Dinner In the Old Historical Quarter
After our arrival back in drizzly Hanoi we had 24 hours left to enjoy the amazing country of Vietnam that we had discovered over the previous three weeks. We started with a late dinner in the old historic part of town, where we had difficulty finding a restaurant that was open and served food late in the evening. Rather than spending hours trying to find an eatery that was open we went back to the Old Hanoi Restaurant where we had savoured a lunch and watched the world below on our second day in town. This time we were somewhat disappointed with the food, maybe it was because we had tasted much better dishes throughout our travels in Vietnam but it is still a great atmosphere.
Wandering Through the Night Market
On our return to the hotel we wandered through the last standing street stalls of the night market and past the loud booming music blaring from the bars along the streets catering to both locals and young tourists. While the night market had been recommended to us by hotel staff we found it to be a rather disappointing affair, the goods on offer were mostly the standard tourist souvenirs. It seemed to be very popular with foreign students and backpackers, getting drunk and chatting up the local girls.
Heading Towards West Lake
The morning of our last day, we started by strolling through the streets of the old quarter, heading north-west towards Ho Tay (West Lake), the largest lake in Hanoi. Originally we had planned to cycle the 15km long pathway that circles the lakeshore, sadly the bike rental was closed on Mondays so our plans changed. Instead we threw ourselves back into the busy streets with the signature cables going haywire and traffic madness.
Strolling Through the Fresh Food Market
Taking the back roads we strolled through the fresh food market, largely ignoring the fruit and vegetables on offer. A clump of live toads caged inside a net caught our attention, the creatures stared at us with fear in their black, pearly eyes. Despite their ugliness we felt somewhat sorry for them and would have loved to free them before they ended up in a cooking pot.
The Views Over Truc Bach Lake
After leaving the busy market behind we eventually reached the banks of Truc Back Lake. This small lake is lined with flame trees and is only separated from the vast West Lake by the busy D Thanh Nien Street. Underneath the canopy of the leafy trees were the typical make shift cafes. Desperate for a break after the long walk we sat down on the plastic chairs and ordered coffee and a cool drink for Jerome to rest and enjoy the views across the lake. As we sat the rain started to tumble and we watched the drops on the calm water, further out swan pedal boats gently glided across the water and by us was a man with his fishing rod. As we waited for the shower to clear he caught a surprisingly large number of fish. Jerome watched with keen interest as the line started to move and yet another fish was pulled out of Truc Bach Lake, taken off the hook and transferred into a bucket.
Tran Quoc Pagoda
Further on the broad expanse of the West Lake is ringed by upmarket suburbs, many are home to the cities increasing number of expats. Jutting into the lake lies the photogenic Tran Quoc pagoda, the oldest of its kind in Hanoi, dating back to the 6th century. However, to us it looked relatively new with its clean orange bricks and the pristine white buddhas seated underneath the arches. I would have loved to visit the grounds of the pagoda but sadly it was closed. Women by the entrance tried to sell us fish or little terrapins – apparently it is tradition to offer one to the lake for luck but we felt this was one tradition to be missed.
Zigzagging Past the Presidential Palace
Heading south passing by another temple, we then zigzagged through the complex that makes up the presidential palaces and the Imperial Citadel, which we visited on our first day in Hanoi. Our goal was to watch the train run through the narrow alleys of the old quarter, an exciting and unusual experience, especially for Jerome, always a train lover. We still had time to eat a quick lunch before the event in the pedestrian street that runs parallel to the train tracks.
Watching the Train Chug Past
When it was time for the train to come past we walked to the barriers, where the boys waited, while I went into the alleyway to take some more photos close up. Despite the imminent train arrival, locals still sat in the middle of the train tracks. An older woman was putting her washing outside onto a line and some kids were running along chasing each other. Eventually the bright lights and the thunder of the engine brought the commotion to an end. Everyone stood aside, the locals went inside their houses, while we tourists squeezed against the wall for the train to chug past. As soon as the train was gone, the people came back outside again and walking towards the boys, I could see a throng of motorbikes rushing across the tracks in a crush. By then it was time for us to get back to our hotel in the Old Quarter and jump into a taxi to the airport.
Three Weeks in Vietnam Were Over
It was hard to believe that our three weeks in Vietnam were over and the last 24 hours in Hanoi had gone by way to fast for me. Before our trip we did not quite know what to expect, after all it was our first time as a family in South East Asia. The country charmed us with its friendly and openhearted people, delicious food and mesmerizing landscapes. We enjoyed discovering the lesser-visited places the most, including the area around Vedana Lagoon and the rural parts of Hue and Hoi An, and of course our highlight, the cruise through Ha Long Bay. Despite the large number of tourists complaining about scams and bad experiences in the country we did not encounter any, probably due to careful advance planning and booking. Overall it is a very child friendly country to visit, offering exceptional value for money. For anyone considering exploring Vietnam, I have written a guide and an overview of our itinerary that might give you ideas for places to visit.
Our Other Ventures in 2017
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