After a week lazing around in Luang Prabang and a relaxing day in Vientiane, we were all really looking forward to getting to Hanoi for a bit of excitement. We knew it would be manic and as hardened travellers we were confident of being up to the challenge. We were looking forward to the arrival of our friends from the UK, the McAnderson family, and were keen to see how they would adjust coming from the quiet serenity of the south coast of England to the in-your-face chaos of one of South East Asia’s most vibrant cities. As it turned out, they coped considerably better that I did…
Vietnam was our most favouritest place when we travelled thirteen years ago and as we landed at Hanoi, excitement levels were at fever pitch. Much had changed. The runway is still bordered by bomb-proof hangers for the airforce, but the airport is completely unrecognisable and super efficient; take note (again) Indira Ghandi International Airport. Visas were processed in the blink of an eye, and before we knew where we were, we were in the pre-booked taxi heading into the city.
The journey flew by and in less than an hour, we were safely checked into the hotel and ready to head out in search of adventure. And boy, did we get adventure! When we were last here, we’d perfected the art of crossing the road; hold your breath and simply walk slowly and confidently across the river of mopeds, the waters will part and you’ll be delivered safely to the other side. Adding two kids and a multitude of cars (there were very few cars last time we were here) into the mix makes this a much more white knuckle experience. Adding in the constant blaring of horns, the stifling heat and a tourist map best described as impressionistic pretty much finished me off. After ninety minutes I was done for and we dived into the first restaurant that had a menu with words that we recognised.
Amazing food was eaten. Drinks were drunk. Refreshed and reinvigorated, we headed back out into the chaos. I don’t know what had changed in the hour that we spent in the restaurant, but stepping back onto the street was like stepping back in time. I immediately fell back in love with the place, the people and the energy of the city. On the way back to the hotel, we joked with locals, fell into a temple and went shopping at a local store. It was just as brilliant as we remembered. Phew!
The next day, the kids were so excited that it was difficult to contain them as they waited for the McAndersons to arrive. It was pretty emotional to see them in the hotel reception, and I must say that I was impressed with how fresh they looked after nearly twenty four hours of constant travel. And they continued to impress when we headed out into the melee. Megan (aged 8) was dead cool, slipping right into the vibe with our boys, and Fraser didn’t seem phased by the madness, despite only being five. With cries of
“Is anyone dead?”
after we crossed each road, we made it to a restaurant for food, fun and catching up.
We only had one full day in Hanoi but we made the most of it by touring all of the main sights and places of interest. We wandered around the lake, checked out the temple, fought our way round the night market and ate street food while sitting on tiny plastic chairs. My personal highlight was sitting on a cafe balcony, two floors up, watching the traffic chaos unfold below us. In the hour that we were there we only saw one minor accident, but nobody died and the traffic just flowed around the car and the moped involved in the crash as if nothing had happened. Hanoi is an epic city, and apart from the first ninety minutes, we loved every second of our time here. I don’t think that it can ever disappoint.
Love Travelling. Love the McAndersons.