Hanoi- First Impressions

I cannot believe we finally made it to Vietnam in one piece, after the absolute shambles that took place over the thirty hours it took us to get here from Japan. Yes, you did read that correctly, thirty hours from leaving our hotel in Osaka to arriving at Noi Bai international airport in Hanoi.

Long story short, we were supposed to have a six hour layover at Guangzhou airport in China, but this turned into having to land at Guilin airport because of the bad weather. This then turned into being sat on a landed plane for four hours, doing some colouring whilst waiting to take off again, which then turned into the flight getting cancelled and us all getting booked into a nearby hotel, resulting in us missing our flight to Hanoi.

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It was all shambles. It was late and none of the staff knew what was going on and no one was giving us any information about anything. I found myself having a lot of moments where I was trying not to scream, pull my hair out or stamp my feet and rugby tackle someone to the floor. But we made it in the end and now I’m sat in our own little private apartment in the centre of Hanoi in fourty degree heat!

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Shout out to my stepdad Simon for giving me a £30 off code for Air BnB! Because of this we have our own two floor apartment, painted in bright yellows and pinks with checked floors and a ceiling suffocated in fairy lights and our own kitchen (even though it’s very basic). All of this for only £4.20 a night each, for seven nights. The feeling of actually being able to unpack your things and have a dressing table and your own privacy after being in hostel for the last few weeks is heavenly!

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The owner of the place is so adorable and welcoming too. We’re the first guests she has had staying in this apartment, so I’m sure she’ll be relieved that she’s welcomed someone who loves cleaning. Her dad sat us down with them to give us a nice little speech in Vietnamese (which was translated by the owner) about welcoming us into the area and reassuring us that we’re only a message away if we need anything.

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There is a small shop on the bottom floor, where we were invited to try out whichever free samples we want of organic body scrubs, moisturisers, shower gels and all kinds of body products.

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Stepping out into the great outdoors after what felt like days in captivity (exaggeration) was so relieving. My first impressions of Vietnam before we approached the city centre was that it very much like Palawan in the Philippines. It must have been something to do with the tropical foliage and mopeds.

But the more we drove into the city centre, the more Vietnam showed itself as its own individual place. The architecture is sooo beautiful. Old French buildings take over the streets, with their shuttered windows and old fashioned, quirky colours and doors. They have almost a gothic-style to them, especially the cathedrals. The French colonial period came to end a very long time ago, yet the French arts and deco style still famously holds its place in Hanoi.

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The sun was shining in through the car window and at one point Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘Can’t stop’ came on. I’m reading Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography, ‘Scar Tissue’, at the moment, so my love for the band has been totally renewed and I’m listening to their music in a whole new way now that I now the story behind it. So it was a nice moment hearing them play whilst driving into this new city and new experience.

The remainder of the day had to be spent doing things like unpacking and doing washing and researching Hanoi. We were both shattered from our thirty hours of travelling and wanted to get a good sleep so we could be lively for our first full day. We ended things by ordering a Mexican takeaway (Jenny has been craving one for days and there are so many takeaway options in Hanoi) and snuggling watching Netflix.

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After a couple of weeks of having limited space, I was so excited to be able to wake up the next day to take myself upstairs to do some yoga and a few body weight work outs. I hated how stiff I was after breaking my exercise routine, after how well I was doing at home.

I took a walk down our road to go to this juice/ tea place on the corner, called Chachago. They had everything from iced green tea, to Macha ice cream tea, herbal tea with whipped cream, lemon tea, tea from Taiwan- literally EVERYTHING. I debated whether to order the entire menu, but instead ordered passion fruit green tea with Aiuy jelly and decided to come back at a later date to try the rest. It was so refreshing, exactly what I needed after a sweaty workout in this forty degree heat.

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My contentment was ruined when I suddenly came across the story of the most recent attack in London. I don’t know what the f**k is going on in the world at the moment, but it is horrible being reminded of reality whilst I’m living the dream in La la land. It kind of makes me feel selfish that I’m out here, spending each day how I want to, whilst all this heart breaking stuff is going on at home and other places over the world.

I realised how much character Vietnam has after doing some research to plan our next few weeks. Other than Halong Bay and a huge selection of traditional coffee shops (I will try them all, Vietnamese coffee is the world’s best coffee), there are vegan restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, old prisons, history museums, art museums, temples, lakes, botanical gardens, sand dunes- this country literally offers everything you could think of. I can already see why so many people have said it is their favourite place in the world.

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After some Googling, we managed to find a supermarket. Despite burning a few carbs when excerising in the morning, I still had no appetite because the temperature had risen to 41 degrees and I never get hungry in the heat. But I’m actually really happy about that because I’m hoping it will make up for the extra pounds gained in Japan.

I got some fruit, dried mango, water and instant noodles in case I got hungry later. And, excitingly, Tyrells sweet chilli crisps!!! Sweet chilli crisps are my favourite thing in the world (after dogs), so I was so happy even though I wasn’t ready to eat them. All we needed now was some hummus, but we haven’t had luck finding any of yet.

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The walk to the supermarket was pleasurable, regardless of the heat. We walked past a couple of museums that we planned on visiting over the next few days. Heads up to anyone planning on coming to Vietnam- the roads are madness. There are so many mopeds and if you think you can cross when the little green man flashes-you’re so wrong. You just have to run across when you can and hope people will slow down or swerve around you.

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We also walked past Hoan Kiem Lake,Hoan Kiem Lake, which was surrounded by healthy green foliage, including Willow trees-my favourite tree. The turtle tower in the middle of the lake stood nicely and people walked around in summer clothes seeming pretty happy with life. We plan to spend a lot of time around this area over the next week, so hopefully the weather stays nice.

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Before leaving to come travelling, people asked me where I was most looking forward to going. It was always Japan, but I’d always end up saying that there was something about Vietnam that I knew it would become a special place for me and would most likely end up being my favourite place. There is just something so appealing about the people, the culture, the history, the food, the nightlife. It’s such a lively place full of character. I cannot wait to explore it from top to bottom.