This month travel happened last weekend for four days to Hanoi, Vietnam. I filed a two days annual leave to coincide with the National day holiday here in Singapore. This is another last minute trip since I really can't decide where to go in the first place. I have been wanting to go to Hanoi to visit the Halong Bay, but due to inability to find a cheap airline fare the plan has never been materialize until only last week when I chance upon a cheaper one coinciding the holiday. And I have a blast in Hanoi.
I arrived Hanoi before lunch on Sunday. The trip from the airport to the Hanoi Boutique Hotel which is located at Old Quarter district took me 45 minutes on a normal traffic. I was surprised since the airport is just 40 km outside of the city. The room given to me has no bath tub, the reason why I chose this hotel, but after explaining to the receptionist I was transferred to the one with a bath tub. Though the room with no bath tub is a good one because it has a glass encased shower right in the room, I preferred the one having a bath tub.
Upon settling in at the hotel, I arranged my cruise tour to Halong Bay since I had difficulty booking online because most of the junks who has good reviews were fully booked for Monday two days one night tour, that is why I just decided to do the booking upon arrival in Hanoi instead. I was lucky since the hotel has a tour desk that can arranged a tour. I settled for the Elizabeth junk, though I was hesitant since I can't find an online review of the junk. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the Old Quarter and the Hoan Kiem Lake areas.
There is an acient well at the hotel lobby, built in the 19th century believed to be the street named coined after.
The Old Quarter district is a centuries old traditional street market famous for each street then named after a particular trade the merchants selling. Nowadays, it still evident but no longer remain exclusive. Like travel agencies have inhabit in almost every street, and the budget hotels. I come out of the Old Quarter southern boundary that opens up to the famous Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake is regarded as heart of the city, There is a small island in the lake where the Ngoc Son Temple is erected. It can be reached by a brightly painted red wooden bridge. I will be posting a separate entry for the Hoan Kiem Lake. After walking around and away of the lake I proceeded to the St Joseph Cathedral and attended sunday mass. I spent a few minutes at the nearby street cafe opposite the church. The area surrounding the church ground is full of locals sipping a local drink similar to ice lemon tea.
The St Joseph Cathedral was built in 1886 in the neo-gothic style architecture. Quite unique to the cathedral is its square towers.
Hoan Kiem Lake
After that I keep walking until I ended up at the Hanoi Opera House. I watched the sunset while sitting at the steps of the Hanoi Opera House. I returned back to the hotel to freshen up before exploring the night scene of the city. I have my dinner at a corner street at the Old Quarter, I was not comfortable eating in there because it is unhygienic but I was intrigued by the food being serve, the pigeons. I ordered a grilled pigeon out of curiosity and I was enticed my the locals enjoying the food. I did not like the taste of the meat at first, but when a local told me to dip in a accompanying sauce, I then appreciated the food. The rest of the evening was spent exploring the Old Quarters streets. There was a night market being on a sunday at the whole street that leads to the Dong Xuan market, selling variety of cheap clothing, souvenir items, and food. The night market is typical to any night market being held in any asian city. I did not explore the nightlife on the first night since I have to wake up early the following day for the Halong Bay cruise.