Hanoi, Vietnam

Our Vietnamese journey began in the capital city of Hanoi. The welcome was both warm and intense. Almost everyone we interacted with was friendly, sincere and welcoming. Our hotel in Hanoi was the best example of this. I rarely write about hotels we stay at but the Hanoi Charm Hotel is worth mentioning for their exceptional service. We paid for a 3 star hotel but received 5 star service. It truly was the best hotel service I have ever received and I have stayed at quite a few 5 star luxury hotels during my tenure as a wedding planner. Everyone should start their Vietnam journey at the Hanoi Charm Hotel as they could not be better ambassadors for Vietnam tourism.

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Our hotel. You really do stay in style. Beautiful clean rooms, great location and exceptional service.

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One of two beds in our room that was painstakingly decorated with fresh flower petals and a handmade personalized card welcoming our family to the hotel

Feeling fantastic about being in Vietnam after the warm welcome, we ventured out to explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter. It is packed with scooters and motorbikes along with its characteristic “tube houses” (long narrow buildings typically 3 meters wide by 60 meters long that house a shop in the front and many living spaces behind and above).

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Eating our first tasty bowl of pho in Vietnam

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Typical Hanoi Old Quarter. “Tube house” on the left.

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Vietnamese flags everywhere

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Motor bike parking on almost all sidewalks makes it dangerous to walk as pedestrians are forced to walk on the street

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The stampede – crossing the street is like being in a game of Frogger – careful you don’t get squashed!

We escaped the intense streets of the Old Quarter with a slower pace stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake or the Lake of the Restored Sword.

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On the lake – the Huc Bridge leading to Ngoc Son Temple

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Turtle Tower in the center of the lake

As a reprieve from the heat and walking, we headed to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre after our stroll around the lake to see an art form that started in the rice paddies of the 11th century. The live orchestra and water puppeteering was fantastic and well worth the 100,000 dong or a little over $4 usd for the ticket.

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Orchestra on the left. Puppets in the water. Puppeteers waste deep in water behind the screen.

Our evening was spent eating, thanks to a free food tour I had booked. Yep, you heard it right. Free. There are two organizations in Hanoi that offer free tours led by university students wanting to improve their English skills, Hanoikids and Hanoi Free Tour Guides. I highly recommend both of them. We took advantage of a free food tour with Hanoikids and an all day tour with Hanoi Free Tour Guides. Sorry there are no photos from the food tour. I was too busy eating.

Our second day in Hanoi was after we returned from Halong Bay. Our university students met us at our hotel at 9am and we set off for our day long tour of the city. Thirty minutes into our tour, the rain came. We were not to be deterred and paid outrageous sums of money for cheap plastic ponchos and continued on our way.

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Side view of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum just minutes before the rain came. Unfortunately the mausoleum is closed on Fridays which was the day we were there.

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The French built Presidential Palace

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Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House viewed through pouring rain

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One Pillar Pagoda. Tiny temple built by a childless emperor after the birth of his son to recognize the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who he dreamed had handed him a baby son while seated on a lotus flower. See just like a lotus flower in the lotus pond.

The day included a stop at the Dong Xuan Market, the largest covered market in Hanoi.

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Shoes as far as the eye could see at Don Xuan Market. I didn’t even buy one pair.

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Plethora of dried goods at the market

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Lots of interesting choices for dinner at the market

And a stop at the lovely Temple of Literature.

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Constellation of Literature Pavilion

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At the Imperial Academy where studies began in 1076. Cranes with shiny chests standing on turtles with shiny heads as a result of many hands touching them for luck on exams.

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Well of Heavenly Clarity. Unfortunately the well wasn’t very helpful to me.

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Us in front of the Accomplished Virtue gate I believe

Hanoi is a good starting point for a visit to Vietnam. From here we were able to get to both Halong Bay and Sapa where we are currently. Super excited to share with you the experiences we’ve had in Sapa. Stay tuned!

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