Hanoi- Vietnam: Part 1 🇻🇳
Leaving the kayaking and island life behind, we were once again on a coach back to the mainland. The next destination and our final in Vietnam, the capital city of Hanoi.
Our inn was situated within the outskirts of the old quarter of the city, within walking distance of many of the landmarks located across the capital. The night market is a significant part of Hanoi’s night life and fortunately we were just a ten minute walk away.
The market occupies almost 2 miles of street, with everything from food to shoes on sale at usually very reasonable prices. It’s an intense place, but one which gives all your senses a real powerful experience.
At the end of the market street we came across an expansive square, lit up and full to the brim with locals and foreigners. On the far side of the opening from the market is a lake, which is home to the temple of the jade mountain. It was closed by the time we reached it, but lit up it is illuminated on the back drop of the lake. We would find out more about it later in our stay. It was nice to get to grips with Hanoi on the first night and thanks to very helpful staff at our hostel we were set up with plenty of things to see and do for our stay in the Vietnamese capital.
An early-ish start the following morning had us up and across what felt like the length of the city, away from the hustle and bustle of the centre to a small lake across town.
On our way across, we somewhataccidentally found the Hanoi botanical garden. At a cost of just 2000 VND to enter, it seemed rude not to have a stroll around. It was a peaceful break from the Hanoi we’d seen so far, with many types of tree and flower covering an expansive part of the city. A small stretch of water in the centre was occupied by dozens of bird houses, home to various species. More than anything, the shady trees were a welcome respite from the sun. The end destination was just further on from the botanical garden.
A small lane down an even smaller side street is the final resting place of a piece of the war which raged across Vietnam for many years. Within the shallow waters is the remains of an American B-52 bomber. One set of wheels and a segment of the frame occupy the far side of the lake.
The plane was shot down by North Vietnamese forces during a bombing raid in December 1972. It feels as though the wreckage has been left untouched by the Vietnamese, initially at least, as a trophy. It was evidence that the much feared bombers could be brought crashing to earth. It is eerie, in front of you half submerged in murky waters is part of an aircraft originally designed as a carrier of a nuclear bomb. It is one of 31 B-52 bombers brought down during the Vietnam War.
After a period of time at the lake we headed back towards the centre, grabbing an ice coffee on the way (Vietnamese coffee is something pretty special by the way). The heat had crept up to its usual midday highs of mid 30s by the time we reached our hostel. Keeping hydrated is easy enough with 1.5l bottles of water coming to around 15/20,000 VND, so refreshing here was easy and necessary.
A shower (the seemingly millionth in Vietnam so far), a load time f water and topping up of sun cream later we were ready to set back out into the Hanoi heat. Cutting through the small intense streets towards the lake we had visited the previous night, we took in the sights of the small temple of the Jade Mountain. Entry is 30,000 VND or 15,000 VND for students.
It occupies a very modest percentage of the lake, but its architecture and history is substantial in the context of a city which is pushing to be more modern and cosmopolitan. Built in the early 19th century, the temple is dedicated to dedicated to Confucian and Taoist philosophers and the national hero, Trần Hưng Đạo, an imperial prince and military leader during the Tran Dynasty which ruled Vietnam in the 12th to the 14th century.
The walk over the bridge from the edge of the lake to the temple really makes you feel that the busyness of the city behind. Either standing in the grand yet modest halls of the temple or looking out into the lake, you feel as though you are anywhere other than the centre of a lively capital city. It is a refreshing change from constantly shuffling around the hot cramped streets.
Hanoi is often uncomfortable to walk around due to the heat and constantly needing to be on the look-out for oncoming traffic, yet its history and culture was growing on me.