Hanoi surprised me. From the moment I stepped off the plane Hanoi smacked me in the face with its chaotic beauty. Everywhere I looked, everything I smelled, everything I heard was a juxtaposition of old and new, Vietnamese and French, culturally dynamic, bustling, beeping chaos.
Look around and you will see endless black telephone wires lining the streetscape, full size trees busting out of the brickwork of crumbling buildings and vines climbing the telephone wires like they were just another part of the jungle.
Hanoi is a sensory overload. Food lines the street from baguettes loaded on the back of bicycles to bún chả, phở and bánh mì. The insistent beeping of cars, mopeds and motor bikes form a soundtrack that keeps your heart racing, and a simple thing like crossing the street in the Old Quarter is a sport not for the faint hearted.
There is so much to Hanoi. The hustle and bustle of the Old Quarter where everyone is trying to sell you something, the surprisingly tranquil Hoan Kiem Lake, the Temple of Literature steeped in history and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex where you might just get a chance to view the embalmed Uncle Ho himself.
Not to mention the food, ohhh the food!
Take a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake and watch the local action, new brides in traditional áo dài taking wedding photos, artists at work and university students keen to practice their English.
Step back in time and visit the Temple of Literature with its extensive gardens and traditional Vietnamese architecture.
While you’re in the neighbourhood grab something to eat at Koto restaurant. My favourite place to eat in Hanoi. They have vegetarian options of Vietnamese dishes. Not to mention they are a non-for-profit organisation who provide vocational training for disadvantaged youths.
For lovers of coffee (and sugar) try cà phê sữa đá Vietnamese iced coffee with sweetened contended milk.