|The first thing that shocked us when we arrived in Vietnam was the chaos of motorbikes going in every direction and the beeping of horns. They drive like there is no traffic rule and they beep like no tomorrow. They actually use the horns in a defensive way to warn other vehicles that they are there. Imagine walking through the narrow streets of Hanoi with thousands of crazy motorbikes rushing through. And crossing the street is a scary experience (as there aren’t many pedestrian crossings), but you just have to throw yourself into the waves of the motorbikes and they will go around you. The trick is “do not stop, keep walking”.
To add to the chaos, the Vietnamese do everything on the street. They eat, drink, wash dishes, do laundry, sell goods, pee, spit, have hair-cuts, pick nits, chat, kids are playing and studying... so walking through the Old Quarter in Hanoi is like walking through someone’s house.
We again walked a lot in Hanoi. Temple of Literature is the first university in Vietnam, and is well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture in 11th century style. It is located at heart of Hanoi city with a beautiful garden and peaceful pool. It was just great to escape from noisy and busy Hanoi’s street, very relaxing and peaceful place.
Da Binh Square was another place we could escape from traffic chaos, it was a different atmosphere there with a large number of soldiers, and Vietnamese flag hoisted high. This is the place Mr Ho Chi Minh rests in Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, but it was closed.
Army museum was quite daunting with many pictures from the wars, captured U.S aircrafts and tanks and heaps more mournful bits and pieces of war time. Their exhibitions are quite aggressive towards their ex-enemy, U.S, and strong message for world peace (somehow this museum is not mentioned at all in “Lonely Planet”, I wonder why). Next to the museum is the famous Hanoi Flag Tower, built by the French as an observation tower in 1812. This is one of the few old architectural gems to survive the French and American wars in Vietnam. Visiting the Army Museum gave us an interesting view of the wars in Vietnamese perspective, wars that Vietnamese experienced for their independence and freedom.
Vietnamese food was as good as we had expected. Rice paper rolls were our favourite that we had with every meal in Vietnam. It was interesting to see different recipes and ingredients for rice paper rolls in different restaurants, braised pork, marinated minced beef, fresh prawns etc... Yum!! Hiro also had Pho, famous Vietnamese rice noodles absolutely every day. However the highlight of Hanoi’s dining (or drinking) experience was having local beer on the street just like Vietnamese do. At night there are many “street pubs”, selling a pint of beer for 3000 dong (AU 30cents!!)
We also popped into the Sheraton Hanoi to say hello to Matthew, the General Manager who used to work in Sheraton in Port Douglas where Hiro used to work. He was happy to see our friendly faces and shouted us a coffee in the lobby lounge and told us about living in Hanoi.