Intro to Vietnam 

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!

You can see in the below photo that the green walking man sign is on, yet look how many motorbikes just ignore it!

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.

The women seem to do most of the carrying/selling here. A lot of them ride around on their bicycles selling fruit, flowers, clothes – you name it!

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!

On the food note, I had amazing pho last night for dinner – noodles with cilantro and chicken, and then you squeeze lime in it. Yummm!

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!

I think that pretty much covers my intro to Vietnam. I’m super excited to explore the country more.
I’ll be back from Sapa on Thursday and will write a post on the trekking then. 🙂


4 thoughts on “Intro to Vietnam 

  1. What a nice introduction to Hanoi through all your pictures. I love the photo of “Kim’s House.” It does look very congested with all the bikes and cars and people, but, like you said, it works itself out somehow. It was like that when we were visiting China. Just crazy! How nice you found a pretty lake to walk around. Do most people speak some English there? Enjoy your trek. The photos on the website looked amazing. Love you!


  2. Great pictures. Hanoi looks like a very interesting place. I hope to make it over there to see it one day.
    It is so great to see that the city and the country of Vietnam are thriving.
    When I was in high school and college we were at war with Vietnam in one of the most misguided and biggest foreign policy mistakes this country ever made.
    We dropped tons of bombs on Hanoi. 40,000 young American men, that were my age, were killed in the jungles of Vietnam and never came home to their families. Many more thousands of innocent Vietnamese people were killed. Just a horrible situation. All caused by the U.S. because we were supposedly fighting the spread of communism. The Vietnamese were totally innocent. They suffered terribly at the hands of the U.S.
    So it is with great joy that I see that Hanoi and Vietnam are once again thriving. And, miraculously, they harbor no resentment or ill will toward the United States and it’s citizens. They have forgiven us and now welcome us with open arms. The people there, and their culture, are really something special and have taught us a great lesson about the power of forgiveness.
    Yes, the traffic looks crazy. When we were in Bangkok and complained about the traffic I remember someone told us the traffic in Vietnam was worse! But as you say, it all seems to work. Isn’t that amazing?
    Enjoy your trek in Sapa and keep those pictures coming! Love ya!


  3. I was in Hanoi this time last year and like you, loved it. I preferred Hanoi to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City which is now a very commercial, multi storey, glass building city. I’d been in Vietnam in 1990 before there were many tourists and certainly Ho Chi Minh has changed heaps. I loved the street food in Hanoi and have enjoyed your photos of that beautiful city. We went to the Water Puppet Theatre one night down near the lake. Really lovely. Our trip started in Hanoi and from there moved south and on to Cambodia. Found it interesting that in the north they referred to the American War, but in the south they talk of the Vietnam War. In many respects it still seems a divided country. I wonder if you’ll find that also.
    Desiree left New Zealand yesterday for Cambodia and roaming SEA. Never know, but you may meet up with her again. She and a friend of hers from Texas stayed with me last week. Amy was born in France and grew up in Texas. She is heading to France to see her grandparents.
    Have lots and lots more fun and adventures.


  4. Only to be young again……a 24 hour bus ride!! Your pictures and comments continue to amaze me! They are such a joy to see and read! I can’t wait to hear all about your Sapa trek! What an incredible 5 month journey you’ve had! Love you!


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