When our family decided to go to Vietnam for the summer holidays, the decision was literally taken based on a dart board on the globe. Well, metaphorically cause the darts I own are magnetic.
Considering the choice was an adventurous one, we decided to begin at the capital aka Hanoi.
We were met by a guide at the airport, a bloke named Henry and once the luggage was loaded into a taxi, the heist began.
Before we get to the actual sightseeing, let’s take a moment for our guide Henry. The moment we got off the plane, we were literally on the town as Henry didn’t believe in settling down in the hotel. He was on a mission to show us every inch of Hanoi in the twenty four hours that we had in the city and he damn well chose to accept it. In fact we reached Hanoi at about ten in the morning and stepped into the hotel only at about six in the evening for a break of thirty minutes before hitting the road again.
Fact is, I wouldn’t have this any other way as we did manage to cover most of the city in twenty four hours but the slight hiccup here were my outfit choices.
I got off the plane wearing a t-shirt and skinny jeans and owing to Henry’s IMF city tour mission, I did not have an opportunity to change. Walking out of the airport, I was hit with a heat wave of about fifty celsius and let me tell you that skinny jeans are not a viable option when we are taking Vietnam into consideration. Like not at all.
However, wanderlust overcame the inconvenient denim and without further ado, Imma take ya on a heist.
Here’s to an adventure in Skinny Jeans™.
Our first stop was the Tran Quoc Pagoda. This structure was very unique, especially the statues of The Buddha in each window. The monument was in a rather interesting complex which was a contrast between garden, shrine and street market.
The complex is like an island on the shore of Hanoi’s West Lake with a pavement bordering the lake which provides for a nice walk in the shade which is quite a relief to someone clad in skinny jeans:)
At the entrance of the Pagoda complex, there is a small cluster of street shops selling exotic pets ranging from goldfish to turtles and tortoises. This was the first time I saw an outdoor pet shop and honestly it felt so different seeing a shoal of goldfish swimming in a tub on a pavement when one is used to the rows of aquariums in pet shops, lined with various toys and fish-keeping technology. It was also the first time I saw turtles as pets and it was quite a start to a whole new city.
This is a shrine in the Pagoda complex, past the street shops. The shrine is in a courtyard and the whole place feels very sacred owing to the hymns being sung by the devotees in the shrine. The complex also has these rocky mounds which form a sort of a mini shrine for the deity known as the Lady Buddha.
The Lady Buddha is a deity considered to be a Holy Mother for the people. It is something I learnt about in Vietnam and is one of the unique aspects of the place.
Our next stop was a Lacquer Museum cum exhibition in the city. Lacquer art is the most popular art form in Vietnam and the artists make all sorts of things ranging from plates to dolls from lacquer. The museum also included paintings made from natural colours and even some curious items such as egg shells which are used as a sort of a mosaic.
Vietnam is also quite famous for its embroidery work which is seen in frame pictures and toys. In Hanoi, we visited two such Lacquer and Craft shops and fulfilled the whole retail therapy angle while on tour.
The framed picture on the left is full embroidered and beside it is a plate made of lacquer and embedded with a mosaic of egg shells. The Dinosaur is one of the embroidered toys complete with colourful patchwork and the dolls are both made of lacquer.
P.S. The dinosaur is called Rocket. Make sure you say hi!:)
One cannot simply talk about Vietnam without mentioning the trademark conical hats. These hats were originally used by rice farmers but over time, it became a common entity in the Vietnamese fashion scenario. What’s interesting is the sizes in which these hats are made, ranging from the very huge ones to the tiny ones.
The hats on the left define Range™ like never before. The arrangement makes it look like the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter. It would be fun to see one of these Vietnamese hats teasing students before yelling, ‘SLYTHERIN!’
Those pop ups with the couple on the bicycles and the Ferris wheel are souvenir pop-up greeting cards. The designs are so well made that it is really hard to choose one to take home. It is really satisfying to open one of these cards and see the paper cut out take shape in the neatest way ever. The two dragonflies on the big hats are the other popular souvenirs from Vietnam. They have a sort of hook at the front to attach them onto any object which makes them look very real. The dragonflies along with the greeting cards serve as great gifting options. The tiny dolls are the native Vietnamese dolls made of wood.
It was nearly evening by the time we left the Lacquer shop and the next stop was a Temple of Literature which is a library housing ancient texts. I was hoping the place would have Agatha Christie novels but then again, that’s me ruining my little grey cells.
After this, we finally set foot into our hotel for a thirty minute hiatus, most of which went in taking photographs of the lobby considering it was so lovely. Our hotel was called the Thang Long Opera and it was situated in the Old Quarter of the city.
The Old Quarter of the city has a glimpse of French influences on Hanoi. There is an opera house and a church that resembles Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
A curious thing about the streets of Hanoi is the absence of traffic lights. In the twenty four hours that I toured the city, I didn’t come across a single traffic light nor a zebra crossing. Surprisingly, the people can cross the road just fine while I saw my entire life flash before my eyes while trying to do so. And this coming from a person who lives in India is quite something as we are rather used to erratic traffic but the lights often provide a sense of security that I took for granted till I witnessed the traffic scene in Hanoi.
This is the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. He was born in Hanoi before getting a city named after him aka Ho Chi Minh city in the south of Vietnam. The Vietnamese consider him to be a grandfather to the people. The mausoleum is heavily guarded with a change of guard at regular intervals.
This is a curious street lamp I came across en route the Hanoi Night Market.
The Night Market in Hanoi was at the very top of my mum’s bucket list and I’m glad it was as the place was one of the liveliest markets ever. It had a bit of a Leicester Square vibe to it and besides the stalls selling souvenirs, there were flash mobs and contests such as a Jenga contest to see who builds the highest tower. I actually saw a tower that was about four feet in height built by kids no more than eight years old. Skills.
This is one of the flash mobs in the market. I mean the dancers were so good that it made me wanna take up salsa and ballroom.
Here’s the final haul of souvenirs consisting of bookmarks and magnets.
Finally, after the long adventure that pumped up the day, there’s nothing better than a hot bowl of Pho or Noodle Soup and Vietnamese coffee for a perfect finish.
And that is a wrap!
Until Next Time….