Following our Malaysian road trip, my colleague and I decided we should travel again soon to another Asian destination using the same budget airlines. I was interested in visiting Siem Reap. As we discussed plans, another friend from work decided she was also interested in joining us. She had friends she wished to visit in Hanoi so we decided to combine both during our travel. We started our trip in Hanoi.
It was a bit strange when we arrived at the airport in Hanoi to see that all the airport officials were military personnel. After a lengthy process, we were issued our tourist visas and left the airport. Our hosts had sent us a car to pick us up so we didn’t have to be concerned about navigating the city on the day we arrived.
Our host had planned a full day of exploration of Hanoi city, showing us her favourite spots in the city. We started out at the temple of literature, which was built in 1070, to house Vietnam’s first university. The university functioned till 1779 as the imperial academy educating the Vietnamese elite.
This is a photo of the gate leading to the second courtyard, which was the constellation of the literature pavilion. In the third courtyard, the well in the middle was referred to as the well of heavenly clarity.
I enjoyed the visit to the temple of literature the most during my day in Hanoi. The peaceful aura of the beautiful place of learning was enchanting.
After exploring the temple, we went to the nearby Koto café, a social enterprise aimed at providing disadvantaged youth training and work opportunities in the hospitality industry. The lunch was delicious and the café had a lovely ambience.
As my colleagues loved shopping, our host then took us to a market where she said great bargains could be found on stuff made for international brands but which had been rejected due to minor defects and thus available at budget prices. As someone averse to shopping, I didn’t like this part of the day but it was fun to watch my friends’ excitement over their various finds.
After stopping for a refreshing and delicious fresh fruit juice, we visited Hoan Kiem lake (lake of the returned sword). According to legend, this is the lake where a 15th century emperor was asked by a turtle god to return his magic sword and hence the name of the lake. A cute, red wooden bridge took us to the Ngoc Son temple in the middle of the lake.
We ended the day with a lovely dinner at a restaurant overlooking another lake. As I had expressed an interest in visiting the Bing Minh jazz club, a popular jazz club in the french quarter, our hosts had decided to take us there after dinner. Enjoying the live jazz music was a lovely way to end our day in Hanoi.
To be continued… overnight at Ha Long bay.