Hanoi 1

Hanoi was our first destination on the Viet Cam tour.

We were to fly to Singapore and from there on to Hanoi. With a lot of anticipation and excitement, we reached Mumbai airport and found this giant beauty of an A 380 getting ready to fly us to Singapore. The multiple boarding chutes at different levels were all set to welcome us.

The Singapore Airlines A 380 awaiting us!!

After an overnight flight, we landed early morning at Singapore where the other half of the group met up with us.

The ladies in the group had a quick photo session at Singapore Airport

After taking the connecting flight to Hanoi, we reached Hanoi around noon. The Noi Bai International airport at Hanoi welcomed us with this picture…..

The Noi Bai Airport at Hanoi

Our Guide at Hanoi Mr Ang received us at the airport and our first halt was at “Dalcheeni”, the Indian restaurant where we had lunch and proceeded to our hotel.

Dalcheeni, the Indian restaurant in Hanoi

After lunch we proceeded to our hotel Sheraton Hanoi . It was Christmas time and the decorations were out at the hotel.

Christmas decorations at Sheraton Hanoi

After a short rest at the hotel, we left with our guide to get our first glimpses of Hanoi. We drove down to downtown Hanoi which more or less centres around the Hoan Kiem Lake.

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, located next to the Red River and the word Hanoi means “inside the river”. Hanoi gave me a sense of familiarity; what with the chaotic traffic of two wheelers whizzing past me as I tried to look around and absorb the ambience.

But as soon as it was dark, the scenario changed. The streets around the Hoan Kiem Lake became walking streets and no vehicular traffic was allowed on the roads. Most restaurants spread out small stools on the footpath ready to welcome locals and tourists. Street vendors had spread out their wares all along the roadside and locals started pouring in with families to spend an evening full of food and fun. We also walked around enjoying the fun ambience and soaking in the local feel. Some pictures of an evening in downtown Hanoi…

The low stools so typically spread out outside the restaurant

A street vendor with her colourful wares waiting for customers!

Vietnamese street food

Vietnamese coffee

Vietnamese coffee is world famous and the streets are lined with specialised coffee parlours and shops selling coffee powder. We visited one such coffee parlour and tried out the authentic Vietnamese coffee.

The coffee flavour was good but what put me off was that it was only lukewarm. Used to piping hot coffee back home, I was honestly a little disappointed . Different coffee flavours are available and the most fascinating one was egg coffee!! Many of us purchased coffee powder to brew piping hot Vietnamese coffee back home.

Most shops were advertising Weasel coffee and that was something that intrigued me. I was told that the weasels eat coffee pods and the beans collected from their poop is weasel coffee! It is considered a delicacy coffee and is more expensive than the other coffee. I must admit, I did not have the courage to try that out.

A shop selling Vietnamese coffee.

Water puppet show

Our next scheduled activity was a water puppet show. It was at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. Water puppetry is an ancient tradition of the Vietnamese dating back to the 11th century when the farmers practised this when theirs fields got flooded. The puppets are made of wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist deep pool. A large bamboo rod supports the puppet under water while the puppeteers control them from behind a screen. The audience gets the feeling that the puppets are moving in water.

During the show the daily life of the Vietnamese including duck herding, fishing, rice farming, rowing and royal parades are recreated using colourful puppets. Some of the performances are depictions of folklore. It is accompanied by traditional orchestra and narrations.

Some pictures from the water puppet show….

Outside the water puppet theatre

Exhibits of puppets inside the theatre

The puppets on water and musicians by the side of the pool

The stage and one of the performances

A video of one of the performances

The red bridge

Another sight that attracted all of us was a beautifully illuminated bridge on the Hoan Kiem Lake. It was lit up with red lights and looked very attractive. Our guide Ang explained to us that the bridge was Huc Bridge which led to Jade islet on Hoan Kiem Lake where the Ngoc Son temple was located .

The Red Bridge

Ngoc Son Temple

One of the most famous destinations at Hanoi, the Ngoc Son temple sits on a small island on the lake connected to the shore by the Huc Bridge built in typical Vietnamese style. It is a sacred shrine for the local people and a popular tourist destination for tourists.

Apart from the regular shrine where locals worship, there is a glass case with a preserved turtle in it. The turtle is holy to the Vietnamese who believe that the turtle is linked with a magic sword used to defeat foreign invaders.

There are beautiful bonsai collections in the premises too.

The bridge and the temple entrance

The shrine at Ngoc Son Temple

The preserved turtle

A huge bonsai tree at the Ngoc Son complex

Our group members taking rest at the temple complex before dinner time

By now we were all hungry and Ang took us to a Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant . The name of the restaurant was UDham.

Vietnamese restaurant

Traditional Vietnamese vegetarian fare , sticky rice, rice paper rolls and pumpkin soup in that order

After enjoying the Vietnamese cuisine which was light on the belly, we returned to the hotel for the night. Next day was another day of sightseeing around Hanoi which will be featured in my next episode.

Till then, enjoy the views, puppetry and cuisine and continue your support with feedback and comments.