Once we landed we were met by our own private guide and driver (who we had the whole time we were in Vietnam!) who drove us an hour away into the city to our lovely 5-star hotel, the Morvenpick in Hanoi. I had authentic Vietnamese Pho for my first meal in Vietnam (and ate it many times while we were there!).
The next morning we were whisked off to Halong Bay, but I'll save the best for last. I'll do this part in my next post.
Our guide and driver were so awesome! My least favorite part of traveling to a new place is figuring out how to get around, where things are, using maps, buying tickets, standing in lines, making reservations, wondering what places are good, which aren't, what to eat, what not to eat... and Nancy, our guide did all of this for us! She was super nice and a lot of fun too. We didn't have to worry about a thing on this trip and that was perfect for us so we could just relax.
Hanoi was a really interesting place. It was like these beautiful old French building skeletons that were run down and surrounded in poverty, but you could tell that the old bones of the city were just so beautiful. You can tell Hanoi was the capital of French Indochina from the French architecture and French boulevards to French influence in the food.
We toured around Hanoi and got to see so many must-see sights:
St. Joseph's Cathedral-
Ba Dinh Square
Ho Chi Minh's Houses - one million degrees and what seemed like one million people. Beautiful gardens and lake.
One-Pillared Pagoda - our guide said that people go here to pray for a baby boy. (Which I may-or-may-not have given a try.) We saw a bunch of Buddhist monks and even got to take a picture with some.
Temple of Literature
Rickshaw ride in 36 Street Old Quarters - This was quite an experience. This ride was an hour long. It was a million degrees outside. I felt SO BAD for my driver, but he seemed happy and flirted with me shamelessly. He referred to Brad as "my husband" he would say "take a picture of my husband" it cracked me up. He'd say "my husband married how long" and "how old my husband?" It was adorable. At the end he got less adorable when he propositioned me by saying "you, me, later, later!" Um, no. He would point at things and insist I take a picture before he continued on, even if I didn't really want a picture of whatever he was pointing to. Riding on a bike on the crazy Hanoi streets was scary at times! The drivers and motor bikes are everywhere and would come within inches of my bike, but my driver knew what he was doing I guess. I got a ton of amazing street shots of the local people.
Ngoc Son Temple
Hoan Kiem Lake - this lake has really old turtles living in it and I wanted to see one, but our guide says they are hardly ever seen.
Water Puppet Show - local music and singing with water puppets. Funny!
We got to try local dishes at Quan An Ngon restaurant. Apparently the Vietnamese eat shrimp whole, as in shell, head, eyes, legs, tail, the WHOLE thing. I couldn't do it. Bleh. I enjoyed fresh fruit and yogurt and some pho - I am NOT an adventurous eater.
Our last night in Vietnam we went and got "foot" massages at a place recommended by our guide. I never would have done this otherwise. We had sore feet from all our sightseeing and when our guide suggested hour long foot massages for $15 we agreed. I think Brad's massage lady was seriously trying to get him to marry her asking if he was American, how much money he makes - even though he explained I was his wife, she continuously called me his "friend" and at the end she unabashedly said "ok you tip me now!" Just adding to the list of interesting and awkward massage experiences in other countries. We did give them big tips on my instance, I felt kind of bad for them. My girl was pretty much totally silent, yay for me. It was a $15 well spent, I enjoyed that massage more than the more expensive one at our 5-star hotel. The salon had a great view of the city and lake.
After our massages, we had a wonderful, fancy dinner at the Wild Rice Restaurant. They accommodated my high maintenance eating requests (through our fab guide, Nancy!) and served my shrimp American style (pealed, headless and de-veined) and made me special dishes (no beef/pork) so I could eat. I think I ate watermelon with every single meal in Vietnam! And coffee in Vietnam is super good. They put condensed milk in it I think and it's really thick. Because I'm a coffee addict we also had great coffee at the famous Highlands Coffee. Because you can't drink the water in Vietnam we drank a lot of wine and local Hanoi beers!
We finished of the night at a super cool rooftop bar. We savored a bottle of wine and hung out with the young and beautiful Vietnamese until it was time to call it a night.
Saved the best for last, Part III - Halong Bay!