Where we've been so far: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh
After over 22 hours of travel with a layover in Korea, we finally made it to Hanoi, Vietnam. Fay and I conquered the jet lag after a full day of sleeping in. David struggled a bit to move his internal clock 13 hours ahead of EST but he finally caught up.
When we rested on our first day and finally started venturing out into Hanoi, it was night time. Fay called us Vietnamese Vampires. And apparently that was an apt description for the whole city. With over 8 million people living in the capital, there's always a frenetic energy of people, bikes, sights, and sounds anytime of day.
The best ways to describe Hanoi are: Hot, Hectic, Hustling, Honking, and Historic.
The heat is intense and it's the rainy season but we've only had one day of rain. When I say hot, I mean dripping wet, two showers a day hot. The temp on my phone will say something as pleasant as 95 degrees but feels like 111. It wouldn't be bad if we were sitting in air conditioning all day but we came to explore Hanoi to the fullest. The only problem is the walking in the heat... and the motorcycles. There are motorcycles everywhere, on sidewalks, streets, and on walking paths. They are always coming in everywhere direction! Fay thought we would D-I-E (she would spell when we went to cross a street) really any time of day or night whenever we went out. But we survived, many times with David carrying her!
The food has been delectable- light, fresh, and tasty. I've eaten Pho everyday for breakfast-the broth, noodles, and either chicken or beef fill me up for most of the day. Fay has enjoyed all the spring rolls at every restaurant we've been to. David has become a huge fan of the Banh Mi sandwiches. We've also tried Egg Coffee and Bun Cha, which are specialties of Hanoi.
Here are some of the highlights we've seen and enjoyed thus far. It's hard to summarize it all and get the true feeling of a city in a few snapshots. You'll have to visit Hanoi some day too!
We visited the Temple of Literature which is the oldest university in Vietnam at over 1000 years. Fay learned how to make a woodblock print of the word Minh, which means Brilliance.
We saw a water Puppet Theater Show with live musicians. It was one of the coolest theater experiences I've ever seen. It was all in Vietnamese so I'm not sure of all the tales but the music and puppets were enchanting.
Fay and I took a rickshaw ride through the old quarter and stopped at Beer street (apparently it comes alive at night and there are a lot of bars open-we didn't stay to find out). David visited a Vietnamese hospital to meet with a neurosurgeon but didn't take any pictures.
We've eaten delicious salads, soups, spring rolls, and new drinks. Our favorites are Lemon juice (like lemonade but with a lime and not so sweet) and Egg coffee (coffee with a whipped egg yolk topping and milk that is so tasty it's to die for!).
Fay even tried a frozen treat that smoked- it was made with dried ice!
All the ingredients to make Bun Cha- pork made two ways, noodles, broth, greens, garlic, and peppers. President Obama came to Hanoi and ate this dish with Anthony Bourdain on his show years ago. It is a very delicious dish!
We hung out on Train street, which true to it's name, has a train come right down the center of this busy and tiny street.
There are beautiful old temples everywhere in the city with a mix of stalls selling everything on each block and people carrying their wares too.
We also did a 2 day, 1 night cruise to Ha Long Bay which is a beautiful bay full of almost 2,000 islands made of limestone and covered in green in the middle of South China Sea.
We took a smaller boat rowed by a strong Vietnamese man. He took us through a cool cave to a bay. There were bats overhead that were both fascinating and frightening.
On our last day, we took a big red city tour bus so we could see a few more sights. They included Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum (we didn't get to view his entombed body since we came too late). Then we took a swan boat ride on West Lake- the ride was nice because the swan gave us shade from the hot Hanoi sun!
We left Hanoi this morning and are now in Ninh Binh (about 1.5 hours south of the capital). We all needed a break from the hustle and bustle of city life for a few days. The hotel we're staying at is in the mountains next to a river. Fay has already swum in the pool for hours and now we're taking a reprieve from the heat.
Next up- Hue (a coastal city) that we'll get to by train where I'll get to celebrate my birthday. That'll be an adventure for another blog post! Stay tuned.
(If you're curious, have a lot time on your hands, and want to see more pictures, send me a message and I'll include a link with ALL of the pictures thus far when I have internet connection.)