Nothing can prepare you for the onslaught of sounds, sights and smells of Hanoi, Old Quarter. The Essence Hotel had organised our airportside collection and brought us to their door in Ta Hien Street in the Hoan Kiem District. From our moment of arrival and until we sadly left them 3 days later the staff of Hanoi Essence wrapped us up in their unique hotel ‘cuddles’ offering a welcome, local knowledge and air conditioning whilst we explored their locale.
The Old Quarter streets are noisy whatever time of day; you can hire motorbikes, organise a tour, eat, shop, explore and best of all people watch. I could not soak up enough of this area. Every corner offered something new to photograph. Whilst the word ‘noisy’ might alarm you, once inside The Essence, it’s peace perfect peace. The Essence Hotel was so special that it has it’s own dedicated post!.
Local women carried the traditional yokes with their goods, whether it was fruit and veg or dry goods, they bobbed and ducked past swathes of walkers and bikers. I’m sure their shoulders and necks must have a ridge where that yoke fits. …but however tired, hot and weary they must have felt in high humidity they always had a smile.
If you get the chance to go – Take time to look up at the buildings as they seem to be strung together with phone lines and electricity cables, not something you would expect to see in the ‘elf and safety climes of UK but something clearly the Hanoiese are used to.
I liked the areas where the early evening women are sitting on their haunches to prepare fresh fish on the sides of the street. Women come out to do their shopping for dinner, men are walking home, young adults hurry back after their long days and they peer into these shallow bowls of freshly cooked fish. We couldn’t quite identify what was on offer but evidently it was a popular daily choice.
As night time arrives the cafes and street corners are a hub of chat as locals and tourists alike sit side by side on low stools made more for the Vietnamese physique than the tall more bulky UK visitors that we are, but hey when in Rome!
Beer Corner is exactly as its suggests a popular bar and street junction with the aforesaid low stools. Ask for draught Ba Hoi and a stool and for a few dong you have the recipe for perfect people watching but just keep your toes in as those mopeds have no fabourites! Tip – Imported bottle beer will cost you much more.
These people are friendly, they want to talk to you to practise their English, so ablige them and they will abilge you if you get lost they will guide you home. We went for a massage one evening and even though we were a rice grain throw from our hotel we were stranded until a couple of young lads with perfect English and an American drawl pointed to where we needed to be. Thanks guys we owe you one.
And yes Vietmanese massages are cheap, he who likes to think he is obeyed and myself had a leg massage which cost us a fiver and whatever you choose for a tip. Top recommendation – for an hour’s relaxation worth every dong.
Oh yes this Hanoi ‘Jane’ would return to the Old Quarter of Hanoi in a heart beat, there is definitely more to explore here.