This was my first real foray into Asia and it is an awesome awesome crazy place!!! My sister Lulu was living in Hanoi and this was super cool because she took us to the best places while we were there- without her it may possibly have been the worst 'last' family holiday ever... and I mean EVER!
So, a bit of background- Hanoi, city of bikes, motorbikes and millions of people going around and around in circles eating really random food and trying to sell me and my other sister Soso pineapple all day long. There are so may fun things to do there.
Anyway, so places to go in Vietnam...
- stay in the Old Quarter- that is, if you can manage to get there! When you get off the plane, expect to be inundated with taxi drivers promising the earth... As soon as they see a sucker with a phrasebook and a map, you're pretty much fair game. Lonely Planet advises negotiating a fee beforehand which is what we tried to do, but they took us to the wrong place on purpose anyway... I think what you may be better off doing, is booking somewhere to stay in walking distance from the lake, and asked to be dropped off at the big Westpac bank and walk from there... Anyway when you make it to hanoi city- do not stay on the outskirts, you have to stay in the Old Quarter, or close to it otherwise you'll be negotiating transport for the whole trip...there's heaps of cool bars and restaurants, also check out the war memorials and monuments to Ho Chi Minh, but don't piss off the guards because those guns are real lol....
(I admit I didn't take the photo above, i just googled Sapa, but I wanted to show rice paddies because it was so misty mine didn't turn out properly!)
You have to go here, it is amazing. There are traditional Vietnamese hilltribes that live around this town in villages. We went in january, which is winter and very very cold up in the mountains, but the town itself has some gorgeous old buildings, and the mist sitting on the mountains, looking out over rice paddies to the Chinese border is something you really really have to see to believe. Although my poor friend Carls got the runs for 3 days straight and lived on plain rice
when they stayed there, so be CAREFUL, take hand steriliser and never ever drink the water!!!! EVER!!
WORDS OF WARNING
Monkeys are evil. So are buffolos. But Monkeys are WORSE. and some probably have rabies. so stay away from them!
They do eat dog in some areas of Vietnam, so if you go to a market, be prepared to see animal allsorts in pieces. Lulu SWEARS she walked past a puppy store where you choose your dog and they cut it up fresh for you to take home and cook. Although she did try the Snake wine so take this story with a grain of salt!
Which brings me to the next warning- don't drink Snake wine- ESPECIALLY when it is mixed with a scorpian- seriously you're just asking for trouble.
Finally you HAVE to drink beer (only AUD50c or something crazy for a longneck) with every meal, as water isn't the cleanest, and no one wants the runs on holidays... Also Vietnam seems to have the cheapest cocktails I've ever encountered- they work out to be AUD$3-4 or something crazy and the mojitos are to die for...