We woke up the bellman today at our hotel. This is Hanoi. Some of the hotel workers spend the night at the hotels instead of commuting back to their villages or towns. At first, we did not see these guys sleeping on two couches in the small lobby so we managed to startle all four of us as we made our way bleary-eyed to the exit.
We were up just before sunrise for a run around Hoan Kiem Lake to beat the heat and make our morning flight out of Vietnam. This was another rare opportunity to head out for a jog. Of course, in a city of seven million, we had some company. Even at 6 am in the morning, we had to dodge hundreds of walkers (not many runners) and packs of older women in pajamas and men in singlets collectively (as in 20-40) swaying to the music of ABBA or practicing group Tai Chi. There were also more than a few Western backpackers either finishing up a night out in the absolute chaotic scene of the old quarter or looking for a spot to rest after an overnight train.
Hanoi has been great. We had a chance to spent time in a couple different spots here. Initially, we spent a couple days in a very residential area in the central-east part of town, allowing us to experience the regular routines of every day life and then a couple days in the old quarter that has an absolute manic vibe.
When they shut down the streets of the old quarter to cars and scooters, it really feels like old Asia – what Singapore and Hong Kong and so many other Asian cities must have felt like back 40-50 years ago. It has hundreds of shops and street vendors, endless options for street food, huge and lively bia hoi bars that spill out to the middle of the street. We had some excellent Banh Xeo and quite a bit of the delicious Vietnamese coffee over the few days.
In addition to eating our way through the city, we made time to visit a wonderful art museum, the infamous Hoa Lo prison, and stopped by the massive mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh.
We have both really enjoyed Vietnam and it could be our new, favorite spot in Southeast Asia. The history, the food, the beaches and the cities have been wonderful. Travel here is relatively easy and super affordable. The service, no matter where we were, has been top notch.
We’ll be back!