Showing posts with the label Hanoi

The French Quarter, the History Museum, Hoa Lo Prison

After overextending yesterday, I slept in today and took it slow over breakfast. Today's my last day in Hanoi, and I used it to visit the last few items on my list.

I got out at about 10 and walked along Hoan Kiem lake, all the way until the French Quarter. It's still gray and misty, but less muggy than yesterday. Google forecasts rain for my whole Halong Bay cruise tomorrow and my trip to Sapa after that, and even in allegedly sunny Hue it's raining, so I guess I should just resign myself to wet holidays...

The French Quarter is certainly different from the Old Quarter, with bigger buildings of Western styles, albeit often with the yellow colours you see so often in French colonial houses. The most recognisable sight in the quarter is the Hanoi Opera House (above), which is like a miniature, tropical Opéra Garnier.

Right next to it is the National Museum of Vietnamese History, a big yellow building more grandiose perhaps than its collection might merit. I feel like the Lo…

The Imperial Citadel, the Temple of Literature

Sleep is awesome, you guys! You should totes try it! Last night I fell asleep the moment my head touched the pillow at around 20:30 -I woke up wide awake at 2AM, thinking the jet lag was going to screw me over, but next thing I know my alarm is waking me up at 7AM.

The early start was because I planned to go the Ho Chi Minh memorial complex, and the Mausoleum inside only opens from 08:00 to 11:00. I took a taxi there and found the longest queue I've ever seen. Hundreds and hundreds of people, only about 5% westerners, and it did that Disneyworld thing where you see a massive queue outside, but then you get in and there's another massive queue inside. It actually moved relatively fast, but to give you an idea, I joined the queue at 8:30 and only entered the mausoleum at 10:00!!

After all the queuing, you arrive at a rather small cement building guarded by lots of uniformed officers. They make you leave your bags outside and instruct you to not speak, point at things or put your…

The Old Quarter of Hanoi

So we left off when I left the cozy hotel at what must have amounted like 5AM my time on no sleep to delve into the chaos that is the Old Quarter of Hanoi. I figured I would just walk around the area for a bit until I became tired again -I took the Lonely Planet 2h itinerary as a starting point but ended up doing all of it!

It's been a culture shock for sure, this being my first time in South-East Asia, second time in Asia after Japan a few years ago. Everything I'd read, every video I'd seen, every story I'd been told proved true. Walking down the streets here is an assault on all your senses. There are motorcycles going in every direction, on the road or on the sidewalk, cars and vans as well, honking constantly at every turn. Back home a honk normally means "You're going to die now", so I jump every time, but here it's a substitute for blinkers, or a threat, or a warning. They honk, therefore they are.

The streets of the Old Quarter aren't narr…

To Vietnam, by way of Hanoi then Da Nang then Hanoi again

Another year, another adventure: this time I came to Vietnam!
I took on a direct Vietnam Airlines flight that turned out not to be so direct when, after more than 10h in the air, we received the news that visibility was insufficient in Hanoi. They diverted us to Da Nang (which added an hour on the plane), where we had to wait for Hanoi to clear up (another hour) and then we had to take off and fly there again (another hour). A three hour delay for a total of 14 hours on board! I was bouncing off the walls by the time I got off the plane. It didn't help that the selection of in-flight movies was awful...
Once in Hanoi, I still had to queue to get my visa. The way it works is, if you live in one of a few countries (including the UK, Spain, France and Japan, but not the US) you don't need a visa for stays shorter than 15 days. Mine is 16 days, so I had to request a visa via my hotel, which I then had to validate at Noi Bai airport. You fill in a form, attach a picture, and fork ove…