We arrived into the second largest city of Vietnam, Hanoi, late in the evening and in an effort to get off the plane and to the hotel as quick as possible, so that the girls could get some much needed sleep, we left an entire bag on the plane!
Matt & I like to pack light, we have learnt that the less luggage you have the easier it is, especially traveling with kids as you never know when you are going to have carry a child, or even 2, as well as ALL the bags.
That being said we also decided that it was time for Eden to start carrying her own stuff (more on this later) so she rocked a brand new pack this holiday which she took as carry-on.
Thankfully this was NOT the bag that was left, nor was it our carry-on bag, but rather poor Clio’s. When her sister got a new backpack for the flight, Clio insisted that she needed to bring a small purse filled with ALL her favorite ‘babies’ I seriously mean every single one of her very favorite toys. Yes, this is the ‘bag’ we left on the plane.
It was Clio who realized right after we had walked through some security check-point, that we no longer had the bag; there were many tears and throughout the trip she repeatedly said ‘babies gone’.
We contemplated trying to go back but we weren’t even sure what gate we arrived into. And this is why we don’t take toys on trips.
After deciding not to go back for the toys we lined up in the rather long passport control line and waited and waited and waited until finally it was our turn. Only then we realized we skipped a crucial step…getting our Vietnam Visa’s.
We quickly returned to the Visa counter and waited some more, by which time the passport control lines had emptied and of course got backed up again.
I am writing about this faux pas because probably half the people made the same mistake, so hopefully you won’t make the mistake too! The Visa counter is opposite the passport control section, but coming off the plane it was passport control that we saw first.
One lady even forgot to bring USD’s with her, another thing you MUST remember to do. We ended up giving her the money, it felt like the right thing to do and we both agreed that we would hope someone would help us out if we were in that position.
Finally getting out of the airport we were greeted by our driver which we had arranged through our hotel. This is the first time we have arranged private transfers when traveling and we continued to do so all throughout this adventure. I can not tell you how awesome it was, getting off a plane, bus, train etc to see your name among the many people competing for your business.
When we finally made it to our hotel it was getting close to midnight so naturally we all went straight to bed, excited for the next 48 hours in Hanoi.
After breakfast at our hotel, which was located in the historic heart of Hanoi; the Old Quarter, we dodged scooters, walked among street hawkers and navigated our way to Hoan Kiem Lake referred to as the liquid heart of the Old Quarter.
Situated on a tiny island on the Northern part of the lake is Ngoc Son Temple and this was our first stop of the day.
One great thing about this temple are the few spots of shade & even a few seats dotted around the place! Even coming from Okinawa we found Hanoi hot so stopping for breaks was essential!
Inside the temple are the embalmed remains of a gigantic tortoise and apparently there is a 200kg turtle that still lives in the lake; sadly we didn’t see it.
From Ngoc Son Temple we walked around the entire lake, simply soaking up all the sights; busy traffic, people sitting by the lake, people selling stuff, stopping so people can get their picture taken with Eden and of course the Turtle Pagoda situated within the lake.
I had read that it takes about 40 minutes to walk the lake, I didn’t actually time how long it took us but my guess is that it was close to that, if not a little longer; after all we have 2 little people with us!
After lunch and naps we headed in the opposite direction of the lake further into the Old Quarter in hunt of the Old City Gate and Bach Ma Temple. The Old Quarter, while made up of more than 36 streets, is often called ‘the 36 old streets’ due to the 13th century where Hanoi’s 36 guilds established themselves in the city.
Each of the 36 streets sell a different product and that street is named after that product; silk street, silver street, paper street etc. It is completely fascinating walking around them if not a little scary.
If footpaths exist they are used as parking for scooters or street vendors. With kids, this makes exploring the streets by foot terrifying; I have never held Eden’s hand so tight as we weaved in and out of traffic.
Oh the traffic! I don’t think you can entirely grasp what crossing a road in Hanoi (or HCMC) is like until you do it yourself; there are just SO MANY bikes and they seem to do what they want.
We quickly learnt that no matter how long you wait to cross the road, the bikes just keep on coming, in the end we would all hold hands in a horizontal line and just walk out; the bikes will just go around.
Our last stop for the day was a water puppet show at Municipal Water Puppet Theater, very close to Hoam Kiem Lake. The show is great and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it, however, if you go I HIGHLY recommend paying a little extra to sit in the first 2 rows.
We were maybe 9 rows back and while our view was great (the theatre is small) literally every person in the audience, apart from us, decided to hold up either their camera’s or cellphones and take photos/video’s the entire show, thus making it hard to see and extremely frustrating.
I was hoping to fit our 48 hours in one blog post but since I have a tendency to ramble and this post is already long I will save the next 24 hours in Hanoi for part 2; stay tuned!
48 hours in Hanoi – part 1
- Ngoc Son Temple (8am – 5pm, 30,000 VND ($1.30) children under 15 free)
- Hoan Kiem Lake & Turtle Pagoda
- Walking the streets of the Old Quarter
- The Old City Gate
- Bach Ma Temple (8.30am – 11.30am / 2.30pm – 5.30pm)
- Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (multiple performances daily from 3.00pm – 8.00pm, admission 60,000 – 100,000 VND ($2.60 – $4.50))