07.06.2016 - 07.06.2016 88 °F
We had a wild first day in Hanoi! It all started at the airport around 9:30 a.m. this morning. We quickly found our driver, and Kaela double-checked with the hotel to ensure everything was correct. The 45 minute ride to the hotel was a crash-course on driving etiquette in Vietnam. It appears that stoplights are optional, and by simply honking you are doing your part in letting others know that you are about to cross the intersection. Our driver was very skilled and efficient at navigating the confusing streets of Hanoi, and dodging mopeds and motorcycles the whole way there. We both silently agreed that we made the correct decision in not renting a car here, or anywhere in Asia for that matter. Due to us not understanding the unwritten rules of the road, we felt it was best to place our lives in the hands of our driver to take us where we needed to go.
After weaving through city streets, and dodging a few more mopeds, we arrived at our doorstep of the Marvellous Hotel and Spa in the center of Hanoi. We were graciously greeted at the car and ushered inside to complete our check-in. We even received a welcome-plate of watermelon and some sweets, along with a mango smoothie, for us to enjoy while the check-in was completed. Kaela loved the mango smoothie, even stating that it may be one of the best she has ever had! After we finished our treats, and after getting a detailed description of Hanoi, we headed up to our room to relax for a few minutes. At this point, it was only 10:30 a.m. or so, but we felt like we had been awake for days, since we had been traveling for 18 hours or so. We relaxed in our room for an hour, trying not to nap, before leaving to go explore our neighborhood in Hanoi and grab something for lunch. As we walked by the front desk, the attendant asked what we had planned today. When we explained that we were going to walk around and get some Pho for lunch, she suggested a restaurant a few blocks away and gave us directions; how nice!
Walking around Hanoi proved to not be the easiest thing, and attempting to cross the street was daunting at times. On our first crosswalk (we had a walk signal) I was nearly clipped by a moped! Over time, we adapted to the rules of the road and by the end of the day we were crossing 5 lane roads with traffic swirling all around us (don't worry moms and tutu; we were fine!)! After a 5 minute walk, we arrived at Pho 10, where we were directed to have lunch. We sat down and quickly ordered two beef pho dishes, and waited for our order. Everyone had some sort of fried bread in addition to the soup, but we didn't know how to order it nor see it on the menu (after looking it up at home later, we learned that it is called dau chao quay; we will order this next time)! Our bowls of pho arrived in a few minutes and we both liberally applied some lime juice (fresh slices on the table) and hot sauce. Kaela even got me to try a single slice of an orange pepper (there was an entire bowl of it on our table). My mouth was immediately on FIRE. We also didn't know how to order drinks, or if it was BYOB, so we didn't have anything! The pepper was so hot, I even got the hiccups! After my mouth recovered from the pepper, I completely finished the pho; it was delicious! The broth had such a good flavor and the lime juice, and pickled garlic, added so much flavor.
After lunch, we went on a hunt to find a market to pick up a few supplies. We started our walk by heading to the lake nearby, and we were immediately caught in a downpour. We were completely unprepared for rain at this point! We didn't have rain jackets or an umbrella. After learning that the tree we were standing under was not really protecting us from the water (and some Hanoi locals laughed at us getting soaked) we decided to just walk through the rain anyways. We walked around for another hour or so, enjoying seeing the many different streets of Hanoi. After only finding the smallest convenience stores, we eventually found a larger market. We picked up some water, drinks, and snacks before beginning the trek back to the hotel. Kaela even found these delicious mango gummies that the aunties used to pass out at her volleyball games. We power walked through the rain and ended up back at the apartment! We then relaxed in the hotel for a little while before venturing out for dinner.
We both ended up taking a short nap and, while Kaela continued sleeping, I looked up some restaurants for the evening. I found a sandwich place, Banh Mi 25, and a noodle place, Bun Bo Nam Bo. We ventured out for dinner, and the first location was Banh Mi 25, since it closed at 7:00 p.m. and it was 6:40 p.m. at this point. We made it just in time and we both had a beer and split two sandwiches, grilled chicken and ham. We both agreed that the grilled chicken was the best, and I tried my hardest not to douse the sandwich with too much hot sauce (I'm a sucker for spicy). After finishing here, it all cost 70,000 Dong (or about 3 dollars), we made our way over to the night market. Immediately upon arriving, there was some sort of scramble in the main intersection. Everyone started picking up all of the plastic chairs and moving them! We were both completely confused and we just did our best to stay out of the way. We eventually ducked into a bar nearby, Green Pepper, to get a beer and escape from the hectic street life for a few minutes.
We began our walk back home and stopped on the way to pick up a fried potato stick, which was delicious. On the way back, we passed a hostel that said it had a rooftop bar and a beer pong tournament. Kaela, feeling competitive, decided to venture up the 6 flights of stairs to the bar. While there was no tournament happening, it was packed with travelers from all over. We both got a round of drinks and mingled with other travelers. We met a girl from England and a guy from Norway, both of them were waiting to hear if they were accepted into their Masters programs. We shared travel stories before heading back to our hotel.
Around 10:00 p.m., I was looking for a snack and convinced Kaela to go try the noodle place that I looked up earlier, Bun Bo Nam Bo, which is only a few minute walk from our hotel. We split one dish and it was incredible! This one was more noodle than soup, and it was topped with peanuts and bean sprouts. So delicious! After finishing our snack, we headed back to the hotel to head to bed. We are both completely exhausted and I'm sure we'll have another exciting day tomorrow immersing ourselves in the Vietnamese culture!
Justin and Kaela
Caught in the rain in Hanoi.
Wandering around Hanoi!
Delicious welcome plate at our hotel!
Our lunch pho, and those spicy peppers, at Pho 10.
At the Green Pepper.
Delicious snack! Some sort of fried potato with all the toppings.
Strolling through the night market.
Delicious late night noodle snack at Bun Bo Nam Bo.
Our hotel room!