After returning from Halong Bay we were glad to see the inside of our private room at Golden Time Hostel 3. At only about $10 a piece and right in the heart of the old quarter on Ma May street, it was like heaven with our own double/queen beds and what seemed like a pristine bathroom after the adventures in Halong Bay.
We dumped our stuff and showered and decided to head out for a traditional Vietnamese street food dinner. We found ourselves some little red and blue stools and sat down for some Pho – noodle soup. There was hardly a speck of English on the questionable menu, nonetheless it was busy and smelled delicious. We ended up with Crab Meat Beef Pho (?) and a cold Beer which was absolutely delicious and only about $3 each (absolute steal). We walked up and down the narrow old town streets making a few purchases of things wed’d forgotten to pack like thin long pants and small shoulder bags and ended up at Hanoi Backpackers for a few beers. We started off slowly with another couple of beers but soon enough we were onto a few shots and playing card games with fellow backpackers! The next day we had a full agenda, which was not assisted by the mild headache we were feeling after the previous night’s adventures. Because we decided to take the night in Halong Bay, I had only a single day in Hanoi instead of the two we originally planned. Therefore there was a lot to see before our 10pm night train to Hue!
We started off by heading to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum to try and avoid other keen tourists. Unfortunately Ho Chi Minh’s body is sent to Russia to be embalmed for a couple of months each year so the body wasn’t actually in the Mausoleum. Nonetheless we still walked around the large complex- his offices and gardens and saw some of his old cars on show and stopped by the One Pillar Pagoda on the way. We then headed north past the Presidential Palace and towards the Chùa Trấn Quốc Pagoda where there was a nice refreshing breeze coming off the lake surrounding the pagoda.
After this we planned to go to the Imperial Citadel and Vietnam Military History Museum. We stopped off on the way at the Nam Long cafe for a much needed refreshing vietnamese coffee, however, unfortunately because of this we ended up getting to the museum during the lunch hour when it’s closed. We decided to get lunch at the same time so we wouldn’t fall too far behind on our strict schedule, so we went for a stroll struggling to find any decent street food to our liking. Finally we settled for a delicious pork bahn mi for about $1.50, it was absolutely delicious!! We returned to the Military Museum and Citadel in time for it to reopen and had a decent look around for an hour or so. It was a decent exhibit and the war memorabilia and relics such as old American planes and war tanks really add to the atmosphere.
After ticking this museum off our list we headed to the Ho La Prison Museum and later on to the Vietnamese Revolution Museum. We stopped for a break between these two as we were getting onto our last legs and struggling to remain as fresh and excited about museums as we were early on in the morning (understandable when you’re about 5 down). Finally we stopped by the Opera House and Hoan Kiem Lake for a few snaps before returning to our hostel for a couple of hours of relaxation before heading to the main train station for our night train.
It was sad to say goodbye to Hanoi after such a short trip on my behalf, but if we were to make it all the way down the coast like we planned we had to get a move on and head on to Hue. We grabbed a quick dinner down the street and some snacks for the train ride and soon enough were in a cab to the train station. We traipsed around the train station for a while, showing our tickets and asking a few people here and there which platform we needed to be at. Eventually we found our train and carriage – a 4 berth “soft bed”, which we would call home for the next 12+ hours. Better settle in for a long night!