After a 24 bus ride (yes – 24 hours!) from Luang Prabang, I’ve arrived in Vietnam. I know that a day long bus ride seems insane, but it was the only way to directly go from LP to Hanoi, other than flying. It wasn’t horrible, as it was a sleeper bus, but I probably won’t do it again. 🙂
I’m in Hanoi, which is the capital of Vietnam. The city itself has 6.7 million people, so quite a change from tiny Laos!
I’ve only been here 2 days but can already tell I’m going to love this country. The people are so friendly and welcoming, always smiling and willing to help.
I’m actually headed to Sapa tonight for a trekking tour, but wanted to share some pictures from Hanoi. Be forewarned – lots of pics and reading below!
I’m staying in the “Old Quarter” of the city, which is where most of the tourists stay, as it’s filled with restaurants, shops, etc. This area literally has an old gate and walls, surrounding it from the outside.
Traffic is absolutely insane here. There are motorbikes, bicycles, people and small cars everywhere. It’s madness and chaotic, but somehow it’s organized and works. Makes you wonder why there are so many accidents at home.
While there are sidewalks to walk on, all of the motorbikes and scooters park on them. So not only is there already a ton of traffic, but as a pedestrian you need to walk in it to get anywhere. Quite a game to dodge everything!
Most of the streets here are pretty narrow with shops lined up one after another. Not only are there a ton of restaurants and cafes, but shops that sell anything and everything you can imagine – bags, shoes, paintings, silk, hats, souvenirs, etc. Most things are name brand knockoffs and are really cheap.
I’ve been really surprised with the sheer number of people just out and about. Granted I’m here on a weekend, but there are groups of families and friends everywhere! I know family is a really important part of the culture in Asia and seems much more so in Vietnam. Most people are walking around eating ice cream or get Vietnamese coffee, which has condensed milk in it!
There’s a lake in the old quarter that has a big walking path around it, that it about a mile long. It’s lined with trees, little food stands and live music. There are also roads and they’re closed right now to traffic, so there are even more people – I love it! Not sure if they always close the roads on the weekends or if it’s a special occasion.
Two separate people came up to me (a mom and her son and then two high school kids) to practice their english. They said they always go to the lake to practice as there are lots of tourists around!
Near the lake, you can definitely see the French influence on buildings. A lot more cafes and seems much more upscale then other parts of town.
I also went and explored this little neighborhood that the train goes through twice a day. The street is so narrow that everyone needs to stay inside when the train passes. Pretty crazy!