Visiting the capital of Vietnam
This is one of the big cities in South East Asia that we like the most, because of it´s life in the streets and it´s business. Everything is colorful an there is a lot to see just by walking down the streets. Around every corner you will find something new to eat, to gaze at or to visit. You can also find many (souvenir) shops and a big coffee culture.
We slept in The Hanoi Hostel Life, where we stayed for 4 nights. We paid 340.000 VND per night, including breakfast. The rooms were clean and the hostel is located directly in the old town. The rooms are cleaned every day and we got new towels every day as well. They also rent motorbikes for 100.000 VND per day and help you to book train tickets, bus tickets, organize tours, etc. – but they will charge for their service…see about that below.
Hanoi city center
The old town of Hanoi is a crazy and busy place. Locals still live here and do everything in the streets. It feels like every house also has a shop and every street is specialized in something else, like carpentry, souvenirs, food, taylors etc. You will find everything here! It´s a lot of fun to simply walk around and have a look around; eat something here and shop something there. We walked a lot in the old town, went to the water puppet theater and also to the the lakes.
The water puppet theater is recommendable. The performance takes about one hour and they do shows at 5 times a day. The tickets is 250.000 VND per person and it is a good idea to go there the day before and buy the tickets as there is a huge queue. The performance is held in a water basin and you will see typical Vietnamese scenes from their traditional everyday life in the countryside as well as some holy animals, all played with puppets. Everything is accompanied by a small live orchestra, with traditional instruments and live singing.
There is a nice local market: Dong Xuan, which is a mall-like busy house with many shops and a night market around the building and the whole street by night. It´s the typical Asian shopping place and fun to see, but also busy and exhausting.
Temple of literature: We enjoyed visiting this temple a lot! The entrance fee is 30.000 VND per person (15.000 VND for students) and very interesting, if you like temples ;-). It is a Confucius temple and therefore an old place of wisdom and the first university of the country. It´s a good idea to read about the temple before you go, or while you visit it, because there is not much information there.
There are many more things to see and visit, but we enjoyed just walking in the streets and getting sucked-in by the business of the daily live, that we didn´t find the time to go to them 🙂
The ceramic village of Bat Trang
We heard about a day trip to the closest pottery village and since Anna is a big fan of bowls, we went there by motorbike. The ride was fine, but you need to be a little secure to driving a motorbike in a big city to do it. It took us around 45 minutes to get there on a OK road, but mainly city. When we stopped at the gas station where we only wanted to get 1 liter of petrol, we got it, but the man selling it started cursing at us. In general, people in the suburbs where not friendly towards us.
The pottery village is heaven on earth for everyone who likes pottery. We surely enjoyed it! There are hundreds of shops and factories selling Chinese vases, tea pots, bowls, plates, candle nights, etc. We shopped around as much as our luggage would allow and went back to Hanoi 🙂
We don´t really have food recommendations for Hanoi, because we simply don´t remember were we ate when… There are tons of food options at every corner and you can simply try out what you think looks best. At least, that´s what we did.We had a good table grill once, ate at a special duck place, ate a lot of Pho (the typical Vietnamese soup) in different ways and places and tried a thousand different Bánh mi shops (that are filled baguettes, with different fillings).
There is also a very big coffee house tradition in Hanoi, so you can also easily find a relaxing coffee place to have a break and re-load your phone.
If you want to go for Duck, thats a nice place, close to the touristic area in the northern old town:
Going to the South by train
To get away from Hanoi we took a night train to Ding Hoi and went to the Phong Nah National Park from there. The main railway connects Hanoi with Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and makes many stops in between. We paid 517.000 VND per person, in a so-called hard sleeper. That is a bed in a six person cabin, with mattress, pillow and blanket. The soft sleepers are the more expensive version, which are not really softer, but you only share the cabin with four persons. The cheaper version is to book a soft seat, where you get a sleeping chair in a big cabin or even a hard seat, which would then be a not so soft seat. There are toilets (asia versions) in every coach, which are ok and even had toilet paper.
The journey takes around 10 hours, leaving Hanoi at 10 p.m. and arriving in Dong Hoi at 7.30 a.m.
It is a comfortable and easy way of traveling longer distances, a little more expensive as the bus, but a lot saver and we get more sleep in a train than a bus.
For any information about trains in Vietnam or anywhere else on this world use this very amazing site: www.seat61.com
You can buy the train tickets either at the train station or online: www.baolau.com