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Goodbye Heathrow, Hello Vietnam! Blog #3 Our Top 3 things to do in… Hanoi
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Grove Travel’s 12 day guided tour of Vietnam & Cambodia

On Tuesday 9th June 2015 we said goodbye London Heathrow, hello Hanoi North Vietnam! On our direct flight to Hanoi with Vietnam Airlines, we enjoyed their comfy premium economy seats with extra legroom which really came in handy on a long haul flight!

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Days 1-3- Hanoi, North Vietnam

Hotel we stayed in- 5* Hilton Hanoi Opera

Hanoi hilton exterior from hilton website

 

Our top 3 things to do in… Hanoi!

No.1  “The 36 Streets”

Market stall ladies courtesy of IanHanoi bike ladies market pic

On day one of our trip we were taken on a city tour to explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter… Although now with far more than 36 streets, Hanoi’s old quarter was once a cluster of hamlets built over a swamp by communities from different villages who travelled to the area to sell their trade as early as the 13th Century. Since then many streets in Hanoi’s Old Quarter have been named according to each community’s trade such as Hang Dong (‘Copper Street’) where they blend metal into gates and brackets, and Hang Mam or (‘Salted Fish Street’) selling fish sauce and other sea products. Now with over 70 streets the Old Quarter is a bustling mix of old and new where you can see ladies in traditional conical hats selling fruit by bike, or in the market with baskets of dried shrimp and a treasure trove of spices. On our tour we got to explore these amazing streets by a fun but efficient electric car and on foot at the indoor market gazing at the incredibly diverse produce and taking in all the sounds and smells. Whatsmore, Hanoi has an amazing food scene with street food on almost every corner, we got to try a training kitchen, Koto, where they train young people into chefs. More about food later though when we get to Hoi An!

No.2  The “Hanoi Hilton” PRISON

Prison

What is known locally as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ isn’t exactly the plush 5* Hilton Hanoi Opera hotel we enjoyed staying in, far from it Hoa Lo prison is where Vietnamese revolutionaries, and later American pilots were incarcerated during the 1800’s and 1950’s. On day 2 we visited and admittedly, seeing the original guillotine and life size models of prisoners isn’t the most uplifting thing to do in the city but I feel it is a must see for understanding how this country’s people and history have been shaped by the past but have come so far from such dark times.

No.3  Temple of Literature

Temp of Lit 1Temp of Lit 2 MEDSC00143

Also on our 2nd day we visited the Temple of Literature, or Van Mieu as it is known in Vietnamese. The temple sits right in the middle of this crazily busy city but is surprisingly quiet there, the high temple walls really do help to reduce the noise of the city which surrounds it on three sides, that’s a lot of scooter noise to drown out! The temple was dedicated to a Chinese philosopher named Confucius, built in 1070 this also later housed the city’s first University. Although certainly not in China, the feel here is very Yin and Yang with perfectly symmetrical gardens. This being my first ever visit to Indochina the colour and intensity of the exquisite red lacquered statues and altars really were like nothing I’d ever seen before! The altar’s in particular were interesting because of the offerings visitors were giving, along with money people placed native jackfruits and cigarettes, I was happy enough giving a donation and lighting an incense stick in return for a wish.

These are just our top 3 picks of what to do in Hanoi but I found there really is so much to see, whether you choose the nightly Thang Long Water Puppets theatre against the backdrop of the lake, or visit the Ho Chin Minh Mausoleum to see armed guards stand to attention.

Ever imagined doing Tai Chi on the top deck of a traditional Vietnamese junk boat at 7am, or kayaking through towering islands which inspired the floating cliffs in James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’?  Next blog, Top 3 Things to do in… Ha Long Bay!

Rosie x

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