watched everything move so quickly around me. Everything moved so fast, yet so perfect. Sitting down on little plastic bendy chairs on the side of the road late at night, tucking into scrumptious street food is where it’s at! The food is just to die for, at times you had no idea what you’d ordered, and when it arrived, you then had no idea how to eat it, but it never disappointed. Just sitting there still amongst the ‘madness’ is just a beautiful feeling, one that cannot be easily replicated. Hanoi has the most amazing sense of community, and it’s hard not to feel a part of it.
Another simple highlight of Hanoi was watching people drive around on their motorbikes, and if you’re brave enough something to try get involved in too. I didn’t enter the driving the bike race until a little further into my Vietnam trip, so I’ll talk about that hilarious experience in a few blogs time.
On our first day, we went on a free walking tour with a student who was studying English and Tourism. It was a great way to get shown around Hanoi, she walked us around the whole city, stopping into the tourism’s spots as we passed them but also taking us into places, that to the normal tourist eye would be looked straight over. A perfect example of this was when we walked into what looked like a bag shop, to the back of the store, and up some dark stairs. When you reached the top there was the most quaint little coffee shop, Cafe Dinh, with tiny windows facing out to the street but massive skylights letting in the sun. It was jammed with locals and served the most amazing iced egg coffee. We tried asking why the coffee had egg in it but she didn’t realize it was a novelty! Hanoi has these beautiful hidden gems scattered across the city; whether you discover a coffee shop, a rooftop bar or a restaurant, when it’s filled with locals and very well disguised, you know it’ll be good!
Some of the more touristy spots we visited which are an absolute must, were Train Street, Kham Tien Street. Absolutely surreal, you must go there when there are no trains, just to see how people adapt to living and making business, literally on a train track, and also go visit when a train comes down….it speaks for itself. What’s even weirder is that when we left to travel out of Hanoi to Ninh Binh is that we were on a train, that went through train street! Another perfect selfie opportunity on the tracks is Long Bien Bridge, but don’t forget to sit still there for a minute too and watch the locals on their commute into the city. We saw people on bikes with flat-screen TVs under their armpits cross this bridge..
.There are loads of museums, prisons and temples that need to be ticked off your list. One of my favorite temples was floating in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, Den Ngoc Son. Also the famous Hanoi Ancient House, I’m getting excited just remembering all these places. Another less famous spot to explore is the flower market in Quang An, there’s a swimming pool facing the lake there too and a driving range where you hit the balls into the water. I’m telling you, the versatility of this city is endless.
Without going on forever about Hanoi, I’m always going to feel like I’m cutting it short. It really speaks for itself this city, it’s a true beauty. And what’s even better, is that it’s where our amazing Vietnamese adventure started…we are only just beginning!
Written by Eve Feeney August 2020