We landed in Hanoi on Sunday, when sun was setting, so it was around 5pm. 30 hours of traveling? Lack of sleep? No way, I’m staying at a hotel. Quick shower and we were ready for a short walk. Short walk ended up being 8 km long walk.
Our goal: Hoan Kiem lake, probably the most popular place in Hanoi – a lake with an island with a temple. How surprised we were, when we saw that the road which goes around the lake was closed for vehicles and it was crowded. People were walking, playing games on the ground, dancing, singing. Wow. Vietnamese people know how to entertain themselves. Later we learnd that it looks like this every weekend.
We found a bar at the crossroads. We sat down on tiny chairs on the pavement, had a beer. Our knees were surprisingly close to our jaws, but it didn’t bother us. We spent time watching the traffic which is like watching a movie. Entertaining.
Proper sightseeing in Hanoi took 1 day. By foot. That’s how we do these things. We started from Temple of Literature, the first university. And probably one of my favourite places in Hanoi.
We had a plan: to go from Temple of Literature to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, pass it (in my opinion, putting someone’s body on display is not really normal, moreover, in October Ho Chi Minh is usually undergoing maintenance procedures in Russia) and go to the West Lake. Simple? Not really. It occured, that you can pass the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum only from one side, the left side (if you’re coming from Temple of Literature), which was a little more funny than it should be, but seriously, the wouldn’t let us go from the right side. Fun fact: I found info that Ho Chi Minh wanted to be buried in his hometown, but apparently someone else knew better and they constructed a building which once ended up on the list of 10 ugliest builidings in the World. I won’t argue with that.
So we found an alternative route, through Botanical Garden. The gate was open, but something in our heads kept telling us that you can’t enter places like for free. Ok, in Australia you can. Vietnamese lady rushed to us, charged more or less 0,17$ and confirmed that there’s a gate on the other side. 8 cents. Per person. If that’s not the reason to make a shortcut through a botanical garden, I don’t know what is.
We found the lake, we found Tran Quoc Temple – the oldest temple in Hanoi, it was closed, so we went back. On our way back, we figured out how to get to the Old Quarter (by foot) and by accident we found the most amazing street, Hoang Dieu. Wide, with plenty of trees and old French villas, which are devastated, but still beautiful.
If you’d like to picture Asian chaos, that’s the Old Quarter. But it’s chaotic in a nice way. It has been a trade quarter since forever. In one street they’re selling pots, in another – shoes and in another one plastic stools, which you can find in most restaurants. The Old Quarter doesn’t look that old. If a building collapsed, they built something else in its place. And forgot about the previous one. Just a few building survived this craziness over the years and that’s a shame. Heritage House, one of the buildings which remained, shows how beautiful the architecture was. It’s an old house which belonged to a merchant’s family until 1945. It’s tiny, so easy to miss it in all this chaos, but it’s worth visiting. I could live there.
The further we are from the Hoan Kiem lake, the more chaotic it gets and when we’re passing “fish department”, we are the only tourists in the area. Apparently not all tourist want to see Long Bien bridge, but if you’re travelling with a bridge design engineer, you know all famous bridges in the area. And less famous ones.
Turn right, go left, up the stairs, through the railway station and here you are, on the Long Bien bridge which is over 100 years old. It was bombarded during Vietnam War, rebuilt, bombarded, rebuilt, bombarded, rebuilt, bombarded, rebuilt, bombarded, rebuilt. Rumour has it that Gustav Eiffel designed it, but some say it just looks like Eiffel’s Tower. Obviously, bridges should be admired from the distance, but we completely failed at finding a right place to look at it from. And walking through a bridge which requires some serious maintenance, is not really my dream.
We went back to the Hoan Kiem lake, to Ngoc Son temple. And we have another bridge, a red one, which is probably on every single postcard from Hanoi. Google Maps says we walked 15 km. And it took us 3 hours. We walked more, because we were looking for a coffee. And for a beer in Beer Street and for lunch. It took longer, because we were sightseeing. One thing is sure – you can easily walk around Hanoi. And I like cities like this.