Monday, 27 July 2015

Hanoi, the turtle and the donuts

Xin chào mes amis!!

Yes, yes, long time no see. That shall be rectified today...

So, HANOI. :)

I wasn't quite sure how I felt about Hanoi before going there. When first thinking about moving to Vietnam, I had half-heartedly considered moving there, but then the simplicity of travelling from Saigon, the apparent curfew in Hanoi, and the apparent conservativeness of Hanoi made me decide I wanted to be situated in the south of the country.
'Congratulations 40 years Release the south' , courtesy of Steffy 
Anyways, it was still a must to see, the capital of Vietnam We were told we should stay in the Old Quarter, and I was looking forward to seeing this historical area and all its sights, experiences and smells. (Smells were an important part of my expectations, all guide books seemed to mention all the food and spice smells you get in Hanoi...)
Exploring the streets of Hanoi was a bit of an anti-climax. I couldn't really believe we were in the famous Old Quarter – all there was were small streets which meant many, many close shaves with speeding motorbikes whose consideration skills were significantly weaker and horn volume significantly louder, I swear, than in the Saigon area... The little stalls were quaint, the smell was indeed spicy, but it was nothing massively special.

However, after a few days we all agreed that Hanoi had definitely grown on us. The Old Quarter was fascinating, Hoan Kiem lake very pretty, and the cafés and restaurants scrumptious and very interesting.
Courtesy of Steffy
Courtesy of Steffy
Top moments:

  • Hoan Kiem Lake, Lake of the Returned Sword, home to the Huge Turtle. According to the legend, the Giant Tortoise, Kim Qui, once surfaced and asked emperor Le Loi (also a famous street in Saigon) for his magic sword, and Le Loi then changed the name of the lake to its current name. A very endangered species of turtle lives in Hoan Kiem Lake. The Vietnamese, especially the Hanoi-eans like their turtles. Turtles symbolise long life. 
Courtesy of Steffy
Hoan Kiem Park

Prepping for a selfie, courtesy of Steffy

Turtle Island in the middle of the lake, courtesy of Steffy
Also, Hoan Kiem Lake is home to the most photographed bridge of Hanoi (or Vietnam?), Huc Bridge.
In our matching Hoi An-dresses with the famous bridge behind us, courtesy of Steffy

  • Hong Kong waffle and Thai tea (ESPECIALLY Thai tea) at some streetside café.

  • Vietnamese hotpot at 'Linh's kitchen'. A lovely, lovely mix of traditional Vietnamese yet atmospheric. I find often the thing with Vietnamese food here is that it's hard to find somewhere that you consider very Vietnamese yet with an ambiance. The places that do the best Vietnamese food are more like quick lunch places (at least for me), not the kind you'd like to spend a chilled meal at. But Linh's kitchen was different. Super atmospheric, and between us (excluding myself) we managed to cook the meats on the hotpots and, ah, twas lovely.

One of my fave pics <3 , courtesy of Steffy
One of the chefs
It even had lanterns Hoi An-style!

  • The Café View restaurant. The only thing magnificent about their food and drinks were the price, but the view completely made up for it. You could see the lake, many buildings and the everchanging roundabout. A lovely evening.

At around 8pm
At around 10pm

  • Going round in this electric car thing (Vietnam like their elecic cars!) (Edit: Two of my adult students did an amazing sales presentation about electric cars, beginning with them asking the audience for the pros and cons of motorbikes and cars. Then, they introduced the electric car: Take the pros of motorbikes, add the pros of cars, = electric car. Brilliant.) 
A view from the elecic car

  • Bun Cha at a quaint little balcony-restaurant. Bun Cha, barbecued pork with rice noodles, is Hanoi's traditional dish and it was scrumptious, thanks for the recommendation! :) 
Bun Cha

  • AH YES. (I am writing this, erm, over two months after the trip, so my memory is not serving me too well, but luckily I wrote the BEST THING in my journal...) I bought a bag. It was and still is beautiful. Well, I bought two bags actually. The first one's first zip broke the day after I bought it, and the second zip broke the day after. So I was on the look out for a new bag in Hanoi. We found ourselves in one of these normal souvenir-shops, and I was looking at a stunning turquoise bag the shop girl was telling me came from the mountains of Sapa. She had pretty good English. I expressed my concern about the quality of the zip, and showed her my previous bag. She reassured me that I shouldn't worry. “Jeep have good music,” she told me, demonstrating by pulling the “Jeep” (on the bag she was selling) backwards and forwards. (Edit: In case you are confused... Jeep = Vietnamese pronunciation of 'zip'. And Music = Sound)
And, well, points to her. Day in, day out I've been using that same bag, and the Jeeps are still in perfect working order. :) Loved her!


There were some of the best moments. Hanoi is also well-known for its scams, so, a few questionable moments as well...

  • Well, the scammy taxi driver. Yes, he overcharged us, but not as much as the other dude had tried to. And we had quite an amusing 'heated' bargaining sesh half-way through the journey when I decided to finally point out that we were aware that his meter was slightly mentally unstable. Bless him, he was quite young and seemed pretty new to this scammy business, and immediately stopped the cab at the side of the road when he realised there were complications - clearly following advice of his Fellow Senior Taxi Scammer Drivers. He was clearly nervous. 
For example, we were told to change taxis, and magically our new taxi had a much higher start-up and km price...  

  • And, the scammy donut lady. We were harassed by this lady selling donuts in a basket. We ignored her and walked on, but then Hayzybobzykins and I looked at each other, and we thought the same thing – the donuts looked really good. So we went back to her, attempted to buy one of each (there were three types), but she gave us three of the big ones each, and nine of the little ones. Oh well, we'll feed some to the boys... She charged us 50,000 which was very expensive, but, well, I've heard people try and charge worse, and they did look delicious... So we paid up, I got a photo of her (she is very cute, isn't she!), and were on our way.
Do not buy from her 
How were they? Well, I'm sure they were very nice about two weeks previous. Inedible.

The amount of these donut ladies there were around. I can't vouch for the quality of the other ones, but later I researched them, and found a lot of unpleasant scammy stories about them, for example giving donuts to children to make their parents buy. But no one mentioned the fact that they were ancient... maybe it was just our bad luck.

Later, I bought similar donuts from a lady on the side of the road – happily making them, not shouting to tourists. She was very happy when I ordered in Vietnamese, and they were 3,000 a piece.


Well, Hanoi. Was cool, was beautiful. A very different air to Ho Chi Minh City, a lot more 'traditional' and, well, as they say, less Westernised. I still prefer HCMC and its craziness (and, surprisingly, the quietness of the horns in comparison to Hanoi, true story!!), but Hanoi was definitely a lovely experience. 

Next: Halong Bay. <3



  1. I'm glad you weren't alone with the scammy taxi driver.

    Lovely dresses on you two!

    Miksi se uusi laukkusi on tutunnäköinen? <3

  2. Steffy certainly takes a good photo, as do you!

    It seems then that your conclusion is that you did the right thing choosing to set up life in the south rather than the north.

    When I read Äiti's comment above I assumed she was referring to the fact that you had it with you when you came here - but no, she was asking a genuine question. Well, it seems the jeeps are keeping up the good music :)