Day 12 - First impressions of Hanoi
Hanoi is our last stop in Vietnam and because of that we came there with a bit mixed feelings. During the last two weeks we experience so many things, and we weren't yet really ready to leave.
We had tried to set up meetings with Couchsurfers beforehand, but due to us only staying in Halong Bay for one day, and therefore being ahead of our schedule, we went out to experience the city on our own.
Our hotel was located close to Hoan Kiem Lake, so we headed out and started walking first around the lake, and then towards the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Presidents Palace. We knew that most things wouldn't open later in the day, but we ended up being really really slow anyways, just taking in the city and all the people living in it. We probably spent an hour at the train tracks running through the city, because that is just one of the craziest places we've seen - it is so fundamentally different to Germany.
The city itself is absolutely beautiful in it's very own way. Hanoi is not clean, it's very very noisy, it's busy – but it's also colorful and full of life. The city also has definitely problems with the air pollution as you can see quite some smog in the air which also makes it a bit foggy sometimes. Even though Hanoi has more than 7.5 Million inhabitants (imagine that number compared to the cities in Germany... it's huge!) it somehow doesn't feel like it's a "big" city. Especially compared to the feelings we had in Ho-Chi-Minh-City which has about one million residents more, it really felt only like a small town. No idea how to explain it - look at the pictures and maybe you can catch a glimpse of the feelings.
We walked a lot that day and ended up being too late to get in either the Mausoleum nor the Presidential Palace, but that didn't bother us too much. Instead we took a walk in the botanical garden (yes! Yet again! We love botanical gardens), which wasn't too spectacular other than having a whole bunch of sleeping construction workers lying on benches, sleeping.
In the afternoon we visited Café Phố Cổ, suggested to us by one of the people we had met on our Halong Bay Cruise, to have the infamous "Egg Coffee". That really was good, even though at first we were neither sure if egg and coffee can really make a good combination, nor if having raw egg was a good idea in Vietnam. But it is, and it's something you should definitely try if you ever get the chance. It's like a coffee with beaten egg whites and sugar on top. Very good!
The cafe was also really nice - you had to enter it through a clothes shop, and then walk up several stairs. There you'll find different levels and platforms that you can sit at. The hightest one overlooks the Hoan Kiem Lake, but all of the others are nice too.
For the evening we went out for Bia Hoi and a walk through the nightly Hanoi.