Hanoi

LocationVietnamHaNoi3.pngAs I type this I’m sat in a coffee shop in Hanoi, at the end of my journey through Vietnam. This will be the third time that I’ve flown into Hanoi and each time has had a different feel. I think the first week we stayed would be my favorite. Maybe because it was all so new to us, dodging the insane amounts of scooters honking their horns and inching closely past you, the smells, the architecture, the street sellers and the general rush of the place.

I spent my first few days here this time around on my own. Alistair was doing the Northern Loop with two Canadian friends we’d met and I’d just come from Nha Trang where I’d stayed for a week with a friend I’d met there. I’d enjoyed being on my own in Nha Trang. It felt a little different here in Hanoi. Maybe the bad weather didn’t help or the lack of familiar faces. Nevertheless I managed to make friends in the evenings, and chilled in the day time.

Anyway, Hanoi. I’ll try to write about the thing’s we’ve done, people we met and the places we’ve been. My memory isn’t the best at the best of times and since at the beginning of our trip to Vietnam I was without a camera, there might be less photographic content than there should be.

We flew from Hong Kong to Hanoi, our first stop in Vietnam and then took the bus from the airport to the center (30,000dong). We’d been advised against getting taxi’s as they tend to be expensive and can be dodgy if you don’t settle on a price before you set off. The bus was simple enough, straight outside and took us to almost where we wanted to be.

Arriving in the center of Hanoi was a complete contrast to the clean streets and towering sky scrapers of Hong Kong. I think we both instantly felt like Hanoi/Vietnam was going to be special to us both with its centuries old architecture and bustling streets full of life. Like almost everywhere we’ve traveled to, we arrived in the late afternoon/night. Although it can be a bit of a pain, I think I prefer it this way. Being a bar man for most of my adult life, I think I get more of a feel for a place at night than in the day time. Maybe its the lights, the hum of music from nearby bars, the crowds and laughter or maybe its just I prefer living in the night (I’m not a goth!).

We took a walk to our hostel using Maps.me (super handy offline map app) and found it easy enough.

Central backpackers (the original).

Located on a small  street filled with coffee shops, restaurants, street food, clothes shops and the St Josephs cathedral is the Central backpackers original hostel.

This is where we stayed for the first week we were in Hanoi. The staff here were really friendly and helpful with anything we needed. They also organise group tours if you’re interested which are reasonably priced. You can find cheaper by searching around but we’d made friends with some people who had found a cheaper option that turned out to be pretty rubbish. Everyone we’ve spoken to who’s done the tours through the hostel had good reviews. If you read about our travels through Vietnam, you’ll notice Alistair and I don’t really do many tours. We didn’t any tours from Hanoi.

The rooms here are the usual hostel standard. Different sized shared dorms. Bathrooms clean and showers good. The beds are a little hard but you’ll get used to that in Vietnam.

So we arrive, hear a relative racket and look to the back of the hostel where the communal area is and the free beer hour has started. We dump our bags in our room, freshen up (a little, free beer is important!) and head down to join our fellow backpackers for beer.

If I remember the free beer was between 6 and 7 and then the partner hostels free beer is between 11 and 10 (it might have changed since then). It was the first we’d heard about free beer in hostels so we took full advantage. The rep Georgia, who’d be taking us on the pub crawl, was great, she got the drinking games going and was really good at getting people to mingle with each other.

I think at first I’m not so good at getting stuck in with meeting people so this helped.

After the free beer finishes we drink more beer, make friends with people and then head out to the partner hostel and then on the pub crawl. This pretty much shaped our time in Hanoi for the first few days, doing the pub crawl every night. It was really fun and we met some great people. Including James and Marco who we bumped into 2 months later in Hue and traveled with for a while, James a month and Marco about 2 weeks.

There were a couple of reps who worked for the hostel. Georgia was definitely the best at getting people involved. There were two other guys who would do the pub crawl but they didn’t seem to have the charisma to get people drinking together and playing drinking games. By the end of the week, because we had done the crawl so many times, it felt a little like Alistair and I were the ones running the crawl! Possibly we should have asked if there were any jobs going.

If I’m totally honest about the pub crawl, I’d say its OK for the first night, maybe the second night also but not the best way to experience the nightlife of Hanoi. It’s great for making new friends in the hostel you’re staying in. But once you’ve established these friendships, go somewhere else with them. The clubs you’re taken to on the pub crawl are a little on the pricey side and would be mostly full of the people your on the crawl with and no one else. If you’re looking for good night clubs/bars/streets there’s plenty to be found. We decided to venture out in search of better, cheaper beer and it was easy enough to find. There’s even a street (beer street) with chairs out full of people drinking the cheap beer (about 10-15,000dong) and eating. This streets cool for chilling with your new buddies before finding a club as it’ll be a lot cheaper then the clubs. The street does close at 12 though and everyone is packed inside the clubs/bars.

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a pretty terrible picture but this is beer street.

There is also a free walking tour in the morning and free breakfast. We managed to get up early enough one morning to do the walking tour which was actually pretty good, if a little wet due to the rain.  You’re walked through the city by one of the hostel reps to see the St Johns cathedral, Hoàn Kiếm Lake, the big market and then for egg coffee at the cafe that egg coffee was invented (the coffee costs extra but was only about 15,000dong).

Egg coffee is made with egg yolk, sugar, condensed milk and Vietnamese coffee. The condensed milk and egg yolk are whisked together with a teaspoon of coffee and then layered onto the coffee. The result is a thick, sweet coffee. Almost like a dessert. Personally I wasn’t a fan of the coffee, it was far too sweet for me but others seemed to really enjoy it and I guess being in Hanoi, we should try one of their local specialties.

If you want to read more about the coffee, the cafe we went to and the creator of the egg coffee, here’s an article by the guardian about it. https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/jan/29/egg-coffee-hanoi-vietnam-giang-cafe.

The free breakfast is the standard options, fruit or eggs (your style) with bread. I’m pretty done with hostels free breakfasts, they’re never really that appetising!

We stayed at this hostel a week and it felt like our new home. The staff helped sort out buying bikes, and were always friendly when we saw them. I’d highly recommend this hostel for backpackers arriving in Hanoi.

They have Private and Dorm rooms from $5 per night.

Central backpackers (Old quarter).

So the second time we visited Hanoi, the original Central backpackers was full. They kindly phoned up their partner hostel, Old Quarter, and sorted us out with a dorm there. They even phoned us a taxi.

The Old Quarter where this hostel is located is the hub of the action in Hanoi. This might be the best thing going about this hostel.

The old quarter hostel is a lot bigger than its partner. The staff here are still very friendly and welcoming though. The rooms are the same standard.

There is a large reception area with communal seating and even a small movie room. The restaurant and bar is located on the rooftop.

Its the same deal here as the original. Free beer (7-8pm then 11-the keg finishes), themed nights, pub crawls and free breakfast (if you make it up in time and can be arsed with it).

We stayed here for a week. Mainly because the Original was fully booked. I think we both preferred the Original to the Old Quarter. Original had a slightly more family feel to it being a lot smaller. It felt easier to get to know new people and I’d get the feeling that Original was a little more chilled than the Old Quarter.

I’d still recommend the Old Quarter hostel to backpackers in Hanoi, especially one’s out to party. I think when I did my trip adviser reviews of these two hostels, I maybe gave this one 1* less than Original. for the slightly more personal feel I preferred the original. For the location I probably preferred Old Quarter, although they’re both about a 10minute walk away from each other.

The room rates are the same as its partner, private or dorm rooms from $5 per night.

Military History Museum and Hoa Lo Prison.

Possibly the only days worth of culture we had in Hanoi. We were joined by our new friend Aurora, a lone traveler who we’d met in our room. She had no plans for the day so we invited her to come with us for a bit of cultural gloominess (the Hoa Lo Prison is supposed to be a little on the heavy side).

The prison was used to imprison Vietnamese political prisoners by French colonists during the Vietnamese battle for independence against France and later to imprison American POW’s during the American war. During the American war the American’s nicknamed the prison ‘Hanoi Hilton’ due to how well prisoners were looked after.

The prison was a little difficult to navigate and felt a little one sided with the information you got. The Vietnamese side was pretty heavy with images of torture and the harsh conditions the Vietnamese prisoners lived in. On the flip side the American’s lived in relative luxury according to information. There’s even video’s of the American POW’s smoking, playing cards and laughing. On one of the levels there’s a very communist feeling video giving information about the struggles of the Vietnamese prisoners with a wonderful Vietnamese song at the end which is not to be missed!

Only a small portion of the prison remains. Most of it was demolished to make way for 2 high rise buildings. The remaining part stays as a museum to tell the grim history of this building.

It took us about an hour and a half to walk around the Prison. We left feeling a little drained from all the information and images we’d seen but its something that if you’re in Hanoi, you should go to see.

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Afterwards we went for some smoothies to cool our brains and reflect on the museum.

Next we went to the Military History Museum. I’d been looking forward to this the most, mainly because there’s tanks there.

It was OK. We wandered about again for about an hour. There’s plenty of military vehicles to see with a few rooms worth of other weaponry and military equipment.

If I’m honest, there wasn’t a great deal of information and I did find it a little on the boring side.

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Not the best picture but here’s Alistair, Aurora and I.

Both museums are located walking distance from each other so you could visit both in a day easily.

Hoa Lo Prison. 1 Hoa Lo St | Hoan Kiem, Hanoi.

Military History Museum28A Dien Bien Phu St., Hanoi.

TAT’s Studio/the game.

48 Hàng Buồm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

This is were Hanoi got funny and pushed our friendship to the real limits. We honestly almost stopped traveling together because of this studio (not their fault).

This was on our second visit to Hanoi, maybe three or four weeks into traveling Vietnam.

We’d been talking about this game for a while and decided maybe drunkenly that we’d go through with it. The idea of the game is simple, we each get to choose each other a tattoo and the other isn’t aloud to see the tattoo until its done. The person getting tattooed is allowed to choose the location on the body and the general size. We were not allowed to choose anything offensive or that might affect our jobs. Simple.

The week building up to the big day, the various people we met and told about the game, most thought we were idiots, but some thought it was brilliant. Especially when I told people what I’d chosen for Alistair!

We’d had this studio recommended from a friend of a friend who owns Ngau coffee in Hanoi. We checked out the artists portfolio’s and decided to book in.

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The guy in the reception was really nice, I felt a little guilty/ridiculous coming to a good tattooist with such a stupid game but he saw the funny side, especially when I showed him Alistair’s tattoo. He did say the one Alistair chose for me was a little weird.

We booked in for the next day then went for a drink and emailed them with our ideas.

During the night we went out for some drinks. This was the time Alistair decided to tell me he hates portrait tattoo’s and would be pissed off if it was a tattoo of a face. This got me worried!

We go to the studio the next day to get our tattoo’s. Alistair is first up in the chair. They print out the design and we decide on the size. Its going on the outside of his calf. A pretty obvious position, especially when you’re wearing shorts all the time here.

He’s taken upstairs to start the tattoo not having a clue (maybe a slight idea) what he’s getting.

This is when I start shitting my pants and realising what I’ve just done to my best friend of 7 years. I wait a while sweating and chain smoking through worry, then I’m called to get my tattoo done downstairs, which doesn’t help the matter. I honestly thought he’d run down the stairs and punch me.

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This might be the moment he realised what he was getting. Look at that face!

Alistair’s tattoo finished first but he wouldn’t look at it until mine was finished. By this point he pretty much knew what the tattoo was and had a face like thunder. Again the receptionist found this whole situation pretty funny.

He said he realised what it might be when the tattooist was lining his tattoo around the outside. I had no idea what mine was but could feel that whatever it was it included a lot of thin lines.

Once I’d finished we both went to the mirror. Had a brief worried pause and then revealed our new (forever) ink!

The first words from Alistairs mouth were “youuu bastard”. He’s pissed but said he wasn’t going to punch me in the studio because it was so nice.

We pay up, thank the guys then I sheepishly go first down the stairs to the bar below for a drink and a game of pool.

He’s really not happy. I genuinely thought I’d ruined our friendship! It took a long time for him to be OK again. I’m not talking hours, I’m talking maybe weeks.

I think he likes it now. But I’m not sure he’ll ever be fully OK with it.

SO THE TATTOO! what was it?

For Alistair I kindly chose him a drawing of my face. I know, dick move. He surely knew I’d do something like this though, we have been friends for 7 years so he knows what I’m like!

To be fair it’s not just a drawing of my face, two of my friends got this as a tattoo as a leaving present to me.

OK I know, dick move.

Here it is.

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Shameless selfie I know.

For me? Alistair put a little more thought into my tattoo.

In the first week of traveling together I lost a lot of stuff. Day 2 I lost my camera a Fuji X10, and then day 4 I lost my Go pro Hero 4 jumping off a boat into the sea in Hong Kong. From then I lost lots of other stuff. My favourite pineapple shirt, towel, sunglasses and the list now gets bigger.

So, to remember this and remember traveling, he asked the artist to design a lost and found bag with all these items inside. A nice sentiment right! Makes me feel a little more like a dick.

Here it is.

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Lost and found.

Don’t worry, we’re contemplating going for round two at some point so Alistair can get his revenge. I’ve an idea what I’m going to do for him this time round and I’m gonna play fair and be nice this time. Hopefully he’ll really like it. OR I could just give him my face again.

I’ve a feeling it wont be the same for me though.

Getting around.

We started out by just wandering the streets of Hanoi. Its so easy to get lost, the streets are densely packed and a lot can start to look the same when you’re just mindlessly wandering. My advice is to download Maps.me, even if you’re happy enough getting lost (which we were), it helps to have some guidance sometimes.

I always thought my sense of direction was pretty good. Maybe it’s because I didn’t venture too far away from familiar places. I still thought even in foreign countries I could usually find my way around after a day or two. Not in Hanoi. It helped having Alistair because without him I would have got lost a lot more.

The worst time I got lost was after a night out (probably after the pub crawl in the hostel). I some how managed to lose everybody I was with, maybe I’d left them in the club and drunkenly thought I could make my way back to the hostel alone. I couldn’t.

After about an hour of wandering the streets trying to find something familiar that would point me in the right direction, I hailed down a taxi. I’ll point out that at this point I hadn’t downloaded Maps.me because of my shitty, shitty phone (I hate the thing, it worked fine until coming to Vietnam. I think it decided that its holiday time for it also).

It was a great relief getting in the taxi. Until I spoke to the driver. No English.

The other problem was I didn’t have a business card from the hostel. I always take a card from everywhere I stay for this exact reason!

I spend a while trying to tell him about places nearby and we drive around. The poor man was genuinely very patient and trying his best to help his pretty inebriated passenger . It probably took us another half an hour to an hour to eventually find something I recognised, the cathedral! (I had tried saying every variant on the word cathedral to no effect). I asked him to drop me there, I could walk the rest of the way, and got out thanking him profusely for all his help (he didn’t charge me the amount on the meter).

As I was walking to the hostel I bumped into another lost looking dude with a large backpack on. He’d just arrived in the city and had been looking for somewhere to stay for a while.

We walk to the hostel only to find the glass doors were closed. They’re locked with a bike lock from the inside. I noticed I could push them just enough to fit through (it was a pretty tight squeeze). I’m half way through clambering head first through the small gap (I still have a mark on my chest where the glass cut me), and the lights come on. All along there had been a security guard out of sight sleeping. If I had just knocked hard enough he would have probably woken. He looked down on me on the floor half stuck between the two glass doors and asked me what the hell I was doing. He let me in and I asked if the French guy could book a room or even stay in the communal area but the guy just told him to fuck off. I apologised to the guy and then went to bed. I never saw the guy again so I hope he found somewhere to stay!

Another funny thing about this story is that the exact same thing happened to James, the guy we made friends with in Hanoi, and ended up traveling with for about a month, 2 months later.

*

This time round I’m on my own and I feel I might now be OK with getting myself around without getting too lost. Even arriving in Hanoi was a little hard. The bus from the airport was different to the one’s we’d taken before so I was dropped just outside of the center. I had to wait for a taxi who took me into the center but didn’t know where the hostel was so we relied on the Maps.me app on my phone. Obviously my shitty phone decided this was too much for it to handle, so the battery died.

After a little driving around I decided to get out, in the rain, and just walk around until I found my way. Luckily I managed to find the hostel fairly easily by walking in the direction I thought it was, using the main road as a guide for direction and then just hoping I’d start to spot places I’d seen before. This worked out and I got there relatively stress free.

I treated myself to a fat burrito at the taco bar to celebrate. And attempted an early night with my new book Shantaram.

 *

The main way we got around Hanoi was via Motorbike/Scooter. We asked our hostel where was best to buy our bikes and they recommended one to us (see riding motorbikes Vietnam). Once we’d bought our bikes, Lexi the girl from the shop told us about the West lake. The lake is around 13km around and the perfect place to practice riding. She was even kind enough to take us to get fuel and then to the lake. She really helped us out a lot.

I’d bought an automatic scooter (I put the name to a vote on facebook and the winner was Deathtrap) and Alistair was on a manual (Hank the tank). I opted for the automatic because I really didn’t feel confident using manual gears. Once on the automatic I was fine. My biggest advice to everyone I met buying a bike was go with what you feel confident on. You may look cooler on a manual. But you need to be confident more than anything.

Riding around the lake was fun, the roads are relatively quiet with loads of fun bends. Perfect for beginners to practice before heading out onto the busy main roads and small streets of Hanoi. The ride to get to it is on a busy road though.

We stopped for coffee and then went to head back. On the way back around we stopped to watch what a local was doing by the side of the lake. He climbed in about waist deep to retrieve something. To our suprise he pulled out a boat. Apparently he’ll sink the boat every day in the same spot so no one knows where it is. We then watched him get in and paddle off into the middle of the lake to fish.

We also spotted some locals swimming in the lake so thought it might be an idea to come back the day after for a dip.

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West Lake, locals swimming, Hanoi in the background.

The next morning we met up with Stacey, Alistair’s friend from back home and Kaitlin, the Canadian girl she’d been traveling with. We met them at Chops, a cool Gourmet burger joint, for some breakfast. Then Stacey, Alistair and I headed to the lake for a swim.

We got there, it was a hot day so were looking forward to getting into the water. I was the first to get changed and get in. I dip my foot in and the water is suprisingly warm. It also has a rather murky green color to it. Not put off by this I step in. Under foot is a weirdly unpleasant sludge. Still not put off by this I walk further in. The water is pretty shallow for a long way out. I keep walking then start to hear heckling and laughing behind me. Its the locals stood at the side (in swimming gear), pointing, laughing and gesturing for me to go in further to swim.

I swim for a while, its quite relaxing if a little gross, I tried my hardest not to swallow any of the murky water. I got out and Alistair and Stacey went in for a dip. Stacey was not keen on the feeling under her feet at all! So Alistair practically carried her out until it got deeper, what a gent.

As they’re in the water I meet “B”. A local living in Hanoi. She approached me chilling by the water and we struck up a conversation. She told me she’d never seen any westerners swimming in the water here, even though she came every day to run, “The water is too dirty for tourists”. It turns out she was right and we shouldn’t have been swimming in it.

We watch the sun set over the city and watch as bats swoop around us catching the mosquito’s. Then we head back to the hostel. For the free beer.

 

FOOD!

There’s been a few places we’ve been in Hanoi for some pretty decent food. Sadly in this section its mostly western food. I don’t actually think we ate much Vietnamese food in the capital. Maybe there’s too much Western temptation for us.

Hanoi Taco Bar 6 Dao Duy Tu Street, Hanoi 10000.

Literally a 2 minute walk from the Old Quarter hostel, this place was a great find. After walking around Hanoi on my own because Alistair was ill in bed, I bumped into a guy we’d made friends with in the hostel, Oscar. He was with some mates and asked if I fancied tagging along to this taco place. It was so good I’ve been back a few times.

They serve fat burritos with choice of meats or vegetarian, taco’s, quesadillas and nachos. The usual Mexican things. The fish taco was probably my favorite. Some of the sides are really good too.

To drink I’ve usually had a beer and the strawberry and mint soda which was really refreshing.

The service is good, staff are friendly and the owner was nice. We chatted about tequila for a little while as I’d noticed he’d got a fair few on his back bar which is a rarity for Vietnam. He told me they’re so hard to get hold of in Vietnam, he has to bring them from America in his hand luggage. I didn’t dare ask how much for a shot. I’ve not seen as good a selection in the whole of Vietnam and believe me I’ve been searching!

Pricing is OK, restaurant standard pricing.

So in summary if you want some solid Mexican food at an OK price. This is the one.

Ngau coffee (Hanoi). Cát Linh, Đống Đa, Hanoi.

We came to this place to meet our friends friend Binh. Its a cool place! A blend of comfy vintage furniture, art studio, coffee shop and clothes store.

We’re brought over a jug of water and order our coffee’s, obviously Vietnamese coffee with sweet condensed milk. The coffee here is good! Strong but tasty.

We meet Binh, Matt’s friend and he’s great, super friendly, easy going and would help you with anything you needed. His catch phrase, which I’m not sure he knows he’s saying is “uh oh”. We’d spoken to Matt before meeting him and he’d told us about this. It was hard not to find it a little amusing every time he said it, which was a lot.

We chat with Binh a while and he took us for some fried chicken.  We then head back for more coffee and to look at his clothes shop.

Alistair bought a baseball cap he liked with United Kingdom written on the front. It wasn’t until he’d bought the cap that Binh pointed out that it was made in China and spelt wrong. It actually read ‘Unitted Kingdom’. It just made the hat even better. Alistair eventually lost his hat somewhere in Vietnam, we’re not sure where.

Lifted coffee and brunch. 101 Hang Ga st, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

So I found this place on trip adviser. We were looking for a decent breakfast being slightly sick of the hostel free breakfast and this place looked like the one. It definitely was.

We entered and it instantly reminded me of a cafe back in Huddersfield which was one of my favourites (it was recently rated one of the top 15 cafe’s in the UK.) I even had to message my friends pictures of the place because it was so similar. The decor, the menu and even the presentation of the food was very similar.


I had poached eggs with pulled pork and Alistair had the omelette and granola.
Everything was fantastic. My eggs where both cooked perfectly and the presentation was eggselent (sorry).

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Sorry I’m no food photographer but just look at those colours!

The coffee was good and the pink grapefruit and mint tea was amazing. Everything was reasonably priced for what you got.

If you want to treat yourself to a decent breakfast then this is definitely the one.

Hanoi Social Club. 6 Hoi Vu | Hoan Kiem, Hanoi 84.

This is a really cool spot if you want to chill for the day. It’s not cheap but has loads of space with nice retro furniture and a quirky decor for you to relax in.

There’s three floors from you to choose from, the top being the roof terrace with outdoor seating and plenty of plants. They also hold a music club on a Tuesday 8.30pm with live music upstairs.

The coffee is good and the iced tea is really good! Alistair had the hibiscus green tea which he rated.

The food, although on the pricey side is also really good.

The WiFi is also pretty fast so perfect for people wanting to work in a relaxed atmosphere.

The Moose and Roo. 42b Ma May, Hanoi 100000, Hanoi.

Again I found this place looking for more decent breakfast. We either miss the free breakfast in the hostel, they’re always pretty early like 7am-10am (I know that’s not super early to most people), or we just fancy something a little better.

This place is a little on the pricey side but everything is of a good standard and the service is really good here, I think this is what made this place stand out most for me. I’ve been here twice now, once with Alistair the first week we were in Hanoi and then the second yesterday. It’s a nice place to chill with a book.

The poached eggs were cooked perfectly and the coffee is decent.

I don’t think I have any pictures of this place but just take my word for it. If you want to treat yourself then this place is a good option.

When I was leaving yesterday it was raining pretty heavily. One of the servers was even kind enough to give me a free poncho.

Pizza 4P’s. 24 Ly Quoc Su Street, 2 Ngo Huyen Street, Hoan Kiem District.

We discovered this gem by recommendation from someone in our hostel. They’d said it was pricey but definitely worth it.

This was one of the best pizza’s I’ve ever had, and I love pizza!

We were seated at the ‘bar’ area, were you can see the pizza’s being freshly prepared in front of you before being cooked in the two huge stone bake ovens.

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That’s my pizza being made right there!!

The service was really good here. When we entered we were greeted and when we left, almost every member of staff said thank you.

The pizza was amazing and cooked to perfection. We also had the fresh lemon soda which was great, and they provided extra fresh lemon and sugar syrup so you could make it to your own taste.

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Look how perfect it is!! I had a half and half pizza because I couldn’t choose.

The pizza wasn’t cheap. Probably regular restaurant prices in the UK. But if you fancy splashing out on a really decent pizza, or want to impress a date, this place might be the one. My advice is sit at the ‘bar’ so you can watch your pizza being prepared. Reserving a table isn’t essential but if you’re a large group it might be worth it.

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The second time we went to Pizza 4P’s. Jamie, Amy and Alistair.

CHOPS! 12 Hang Bac | Hanoi Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi.

Chops is a cool gourmet burger joint located in the Old Quarter. I think there is also a second one in Hanoi but I can’t remember where.

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This place is definitely on the pricey side of things and to be honest we found a better burger for a lot cheaper at Valhalla (see below). That’s not to say the food here wasn’t good, because it was.

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Looks good ay!

The burgers were all really tasty and a really decent size. We also got some free fries because a new member of staff missed something off our order. Kaitlin also had a bloody Mary which was also of a good standard.

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The old sniff test. (Kaitlin in the background).

The place has a cool vibe to it and could easily be placed anywhere in the UK. It always seems busy. They also sell the local Hanoi craft beer by Pasteur street brewery. Again, not cheap but its not bad.

This place has good service, good drinks and good food but will cost you, if you want a cheaper option try below.

Valhalla Grill. 17 Hang Buom Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

OK so this place was found through recommendation. We checked it out and were really pleasantly suprised. We’d been told to not expect gourmet presentation but the presentation was still good. Just no brioche bun, which is fine by me because they ain’t all that!

The menu’s simple choose your patty size and add any extras you’d like. There’s also set menu options and hot dogs.

The price here is good. You’re looking at around 55,000 for the basic burger then add what you want, fries cost extra. You get a decent sized burger for your dong and it tasted great (better than Chops).

The restaurant itself is a little small with a few tables inside and then 2 tables outside. Don’t be put off by this though, I’ve managed to sit both times I’ve been.

I’d say this place is a little gem if you find it. I’ve eaten here quite a few times and each time its been great. They close pretty late too so perfect after a few drinks!

Joma. 22 Ly Quoc Su, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi 100000.

I searched for the best WiFi spots in Hanoi because the WiFi in the hostel (like most) isn’t so good. I found this blog which was pretty helpful. I’ve hated relying on WiFi because most places only have slow speeds.

I actually stumbled across Joma whilst wandering around to be honest but decided to go in because of the recommendation from that blog.

It is a little pricey. For an iced black Americano you’re paying 60,000dong. The only reason I’m currently happy to pay that is because the WiFi is actually really good.

Since I’ve been here on my own for a few days I decided to take the time to write. It’s also a good place to facetime friends and family, since the WiFi connection is fast and they have a quiet outside area.

The coffee is of a good standard and I had the smoked salmon bagel which was very filling and tasted good, still a little pricey (100,000dong).

It is also located next door to the Central Backpackers (original) hostel which is handy if you’re staying there.

I’d say for someone wanting to work online, this place is a good shout. I’ve spent a good few hours here each time and not felt the need keep ordering something through guilt.

Street Pineapple. Located everywhere.

So the first week we were in Hanoi I was obviously still getting used to the money here. Its in the thousands, and having just come from Hong Kong I was getting a little confused with the exchange rates.

We’d walked past a lady selling pineapple a few times, it always smelled so good! So I decided to buy some. I asked how much and the lady obviously knew I was a gullible sucker! 200,000 dong. OK! I gladly payed the lady, happy with my big bag of fresh (if a little sweaty from the heat) pineapple.

Alistair shared some and asked me how much I’d bought it for, I proudly told him and all he could do was laugh at me. I didn’t realise but I’d just paid about £7 for a bag of pineapple, and made that ladies day.

This was a running joke for a good few weeks.

 

Where next!?

So the first time we left Hanoi was with Stacey and Kaitlin on bikes to Sapa. It was a long and tough journey for all of us over a few days, due to taking wrong roads and me being ill for a day.

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The crew and bikes heading to Sapa. Alistair, Kaitlin and Stacey. I had asked them to pose like a biker gang, this is what I got.

Once in Sapa we spent a few days there, not really doing anything and then Alistair and I left the girls to head to Laos to sort out extending our Visa.

The second time we were in Hanoi, just Alistair and I. We Spent a week in Hanoi then started our epic journey south on our bikes starting in Ninh Binh. It took us about 3 months to get south and every part of the journey was an adventure and new story to tell.

Now the third time in Hanoi? I have absolutely no idea. Our visa runs out in 2 weeks, which makes me feel sad every time I think about it. We’ve done so much and met so many amazing people be it backpackers or locals. We have both had some pretty strong connections with people along the way that we’re both sad to be leaving. The main difficulty we’ve found whilst traveling is that its so easy to connect with someone you’ve just met, because you’re both experiencing new things all the time, but then somewhere down the line you have to leave them. Possibly to never see them again. There’s only a few we really hope to meet, but that’s a long way down the line. Our adventure has only just begun and there’s so much more for us to see. We’ll make these connections everywhere we go, we just need to remember the bigger picture. And that we can always travel to visit these people in the future. We have the whole world to explore and that’s pretty exciting!

I just got a tattoo to remind me of the past few weeks and the reason I’m doing this. I love Vietnam and will be back at some point, maybe for longer to teach, but there’s a long road ahead and I’ll probably fall in love with every place I go. Thanks to my buddy Barney who let me get this design he’d done on his sketch book We’d both been through similar things at the time of him posting this on his instagram and I liked the sentiment behind it. Alistair also got a small tattoo of a pineapple on his right bicep. Again this was a little reminder of the past few weeks and the Canadian friends he’d made.

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The tattoo. Note to self, Find your self.

Just some more pictures from Hanoi.

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St Johns Cathedral.
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Just a cool building by the super busy roundabout. Loads of fun crossing this!
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Beer street before the carnage starts!
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Street food/chicken ass.
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#tall people problems! This is in Corner pub. A cool little pub with a pool table. The upstairs has height restrictions. I’m 6″4 (or 5 I’ve no idea) and this happens a lot in Vietnam. Playing table football was difficult!
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Blurry but this is beer street during the carnage!!
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The freshest fish you’ll get! This was literally just outside our hostel.
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Alistair getting his hair chopped at 1991 Barbers. If you’re a dude and want you’re hair chopping, head here. They’re sound and do a god job!
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Chillin Chihuahua.
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Guard Pug.
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Street Barbers.

Find more pictures from my travels on instagram. I’m an idiot so have two pages.

the_tequila_fairy

sexdronesrockandroll

All pictures are my own.

 

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