After an overnight flight to Singapore and a morning flight to Hanoi, we arrived at our hotel, the historic Sofitel Metropole, at around midday. It is over a century old, built in 1901 at the height of grand French culture in Indochina. It was fully restored in the years following the Vietnam War and it’s proven to be a pretty good location for taking in Hanoi culture, because it seems to be quite central to much of it.
Our hotel is in the French Quarter, just a short walk from the historic Old Quarter, which dates back to the 13th century. Our guide, Sing, delighted in leading us up narrow alley ways and weaving in and out of motorbike traffic, always on the alert for the rider coming in from a blind spot or the one who seemed to enjoy putting the wind up jaywalking tourists.
We walked past hundreds and hundreds of small shops and restaurants, streetside vendors, and even shoe shine boys. Sing took us to four food stalls, each so small we would hardly have noticed it and kept on walking if we’d been seeking food on our own. The food was amazing – the first was a pork pate roll, really tasty. It got better with a bowl of pho at the next stop, though I was a bit heavy handed with the chili and just about destroyed the back of my throat. Next stop was probably my personal favourite, pancakes, with pork, prawns and a host of other ingredients – we devoured them, much to the amusement of the Hanoi girl who sat next to us and enjoyed watching us trying to get a grip on how to put one together without it falling into multiple pieces.
We were rather hot and struggling with all the heat and the walking at this stage, so Sing made us very happy when he led us into a fruit salad stall for a really refreshing final dish. The food had been brilliant, and the walk through the Old Quarter was a really good way to get us out and about in Hanoi so soon after arrival.
But it’s been a long day, and tomorrow promises to be even busier than today. That’s all for tonight, folks!