Hanoi's Old Quarter

Jul 31, 2012

Hanoi 7
Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

After a memorable and interesting first night in Hanoi, I decided to spend another day just walking around the Old Quarter and see other sights nearby. First stop was the St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Its structure is almost similar as that of Saigon’s Notre Dame Cathedral, but smaller and older. I didn’t get the chance to go inside as there were a lot of children playing around it. And because I was distracted by this young guy selling fake books. He was actually very nice and was not pushy. I bought a Lonely Planet Vietnam book from him and asked if I could take his photo.

And then I got lazy. Must be the cold weather or the fact that I just wanted to relax and enjoy the day, but I decided to just go to Hoan Kiem Lake nearby. The first sight of it reminded me of Burnham Lake in my hometown Baguio City, back when it wasn’t packed with tourists. People walked around the lake leisurely, some were just seating on the benches, and a few kids throwing stones into the lake. The sight and feel of it started to relax me and slowly stripped down all the anxieties I had over going back home.

I sat by the small restaurant by the lake, ordered cà phê sữa nóng (hot coffee) and lunch. Brought out my book Into Thin Air (still with a Nepal hangover) and was able to finally finish it.

After a few hours of solitude, I started walking around the lake and headed to Ngoc Son Temple. A small temple explaining a little bit history of Hanoi, the lake, and of the supposedly giant turtles that used to inhabit it.

Another quirky and wonderful charm of Hanoi are the number of pre-nuptial and wedding photo shoots around the lake.

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the Old Quarter and discovering how each street is organized based on what they’re selling. There were streets filled with Christmas lights and decorations, chocolates and other imported goods, candies and nuts (bought myself a pack of pistachio nuts), clothes, beers, and of course coffee.

I also finally had the chance to eat at Bun Bo and Laydbird Restaurant. :)

Hanoi was the best place to start traveling in Vietnam. Although I wasn’t that impressed with Halong Bay, the Old Quarter and the warm people were the highlights of Hanoi for me. :)

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