Hanoi City- Old Quarter

The first thing you notice about Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam, is how much cooler it is from Ho Chi Minh. Though it’s about 1500km (under a 1000miles) to the north the temperature dropped about 20degF (12degC). Unlike Ho Chi Minh the Hanoi sky was rather cloudy the whole time. Being the Capitol and more political I encountered many restricted areas as I wandered out of the Old Quarter to explore some of the sites.

Arriving at the domestic terminal at Noi Bai airport I found it quite easy to turn left and head for the local bus station. Bus #86 is the bus of choice to get to Old Quarter with a cost of 35k VND ($1.50 USD) it was a bit pricier than the 5k VND Ho Chi Minh bus. Using my Busmap app, the same one for Ho Chi Minh the timing said 82 min though it only took an hour. The stop nearest the hostel was about 600m. Not bad, but of course similar street traffic to circumvent like Ho Chi Minh. At this point I’m very used to the traffic and it’s not bothering me at all. Actually I found the challenge somewhat invigorating with suitcase in tow. I use a suitcase rather than a backpack because I find it easy to roll, keeps must stuff better organized and it’s easy on my back.

I arrive at the Nexy Hostel which is a short walk from Ho Hoan Kiem lake the central hotspot for Hanoi Old Quarter. My room at Nexy is on the 3rd floor and before I could frown the host said ‘we have an elevator’, yea!

The hostel dorms are basic and small but the beds have privacy curtains. Breakfast is free on the 2nd floor and there’s a bar which serves reasonably priced food on the 1st floor. I had buy 2 get 1 free beer for 30k happy hour. The view from the rooftop was nice but a bit on the cool side to hang out for long. I ordered pizza and talked with a guy who was heading for Nepal on the next day. I told him I had been there a few years ago and he would like Kathmandu.

In the TV room I chilled after breakfast watching Netflix which you sign in with your own account. No problem using my Netflix account in Vietnam now.

I took long walks around the lake area, with plenty of restaurants to choose from, many with great views. You’ll see people exercising and playing games around the lake, like hacky sack with a birdy instead of a sack. Tap Rhua tower sits in the middle of that lake and is inaccessible. Many photographers surround the lake trying to get perfect photos of this Tap Rhua temple using zoom lenses. This tower commemorates a local folk hero, Le Loi, who had freed the Vietnamese from Chinese forces back in 1425. I got a somewhat decent shot of it in the early evening just as the lights turn on.

Strolling around early evenings I was wearing a light jacket while searching for where I felt like eating, something reasonably priced with local cuisine, a view, and fast WiFi. I found all these criteria at Avalon on the 5th floor and across the street at Coffee Club also on the 5th floor.

I would hang out here for a couple hours ordering food, drinks and dessert in increments.

On the second day I decided to wander just outside of the old quarter to look at the sites such as the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and the one pillar pagoda in the botanical gardens area nearby. My path took me through several restricted areas which I had to circumvent. At one point an armed guard asked me to cross the street which I wanted to anyway, I was just looking for the first cross walk that wasn’t a dead end. Then you need to find the exact security check entry point to get in, it’s free.

There was a burning of votive paper figures ceremony I watched for awhile. This was near the one pillar pagoda area of the park. It is said this pagoda represents a lotus flower growing up out of the water.

Then I walked over to the mausoleum. The guards were very strict on not letting anyone stand any closer than this slightly raised sidewalk.

I managed to get about 21,000 steps that day and was feeling accomplished. There was the usual multitude of guys asking if I wanted a ride. After turning many down before I finally nodded with acceptance since it was about a couple miles back. My dinner was at the Avalon before settling in for the night. The next day I left for my 3 day Halong Bay cruise with return to Hanoi for another 2 days, same hostel.

Returning to the Nexy hostel for 2 nights after the Halong Bay cruise I had no itinerary planned. My only goal was to get some decent steps completed, eat, and update my website.

I explore around the local area of the hostel. Since I like the lake area a lot I walk around this a couple times as well.

Ngoc Son Temple sits in the middle of the lake and was built in commemoration of the 13th century military leader Tran Hung Dao who was renowned for his bravery in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty. There’s a red bridge path to get to the temple. The cost was 30k VND for entry. I found it well worth the entry fee. A very relaxing place to explore.

Lunches at Legend Beer on 3rd floor and Avalon 5th floor.

Dinner at 1930 Bistro, you can see the red bridge path to the temple on the lake all lit up.

Last night in Hanoi, now on to Siem Riep Cambodia via Noi Bai airport. I walk over to bus stop again with suitcase in tow. The north bound stop is a little different and does’nt show bus 86 stop on any maps except for the Busmap app. Once I get there I try to ensure this is the 86 bus stop. There’s another guy there trying to confirm the same thing. We both see 86 listed on the sign along with many others and agree with each other that we are indeed in the right place.

The bus ride back took only about 50min this time to the Noi Bai International terminal. The domestic terminal is right next door.

Good bye Hanoi! Hello Siem Riep!