Friday, July 24, 2015

Visiting Hanoi: The City

After our time in Cambodia we headed to Hanoi for three days. Our friends had been once previously, but this was the first time visiting Vietnam for both me and John. I mentioned in a previous post that I had a lot of concerns when planning our trip, and to be honest, most of them were about Hanoi. I'd read that taxi drivers would be likely to rip us off, that crossing the street would be a harrowing experience, and that street vendors would approach us constantly. I didn't find any of that to be the case. It was a beautiful friendly city, and I would definitely go back.

Hanoi in June is really hot. Probably even hotter than Angkor Wat, though we weren't entirely sure if that was because of the actual weather or because cities absorb heat so much more than rural areas. Our friends had been before in November and remembered being comfortable in jeans, which is completely out of the question in June, but Raku said she felt like the city had been missing something before, and that somehow it just felt right for it to be so hot and tropical.

I'm not sure if it was because of the time of year, or just a fluke, but there weren't too many scooters either. If you read anything about Hanoi you will learn how the streets are flooded with scooters and that traffic never stops. In order to cross the street you just walk very slowly and steadily across the street and traffic will avoid you. It's supposed to be a terrifying experience. But lucky for us the traffic was much thinner than we had expected. Crossing the street wasn't exactly relaxing, and we still needed to be vigilant, but it was nothing like what I had feared.

Unfortunately, the one thing I worried about that did happen was food poisoning. It didn't happen to me, but our first night in Hanoi John woke up very sick. The culprit: airline food. How annoying! It's scary to be sick in another country, so what do you do when you have food poisoning in Vietnam? I thought he might need to see a doctor, but our hotel concierge told us that it would actually be much easier to just go straight to a pharmacy and buy an antibiotic. This was surprising to me, but seems to be standard. We went to a Hapharco, which is a common pharmacy in the Old Quarter, and were able to speak with the pharmacist in English. After hearing what was wrong she sold us three days worth of antibiotics for about $3 and sent us on our way. I hate to say this, but neither of us can remember its name. Before taking it, John googled the medicine because neither of us had ever heard of it before, but it's a French drug that seems to be very common in Southeast Asia for food poisoning. Of course, if you're traveling it's a good idea to bring some over the counter stomach medicine for mild cases, but because John ran a fever for more than a day I was very grateful that we could deal with the problem so easily. 

In spite of the food poisoning we managed to eat some really fantastic food and drink some great coffee, which deserve their own post. We took the rest of our time pretty easy, which I think is necessary in a city that is so chaotic and bustling. But with so much beautiful scenery it was always interesting to stop and sit at a cafe.

I wonder how old this truck is?

Look at all those chicken parts!
West Lake
The One Pillar Pagoda
The architecture is so French
St. Joseph's Cathedral

Everything in Hanoi was bursting with colors

Sunset from the Sofitel Plaza Hotel
Hoan Kiem Lake
Read About The Rest of Our Trip:

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