This travel was a wish that came true the other year. I’m mentioning it now because I will move to Spain this summer and Hanoi gave me a hint of what to expect: architectural beauty, rich culture, delicious foods, and colder weather. So, let´s begin our little exploration of Vietnam´s capital, especially its Old Quarter.
We booked at Aquarius Hanoi Hotel, but we found out the room we have chosen was small and no window with a view, and the reception area was full of scooters parked for the night. My husband and I felt a little claustrophobic so we called up Oriental Suites Hotel and arranged for a transfer early next day.
We finally got to settle our stuff at the new hotel. It was nicer with a city view and the manager told me that they were still months in operation so basically we were in for the newest treat in town. Their buffet was very good, but sometimes I go a la carte for my favorite Pho noodle soup, a popular Vietnamese dish. The staff was very humble and friendly.
Out in the streets, I saw a chaotic mix of transportation. There were so many different types of vehicles congesting the streets. The trade area of the Old Quarter has a various line-up of stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. We walked a lot because it is the best way to really appreciate the experience.
We also went to the Imperial Academy within the Temple of Literature that locals also call the Temple of Confucius. When I was in college, we studied Confucius extensively so I got really curious to go there. Here he is:
I felt like I was a member of the royal family as I stepped in because the temple looks like a smaller version of a palace with courtyards, pavilions, small parks, and luscious gardens. Great structures like lakes, wells, stone, and wood carvings abound this temple. I have observed that the historic buildings there are very well-preserved. Meanwhile, my eyes feasted on the items at the souvenir shops. There were so many things to see at the same time and so many people too because it was graduation time at the national university when we went there.
Next, we went to Hoan Kiem District where the famous Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Returned Sword) is. From the distance, you can see the Turtle Tower, another important landmark. It was nice to see a lake in the middle of Hanoi´s historic center. It is not just an ordinary lake for sure because every Vietnamese I talked to seemed very proud of it. My husband also felt nostalgic because the atmosphere at the lake´s café was very much like Europe. Considering the French influence on Vietnam, it didn’t come as a surprise. Well, the lake is surrounded by the chaos of the Old Quarter streets so it is a huge respite from the city´s hustle and bustle, and you don’t have to go too far to relax. What a nice contrast!
Hoan Kiem Lake surrounds the Ngoc Son Temple. It´s like a pagoda sitting on an island and then we have to go over a bridge called Rising Sun Bridge built with exotic designs to get there. The gate of the pagoda has grand towering posts with some writings on it, probably Chinese. The place has a peaceful and quiet vibe to it.
After taking our fill of the views and some interesting things to see inside the Ngoc Son temple, we proceeded to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre to check out the schedule. We bought two tickets amounting to 200,000d. Make no mistake about it because Vietnam´s currency is Dong. We are talking thousands here haha. I bought this cute wooden mirror for 10,000d mind you… 🙂
Moving on, we waited for the theatre´s opening in a coffee house on the ground floor. They served us Vietnam specialty coffee. The water puppet show was very colorful, light, and fun to watch. They staged their performance on the water and the music was very distinct and nice. The venue was fully packed with tourists but I didn’t see so many kids as what I have been expecting.
Any trip abroad wouldn’t be complete without visiting the local restaurants. I have listed the ones we went to. Some of them are without pictures because I don’t know anymore where I put my shots.
Millenium Café Des Arts. Another French Restaurant. Yes, we had the ultimate French food cravings.
And then, back to Vietnamese foods…
Purple Cherry. Authentic Vietnamese Restaurant. Great tasting foods.
City View Café. As the name suggests, you will definitely have one of the best city views because this establishment is located at the center of the city. You can see the Old Quarter from there as well as the Hoan Kiem Lake. Just choose a good spot where to sit.
The Gourmet Corner Restaurant. This resto is located on top of the Diamond Hotel. This was by far the one we´ve been to that had the best view. Their menu was also authentic Vietnamese.
Before we ended our stay in Vietnam, we rejuvenated ourselves at Vietnam Traditional Spa. That was it. Our trip to Hanoi, Vietnam was very enjoyable and satisfying. The hospitality of the people is amazing. Everyone was so kind and smiling. It felt like home for me. Infact, when I was eating my Pho, I imagined our very own and my favorite Batchoy haha. Thank you, beautifully vivid Vietnam. Until we meet again!