We planned on going to Vietnam. And then we weren’t. And then Vietnam was back on again. But we changed our minds again and decided not to go. But then, we went! We decided to make it our last stop before heading back state side. We had just enough juice after recharging in Koh Tao to make the journey. We applied for our visas a week before we left, bought our flights, and were on our way to Vietnam where we had 3 nights booked at a hotel in Little Hanoi but no other plans. We’d need to plan our Vietnam visit as we went.
The downside of flexible traveling is, when our time is spent planning our trip, we’re not out enjoying our trip. Between researching places to visit, booking accommodations, and comparing the 50 million different options for touring Halong Bay, we carved out some time to explore the streets of Hanoi. We skipped most of the “tourist attractions” and just wandered the streets with no plans. We wanted to see what life in Hanoi was like. Here are some photos we took walking the streets of Hanoi:
Our blood pressures skyrocketed as we navigated the narrow streets of Hanoi, desperately trying to avoid being run over by scooters zipping by. In a land of no traffic signals or crosswalks, we were on our own if we wanted to cross the street. We walked around Hoàn Kiếm Lake, made a stop at the over-hyped train-street, and visited the Hao Lo Prison (where John McCain and other POWs were held), explored the tiny alleys, drank bia hơi in the middle of the day, ate bowls of pho, and watched the locals go about their daily lives. Then, we went back to the hotel to plan the rest of our trip.
While some people may love Hanoi, our experience here was mostly hanoi-ing (annoying). It was a little bit too crowded for us, very challenging to keep dry, and difficult to navigate – a stark contrast to the beach life we had experienced the previous two weeks. Despite the downgrade in comfort, we’re still glad we went. Being uncomfortable in a place so many people call home sparked our interest in learning as much as we could about Vietnam during our time there. After a few nights in Hanoi it was time to move on.
I think our favorite part about Hanoi is that it’s the gateway to some beautiful landscapes, two of which we were able to visit. Next up, Halong Bay.