Xin chào from Hanoi, Vietnam!
After an almost tearful goodbye to the comforts of a familiar Malaysia, our own car and being close enough to drive home, we've flown more than 3 hours to a land neither of us have been to before. Watch this reel if you've missed it:
We landed, passed through immigration and got our luggage in barely 15 minutes. That's impressive to be honest. We've had to wait more than an hour in queues at Heathrow London and Auckland Airport. Spent 30 minutes at a belt waiting for baggage at Changi too.
"DING!" Rang my phone....
Our Airbnb host told us to cancel our accommodation while we were in flight....
I had to report the host to Airbnb before the booking was cancelled and the full refund was made. The host just refused to cancel on his side. How lucky can we be?!
We were thankful that it was easy to grab a Vietnamese SIM card for our little pocket Wifi device. You'll find plenty of shops offering the SIM cards at the arrival hall. It cost us 350,000 Dong ($21 SGD) for a full month with Viettel 4GB limit a day on 4G network. Unlimited on 3G network.
We had lunch at a Burger King restaurant in the Airport while I searched for a hotel to replace our Airbnb accommodation. I'm not going to call this a nightmare anymore because we've been through that twice in Melaka and KL. It has been well established on our blog that Airbnbs are a 50-50 chance of encountering a disruption to your trip.
We are fortunate it isn't hard to find decent and well-priced hotels in Hanoi. We were able to get a Grab car from the airport to our hotel in no time. Grab Car and Grab Food is very affordable in Vietnam! It cuts out the language barrier, getting lost and haggling problems with scam cab drivers. It has been a breeze getting around Hanoi with the Grab app!
The ride from the airport to our hotel was like a baptism of fire. My anxiety was through the roof. If you grew up in country where lane markings and road signs are NOT optional, this is going to shock you. Watch this video and you'll understand....
This is considered mild. There are some massive junctions that I can't even draw a diagram to explain the logic. There are 50 million motorbikes in Vietnam so just imagine.
The biggest cultural shock was really the incessant honking. I’ve been feeling really tensed walking on the streets amidst the traffic. The kids were almost on the verge of a nervous breakdown. We’ve been conditioned in Singapore to understand honking as a show of frustration, anger and imminent danger. But the Vietnamese honk because they are communicating. It goes along the lines of, “I’m coming through”, ”Don’t come out I’m going to pass”, “please move aside”. They also honk when passing a cross junction. Nobody gets pissed. It’s just a way of life.
We are better now after a couple of days! There’s so much beauty in the absolute chaos. We have so much of this world to explore!
Vietnamese summers are as relentless as the honking on the roads. 4 of us are adjusting to the 48 degree celcius real feel in Hanoi.
Before we delve deeper, here are 5 fun facts if you are just as clueless as us about Vietnam:
1. Vietnam is a communist country situated in South East Asia bordering Laos, Cambodia and China. (1 SGD converts to around 16,600 Vietnamese Dong)
2. Vietnamese drive on the right side of the road (Steering wheel on the left of vehicles)
3. It has both temperate climate (in the north) and tropical climate (in the central and southern areas). Mountainous regions bordering China do experience snowfall in the winter!
4. Vietnam was a French colony for 6 decades.
5. Religion was banned, suppressed with great force and persecution until 2004.
We spent the past 3 days walking old town and visiting Sword Lake, Ngoc Son Temple within the lake, Hanoi train street and St Joseph's Cathedral. The heat makes 1km of walking extra hard for all of us although we really are enjoying the charm of this city. There's more to explore and we'll report back in our next post!
We recommend sun block, hats and ALOT of hydration. Avoid being out from 12pm to 3pm. You can get a heatstroke from being out in the sun in summer (June-August)
We also recommend our original design Tees that you see us wearing here! Check them out from our store at www.hirojack.com!
The city really comes alive at night because most people avoid being out in the heat. The night markets and beer streets only come alive once the sun sets. You also almost forget you're in South East Asia. The charming streets looks European!
Hanoi is most charming in the Old quarters! You'll find historical buildings, old buildings with French influence and a lot of street food. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and you'll also find the glass skyscrapers and a very modern city. It is more developed than we all think it is! You get the same big brands in other major cities!
Speaking of food, you cannot come to Vietnam and not have Bánh mì (A savoury stuffed baguette). You must also try Vietnamese coffee in the street side shops and from Highlands Coffee. Debra is not a fan of the intense coffee but I absolutely love it.
We will add a new post some time this week about the eats, sights and adventures around Hanoi! Please drop us a comment and let us know if we're missing out on something we shouldn't miss in Hanoi!
A parting thought:
Seeing beauty in the chaos reminded us that there really isn't one way to live life. Whether you are travelling on a perfectly orderly road in Japan or North America, or a through a mayhem in the streets of Vietnam's cities, you will still get to your destination. Always remember, My battles, My way!
Vincent & Debra Kwan, Founders of Hiro & Jack and stay-at-home parents with the odd life.
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