|Thanks to a recommendation from a restaurant owner in Ninh Binh, Jamie and I flagged down a local bus on the busy main street for a 2 hour ride to the capitol of Vietnam, Hanoi. We arrived at the bus station and took bus number 8 to the old quarter, where we checked into the City Gate hotel, a Lonely Planet recommendation.
I heard a lot of mixed reviews from other travelers about Hanoi and didn't know quite what to expect. Hanoi has very busy streets with motorbikes, bicycles, cars and pedestrians fighting for a spot on the roads. The sidewalks are occupied by vendors and parked motorbikes, so there is no choice but to walk on the streets. And there is non stop honking here. Crossing the street you obviously have to be very careful and walk across very slowly in order for the motorbikes and others to curve around you. Despite the chaos of the streets, I like this city. I covered plenty of it by walking and discovered many different parks where you can sit and relax. Many cafes where you can order a strong cup of Vietnamese drip coffee and people watch. Many corners serving Pho soup for around $1. Sandwich stands, doner kebab stands, and much, much street food to choose from that won’t leave a dent in your wallet.
The 23rd I ventured over to the botanical gardens, where apparently everyone gets married and has pictures taken there. The temple of literature was also a sight to see. Relaxed by a few different lakes, wondered around the old quarter and purchased a ticket to the water puppet theatre, a show in Hanoi I heard you had to see while here. And yes I did enjoy it! Spent a lot of time traveling from numerous travel agencies deciding on which cruise/itinerary to choose for Halong Bay. After 3 days and 10+ agencies, I think we narrowed it down. Jamie and I also booked our overnight sleeper train up to Sapa through our hotel($24) with an open end return.