05/04/2013 - 08/04/2013 26 °C
Last stop in Vietnam was the capital, Ha Noi. As previously mentioned, I had stopped here for a few nights before Ha Long Bay so I had already got a good idea of the city and my way around.
Like most areas of the world, you have an idea in your mind of what they are like from reading books or the images you see in film, tv, internet, etc. When I first arrived in Asia I was actually quite surprised and a little disappointed because it wasn't how I imagined. I even found it hard to describe what my expectations were. Walking through the small streets of Ha Noi old quarter I realised that this was exactly how I expected Asia to be. Narrow bustling streets, motorbikes darting left and right, people selling food at the side of the road, rustic 3 story buildings and a healthy amount of dirt. I think this photo I found on the internet is a pretty good representation of your average Ha Noi street:
One of my favourite places was a cafe overlooking what must be the world's craziest road intersection. It is literally 5 streams of traffic driving into each other as they head straight in the direction of where they're going. It's a wonder there aren't more accidents but you realise how careful drivers have to be around here. It makes for great viewing while munching a traditional Vietnamese baguette and slurping a big mug of coffee.
Perhaps the biggest tourist attraction in the capital is Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum. It's set in a large group of parks and buildings, some of which he lived in for a duration of time. The actual mausoleum is only open for 4 hours in the morning and is naturally a very popular site for many Vietnamese people. Those two facts mean that the queue is about a kilometre long! The building is very impressive, dark grey with huge pillars. I found it so strange to see his body lying in state, no signs of decay after more than 40 years. It's strictly forbidden to take photos inside.
Walking through the old quarter it's possible to come across old Christian cathedrals as well as the temples, a legacy from the years of colonial rule that many of the countries in their area experienced.
It's great to walk through the vibrant streets of Ha Noi during the day and night but with the length of my stay I was finding it hard to keep busy during both of those times. Also I was finding the Vietnamese cuisine a bit of a challenge as it is predominantly noodle soup and seemed to like the spices and seasoning found in food from other SE Asian countries.
Wanting plenty to do and good food I prepared myself for my next and final destination...Hong Kong