Hanoi, Vietnam (9.25.11 – 9.28.11)

Buses in Asia seem to follow a strange pattern of making their last stop in the most random places. At the final stop, a Scottish guy and I decided to get a taxi into the city. Long story short, we got screwed on the taxi far because the Scot handed the driver a large bill then tried to demand change. I was annoyed but still felt obligated to pay my half. I walked on to find my hostel, and promptly fell asleep. When I woke up, I got chatting with a Spanish girl named Tamara who was in the bed over from mine. Our plans for our time in Vietnam were remarkably similar, so we made plans to travel together for a while. The hostel had a free beer hour from 6PM to 7PM each night, so we went upstairs to socialize. We got talking with a Canadian fellow who was traveling by himself and decided to get some dinner together. He commented that he had only eaten KFC so far in Vietnam… facepalm. Dinner was delicious; we had pho and spring rolls. Pho is a typical Vietnamese soup that originated in Hanoi; its ingredients typically include rice noodles, basil, mint, bean sprouts, and lime. When we were done eating, he headed back to the hostel on a mototaxi, but Tamara and I decided to see the night market, which was bustling.

On Monday, I explored the city on foot by myself; Hanoi is manic, yet charming. As was later quoted to us, Hanoi is a city of eight million people, and five million motorcycles. To cross the street is to risk your life, but cannot be avoided. It’s best to just start walking and trust that the motorcycles won’t hit you. If you did anything differently, you’d never get anywhere. That night there were many people upstairs for the free beer hour, and a group of about twelve of us went out for a drink. Shops set out tiny plastic chairs, and people squat out front. The more customers, the further into the street they all protrude. Though it could have been comfier, I really can’t complain when the beer costs 5000 Vietnamese Dong… which is 25 cents. Everyone in the group was really nice; there was a German boy named Frank who that day had bought a motorcycle and was planning to drive down the coast. It was an excellent night.

On Tuesday, Tamara and I decided to book a tour to Halong Bay, which is a bay in the north of Vietnam, known for its karst topography!!! It just keeps popping up, doesn’t it? I thought the price offered by our hostel was pretty good, but Tamara wanted to price shop, so we checked out some travek agencies and ended up booking through the hostel. After getting our plans sorted, I went off to explore the French Quarter of the city. That night, we assembled another group and went to have pho at a restaurant that the hostel owner declared was the best in Hanoi. It was damn good. It was also all they served, so they did one thing, and did it well. It was definitely the best pho I had during my time in Vietnam. After eating, we headed to the bar again for obscenely cheap beer and then called it a night.

On Wednesday, we got up early to be picked up for our exciting trip to Halong Bay!

The busy night market

A typical view of a restaurant. At night, vendors set out plastic tables and chairs on the sidewalks… it’s an efficient use of space, I guess!

Motorcycles…

Drinking 25 cent beer… Life is awesome.

This honestly isn’t even that busy, but effectively demonstrates the never ending stream of motorcycles.

Dinner at the most delicious pho restaurant

Tamara, enjoying her pho. 🙂

In some cities, I really love to just wander around to get to now a city, and avoid the tourist destinations. Hanoi was a great city for this; it was crazy, but I really enjoyed my time there. It was a wonderful introduction to Vietnam.

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