Our friend Kevin asked us the other day what was our favorite part of our trip so far and we did not know what to say. We thought about it and concured. The drives from the airport into the cities is probably one of our favourite things. We both sit there in silence with our eyes wide open just taking it in. The drive into Hanoi was great. The architecture is really neat. The houses are very narrow and tall with a flair of French colonial style. The traffic is crazy, cars, mopeds, bicycles everywhere. Everyone is honking all the time, it’s pretty chaotic!
We arrived in Hanoi and checked in to our hotel. Oh yes, I almost forgot, in the plane we were reading in Lonely Planet about the scams. Taxis that pick you up from the airport often bring you to a different hotel than the one you told them. They stop and two guys welcome you, grab your bags and the taxi pulls away before you realize it is not your hotel. The taxis get a commission from the hotel. Well, it happened to us. The cab stopped, two guys with huge smiles open the doors on each side and said welcome to your hotel. Thankfully we were aware and we had the address with us, so we did not move from the taxi and told him to bring us to our hotel. The Golden Sun hotel was great we really enjoyed it. It is right by the Old Quarter and just beside Hoan Kiem Lake, which is very nice.
The next day, we took a cyclo to the Temple of Literature, which is the first university in Vietnam (1076!). The sons of mandarins were educated there, it had a list of all the men who receveid a doctorate since 1442. The cyclo ride was an adventure in itself! We then went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum. Before the visit we went for lunch at a VERY local stop. It felt like we were coming from a different planet. There was not menu and no one spoke English so we just pointed to our neighbours and said same… it turned out to be a hot pot with snails. It was quite testy.
The museum was very interesting, so much to learn… Later that afternoon we walked around Hoan Kiem Lake. Legend has it that in the mid-15ths, a giant golden turtle appeared on the surface of the lake and took emperor Le Loi’s sword and returned it to the Gods. We looked for the turtle’s descendants, which have been sighted, but no luck… That evening we went for supper in the old quarter at a restaurant called little Hanoi and met a nice couple. We left for Halong Bay the next morning.