There is so much to see in Vietnam, unfortunately time was not on my side on this trip. With only two days in Hanoi and two in Halong bay, I had to make the most of the north of Vietnam, although, I will definitely return to explore Sapa, further north.
Hanoi is the bustling capital of Vietnam and retains its cultural heritage while Ho Chi Minh city has surrendered itself to civilization.
The first thing you have to learn in this city where rush hour never ends, is how to cross the streets and stay alive. Avoid just attempting to cross or waiting for the green man as he is mostly disregarded on the streets of the old quarter. By raising your hand up in a stop sign on both the right and left side you are signaling your intention to cross. While most cars stop, the motorbikes (majority) will just continue their way around you.
The one thing you will never learn is how to drive in Vietnam. With many vehicles driving on the wrong side of the road and overtaking without a care of the oncoming traffic, I was surprised I didn`t see any accidents. Yet there was no sign of road rage apart from the constant beeping to signal their presence, as if to kindly say ” move out of my way or you`ll get hit” while im in the passenger seat having a mini heart attack. So leave the driving to the more experienced.
With a population of roughly 9 million in Hanoi, 6 million own a motorbike mainly because they can`t afford the simple luxury of a car. Depending on the make of the car, it can cost up to 300% in import taxes.
Whether you join a walking tour, or decide to explore on your own, most streets take you back to Hoan Kiem Lake. This lake is thought to be the heart of Hanoi by the vietnamese and traditionally, many couples take pictures here before the wedding.
You cannot visit Hanoi without buying a few of the Vietnamese craft. Whether its the traditional silk Vietnamese outfits, or the endless range of home deco, there is no doubt you will find something that compliments your taste and at a very affordable price!
Here are some of the items I bought:
I fell in love with the lacquer ware ever since my dad brought a lacquer painting back as a gift.
The main shopping street in Hanoi is Hang Gai however, most things here are marked up at a slightly higher price than what you would get on the side streets. I would advice looking at hang hom street . SonSon is the name of the shop where I spent most of my evening bargaining and the prices were nearly 20% cheaper than what we were offered in other shops. One rule when shopping, always bargain. Shopkeepers are usually willing to go up to 6% cheaper than the offered price, so try your luck and have fun!
Let me know how your trip goes or if you find other amazing stores! I will leave you with something my vietnamese friend, Rocky, said to me:
” Vietnam is poor, but Vietnam is happy”