1. Hanoi Railway Station, April 2018. After six days in Hanoi and three nights on Halong Bay’s gorgeous Cat Ba Island, it was finally time for my first cross-country train trip. My destination was Dong Hoi; a small city perched on a pretty stretch of central Vietnam’s northern coastline. So off I went to Hanoi Railway Station’s Building A on Le Duan Street for my overnight journey.
1. Ho Tay Lake, April 2018. As the larger of Hanoi’s two city lakes, Ho Tay (West Lake) is a much more subdued affair than pretty Hoan Kiem, with its temple, turtle tower and pretty, landscaped gardens. But Ho Tay is well worth checking out with a handful of interesting sights and a seventeen-kilometer shore length that makes for some excellent walking routes. Start your journey here at the smaller, neighboring Truch Bach Lake.
1. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, April 2018. The ancient Vietnamese art of water puppetry stretches back over a thousand years to the days when Hanoi was known as Thang Long. Performances took place in rice paddies and were carried out by the same local craftsmen that created the wooden puppets. Today the treasured art form can be enjoyed in this theatre on the northeastern bank of Hoan Kiem Lake.
1. The Note Coffee, April 2018. Coffee is one of the great joys of life! I can barely get through a morning without a big life-affirming mug of caffeiney goodness and I like it milky with sugar, all the way! Maybe a morning latte tinged with hazelnut or vanilla. Perhaps a mocha, although at least these days I do it without the whipped cream. In Vietnam the coffee scene was a tough one for me, the status quo being a cup of thick, malty mud served with… wait for it, condensed milk! Happily then, I heard about an exciting alternative, so off I traipsed to The Note Coffee, a certified Hanoi institution.
1. Hanoi Train Street, April 2018. Hanoi’s bustling, fascinating old quarter holds many secrets for those willing to do their research and delve a little deeper. Its best cafes are typically hidden away on the top floor of a dilapidated old building that can only be accessed via a narrow winding staircase at the back of an antiques shop. Similarly, some of its most atmospheric, authentic restaurants are tucked away in labyrinthine side alleys. And then there’s arguably it’s most underrated street of all; this ramshackle community set either side of an operational train track where a high-speed service still passes through twice a day.
1. Ho Chi Minh Museum April 2018. Have you paid your respects to Uncle Ho at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum? Did you check out his stilt house, meeting rooms and car collection? Then it’s only proper to round things off with an amble around this resourceful albeit quirky museum located right in the heart of Ho Chi Minh Complex.
1. Ho Chi Minh Complex, April 2018. Visitors to Hanoi should set aside a whole morning and a good chunk of the afternoon for all things Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s much-loved father of independence. Having paid my respects to Uncle Ho’s embalmed body at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the next step was to tour this complex, where the great man lived and worked as president during the mid 1950s until his death in 1969. My self-guided wander started here outside The Presidential Palace, built by French colonialists in the early 1900s before being taken over by the Vietnamese government in 1954.