Hanoi

Vietnam's chaotic, atmospheric and always on the move capital. The busy streets of the Old Quarter do take some getting used to, even if you have traveled for quite some time. The traffic chaos and congestion are probably the worst things about this non stop city. Once you get passed these daily irritations you will find Hanoi to be a graceful city with large boulevards, trees lining the streets and lakes, friendly neighborhoods and even friendlier people.

There is a large contrast with Saigon and Hanoi, we found the people of Hanoi to be more relaxed. Even in the Old Quarter, where most people end up staying, the hawkers and vendors are more laid-back. Don't be mistaken, you will be offered cyclo rides 20 times a day and people will be hassling you to buy or taste their goods, it comes with the territory I guess.

Hanoi is packed with great museums and historic sites. The Temple of Literature has to be one of our favorites. A rare example of Vietnamese architecture dating back to 1070. We had the privilege of being guided through the complex by a group of students looking to improve their English by guiding western tourist. They offered us this service free of charge and did a great job. The many details they focused on really made the whole visit that more interesting.
When we visited the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh we weren't at all prepared for the experience. Firstly, the line to his tomb is simply massive, it wraps around and through the complex and sometimes seems endless. Waiting patiently and making sure you don't get passed by, you have time to have a look around. After a while things get going a little faster and eventually you reach his tomb with the embalmed body. The silence and expression on people's faces is very moving, a special moment indeed. Afterwards, you can visit his house and Ho Chi Minh museum.

One of the great treats of Hanoi is the amount of Bia Hoi spots, nowhere in Vietnam have we seen or found so many different drinking spots. Their prices are below average and the quality of the Bia Hoi is pretty good. We tended to go to the busiest spots and spend our time talking, checking out the passers-by and simply enjoying the fact that your paying less than 0,25€ for freshly brewed beer... Each night is busy, but you will notice when the weekend starts. Get there early and enjoy some fresh beer snacks.

We loved the energetic vibe of the old quarter and the chaos of Bia Hoi corner. The many museums make for an excellent day filled with culture, if you want to wind down you can enjoy a great yoghurt coffee at the base of the St. Joseph Cathedral.