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Vietnam (Day 9) Hello, Hanoi

First impressions? We are Hanoi Happy!!

It was a bittersweet departure from Hoi An as I felt I needed to see more.  I'm so glad we did have the 4 nights as I know some people come for much less time, even only 1 night.  So, here is one of very few tweaks I would have made with our overall itinerary.  We should have shifted one night from Lantana to a second night at Vinh Hung Heritage in the center of the Ancient Town.  I had been worried after being advised that it is too crowded, too noisy, kids need a pool, etc. etc. when in fact, it was such a special accommodation and ideal location.  Someday we will have to return to Hoi An!  

But, let's talk about my new bestie Hanoi :) Thank goodness, I had cast aside worries about "crowded" and "noisy" and put us smack dab in the center of the Old Quarter staying on Ma May Street. With no pool *gasp* and, no regrets!

Saying goodbye to lovely Lantana in the morning, we used their transport to Danang Airport.  After an easy 1hr flight via Vietnam Airlines, we arrived in the capital of Vietnam. I had pre-arranged transport direct with our hotel for about $25 total.  

It's awesome in this city! We were warmly welcomed to our hotel Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa, which is in the heart of the Old Quarter. The Club Duplex Suite is awesome! Kids loved their upstairs room and we LOVED the separation from them. 

Complimentary welcome drinks and snacks!

Spiral staircase to kids room!

I had heard great things about the in-house restaurant Red Bean, so we decided to kick things off with a fabulous lunch in the hotel.

Complimentary starter appetizer!

Check out my Rooster drink!

Pho, Hanoi-style - simply topped.

Famous Hanoi Bun Cha! OMG so good!!

Properly fueled, we headed out with our hotel-provided map (and "I'm lost" hotel card with address). My gosh, the awesomeness that was RIGHT OUTSIDE the front doors.  Seriously, THIS location.

The Old Quarter is a massive tangle of alleys bustling with activity. It is not pedestrian-friendly as motorbikes drive up onto the sidewalks so you end up stepping into the busy street, but this is all part of the city vibe and we found it exhilarating. I was so happy to see the kids and Rob totally LOVING it!!  Even our little Molly who is usually overwhelmed by crowded spaces enjoyed the strolling fascinated by the sights and sounds.

We even managed to see a bunch of touristy sites in our aimless wander. 

We completed the full loop around Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Returned Sword), the historic center of Hanoi. The lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda (built 18th century) sitting in the center on a small island (Jade Island). I wasn't dressed properly (it must have been my shorts, but the kids/Rob were ok) to enter so had to borrow a cover. I actually quite liked it!

This island with Ngoc Son Temple is stunning and very interesting. Legend describes how an emperor was once given a magical sword which helped him defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty and saw the return of the Golden Turtle God to the lake. Today, there are still endangered large soft-shelled turtles swimming in the lake and to see one is good luck.  

It was a little busy on the bridge over to the island, but strangely, we saw a number of tourists did not want to go in when they learned that there was a 30k dong entry fee. Great, less people on the island! We thought it was well worth it to see the famous temple of ancient folklore!

Yessss, our first time using squat toilet! We found a public restroom on the lake path. Pay to use squat toilet was the equivalent of 15 cents each. Caitlin and I both succeeded without peeing on ourselves! Molly decided that she didn't really have to go. Anyways, we had a debate over which way to face. I faced the wall, but she faced away. My dad says that Caitlin is correct. I venture it doesn't really matter as long as successful avoidance of pee on self.

The alleys are what make Hanoi awesome!

On the way back to the hotel, Rob's keen eye caught an old building with a Heritage sign. It turned out to be a restored ancient house designated a national heritage. So beautiful to see this special tube-shaped house architecture and traditional living. And, my kids did not break anything.

Rob told me to go down this alley and see where it leads, so I left him and the kids on the street and made my way. I was gone so long he said he thought I got kidnapped. He eventually followed with the kids to find me. When he finally found me, I joked with him that I had sat down for a beer. He didn't think that was funny. I have found my new favorite bar/restaurant Cafe Nola. It's massive with so many nooks and corners to hang out. There's even an art gallery rooftop. It's down on the same street as our hotel, so will return to actually have that beer!

Rob: Go and see what's down there.
Turned a corner. Still going.

Rob (and the girls) came to find me.

We ate dinner at a restaurant near the hotel (past the ancient house) called New Day.  I forgot my phone, so no pics (I know, right?!), but it was good service and good enough food. Lots of locals and tourists.  I liked how we learned that in Hanoi, even if you think a place is full, no seats left - there is always more space! It seems like there is ALWAYS more steps, more rooms, more than you would ever think possible seating.

We are absolutely loving the vibe of Hanoi!

Up next: Hanoi Kids & Hanoi Street Food


  1. Like the 'had a beer' comment.
    I like how I found in Hoi An beer selling for 5,000 VND (30c Oz).
    Said to my wife, 5 bucks will be plenty!

    1. Hahaha, that's awesome! Now you got me longing for a cold beer sitting on a stool somewhere in Vietnam!