Vietnam - Day 1 - London to Hanoi
December 24, 2019
We woke up early and finished packing. A simple breakfast and into the taxi to Heathrow. Thankfully our flight isn’t until 11am so we have time to buy a few last minute essentials and stop for coffee and a celebratory glass of bubbles.
There’s been some concern brewing among the younger members of the family that the plane wouldn’t have an entertainment system which would naturally make the 11 hour flight impossible.
As anticipated by the older family members it turned out there was no cause for disappointment and the children happily went about ignoring the coveted entertainment system and watched the iPad instead!
It’s a night flight so we try to get some rest ahead of a full day of activity exploring Hanoi.
Immigration is pretty efficient at 4am and we’re outside of the terminal and into our transfer to the hotel in no time. The roads and foliage remind us of Mexico and India with some subtle differences. We marvel at the scooters loaded to the maximum with wares on the way into the city and wonder how far they’ve travelled already today and what time they had to get up. Much of the cargo is as you’d expect, flowers, fresh vegetables and dried goods but occasionally the load seems rather too fragile for motorbike transport - the prime example being 8 huge clay pots.
On arrival at the hotel we find that we can’t checkin until 2pm but seeing how it is 5:30am we decide to splash out on a room so that we can take a shower and freshen up.
By 6:30 am the hotel restaurant opens for breakfast and we wander down expecting to be the first people there, only to find we’re not alone and by 7am there’s no tables left. We sample all of the local breakfast options, the children’s absolute favourite being beef with noodles and pak choi.
We have a free day today so after breakfast we walk down to the 36 Streets (Old Quarter) amid the crazy scooter traffic and morning commute.
We’d heard about the traffic situation and read up on how to cross the road but nothing really prepares you for your first road crossing. It turns out crossing the road here isn’t as life threatening as it appears, the traffic moves slowly and expects to encounter many obstacles - don’t make any sudden movements and you’re fine!
As we get closer to the 36 Streets more shops and roadside eateries appear and there’s more foot traffic. It’s fascinating to watch people going about their daily lives in this vibrant and intense city.
The whole experience and in particular the pungent street fragrance proves a little much for the kids who hadn’t slept well on the plane, so once we reached the old quarter we turned back and returned to the hotel for a nap.
While the family slept I took a walk to White Silk Lake and scouted out restaurants for lunch. This area was much less busy than 36 Streets and very pleasant with the lakes nearby. After finding two lunch options I dropped into a convenience store for a snack which turned out to be squid flavoured - actually really tasty.
Back to the hotel and time to switch rooms for our booked stay. Once settled we headed out for some lunch just before 2pm only to find that no where was serving as lunch was now over! Not being that hungry anyway we stop at the convenience store, buy cold drinks and sit on a bench looking out over the lake.
We complete a lap of the lake and head back to the hotel for our 5pm briefing with our guide.
Our guide Thui, introduces us to the other family who will be travelling with us who are from Australia and talks us through the itinerary for the trip along with sharing tips on security and health.
Afterwards we all go out to dinner with Thui who takes us to a local and authentic Vietnamese restaurant just a few minutes walk away. The food is delicious with the Pork Coconut Curry, green papaya salad and tamarind prawns being the highlights.
We’re all exhausted after a long flight and super long exhilarating day so back to the hotel and bed.