After leaving Sven in Cat Ba, the seven of us travelled north to the city of Hanoi, the old capital of Vietnam. Rich in history and culture there’s no shortage of museums and places of interest. Not particularly fond of museums I found there wasn’t much to do in Hanoi apart from eat, which made it a great city to be in.
I had managed to find a seven bed room at Millennium Hotel in the centre of town which was surprisingly nice considering the poor reviews on Trip Advisor. It was the last night all seven of us were together after nearly three weeks travelling Vietnam so we booked a table at an Indian restaurant Namaste, which we had read good things about. I was a little reluctant about going for an Indian when I was in what is considered one of Asia’s top culinary hubs but it was some of the girls last night in Vietnam and they fancied a curry.
We shared a selection of dishes recommended to us by the owner and I was so scared that they would all be too spicy for me, but it was in fact one of the best curries I’ve ever had. A few dishes were too hot for my liking and the bread and poppadoms different to what I am used to in the UK but this may only be because it was Southern Indian Cusine. The owner was so accommodating and if you are in Hanoi and fancy a change then this is the place to go.
We enjoyed a dance at a couple of backpacker bars before heading back to our room. I woke after just a couple of hours sleep as I wanted to visit the stuffed body of Ho Chi Minh, which is an important pilgrimage in Vietnam. Sadly dead Uncle Ho is only available until 11am so we had to rush the 45 minute trek across town to see him. It was here I encountered one of the strangest experiences of my life.
I’ve always been fascinated by the obsession Vietnamese people have with Ho Chi Minh but what followed that morning just proved their love for him. The stuffed body of Ho Chi Minh is one of the most guarded things I have ever come across. It took us about 15 minutes to get through numerous security checks and once inside we were quickly ushered past his body forbidden to make any noise, stop or even put our hands in our pockets. Uncle Ho, as he’s better known, looked just like he was sleeping.
Afterwards we saw the attractive French gardens where he lived in a small wooden house. The informational leaflets praising him indicated that he is considered a legend by Vietnamese people. It was all very surreal and unless you experience it, it’s impossible to truly understand.
We all agreed that Hanoi is the London of England and more so the Melbourne of Australia. It isn’t as multicultural as Ho Chi Minh City but it boasts the same choice in street food and nearly the same number of motorbikes. I recently learned why everyone in Vietnam owns bikes not cars and this is because cars have to be imported from China which is expensive.
I love street food and I would much rather eat where the locals do than at a restaurant and there is certainly no shortage of this in Hanoi. It was here I tried Ban Cha (pork in broth and noodles) and Xôi Xéo (sticky rice, grated fat and meat) for the first time and was overwhelmed just as much by the flavours as the price. I even swapped my morning chicken noodle soup for chicken rice soup which tasted a little like a thick porridge.
The selection of desserts in Hanoi is just as good but most were similar to the ones I’ve tried throughout Vietnam containing mung bean and gluteneous rice. I did stumble upon a street selling fruit and jelly soup which I absolutely loved and also found a toffee coconut pancake which was also tasty. As much as I love the food, it was the coffee of Hanoi which really won me over.
After reading a few blogs online, I suggested we visit Cafe Pho Co for a traditional Hanoi coffee. Caphe trung da coffee is topped with creamy whipped egg whites and tastes just like a tiramisu! It was divine and we returned every morning for our daily dose. Apart from eating, my time in Hanoi was spent shopping and I managed to pick up some weasel coffee from Huong Mai Cafe which I tried on my Easy Rider tour.
Wallet dry, stomach full (just like in Hoi An) we couldn’t face a night at busy Hanoi Backpackers which we had booked so we checked back into Millennium Hotel and their cosy duvets for a quiet night in before parting ways. Myself, Jaimie and Phoebe had booked a night bus to Sapa leaving Allan behind in Hanoi while the rest of the girls headed to Laos. We had planned to enjoy one last egg white coffee and pick up some of our favourite street eats for the journey but our pick-up arrived nearly an hour early. Oh what I would do to enjoy another egg white coffee! There is no denying Hanoi has some of the best food in the country.
Living life, loving travel,