Vietnam: the pretty mess of Hanoi

We safely arrived in Hanoi after a long journey with transfers in Dubai and Bangkok. We took the local bus to get to our hotel in the Old Quarter and were sunk in the atmosphere straight away! It was around 8pm and dark, the streets were full of people eating on tiny plastic stools, motorcycles were everywhere and honked non stop, shops were still open… It was overwhelming but I loved how full of life the area was. The cultural gap is huge though… English is barely or not spoken, but people are all very nice and smile all the time. There is no trash bin in the street, I joked about the dirt everywhere reminding me of the huge piles of trash bags in NY. The traffic is crazy, you have to cross through hundreds of motorcycles coming in both directions (or in diagonal) with no break. They go quite slowly (30 km/h) but it takes a while to adjust! The other funny part is that pavements are not used by walkers, no no that would make it way too easy. They are used to park motorcycles, walkers have to stay on the street! We were only supposed to stay 2 days in Hanoi but we ended up staying 1 more, to soak up more of the agitation of that happy mess! That specific area really lives up to the clichés one can have from Vietnam: small streets with a mix of colonial and typical buildings, temples at every corner, street sellers wearing traditional clothes and hats with exotic fruits and food, traffic anarchy… We just spent our time getting lost and eating delicious food (they all know what vegetarian means, take that France!),  drinking fruit juices and visiting temples and pagodas. We even found a rooftop bar to see the city from above, one of my favorite NY activity!

In Hanoi we met with my friend Jean who used to do kendo with me in Paris and arrived in Hanoi 3 weeks ahead of us. He took us to some really cool places and is travelling with us for a bit. We also saw Oanh who works at the Paris office of my former company but is Vietnamese (yet after only 10 years in France has no accent when speaking french) and Marc Jaen who works in the Singapore office. It’s like everyone is in Hanoi this time of the year! Oanh invited us, Silvère, Marc Jaen and myself to have dinner with her family (which is the biggest reason of us staying an extra day, otherwise we would have missed Marc). Her family warmly greeted us and cooked us an amazing dinner with tons of vegetarian food! At first they they thought Silvère and I were vegetarians because we were Buddhists, which is apparently why there are so many veggie options in the country. That evening I had the best spring rolls of my life, I still dream of them… Cooked by Oanh’s father and brother! Getting to and back from Oanh’s parents we had to take a taxi as it was too far away and too late to use public transports. This allowed us to see the city outside of the Old Quarter. Buildings are much more modern and there are less temples but everything else is the same. I think I could have spent another 3 days just wandering around the city…

In the streets of the Old Quarter.

In the streets of the Old Quarter.

Chùa Trấn Quốc, Hanoi's most famous pagoda is on a small island in the Hoan Kiem lake.

Chùa Trấn Quốc, Hanoi’s most famous pagoda is on a small island in the Hoan Kiem lake.

The Old Quarter from above.

The Old Quarter from above.

Birds in cages are displayed everywhere.

Birds in cages are displayed everywhere.

hanoi birdhanoi puppies

Streetfood

One of the few street food desserts we could find!

The traffic by night, level up!

The traffic by night, level up!

The citadel entrance

The citadel entrance

Offerings of freaky lemons and dragon fruits in a temple.

Offerings of freaky limes and dragon fruits in a temple.

hanoi silvere

Silvere posing in the middle of the road like he doesn’t care.

The red lantern lounge restaurant.

The red lantern lounge restaurant.

Old buildings in Hanoi.

Architectural contrast.

A temple in Hanoi.

A temple eaten by a huge tree.

Oanh and her family.

Oanh and her family.

Oanh and Marc Jaen with typical vietnamese desserts.

Oanh and Marc Jaen with typical vietnamese desserts.

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