Sunday, October 4, 2015

I'm in Hanoi, Vietnam!

Hey guys, I'm in Vietnam! I've been here before -- I visited Ho Chi Minh (in the southern part of the country) November 2013. I'm back again to visit the older northern part. I plan to be here for the next two weeks, and in that time I hope to visit Ha Long Bay (filled with amazing limestone formations, beaches, caves, and kayaking opportunities) as well as Sapa (a city in the mountains largely populated by hill tribes, Sapa is also known for its beauty and practice of rice terracing). I was supposed to check out Ha Long bay tomorrow, but seeing as a tropical storm is on its way, I'll have to wait out the bad weather before I can go.

I spent my first full day wandering around the city. I'm staying at a great little place called Hanoi Merci Hotel. Normally I book hostels in an effort to save money, but this place was in my price range and it's located near Hoan Kiem Lake, which is in the Old Quarter. If anyone is searching for a hotel in which to stay in Hanoi, I definitely recommend this place. The staff has been incredibly helpful, you get to choose your complimentary breakfast off an actual menu, and it's very conveniently located. Almost everything I want to see is in walking distance, so I decided to splurge a bit and stay in a proper hotel (with a bathtub! -- sadly, this feature quite rare in Asia).

I did not plan to see much today because I will be here for a full two weeks. I think that this is the longest I have dedicated to any city that I haven't lived in, so I'm trying to stretch out my time so I can do just a little every day.

While I have absolutely enjoyed my time here so far, I can say that I was a bit shocked by how overbearing some of the vendors trying to sell things can be. I've only been here a day, and about 10 ladies have tried to shove a donut in my hand so I will sample it and buy from them. And last night I was walking in search of a restaurant when a lady stopped me, shoved one of those double baskets on a pole on my shoulder, stuck a rice hat on my head, took a picture (with her own phone) and then handed me a couple bags pineapple and demanded money from me. It was so unexpected I could not stop the picture from happening, and I can admit that I guiltily bought a single bag of the fruit (but I did haggle the price down). Walking through the park this morning, I was stopped every five minutes by strangers that wanted to practice their English. I appreciated the effort they were making and enjoyed meeting new people, but after a bit it became frustrating because I just wanted to get to my destination.

Life is good though! I walked around all day, ate some Indian food, drank the most amazing cup of coffee I have ever had, and finished reading a book. Here are some pictures from my wander:

Men in military uniforms are everywhere!
The stereotypical rice hat, for sale at pretty much every tourist shop.
These are cyclos, one of the most common forms of transportation here.
You sit in the front, and the person taking you around sits on the back and pedals.
They're typically rented out for hours at a time rather than a one-way ride like a taxi.
Always agree on the price BEFORE sitting down in one of these!
Vietnam is well known for its amazing coffee.
This cup features the best tasting coffee I have ever had.
It was strong, yet chocolatey, and I can assure you that it packed a punch of
caffeine despite its small size (yes, this is the full cup as it was served to me.)
Indira Gandhi park. It was filled with kids playing (many were attempting to rollerskate)and families just hanging out. 
This statue is dedicated to the founder and first king of the Lu Dynasty, which ruled from 1009 to 1225 AD.
He is the one responsible for moving the capital to Thang Long, which is very close to Hanoi.
The move led to Hanoi being found and becoming the present-day capital city.

Typical restaurant -- a tiny kitchen and outdoor tables with tiny stools.
And oh yeah, the chickens that are eventually on your plate wander the sidewalks.

Bikes serve as makeshift shops. I saw many, many bikes that had platters of fruit on the back that was for sale.

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