A very pretty and romantic small city which felt to me like a sort of French Venice...
Hoi an is famous for it’s tailoring (which has become a bit of a tourist gimmick if I’m honest). However the city has lived off tourism for 300years so in a way it’s actually authentic that it’s touristy! I found that there was no price difference in having clothes made in the market compared to the ‘posher’ looking shops, but it was less obvious that it was a ‘sweat shop’ in the shops on the main roads. I had two dresses made and have worn them both loads already!
My birthday: kept my expectations for the day realistic and didn’t do the typical Annabelle thing of making it a huge deal, so I ended up having a lovely lovely 22nd. The hotel staff all wished me a happy birthday and sophie took me out on a cycle ride to the beach and treated me to a coke in a hammock overlooking the river.I felt very content and lucky and I didn’t even miss home or speaking to everyone too much. I was also really very touched by all of you who emailed me – I wasn’t expecting emails or to hear that you are reading my blog. It really made me feel good, and stopped any lonely feelings before they’d even started.
I had read a fair bit about Hue and was therefore expecting a very old, cultured city with beautiful parks boarding the river, and lots of delicious food from the days of the Emperor’s rule . Unfortunately Hue itself was a bit of a let down, and I’m not sure why it’s so prominent on the tourist map.. I would probably advise spending longer in other places in Vietnam to anyone who travels here.
That said it was so lovely to have Julianne and Laura travel all the way up from Siagon (18hrs on a train – are they crazzzzyyy?!) for delayed birthday celebrations. We enjoyed far too many cocktails and caught up on all the goings on – which included many many funny stories on both sides…
Did a lot of cycling round the area after the success of renting bikes in Hoi An which gave us a better perspective of the city and landscape around. I would definetly recommend renting bicycles in these cities if you do visit, as there are a lot of scams around and taxis and ‘helpful’ people on motorbikes are not all that they seem unfortunately.
After the last two sleepy cities and a few tense travel days for me and sophie we were really ready to start having some FUN again. Hanoi was just what we needed. An excited city with narrow roads, lots of lost looking tourists, an embalmed Ho Chi Minh, hot cross buns, friendly Indians in taxis, good beer, and some really well laid out museums.
Hanoi is the most organised place I have visited in Vietnam – one street will be entirely devoted to shoes, while another will only sell selotape and paper, and the street next door only huge bags of glitter and bird cages… Still chaos but very organised for Vietnam.
The food has also reawakened my love for Vietnamese cuisine. Bo La Lot has become a definite favourite here – succulent strips of beef rolled and fried in a type of vine leaf.
Hanoi is also full of history and legends. Including the one about the huge magical tortoise that lives in the lake in the middle of Hanoi..
The lake is the real ‘heart of the home’ in this city. In the morning the old locals do tai chi and dance classes around the edges, in the evenings couples walk around and photographers can be seen taking really cheesy picture of newly weds amongst the trees. The Women's museum was also absolutely fantastic, and i'm pretty rubbish at behaving like an adult and being interested in reading placards for more than 10 minutes... but I loved this museum, and I also really enjoyed visiting the Water Puppet Theatre and having some of the history explained to me in nice simple dance and music by floating puppets on a stage of water...
I have enjoyed these last few places but I think for me nothing could really follow Kon Tum and have the same level of impact on me. I have also made the decision to stop travelling in about a week and go back to Siagon to find a job and an apartment. I literally can’t wait to stop living out of a bag and to be able to put my shampoo and toothbrush in the bathroom and then leave it there!