Vietnam started perfectly. We whizzed through the visa office and passport control, and were greeted by a taxi driver with my name spelled incorrectly who text on TWO phones simultaneously while he drove us to the guesthouse.
After a good nights sleep we were up for an early explore. It was also a bonus that almost every guesthouse in Vietnam includes a standard breakfast of egg / omelette and French stick.
Hanoi, for tourists, centres around a legendary lake and an old quarter full of all sorts of temples and different architectural styles of shop houses.
It was way more touristy than we had imagined. Possible even more so than Thailand. However, the city centre was beautiful and full of things to look at.
We found a couple of good restaurants that did awesome food and we were set.
On our first dine out in an actual restaurant we met a Chinese expat called Forrest (after Forrest Gump). He was a really nice guy and had been living in the city for a short time so wanted to show us all the sites. He was a little on edge though because, in true Sam and George style, the day we arrived Vietnam hit the headlines because china were kicking off in the South China Sea and there were riots near Ho Chi Minh City.
We met him for coffee on a few occasions and he took us for one of the worse meals I have ever eaten at a chicken noodle shop.
We visited the temple on the lake and learned the story of the golden turtle and the returned sword (a king got a magic sword from the lake and, after repelling the Chinese, returned the sword to the legendary giant guardian turtle of the lake). The rest of our time was spent looking round shops, and escaping the 40+ degree heat in cafés.
We liked to get up early, get an amazing Vietnamese coffee at the side of the road (whilst sat on a tiny stool) and then walk around the lake, watching all the characters that come out to do lots of fitness training at the waters edge and walk their tiny, tiny dogs.
We also visited a prison museum, the Vietnam women’s museum and the hanoi water puppet show. The museums were really interesting - obviously the country has an very sad, action packed past, that is hard not to notice when you’re visiting. It’s probably the fact that it was all still happening in very recent living memory.
After 5 days of acclimatising to the city we booked a trip by train up to Sapa, an old French hill station right in the north, near the Chinese boarder. After that we would be back for a few more days in Hanoi to explore more.