Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hanoi, I Love You!

After several months of anticipation, I have finally done my first out of the country solo trip to Hanoi. Truth is, I was not really planning on going to Hanoi. I wanted to go somewhere else, but as fate would have it, after randomly choosing from a list of cities, I settled in the Vietnamese capital. I was supposed to meet my friends Cha and Monica in Saigon, but I decided to spend my short vacation in Hanoi instead. A pretty good choice I must say. 

It's a shame that I'm only writing about this now. I guess it would have been better if I had written them once I got back, but I was pre-occupied with work, actually still is now, but I don't want to forget about Hanoi. I've actually fell in love with the city - the kind of love that makes you want to come back and spend some more time, because its charm is alluring and the city's just captivating. I think I just left my heart in Hanoi. Long distance love affair?

Like Manila, Hanoi has its fair share of traffic with motorbikes coming in all directions. During my stay, I learned that if you must cross alone, remember not to slow down in the middle of the road because motorbikes will find their way to get pass you.

I also found Vietnamese people unpredictable, one minute they're all chatty and appreciative (I was approached several times in the streets by locals to tell me I am pretty, heeeh!) and snobbish and cold the next. You just have to smile and say thank you and it'll do the trick! Street food were awesome! I was afraid of ordering anything I cannot understand, in fear of eating dog meat; I hope I haven't eaten any canine specialty.  

Like so many tourists, I did a lot of tours. I went to museums and my favourites would be the Museum of Fine Arts, Women's Museum, and Ho Chi Minh Museum, only with the last one I hope the other visitors weren't so noisy! Going around museums in Hanoi don't cost much, so going to these places would be worth your time. On my second and third day, I went around the city and got lost despite having a pretty accurate map. But it was all good, because I was able to see the beautiful houses along the streets of French Quarters and hustled my way through the streets of Old Quarters. My last stop was the Hanoi Opera House which is now one of my favourite landmarks probably in the world. It's so beautiful, especially at night. I wonder how amazing its interiors are.

I also spent a day out of town in Ninh Binh and rode my first bicycle! My tourist guide taught me how to bike, but I don't think I did anything pretty decent though. 

I also met with fellow tourists and spent a night with my wonderful host, a Canadian based in Hanoi, Ryan. Although he was pretty busy the entire day (he works as an English tutor) he went out of his way and showed me around his recommended places. I especially liked that time when we went to this place somewhere in Tay Ho district where I taught him how to speak in Filipino. We also went around with his motorbike and he took me to this temple, where I took a pretty cool panoramic view of the Tay Ho Lake. Too bad we weren't able to sneak in in one of the temples, it would have made my trip more bad ass! My stay with him ended with him treating me to a foot spa after an entire day spent walking around the city with my other friend Austen from Alaska.

On my last day, I was having separation anxiety, as I watch locals and tourists in Hoan Kiem Lake. I knew I needed to comeback and I made a promise to myself (and to a friend) that I will be back soon. I cannot wait for that.

My friends and several forum had warned me about the tourism in Hanoi. How it's pretty scary with taxi scams, pickpockets, and other horrible things a solo traveller can think of. But I assure you, getting lost for two days hasn't led me to anything life threatening at all. I just had my map with me and guts t to ask around to people who hardly spoke English. I am glad I survived! My new found friends and local sim card were a great help and I couldn't thank them enough for treating me and helping me throughout my trip.

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of photos. I like to immerse myself with experience rather than take time getting the right angle and best shots. But despite not having mementos of my wonderful trip, I wish my memory won't fail me and that all those fantastic Hanoi experiences would stay with me forever. I promise, I'm getting back for more sights, sounds, and Pho (the food, if you know what I mean!)

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