Since it was the school holidays in June, my family decided to take a quick vacation to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. I'm actually ashamed at how long this post took due to my
procrastination busy schedule. Nonetheless, my brothers took some amazing photos so I'll be hard-pressed not to share them.
Note: The higher-quality, edited photos were taken by my brother, reach out to him/me if you need some photography done.
We landed in the Noi Bai International Airport some time in the late afternoon. Immigration went surprisingly smoothly, and I was really impressed at how pristine the airport was. It had an aesthetic water feature right outside the area where we were collecting our bags, where I saw locals mingling and taking selfies.
There were also reserved seats, which I found pretty amazing.
Long clean roads led the way out of the airport, neatly lined on both sides with rows of trees impeccably laid out.
Few vehicles shared our drive to the city, most of them trucks, with the occasional scooter. As we neared the city however, the clean, empty roads soon gave way to an increasing number of scooters and motorcycles. Pretty soon, the whole street was filled with them, with our van being one of the few larger vehicles on the roads. I managed to spot this guy, who I'm still impressed with to this day.
After checking in to the hotel, we found ourselves right in the middle of the Old Quarter. Old Quarter is Hanoi's business hub and main tourist destination, with streets filled with restaurants, souvenir shops, coffee shops, real/counterfeit goods shops, and pretty much everything else you'd expect to find in a large, bustling city.
One of the interesting things I noted about the city were how narrow the buildings tended to be. Take a look at this picture.
After some Googling, we found many different reasons why this is the case. One source attributed the narrow houses to housing taxes in the past, where property owners were taxed based on the area of the house that faced the street/road. Another reason was that the city's population grew so fast that this form of narrow housing was adopted to accommodate all the migrants. Well, to this day, it's still a mystery to me, but it sure was fun to experience this architecture firsthand.
During our time in Hanoi, we decided to visit some of the tourist attractions there, the first of which being the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
A mausoleum is a monument constructed to house a tomb (or tombs). If you haven't already guessed, this mausoleum is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, a legendary figure in Vietnam's history and an image of national identity in Vietnam.
Unfortunately for us, it was closed for renovation, so we could only explore as far as the open area outside. There was a museum nearby too, but it only opened at 2pm, which meant that we had to wait for 3 hours under the blazing sun. We didn't.
We also paid a visit to St. Joseph's Cathedral, which had been constructed in the 19th century and remains in pretty good condition till today.
Throughout the trip, we also tried a lot of Vietnamese food, with my favourite being the humble bowl of Phở. The simplicity of it was what really made it so tantalising.
We also ate at a few fine dining restaurants (the perks of travelling with family), where we had some really interesting meals.
Of course, we also drank many, many cups of Vietnamese coffee, which has a really unique flavour, way different from the coffee I'm used to.
Having explored most of the city's main highlights, we decided to head out of the city, to enjoy some nature and check out what the rest of Hanoi had to offer. We joined a guided tour, that took us to Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam.
The tour guide spoke about Vietnamese history in the feudal system under Dinh, Le and Ly Dynasty. After Hoa Lu, we visited Tom Coc, where we had a short 20 minute biking tour.
After the bikes, we had lunch before proceeding on with the tour. This time, we journeyed on a tiny bamboo boat to visit the caves around Tam Coc.
As my family has an odd number of people, I paired up with another person, who was alone. Interestingly enough, he was also based in Singapore, and had been in Hanoi for work. We spoke more about our differing backgrounds, his fascinating career path and of course, about the beautiful scenery.
The boats also went under a number of "caves" (not sure of the exact term), some that were low enough to knock me out of the boat. Thankfully I managed to stay on, although a quick swim wouldn't have been too bad as well considering how hot it was.
After the boat rides, we went on to the Lying Dragon Mountain located in Ninh Binh.
After climbing up 500 gruelling steps, we finally reached the top of the mountain. The scenery up there convinced me it was worth it.
And those were the highlights of this trip. I really enjoyed the Vietnamese culture and hospitality, and I especially loved their food. Will definitely travel back to Hanoi one day!