This trip marks my first visit to Asia, my first time crossing the dateline, and the farthest time zone I’ve been from home (both Vancouver and St. John’s). I was dreading the flight there, but it was actually a lot better than expected. We flew out of YVR at 2am and we were just so tired by then that we both passed out as soon as we got on the plane and slept for a solid 7-8 hours. We had a short stopover in Taipei and then landed in Hanoi the following morning at 10am.
We took a cab to our hotel in the old quarter and were greeted with a message from my friend, Sarah, as soon as we arrived. She was finishing her honeymoon with her husband Nick, and we had one day of overlap, so they picked us up at our hotel and gave us a pretty fantastic food tour of Hanoi!
The food here is fantastic! I havent even had pho yet because there’s been so many other exciting things to try (update: I had it since writing this!). Sarah and Nick took us for Bun Cha and Banh Xeo, which are a grilled pork and noodle soup and these fried pancakes stuffed with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. We’ve since also tried Banh Mi and Cha Ca, which are vietnamese sandwiches and a grilled fish dish. I loved it all except for the Banh Mi sandwich. Mine was just listed as a “meat” sandwich and ended up being what I think was pork fat, so not a favourite for me. But everything else has been delicious and Sarah introduced me to an iced tea thats topped with cream cheese (so much yummier than it sounds), which is so refreshing in the heat.
On our first day we visited the Temple of Literature with Sarah and Nick and spent some time walking around Hoan Kiem Lake and the old quarter. The temple of literature was first constructed in 1076 and was a university for many years. We continued touring Hanoi on our second day and visited Tran Quoc pagoda, Ho Chi Minh’s mauseleum, Dong Xoun Market, and went to see a water puppet show. We didnt know what to expect from the water puppets, but it was actually a really fun show about rural life and culture in Vietnam. Plus its mind blowing trying to figure out how they move the puppets so fluidly!
We’ve been adjusting pretty well to the time difference with early nights and early mornings. Our hotel has a breakfast lounge on the top floor which boasts gorgeous views of the lake and I loved spending my evenings up there writing and looking at the city.
However, the traffic in Hanoi is truely frightening. I’m glad we had Nick to show us the ropes our first day because the city is totally overrun by motorbikes and scooters and crossing the road (and just walking in general) gives me so much anxiety. There are crosswalks everywhere, but no one ever stops, so you literally just have to walk out into the road and let the bikes avoid you. Finding Dong Xoun Market was probably the worst because there’s vendors everywhere and so many people, but motorbikes still insist on driving through the crowds.
My favourite part of the city though was probably Friday night. In the evenings on weekends, they shut down all the major roads around the lake and its open only to pedestrians. There’s a night market with tons of vendors and street performers. The lake is all lit up and it has the nicest ambiance without all the cars and honking!
Next up is Tam Coc, Sapa, and Bai Tu Long Bay!