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Cherished Images of Hanoi

This Hop On, Hop Off tour bus was all bedecked in flowers to honor International Women’s Day. We should celebrate Women’s Day everyday, don’t you think?

Incidentally, the Hop On Hop Off tour bus is a great way to see any city. The ticket is usually good for 24 hours and you can hop on again the next day and see the places you missed the previous day. It is also a solo traveler’s best and sometimes only choice when booking any other sightseeing tour and the tour operator expects or requires a booking for a minimum of two persons.

These flower vendors don’t need a kiosk to sell their colorful bouquets. And they can go around town with their haul behind their backs to reach more customers.

Hoàn Kiem Lake or Sword Lake is wrapped in legend involving a king, a giant turtle and a sword. Today it is an area of calm in this bustling city. 

Life along the railroad tracks is as normal as can be with laundry hanging from the balconies, gossiping neighbors in front of their houses, tourists drinking coffee at ine of the ubiquitous bean shops while waiting for the train to pass by.

Restaurants serving Saigon specialities are on this street which is parallel to the railroad tracks. I was curious to know the differences in the cuisine. I’ll have to eat here and try their dishes next time.

It's been a long day for this cyclo driver as he takes a much needed nap. This is my  most cherished image of Hanoi. After the long walks I took, I could have easily taken his place. :)

I have to say that this chicken pho was not as good as those I’ve had in Vietnamese restaurants in California. There’s definitely something missing. And the chicken slices were bland. Or perhaps it is the sense of place that gives flavor to the dish?

This Fried Pho was quite good. I ordered it at a beautiful restaurant called Paris Deli in front of the Opera House. 

I wasn’t aware till I saw this at the boulangerie that Vietnamese coffee is a thing. Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world, second only to Brazil. Note the various flavors including Arabica, Robusta, and Moka. Can you have a better coffee than one that greets you, “Good Morning”? 

I did enjoy the array of pastries offered at Coba Bakery and the baguettes, of course. It was the perfect place for a much needed brake from walking all day.

There are many different styles of architecture in the Old Quarter. Consider the balcony with the arches and columns or the windows of the yellow house decorated with arched molding and the decorative corbels framing the balcony above.

To gain more real estate, you build up. This is typical of the architectural style of residential/commercial buildings in Hanoi.

Why were turtles revered in Vietnam? Turtles represent longevity, strength and intelligence and is tied to Vietnamese independence in the 15th century against the Chinese invaders. These turtles are at the Temple of Literature where a golden tortoise is also on display.
 
The Vietnamese Dong is the local currency. I was instantly a millionaire when I took out some money at the ATM machine. It gave me two 500,000 bills. That’s 1 million Vietnamese dong. Alas my millionaire status didn’t last long. :(

Where to stay:
Hotel Mercure La Gare
94 P. Ly Thuòng Kiêt, Cua Nam
all.accor.com
As the name indicates, this hotel is close to the train station but it is quiet and elegant with friendly and helpful staff. There’s also a good restaurant on the premises, Brasserie Le Pavillion.

How to get to the center from the airport:
It’s best to arrange transfer in advance to get cheaper rates. The alternative would be to arrange your ride with the tourist agency at the airport and pay approximately $25.00 to the center of the city. In my case, near the railroad station. This same agency also sells SIM cards. It’s right outside baggage claim.

On the return to the airport, I made reservations in advance with Govn Travel at govntravel.com and paid a much cheaper rate. They picked me up at 5 am from my hotel. Their phone number is 84965886263.

How to get around the city:
If you’re in the center of town, it’s an easy walk to the Old Quarter and the French Quarter. Uber is available for longer distances and their rates are quite reasonable.


*****

Images by TravelswithCharie


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