We wanted to make a last small trip before the end of 2015 and we thought about Punjab first. Finally, flight ticket prices were more interesting to go to… Vietnam. So even if what’s happening above Delhi is still quite a mystery to us, the lure to discover a new country like Vietnam was stronger!
As we’re sligthly serious entrepreneurs, we decided to leave just for a big week so that our business doesn’t run too long without us. According to our friends who already went to Vietnam, the North seemed to be more authentic than the South so we focused on this part, landing in Hanoi with the plan to go in the mountains in the North and towards the famous Halong bay.
After a stop-over in Bangkok, marked by our horrible discovery of the Paris attacks happening right at the same time, we finally landed in Hanoi asleep and confused. Finally, the first taxi tried to cheat us with a price in dollars which had the effect to completely awake us. It also triggered our backpacker’s mood to put us in the right condition to start soaking up the Hanoi atmopshere. Quite early in the morning, Hanoi is a bustling city, with waves of two-wheelers released in its tiny streets and all its pavements invaded by street restaurants and their patrons, seated on mini-plastic stools eating up their breakfast made of noodles and soups. Compared to the distorted roads and the agressive traffic we’re used to in Bangalore, Hanoi appeared to us instantly like a small and nice city with just the right amount of restlessness to make it not boring.
Our first feeling was confirmed as we visited this human-scale capital, most of the time walking in its narrow streets where life seems to unfold in the public eye, on its pavements overloaded with scooters, small shops, kitchens, markets and restaurants of toys-like size which seem spontaneous but are finally happening everyday at the same place. And of course, all the street-food is scrumptious! Pho, Bun-bo, nems, and all the Vietnamese classics are there and tasting better than you ever had them. We also tried some new ones we never heard about before like the Cha Ca (cat-fish being cooked on your table) or this one street where we found out that only tripes were being served! So if you love street-food and are a bit adventurous, Hanoi is a paradise. French heritage can also be felt in the food but remixed with local flavours like the delicious Banh-mi (baguette sandwiches with Vietnamese ingredients) or the “Ca-Phe” (coffee) mixed with concentrated milk directly brewed in your cup.
Also, we find in Hanoi a kind of old Chinese heritage (or at least the nostalgic version we can think of) with for example many ladies wearing the typical chinese hat, many small Tao-Buddist temples (sometimes tucked at the end of a corridor!) and also in its markets full of life.
To be continued: Sa Pa, the mountains in the North…