Author: Yellow Duckie
Having heard so much about the charm of Hanoi, I am so glad that finally i get to witness Vietnam's much publicized glory myself. Indeed, they were right about this city. Although the french's influence is pretty obvious in the culture, food and lifestyle, Hanoi still has its own distinct character.
Our journey began with an "eye-opening" walk through the morning market to our budget hostel/hotel. Every morning this is where the action takes place. You can get a closer glipmse at the pig's hoof displayed neatly at the store, a fish monger killing their live catch at the steps, pounding of tiny live crabs into some mushy paste and exotic food in display. With a private room for two at only RM 28 per night, I guess we could not ask for more. However, when night falls, this market turns into a quiet street where families will sit by the road side sifting their beans while telling each other their daily encounters and perhaps sharing their dreams.

One thing that annoys me, which I can't help but to take notice after being less than 5 minutes in the city, is the continous honking of the motorbikes. However, I must admit that they great skills in riding their motrbikes. With the massive amount of motorbike and cars crossing the cross road at the same time, nobody gets knock down and the traffics flows without interruption: now, this is what I call Art.

This is a city which hungry will not prevail as there's never short of food store even at the middle of the night. You'll find Pho Bo ( Rice Vermicelli with Beef), Bun Cha (Barbequed Pork with rice Noodle) , Barbequed seafood, the delicious french bread sandwich and many other delicious vietnamese delicacy awaits you at the street of the Old Quarters. The most interesting part of enjoying your meal is by seating on the tiny stools which height is no taller than your knee. I find sipping a cup of vietnamese coffee at an old coffee shop ( you can find alot of these shops along the Old Quarters) has got a surprisingly comforting effort.

As much as Hanoi has to offer you, spending two fulls days in Hanoi is enough to catch most of its publisized glory. The best way to see ow life is in Hanoi was of course, to sit at the coffee shop while you people watch.
Making an excursion trips outside of Hanoi would be a choice you'll never regret making. We engaged Ha, our private driver for our excursion.

Tam Coc : Offers you a beautiful scenic boat ride across the lime stone rocks across the rice fields. However, the ride can be quite torturing under an extremely hot weather and this is where you would rather avoid if you are not the kind of person who enjoys an toursit infested spot. At the end of every ride, it'll turn into a purely commercial deal when you have the handcrafted goods stuffed right into your face and sympathy is the weapon they use to get you into buying it. Worst part of all was that you have no where to run, you are trap in the boat.

Kenh Ga: I find this is one of the most interesting floating village I've come across in South East Asia. I believe this place is not much of a tourist spot. The journey to get to Kenh Ga it self was interesting: it started of with our boat man frantically trying to clear off his rice stock and pull out a couple of plastic chair for us in his boat. Although similar to the scenery found in Tam Coc, the wide river and far fetched land, makes this boat ride somehow more pleasurable. This village is actually built by the bank of the river. What impressed me most what the magnificient church painted in yellow which stood gloriously among the wooden houses.


Van Trinh : Our boat ride to Kenh Ga ends here. Since our boat man does not utter a single word of English, we were actually left with the impression that this is indeed Kenh Ga. As we got off the boat, we were greeted by an amazing view of the rice fields with the line stone mountain as the backdrop. A 1.5 km dusty gravel road lies ahead of us and we were hoping to find Kenh Ga at the of the road. As we travel down the gravel road, we met up with a couple of villagers gathering their crop while filled with great sense of cursiousity about us, flashes their warmest smile at us.

Thinking that they could probably lead us to where Kenh Ga is, our sign language failed us terribly. Two young beautiful girls eventually led us to our supposedly destination: the entrance of a cave. Later, we realised that this is where we are suppose to see the cave, and this place is known as Van Trinh. The company of the villagers and the great scenery makes this place my 5-star rewarding experience!

Mai Cau: This is a great out of town experience. A 3 -4 hours car ride will bring you into a village in the valley. Stretches far beyond the horizon are the rice fields. You could take a stroll by the rice fields or run through the alleys with your arms strecthed out as you try to grasp the wind in your hand. The serenity of this place makes you forget all troubles that lie ahead. We had lunch prepared by the locals, I reckon this is one of the best hospitality treatment one can experience while traveling here. The wooden huts around here, offers beds for travellers who seeks the experience the village life in Mai Chau. I must say this is quite a perfect choice for those who seeks to get away from the hustle bustle of city life. But mind you, phone signals here are extremely good, so you've got to turn off your phone to enjoy an undisturbed moment.

Ha Long Bay: The gem of Hanoi. This place is so tourist filled that once you arrived at the Harbor, you almost feel like you have just landed in UK or Europe as 99% of the crowd are Caucasians! Being an Aisan, I actually felt unusually foreign there. The view...simply fanstatic. Although it feels like they have moved Tam Coc to an open sea minus all the rice fields, the boat ride through the amazing limestone was enjoyable. One of the best actually to do here is to jump off the junk and enjoy a great swim in the open sea. By night fall, there is no better way that to spend some time at the upper deck to enjoy the moonlight.

My trip to Hanoi left me with am great impression of this city. Indeed, the alluring charm of Hanoi and it's surrounding area has captured my heart .

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