We started our time in Vietnam with three days in Hanoi, which is a vibrant and bustling city. It is also home to more motorbikes than we ever thought existed – they fill the streets and overflow onto the sidewalks all over the city – and we quickly got used to dodging them as we walked around exploring.
Hanoi was filled with much more than just motorbikes though; people were consistently out and about – selling fruits in the park, eating dinner on the sidewalks outside of their shops, gathering on the streets near their homes to sit and hang out with their families. Children ran barefoot in and out of shops and scootered around on the sidewalks with glee. We witnessed the very culturally authentic experience of Vietnamese families as they went about their daily lives around the city, which was interesting and rewarding.
During the little time we had in the city we explored it by foot, walking through the park and around the lake and meandering down tiny streets in the Old Quarter. Jeff got his haircut by a barber on the street near our hotel. We ate bahn mi sandwiches on the sidewalk and waited in line on the street for a bowl of pho. We drank Vietnamese coffee and watched the sun go down over the city, and we drank 22 cent beers as the locals set up their night market.
For as busy as the city of Hanoi is, we had a surprisingly calm and lovely time exploring it and it proved to be a fantastic first stop on our tour of Vietnam.
A few of our favorites:
- Gem Boutique Hotel – We stayed here for our first two nights and the staff was incredibly nice and helpful. They even offered to let us come back on our last day (even though they were fully booked, so we stayed elsewhere) to shower and rest at the hotel before heading to the train station.
- Bahn Mi 25 – Great bahn mi sandwiches, superb service, and quaint little tables to eat at on the sidewalk.
- Pho 10 – An authentic pho restaurant that was such an interesting and delicious experience.
- Cafe Phoco – Vietnamese coffee on a rooftop. One of their specialties is egg coffee, which Kyle tried and loved!