So I got a last minute swap request from a fellow crew member, who wanted my London Heathrow for her Hanoi flight. Needless to say I stopped everything I was doing and immediately logged in to accept!
I was beyond happy to finally be visiting a place that my father and I had long dreamed about traveling to.
I had the chance to go on a day tour to Ha Long Bay with the rest of my crew but decided to hang back alone and explore the city of Hanoi by motorcycles and foot. I just thought why travel four hours by car to visit a place when I haven’t even seen what the city has to offer.
Moral of the story is … I made the right choice.
I found myself weaving in amongst the endless food stalls, busy locals and incredibly speedy motorcycles in the middle of Old Town, Hanoi. This place is like nothing Ive seen before, bearing in mind I am half Thai, so yes I CAN handle the dirty alleyways with hole in the wall food stalls selling bizarre foods, chaotic traffic and tourists with sweaty armpits, but seriously guys this was a WHOLE different experience for me!
I have always had an interest in fresh markets, probably because of my passion for cooking but also because I’m fascinated by the different snacks and food choices that people have from all over the world.
So I headed towards Dong Xuan Market which is just outside Old Town, and as soon as I arrived I knew that this was where I wanted to be.
The Vietnamese locals, ( mostly ladies ), had all their food stalls situated perfectly on the side of the streets, just so there was enough space for the inevitable motorcycle to scrape by without damaging her or her goods, children were running around playing with homeless puppies and the local men seemed to be enjoying Happy Hour at all hours of the day with their beer, friends and unnecessary gossip.
It was absolute chaos, but I felt right at home.
This particular blog is not really about that many things to do in Hanoi as I only visited a few spots here and there as I spent most my time taking in the market life, but guys I saw some crazy stuff!
There were endless movable stalls selling freshly cut pineapples, guavas, pickled vegetables, bananas and some other things that I couldn’t even explain to you if I tried. Seriously you would not be missing out on fruit in this country!
There were elderly ladies huddled together on the corner of the street, separating fresh white noodles and preparing them for sale, there were fried spring roll stations, tiny Banh Mi stalls that literally had the essentials and nothing else and never ending shops selling hand crafted souvenirs and essentials.
Everything was just so simple.
These people live off what they have and are satisfied with the simplicity of their lives. Not once when I made eye contact with them did they turn away or give me a bad look for being, ‘another foreigner with a camera glued to their hand’, instead they just smiled or gave a quick nod out of respect.
You would see the shop owners selling something delicious or trying to persuade that tourist to buy ONE more Vietnamese Hat, you know like the one in my cover photo for this blog 🙂
When they weren’t busy selling they would be chatting away with their neighbouring food stalls or just looking into space and perhaps procrastinating about their life.
I was walking down a particular street filled with colourful vegetables placed all over the pavement and I was so occupied with the colours that I nearly bumped into a parked motorcycle.
When I realised I gave out an awkward laugh and looked around and saw a lady tying together the legs of a beautiful white duck and placing him on a set of scales.
Words can’t even express how I felt, I felt helpless firstly and obviously shocked to see such a thing because I usually avoid these places for my soft and emotional heart.
Guys I just love animals, especially ducks! They’re so pretty!
Anyways long story short, he started quacking and I was just like ‘Oh my god, he’s going to die today’, and then she picked him up and tied him upside down to her motorcycle and drove away like it was the most normal thing in the world.
I stood there for a minute just stunned.
Further down the road the market got even fresher …. live chickens were caged on corners with dead and plucked ones on the table nearby. There was a man scaling a HUGE catfish in the gutter of the street. Even the locals stopped to get a look, seriously this thing was a monster!
Of course the usual butchered red meats and pig heads were scattered here and there for a bit of colour around the rather dark alleyways, but that was the last thing I was looking at!
The next section I guess you could call the ‘Dry’ section as it had various dried seafood like squid and fish placed on cardboard boxes in the sun.
There was also a massive section filled with ginger, small red onions, garlic, kaffir limes and they were perfectly laid out for show on colourful plastic basins that really complemented the colour of the goods inside.
Another thing that is mind blowing about this part of the world is their electrical wires. I know that it’s random to talk about such a thing but it needs to be acknowledged.
If you ever get a second from trying not to get run over by the locals on motorcycles you should look up.
Woven and clumped altogether these black spiders and their spiderwebs are seriously terrifying.
Not just for the obvious reason that it is dangerous but the way that they are entwined is legit something from a horror movie.
After my exciting morning at the market I hopped on a motorcycle with a company where the drivers wear a green uniform with the words ‘ Grab a Bike’ on the back. They are very easy to spot and safe, ( in terms of who you’re driving with ), and you will wait a maximum five minutes for one to come by not matter where you are.
I was dropped off at Tran Quoc Pagoda which is one of the oldest Buddhist temples here in Hanoi, located on the mesmerising West Lake.
The surrounding lake is so relaxing just to walk around and take in the views and beauty. There is certain timings to enter the temple so be sure to check those before you go in order not to miss out!
Another spot that is a must do is Hoan Kiem Lake, which is just outside the historical centre of Hanoi. She is also known as Sword Lake, because of the legend that came in early 1428. Make sure to read about it as it is very interesting!
The iconic red Rising Sun Bridge or Huc Bridge connects one side of the lake to the infamous Ngoc Son Temple which has a beautiful entrance for photo stops and you will get perfect city views on either side of the bridge.
This is pretty much all I got up to in Hanoi this time, I cannot wait to revisit it and explore more nooks and crannies of this amazing city.
Let me know in the comments below if you have ever been to Hanoi and what adventures you got up to while you were here.
Until my next blog, stay safe wherever you are and thank you for being amazing followers! I love you guys!
Love Jessica Cairney.