Wow…what a difference…arrived into Hanoi late afternoon. Should have been light but a grey cold damp gloom hung over the city making it appear somewhat unfriendly and not at all welcoming. Around 16deg but because of the gloom AND coming from a week of high 30’s it sure felt very cold. Hotel in the old quarter and yes it was old…narrow streets crammed with buildings, shacks and above all else scooters… There are 8million people in Hanoi and apparently 6million scooters…saw a fair number in the first few hours… Vietnam is a strange shaped country – the locals call it dragon shaped – large rounded head bit, long thin section (in the middle it is only 50km wide) and curly tail end bit. Total population at the end of the Vietnam war in 1975 was around 40 million and today it is just short of 100 million – serious growth rate!

I really should know better than to book a sub 3star hotel with luxury in its name….

Spent the next day walking round…still dank and gloomy but discovered there is a certain old colonial (mix of French & Chinese) type charm about the place. There are also very different areas to the cramped old quarter too. First stop Ho Chi Minh park with its palace, wooden stilt house and mausoleum, a very large facility surrounded by wide avenues and is the main Embassy area as well as location of many large government buildings, all of which seem to be housed in palatial French colonial style housing. Lots of ceremonial guards around with their white naval looking uniforms as well as local police / army with their familiar green and red uniforms. Whilst Vietnam encourages and welcomes visitors there is still a huge communist presence and feel. The people are generally not so smiley as in Thailand and for sure the economy is not as strong but they are welcoming nevertheless and extremely keen to practice English AND earn some USD.

Next to the Chinese Buddhist pagoda on the lake and lunch at a street side cafe. Then on to the Literary Temple, Chinese style Buddhist seat of learning set in ornamental gardens complete with large lily ponds. Ended at a local restaurant and the Twilight sky bar overlooking the city for a nightcap in the rain…

Monument to Heroic Martyers
Obviously aimed at people from Mula where walking around in nightwear is the norm…
Literary Palace

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