Here we are in Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International airport in Kolkata standing in queue in the immigration counter for our first stamping in our passport .
Thai Airways is what we booked our flight from Kolkata via Bangkok to Hanoi. Nonetheless Thai Airways serves really good food as refreshments.Finally our first international trip began and we reached Noi Bai Airport(Hanoi) in the morning of 3rd December 2016.
Visa on arrival option is available in Vietnam .We have taken Tourist Approval letter from the hotel where we stayed in Hanoi,beforehand via mail .They charged us 10$ per person for the same.The documents required for the same is passport and air tickets of to and fro journey. For visa on arrival it takes 25$ per person at the airport.
One can get Tourist Approval Letter through various sites as well who charges approx 10-15$ person or more.It took approximately an hour for all the things to get done. We exchanged some US dollars in the airport for VND(Vietnamese currency).You will feel really rich when you exchange money .Their lowest currency starts from 1000 VND which equals approximately 3 INR. So you can calculate why you will feel rich.
After a pompous wedding we had, we were on a restricted budget but as planned beforehand we never compromised on food and the places we wanted to visit. Certainly we compromised on luxurious hotel and chose normal decent hotels.So instead of taking a taxi from airport, we opted for an airport bus no 86 to Old Quarter. .It took us almost an hour after which we reached old quarter and checked in our previously booked hotel in Hanoi Brothers Inn.
After having the famous pho as lunch along with pork chops fry and local Hanoi beer we headed for the Old Quarter Located between the Lake of the Restored Sword(Hoan Kiem Lake), the Long Bien Bridge, a former city rampart, and a citadel wall. The Old Quarter consisting of 36 old streets are more than 2000 yrs old.In reality there is more than 36streets now.You will get maps in your hotel for old quarter. You can roam around the old quarter by walking. Hotels and different travel agents conduct 3-4 hrs walking tour as well in old quarter. You can also roam around in cyclo (Vietnamese rickshaw) which are very readily available(Though you need to bargain for the rates). There’s also a lot of fascinating old French architecture around these place make this street more interesting.
You will get to see similar kind of products in individual streets of Old Quarter. It is said in the past, as artisans moved to the capital city to do business, they gathered together in this area to share the resources. As a result, many of the streets were named after the crafts sold at that individual street. Pho Hang Bun (Vermicelli), Pho Hang Ma (Paper Product), Pho Hang Bac (Silver), Hang Gai (silk), Hang Gaiy(shoes) etc. are examples of the streets carrying the name of the products sold there.
An interesting thing to see on the footpath of Old Quarter is the numerous street food vendors selling different types of food. Even though we were not hungry after our lunch, but those unknown foods attracted us a lot and we kept on hogging them. Some of the foods we tried are:
1) Bánh bột lọc is a small, clear-looking, chewy tapioca dumpling in Vietnamese cuisine.
2) Xoi- It is basically sticky rice with a slight sweetness in it.
3) Egg coffee– A raw egg yolk is whipped furiously with the famous drip coffee and sweetened condensed milk. This creates a concoction that is so thick and creamy, almost like a custard. Somehow, the egg takes away almost all the coffee flavor. So delicious! It’s like a dessert and caffeine fix in one. This is a MUST TRY when visiting Hanoi! We had egg coffee in Giang Café ,which is the first café in Vietnam who invented egg coffee.
4) Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) was introduced by the French during its colonial period.It is like our Indian Subway 😛
5) Pho-It is noodle soup made with broth and rice noodles and my most favorite Vietnamese dish.In the north Vietnam, a bowl of pho comes unadorned, with only white vinegar, lime, pickled garlic, and chilies to adjust the taste to your liking. Chicken pho also seems to be more popular in the north, and I loved the clean flavor. Pho always make a great meal.Different region of Vietnam has different tastes of pho.
6) Sữa Chua Mít – Jack-fruit yogurt A colorful bowl of jack-fruit yogurt include the yellow of jack-fruit, green and pink of jellies, white of sago and yogurt.
Places to see in Hanoi:
Hoan Kiem Lake
Temple of Jade mountain
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Museum
One Pillar Pagoda
Temple of Literature
St. Joseph Cathedral
Thang Long Water Puppet Theater
Large rods are used to support the puppets which appears as if they were moving across the water with the puppeteers hidden behind a screen. Performances are accompanied by a Vietnamese orchestra playing traditional music using drums, wooden bells, horns, bamboo flutes and cymbals
Tips to remember:
- Carry US dollars with you. INR cannot be exchanged in Vietnamese dong (VND) easily.
- If you exchange dollar in jewelry shop, you will get good rates instead of foreign exchange agencies or Bank.
- Bargain to a lot of extent if riding a cyclo.
- Most of the local people do not understand English so be prepared to use sign language 😉
- You can easily avail cab service through Grab Android App,Uber. Grab was cheaper relatively than Uber.
- If you are planning for Vietnam,you need minimum three entire day to explore Hanoi.