I know, I suck. I have not written anything in weeks. I think I have valid excuses, but maybe I don’t. And now that I am finally beginning to feel ready to write again and update and so forth, I discover that WordPress has a new layout and now I am all confused again. But I’ll try.

Last time I was here was before we left for a trip to the Andaman and I promised that I will post some more about that awesome capital of Vietnam, Hanoi. So here are some highlights and reasons why I get all misty eyed when I think off Hanoi.

We stayed in the Old Quarter for our first two nights, and even though we opted to stay around the Cathedral area near Hoan Kiem Lake after our return from Halong Bay, I found myself drawn back here a couple of times again. Walking through the old merchant’s neighborhood is kind of like walking through a really big, crazy market with people, bikes and merchandise everywhere you look. It is a frenetic and antique-feeling part of town and although I can never see myself living in such a mad quarter I can see myself wandering around the area for hours on end and just taking in the lively atmosphere.

We spent a lot of time around Hoan Kiem Lake, it’s centrally located and surrounded by a park, cafes and some lovely architecture. In the middle of the lake is Turtle Island (pictured above) with it’s lone pagoda. In the mornings and evenings the residents of Hanoi can be seen exercising and relaxing around the lake and at night the surrounding lights are beautifully reflected on the water. On our last night in the city we even saw a little owl flying around the lake.

I loved this image of Ho Chi Min holding a little girl and the dove in the background.

And speaking of HCM, on a very drizzly Sunday morning we set out to his mausoleum and museum. I was not too keen on going into the mausoleum and a few minutes standing in a terribly long line convinced Alexander too that maybe we should put it on hold for another time. Entry into the lotus-shaped museum next door was much easier and I bet the display was a lot more fascinating than an embalmed body. Intriguing and rather bizarre, I’d visit it again any time.

As can be seen from almost all the pictures, the weather was mostly overcast and gray. Which is exactly what I was hoping for when we planned our trip. I was craving a couple of days of little sun and gloomy skies. The balloon sellers that we often saw around the city made for a fun burst of color in our gray dome.

Cafes. Plentiful and all serving excellent drip coffee, Vietnamese style as well as other varieties. From top left- drip coffee on the street, Alexander enjoying an iced-Vietnamese coffee at Highlands next to the Opera House, Alexander working at a street-side coffee shop, patrons enjoying coffee and board games at Cafe Lam. This time in Vietnam we were smart and stocked up on Vietnamese drips and some excellent coffee for the house.

On our travels through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam last year we decided to do a cooking course in each country we visited. We got to do this in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and Luang Phabang in Laos, but unfortunately not in the other two countries. This time Alexander did some research before we left for Hanoi and booked a course for us at Hidden Hanoi. We picked to make the street food menu, the delicious and new firm-favorite of mine, bun cha. There were three students and our very informative and fascinating teacher, An.

Rather than start the course with a market visit she gave us an introduction to and discussion about the food culture of Vietnam. Afterwards we got to prepare a splendid bun cha lunch with rice noodles, barbecued pork patties, spring rolls, dipping sauce and greens.

Possibly my favorite aspect of Hanoi is the street food. Mouth-watering dishes can be enjoyed at tiny tables and plastic stools just about anywhere you turn all over the city. From left-to-right are bun cha, breakfast banh cuon and a different kind of binh my pate. Of course there was much more, for more detailed descriptions and pictures of the street food delights of Hanoi, go check out Alexander’s entry on Hanoi Street Food.

I miss Hanoi, I really do, and I hope we can return there soon for more sights, food, and atmosphere.