Hanoi: A Tale of Too Much City
We only spent two nights in Hanoi—though we’ll likely pass back through early next week—so we didn’t do a whole lot there. Here is a quick rundown.
We flew to Hanoi from Saigon on a clearly Russian plane than touched the Hanoi tarmac at about 3 p.m. We hopped in a car that or hotel sent to pick us up, and we sped along a long, smoggy highway listening to a mix of smooth jazz and techno. For reasons we have yet been able to articulate, we quickly liked the feeling of Hanoi better than Saigon.
The architecture is an astounding mix of Soviet and French influence which, like everything, the Vietnamese have made wholly their own. The Old Quarter is a web of narrow, entangled streets flanked on both sides by the thin (about 10 ft. wide), tall (about 4 storeys high) buildings that line so much of big-city streets. It has a European feel while still remaining wholly and unapologetically Vietnamese.
After we settled at our hostel, we went out for a walk in search of beer. Two-for-one beer is a Vietnamese marketing strategy that we would happily steal back to Canada. (Though the local brews leave much to be desired.)
We ordered some bier Hanoi from a pub offering two-for-one drinks (not as good as bier Saigon, which wasn’t all that tasty itself), and settled in to people watch.
A rather large, rather frank Australian man instantly honed in on us, forcing is rum and coke down on our bar table and launching into an initially unrequited conversation.
He talked about a lot of things. Some of them interesting, many of them unnoticed as I instead focused on maneuvering my barstool to get a little further from his face. He seemed like a long time traveller. He might own a steel company which might have a plant outside Hanoi. He also might be slightly broke which made us suspect that the whole steel company might have been an embellishment.
We learned that he had spent a year living in Siargao, the Filipino island where we plan to spend the last month of our trip. Things quickly deteriorated after that, though, when he started complaining about all varieties of minorities in all kinds of bumpkin-y ways.We bought a few more two-for-one beers to cope and snuck out of the bar while he was distracted by the juke box.
The next day, we headed to an Olympic lifting and powerlifting gym we had read about online. Unfortunately, we followed the hotel’s recommendation and took a cab there, which definitely took us the long way and which cost us 100,000 VND. The Uber ride back cost us 25,000 VND! The gym was amazing. It had brand new, Rogue everything equipment, was nearly empty, and they let us have a 3-day free trail even after we told them that we were leaving Hanoi in a few days. The gym is called Swequity for anyone who feels like keeping up their gainz while travelling.
The rest of the day was spent humming and hawing about what to do next. We had heard wonderful things about Ha Long Bay and that it is a must to do in Vietnam, but we’d also heard disaster stories about cruises gone awry, the tons of garbage in the water, and the whole place came across as a bit of a UNESCO-certified tourist trap.
But we were eager to leave the city nonetheless. After opening our trip to Vietnam with the two largest cities, one after the other, it was time to get out. I missed sidewalks, not being honked at, and walking down the street without the Navy SEAL-esque level of attention required to not get run over.
We decided to book an early morning bus to Sapa to get out of dodge.