Hanoi – Citadel & more (day 2)

We only had Three days in Hanoi, it’s now, already day two….. we need to fit lot’s into the these two remaining days ahead. As we crashed out (unplanned) on the couch the night prior, it meant we were able to get a semi early start to the new day. All showered and ready to hit the pavement by 9 am.
We headed off a different direction to ensure some new discoveries around Hanoi. Past a Lego store, around a small mall and we stumble into a local park with some War Memorial Statues.

Hanoi War Statue
Hanoi War Statue

The city is so chaotic, it really is nice to have beautiful parks around town where you can slow down and enjoy the space. There was some of the usual park gym equipment here just like you see in parks in many Countries. Here though, the locals are right into it. Nearly all the equipment was in use. I can’t say that I have ever seen that before. Onto some more new streets passing bye so many cafe’s, breakfast was teasing with so many aromas of food and coffee.

We stopped for breakfast at a small friendly place called “Viet Unique Bar – Restaurant”. This was where we experiences both our first Vietnamese breakfast and our first Vietnamese coffee. The coffee has a slow brew filter that sits on top of the cup and slowly trickles down into the cup. Whilst a nice strong coffee, it still had a mild sweetness to it. I would normally have two sugars in my morning coffee but with the Vietnamese coffee I didn’t require any. I don’t recall the name of the dishes we ordered but the pictures I think speak for themselves. The owner was a super friendly lady. She was super happy when she found out we were from Australia and explained how she sent her son to School in Sydney, Australia.

Breakfast done, we were off to “Ho Hoan Kiem” or Turtle Lake. This was even further down past the backpackers area but not by much. We stopped at the top of the Lake fist where you could see the red bridge leading to Ngoc Son Temple. We skipped going into the Temple as we had a pile of the bigger Tourist Attractions to get today with lots of ground to cover on foot. We stopped half way around the lake for a photo opportunity of the Thap Rua Pagoda on a tiny Island in the centre of the Lake. Then again at the bottom end of the Lake there was a cool Clock Sculpture.

Next stop was a popular tourist spot, The Hanoi Opera House. It looked like they were setting up for some type of event so we just took a few snaps and continued on exploring. We headed back over to the Lake, on far side, we found this fabulous outdoor cafe overlooking the Lake. There were beautiful sculptured gardens with arranged flower beds and manicured Reindeer hedges. The timing was great, all that power walking had built up a thirst and appetite. We ordered a snack, the Vietnamese Spring Rolls and a well deserving cold beer. It was draught beer, I myself was worried it wouldn’t be cold enough. To my surprise and complete enjoyment, it was icy cold!

The Old Citadel was next stop but in between we explored more of the city streets. We were actually looking for a place to get a sim card. We passed some malls earlier but looked like we were now in more of a business district. Β Getting hungry again, it was well into the afternoon by this time so we stopped for lunch. There was a menu board at street level next to a staircase. So up we went, turns out it was a very deluxe looking establishment. The menu however was still same great value prices as everywhere we had been to so far.
Luxury Lunch in Hanoi

Now, the most interesting part of the day. The Old Citadel. There so much to see inside here. Loads of amazing artefacts dug up from the archaeological dig site. Some dating back to the 18th Dynasty. The fine details on some of the artefacts is just mind blowing. There is so much interesting information to take in. The ridiculously thick and reinforced walls and ceiling to help protect against bomb blasts is just one part. Perhaps the most interesting part for me was the incredible underground bunker. It sits about four storeys below ground and has blast doors at each entrance. It is incredibly interesting seeing these things yet chilling at the same time. I am extremely thankful I personally have not had to experience the effects of war and hold a great deal of respect for those who have endured such times.

Dragon Head, Hanoi Citadel Dragons, Hanoi Citadel Ware room, Underground Bunker, Hanoi Citadel Dragon Urn, Hanoi Citadel Dragon Pieces, Hanoi Citadel Dragon Head, Hanoi Citadel

The gardens here are beyond beautiful. Sculptured flower beds adorn the grounds. There are also collections of well manicured Bonsai trees all around different areas or the grounds. I would image there would be countless hours spent caring for the Bonsai’s. It was getting late, we had spent hours at the Citadel already. We left the grounds but had to walk around the perimeter to get back to our apartment. We stumbled upon the North Gate on our way home. Its a gigantic structure, one of the old entrances to the Citadel. The cannonball battle damage sure is a sight to see.

The North Gate of the Old Citadel Hanoi

Now to rush back to the apartment. There was a tour outlet in the building opposite, we planned to book the Ha Long Bay Tour for the next day. When we arrived there, the door was locked with a note saying “be back soon”. Not wanting to wait around so we decided to somewhere for dinner. We discovered an amazing boutique Brew Pub. As well as great food, a funky fit out and great atmosphere, they also had great and interesting craft beer. I had the Passionfruit Pale Ale. Wow, it was delicious! if you are ever in Hanoi, then please check this place out. It is a Gem.

Next part is the most crushing terrible thing that could happen. We arrive back at the tour outlet near the apartment. The sign was gone and the door was open. However it is just a small hotel. This was the lobby and the team member tells me the tour desk closes at 5 pm and not open again until morning. The next day was our last full day in Hanoi which means it’s the only day we can do the tour. Exhausted after a very long day of walking all around the city, we were in no shape to walk all the way to the other end of the Old Quarter in the hope a tour shop might be open. The devastating realisation set in. The whole reason for coming to Hanoi was to see Ha Long Bay… and we would have to miss out on seeing it.


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