I’m perched precariously on the back of the motorbike seat as we weave through the thick late afternoon traffic of Hanoi.
Donned on my mop of curly hair is a ‘Hello Kitty’ helmet that is reminiscent of a World War II German helmet in shape. I find my wits are sharp as we wiggle around moving obstacles. One hand is hanging on firmly to the back of the bike, and the other is trying to hold my handbag and another largish bag I’ve wedged between the driver’s body and mine.
Just because the traffic light is red, does not mean we stop when motoring through Hanoi’s busy streets. Somehow Vietnamese city traffic finds a way to continue flowing and continues as a steady stream, a little like objects floating on a river.
So how did I find myself on the back of this two-wheeled machine you might ask?
Well, we arrived in Hanoi on Sunday afternoon – flying in on a great flight from Singapore with TigerAir.
And with a few days to spare in Hanoi, wanting some extra time before our Legend Travel Group tour officially starts.
Being permanently ‘on the road’ means we have to organize day-to-day life around our travel. Things we own break down. Items (like toiletries) need to be purchased. Other possessions need repairs, updates, and replacements. But that is all part of ‘living out of a suitcase’.
My vintage Louis Vuitton handbag needs a slight repair, and I have other 3 items that also need stitching, plus a pair of shoes that need tending to by a shoe repairer.
Not speaking the local language and also not knowing where to go, the Asia Palace Hotel has volunteered one of their staff to assist me. Although he speaks limited English, he knows just where to take me. Places the locals would go to, and he also negotiates the prices for me.
We find ourselves dropping things off and heading to the next repairer. Repairers don’t always have a store. The shoe repairer was seated under a tree on the side of the road. His electricity came from a wire that ran up the tree and connected to the electrical wires that ran along the street.
With other super-friendly and trustworthy staff keeping an eye on Explorason back at the Asia Palace Hotel, I’m able to achieve all the repairs at an incredibly cheap price with only one drop off motorbike run, and one pick-up run. A big
A big shout-out to the Asia Palace Hotel and their amazing staff who went out of their way to be kind to us (they had no idea I was writing this article either).
I am in awe of the kindness of the Vietnamese people. They seem to have a gentle and kind nature, and for every question I have, they seem to always seek to find a solution. I notice tempers and anger are rarely seen here either.
For both Explorason and I, we believe the heart of the people here really helped to give us a positive start to our time in Vietnam, and we both felt rather elated right from our very first day.
On our initial evening, as pedestrians, we conquered the chaotic traffic in the old quarter of Hanoi city. Scooters and motorbikes park on the footpath, so this left us walking on the road, dodging everything that came our way.
We find a walking street, and breathe a sigh of relief.
Walking along this street, we discovered the lovely Lantern Lounge Restaurant and we head upstairs to enjoy our first authentic Vietnamese meal.
Explorason is given a pen to ‘graffiti’ his name on the rear wall, and he is so excited to see the lanterns and that we are seated on the floor. He also enjoys his meal – this really is a good start to Vietnam.
After dinner, we find our way to the weekend night market which is held every Saturday and Sunday. With this week being the Mid-Autumn Festival the streets are packed with walkers. It is so busy and congested, but a great experience not to be missed.
Over the next few days, we seem to eat and drink – a lot! Each meal becomes a treat, and we often found ourselves more enthralled by photographing the decor, than choosing what to eat.
Explorason was delighted when we discovered a Harry Potter café – ‘Always Café‘.
Another day (and right across the road) we found a restaurant that served him ‘Beef Wrapped in Sticky Rice Leaves’ that was served ‘on fire!.
Nearby and around the corner, we also dined one night at a cozy abode that felt more like a wine bar from the mountains of U.S.A. than a Vietnamese Restaurant.
Each restaurant in Hanoi seemed to have its own personality.
But the highlight of our dining experiences was when we dined at the stunning Old Hanoi Restaurant.
From the moment we entered this fine establishment, the charm of Old Hanoi was present.
Old Hanoi Restaurant was originally opened by Gordon Ramsay, and on this particular evening, we feasted like a King and Queen – with exotic and traditional Vietnamese food, not found in your average Vietnamese Restaurant anywhere in the world.
With an extensive drinks menu, we enjoyed sitting out in the courtyard area in the early evening on this fine balmy evening. I sipped on a cool glass of white wine, and Explorason enjoyed a fresh mango juice.
Then slowly, dishes were placed before us and seemed to keep on coming over the course of the evening.
This was the first time Explorason had used chopsticks, so the staff assisted with giving him a lesson. I then promised him a treat if he mastered the chopsticks within a week of being in Vietnam – a challenge he took on with delight.
This evening was also the start of the Mid-Autumn Festival – a special day for children here in Vietnam.
When we left the restaurant the traffic was gridlocked, even for motorbikes and scooters.
The Hoan Kiem Lake and adjoining temple bridge are lit and it is just a beautiful place to visit every evening, but this night is extra-special.
We walked arm-in-arm around the lake and watched as children and parents picnicked by the lakeside and enjoyed fruits, candies, and drinks. The children, I believe, are permitted anything – it is their special day.
We watched young people also sit in small groups, and young lovers caress by the moonlight. A few sung songs with a guitar and another older man playing the violin.
It is a night we just loved so much.
Another day, we hired a trishaw and had a mini-tour around the old quarter of the city and the lake.
We found a really happy man to cycle for us, and we had a fabulous time.
We visited the old Catholic church and he gave us time to go inside and look at the lovely lead-light windows. We also had time to stop by the lake.
If you visit Hanoi, make sure you book an hour or more – it is so fun, and not expensive either ($10-$15 an hour I think from memory) and worth every Vietnamese Dong! We were so delighted we did tip him extra – he just helped to make our day a special one.
Our Legend Travel Group tour officially starts tomorrow. We should be having an early night, but we are too excited. Instead, we find ourselves getting back out of bed and redressing for a midnight stroll around the lake – one more time!
Hanoi feels incredibly safe, and we are so excited to be exploring Vietnam over the next three weeks.
We hope you enjoy our journey and come along with us – even if it is through our social media and website articles.
We are already quite in love with Hanoi, and can’t wait to explore more of Vietnam.