Ben and I spent three days in Hanoi on our trip to Vietnam, the city book-ending days spent in the countryside. Our explorations mostly kept us in the old quarter and the French quarter of Hanoi. One of our favorite things to do was sit around in cafes drinking iced coffee (or Vietnamese egg coffee) and watch people and traffic fly by. We alternated visiting some of the city’s landmarks with time at coffee shops, and one afternoon we got 30-minute foot massages for $7 each, and I fainted in the salon and caused quite a stir. (After water and some rest I was fine. The heat got me!)
^Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton”, where the French imprisoned Vietnamese and the Vietnamese imprisoned American POWs like John McCain. McCain’s flight suit from when he was captured is on display here. $0.50 cent admission fee.
^One of many delicious meals. We arranged an evening street food tour through one of our hotels in Hanoi so we got to try a lot of food on the tour, and we used trip advisor to find other good restaurants. The spring rolls were my favorite dish, and we had them with almost every meal.^
Ben and I chose to walk everywhere, so we didn’t see as much as we could’ve with a taxi or tuk-tuk, but I like to think we got a good sense of the city on foot. I read a book awhile ago called Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit, and as I think back on our time walking around Hanoi, this quote from that book comes to mind:
“When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for you when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.”
I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to visit Hanoi again. As much as I would love to go back, the world is so big, and on a trip like this I can’t help but know that it may be my first and last time to experience a place. There is no reason to dwell on a thought like “I’ll never see this again!” but keeping that reality in the back of my mind helps me fully invest each step.
See the first post from Vietnam here. More photos from our trip to come… :)