Due to lack of time, after only spending two days in Saigon, we flew to Hanoi today. Right away, I liked Hanoi better. Although it’s the capital of Vietnam, it’s a much smaller city than Saigon. 4 million people live here, half as much as in Saigon (although there are 3 million motorbikes!). the city is a maze of tiny little streets going in every direction and filled with tons of small shops. The buildings here are smaller but more intricate than the ones in Saigon. An interesting thing here is that a lot of the buildings are “tunnel houses”. There used to be a housing tax based on how much street space a building occupied, so to get around that, people built houses that were very narrow but tall and deep… it looks pretty crazy.
We stayed in the old quarter. In the old days, each street here was designated to sell one particular thing: cotton street, fish street, incense street etc, but nowadays everyone just sells random things all over the place. This is definitely a good place to just wander around and get lost in. although there are less scooters here, the streets are much narrower, so it might be even more scary to cross the street here! Other than just walking about, we also checked out this cool pagoda that’s on a tiny island in this lake.
this vietnamese woman made me wear her stuff for a photo… so dorky!!
One night in Hanoi we decided to check out the water puppet theater. This is a northern Vietnamese tradition where they make wooden puppets which do little performances on the water. The puppeteers (who are hidden behind the set) make puppets swim around, walk on water, etc. it was actually really neat. Lots of the puppets have moving limbs etc, and it’s really impressive just how animated the puppeteers make them.
We had two memorable dining experiences in Hanoi. We ate at a French café and tried frog legs. They were actually pretty good, and yeah, they do taste like chicken. It is kind of weird though when you’ve eaten all the meat and you see this funky frog shaped bone left. Another night, we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy dinner and went out to seafood. Looking over the menu, we saw that they had these huge golf ball sized snails which are a delicacy here in Hanoi. We decided to give it a shot. Our waiter took us down to a separate room where they kept all the fish etc, but there turned out not to be any huge snails that day… there were however lots of lobsters. Even though the lobsters were insanely expensive (about $100, but these were massive 2.5 pound lobsters), we decided to go for it. So, the guy grabs a lobster out of the tank and the thing starts going totally nuts… struggling and snapping and trying to get free. Ugh, it was awful and I started feeling really bad. I didn’t want to actually see the lobster that they were about to kill for us. So, we went back to our table and were all bummed. To make things worse, they totally overcooked the lobster and it tasted pretty bad. *sigh*. In hanoi, there are several restaurants that serve dog. I had been mulling it over as to whether I should go try it. Btu after the whole lobster scenario, I decided that I wouldn’t do it. If someone else was eating dog and offered some, I’d try it for sure just to see what it tastes like, but I couldn’t bring myself to go down there and know that a dog was slaughtered for me. Just too sad. I was reading in the guidebook that a lot of these dogs are raised on farms, but some of them are just snatched off the street!! Because of that, the Vietnamese who own dogs as pets are very possessive of them and don’t let wander very far!