05.12.2015 - 07.12.2015 17 °C
A postcard of a portrait of late Ho Chi Minh, the revolutionary leader of Vietnam
Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. A country full of history on how it has overcame the domination of the Chinese dynasties era and later French in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and thereafter fended off the Americans during the Battle of Khe Sanh in a revolution that brought victory in securing independence for the Vietnamese and the nation. Today, Hanoi has seen lots of changes. The developments of this Vietnam's capital though appears to be slow, it progresses rather well for a country that still lags behind Thailand. Within the Indochina region, Vietnam, from my personal observations, would still rank top among its neighbours after Thailand in terms of urban developments, its society well-being, infrastructures,transportations, income per capita as well as tourism developments. One of the most observed change was the new airport which by Indochina region standard is currently the best I think. The old airport has now turned into domestic terminal in which when I first came about 6 years ago, that was still Hanoi's only airport. Another change observed was probably the more taxis on the road as compared to 6 years ago. Perhaps the taxis outweighed the number of personal or private cars in Hanoi and small taxis were seen to be very common in Hanoi as opposed to the sedan taxis. Hoan Kiem Lake is the heart of Hanoi at the centre of the every merry and bustling activities coming from both locals and tourists. Hoan Kiem Lake is also inches away from the packed and busy Old Quarters area where shops were abundant selling all kinds of things you can think of. Here, you can just get anything you like from shoes, bags, shirts, souvenirs, food items and the place to stay and to be for drinking the iconic Vietnamese cold fresh beer, Bia Hoi. Ba Dinh Square, where Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was located would brought some memories of the Vietnam War, how this late revolutionary leader had successfully gained independence for his country and his countrymen which was a hard fought victory, not just about any other war. While the run-down St Joseph Cathedral still look as good as before. Perfect yet for couple of photographs and enjoy coffee at the nearby cafe.
Minibus from Noi Bai International Airport to Hanoi city. VND 40,000 one way
Never missed the banh my. in Hanoi Perfect snack at anytime and taste good too.
Have lots of bia hoi (Vietnamese fresh beer). They are very cheap and taste superb and top it up with street food like this boil clamps
Of course, the motorbikes are still the king of the road and the ever chaotic traffics as well as the noisy vehicles' honking still be there. Else, I thought, Hanoi or even the entire Vietnam would have lost its charm without such annoyance, so used to its people and the tourists as well. The weather was rather cool at this time of the year in Hanoi because its the winter season. Therefore, its great time to enjoy some walking tour around Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter. Due to the close proximity to China, north Vietnam enjoy the similar weather as that of south China and Hong Kong. I always enjoy such cool weather as that reminds me of the Christmas as well as the Lunar New Year, two most celebrated holiday seasons in the world. Surely, its not just about any celebrations but its also a seasons of giving and remembering the unfortunates. In line with the modernisation of Hanoi over the years since my last visit, there are now many nice and thematic cafes seen sprouting all over the city mainly the Old Quarter as well as the surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake areas. Vietnam is one of world's largest coffee producer with the biggest coffee plantations being in the Buon Ma Thout province, the central highland of Vietnam. Therefore, it is not surprising that the cafe and coffee culture are part and parcel of the Vietnamese life. The people of Vietnam also stand to gain from such coffee drinking culture because tourists from all around the world visiting Vietnam would also love to enjoy Vietnamese coffee due to the aromatic and high quality of Vietnam's coffee. It is one of the things to do when in Hanoi, which is to enjoy some of Vietnamese finest coffee in these dozens of cafe and coffee house. Best still, have it on the side walkways. Vietnamese enjoy it that way and its their way of life!
A typical street food vendors in Hanoi
A bowl of Pho Ga (chicken soup noodle) for dinner
Brightly lit buildings near Hanoi's Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake
The red bridge at Hoan Kiem Lake lining to the Ngoc Son (tortoise) Temple at night
A night view of Hoan Kiem Lake
Setting up of coffee shops and cafes would bring about source of income for the entrepreneurs and also providing jobs to the people working in the industry. When I was in Hanoi 6 years ago, I noticed many Trung Nguyen coffee retailers but now, things have changed and that was really good for it has now open competition among the coffee franchise and the people as well as tourists have got more choices on the coffee that they prefer to chose from. I returned to the guesthouse I stayed 6 years ago located at Ngo Huyen street near the Saint Joseph Cathedral and Quoc Su Temple, but it seemed to have closed now. However, I was not sure whether it was closed for good or has shifted few lots ahead because the name of that guesthouse was noticed along the same street but on different lot. It probably has moved but I did not asked. Nevertheless, I hope that that guesthouse was the same as the one being closed. Well, it may not be something that's worth the notice but sometimes when you walk down the memory lane and be able to gain the good old memories, its something that brought nostalgic and cherish-able experience back to the mind & soul after some time. The Hoan Kiem Lake was still there as proud as it used to be as ever, being in the heart of Hanoi city and this is the most iconic landmark for the Vietnam's capital. As the saying goes, you know you are in Hanoi when you are right at Hoan Kiem Lake.
A mobile stool and table for street food dining in Hanoi. You can just about anywhere on the side walks and alleyways.
Hoan Kiem Lake general overview
The red bridge at Hoan Kiem Lake linking to Ngoc Son Temple
Ngoc Son Temple entrance gate
Bac Ma (White Horse) Temple at Hang Buom, Hanoi @ Old Quarter
SOME OF THE STREETS AND BUILDINGS @ OLD QUARTER MAINLY AROUND THE WALKING STREET AREA DURING DAY TIME
I missed out touring the Old Quarter during my visit 6 years ago and now, back to Hanoi, I wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to have short walking tour and shopping through some of the speciality shops mostly selling coffees and local sweets/delicacies, textiles, shoes and souvenirs. The Old Quarter is also the area in Hanoi city to savour some of the best Vietnamese street food including "bun cuon" , "bun cha", "pho", "banh mi", "xoi man", "bun ca", "bun moc", "bun oc" to name a few. The never to be missed here at Old Quarter is the famous Walking Street which is where the locals and tourists would enjoy the "bia hoi" (Vietnamese fresh beer) and savouring the Vietnamese BBQ, street seafood and other Vietnamese street cuisines. The Walking Street is along Long Ngoc Quyen, Ta Hien, Hang Buom, Ma May and Hang Giay. Other than coffee and "bia hoi" cultures, it is also worth to note that dining in Hanoi mostly if not all, taking place on the side walks or side streets, where short stools are arranged for seating and slightly taller ones are used to set up as tables and a tray being put on top the higher stool for placing of food items. There you go, you are all ready to have some delicious Vietnamese "bia hoi" and street food right on the street.
Dong Xuan Wholesale Market @ Old Quarter during night time
Enjoy cup of aromatic Vietnamese coffee in Hanoi
At this "revolution" themed cafe near St Joseph Cathedral
St Joseph Cathedral
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
WALKING STREET IN THE EVENING AND ENJOYING BIA HOI THERE IS A MUST IN HANOI
A trip to Hanoi would not be complete without side tours and the most popular one without actually need any mention would be the Halong Bay cruise. I had been to the Halong Bay back in 2010, so I decided to give this tour a skip and chose the Bai Dinh Pagoda and Trang An Eco Tour. Bai Dinh Pagoda is a place of worship and paying homage to the Lord Buddha as well as the Kuan Yin Goddess and is gaining popularity among the Vietnamese to perform thanksgiving during religious seasons. The pagoda has yet to be fully completed and highlights other than the Golden Buddha and Kuan Yin statues housed in a massive temple building, an almost completed Pagoda building as well as the sculptures of many of the late monks in Vietnam who has contributed hugely in spreading Buddhism in Vietnam in the old days. Trang An was another magnificent natural wonders and was quite similar to Tam Coc, which I had been to the last visit. yet, both were still distinctive in its own. Trang An tour will bring you across the river cruise through slow sampan paddling overlooking the massive limestone hills as well going through 9 caves, which was the highlight of the tour. It was also dubbed as the other inland Halong Bay after Tam Coc.
BAI DINH PAGODA IN NINH BINH PROVINCE
TRANG AN ECO TOURS
I feel happy to be able to be back in Hanoi after 6 years and walk down the memory lane. I like Hanoi and Vietnam because this country's history provides lots of inspiration and spirit on perseverance in which how Vietnam has able to ward off all its superior colonial masters in the past and that is important aspect in everything in life. To be able to withstand any hardships is not easy and patience as well as knowledge will help to improve life. Vietnam is not perfect and without its shortfall so were other countries and us as well. But the history of its leaders of the past will always be a good learning point for everyone and hopefully the young ones in country such as Vietnam will learnt that success is not by overnight but endurance of many pains, sacrifices and death had brought about the well being of the country where they live in today.
Enjoying Vietnamese street food, nem cuon (spring roll) and nom chim (roast bird salad)
Enjoying yet another famous Vietnamese street food, the bun cha
Morning breakfast of bun cuon
Enjoying bun thit nuong for dinner