We greeted the new year in the wee hours of the morning at the airport lounge waiting to board our 6.30 am flight to Hanoi. Blurry-eyed we were excited at what lies ahead our travel to the historical Vietnam. Svadhi sensing that she’s about to have an adventure of her life was bouncing in excitement. She enjoyed the airplane ride – she was in her best behavior throughout the journey.
- We reached Hanoi airport around 9.30 a.m. Had a quick breakfast at the airport before chartering a taxi to the hotel which is situated at the Old Quarter – about an hour drive from the airport.
- The weather was chilly – hitting 12 degrees Celcius. The wind didn’t make it easier for us. Looking around, we noticed we were under-dressed.
- After freshening up at the hotel, we went for a walk around the hotel. Found a local eatery serving noodles soup – it’s called Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) and had our lunch there. The piping hot soup became an instant remedy for the cold.
- In the evening, we went out and bought a winter jacket for Svadhi. Though she seemed unperturbed by the cold, we didn’t want to take any chances.
- We walked around and reached a large square where we saw kids playing – sort of a open recreation area. The atmosphere was lively. Svadhi was thrilled to join in the fun with a group of giggling girls.
- We had a hearty dinner at one of the stalls located near the square. Banh mi is a Vietnamese baguette sandwich – absolutely delicious! I love the baguette – the best baguette I have ever had. Super crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. We had it with sardine and cream cheese. The baguette comes with an accompaniment of cucumber and tomatoes.
- Walked around the Hoan Kiem lake. It was a very cold day with a slight drizzle.
- Visited the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, a large memorial located in the centre of Ba Dinh Square, which is the place where Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
- Then we headed to the Temple of Literature, a temple dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars. Vietnam’s first national university was established within the temple. The temple was built in 1070 (it’s 942 years old!).
- For lunch we had Bun Ca (fish noodle soup).
- Soon it was dinner time. We stopped by a restaurant which only serves one dish, Cha Cha which is grilled fish. Something like a steamboat. Cooked over a little gas burner, add a little oil, then fry the seasoned fish along with fresh dill and other herbs. It’s so delicious. Served over rice noodles.
- Our last day at Hanoi was dedicated for a gastronomical adventure.
- Bahn Cuon – thin, warm rice rolls filled with ground pork and mushroom and topped with crispy fried onions and coriander leaf – akin to our Chee Cheong Fun.
- We walked around while sampling the local snacks. Svadhi loved the bread and the pastries there. The French influence was strongly felt from the croissants and other wonderful pastries sold here.
Locals sitting on small stools huddling together over bowls of steaming noodles is a sight to behold in this part of Vietnam. The traffic system amazed me. We could not see anyone swearing or cursing despite the heavy traffic. It’s amazing how the motorists weave their way in and create a smooth traffic flow. No one pays heed to the traffic lights here, by the way.
In a sum, Hanoi exudes a historical charm despite being a busy city full with motorbikes that come hurtling towards you from all directions and with a not-so-good air quality. And the people here a super friendly.