We had a list of places we wanted to travel to while living in NZ and Vietnam was quite high on that list. Dani was able to take some vacation time over the holidays, which meant she was able to travel with us!
You need a visa to enter the country, so Dmitriy and I went to the Vietnam consulate in Wellington prior to our trip. Just a little warning if you’re planning to travel to Vietnam: they made us both purchase a year-long visa, stating that the rules had changed and they’re no longer offering short-stay visas to American citizens. We tried contacting the US consulate but they were no help…we ended up paying $250 per person…meanwhile, Dani got her 30-day visa in D.C. for $80. Ugh.
We flew from HK into Hanoi. Upon arrival we met Peter, our local guide, and we drove directly to the Temple of Literature, built in 1070 to honor Confucius. It was chilly and rainy, but it actually added to the ambiance of the temple. After popping back to the hotel, we wandered around sampling loads of street food. It can, quite literally, be called street food in Hanoi – you order the food and then pull up miniature plastic chairs and stools to eat on in the middle of the sidewalk right along the street. Some of the highlights were steamed rice rolls with pork called Banh Cuon Thanh Van, drought beer with boiled peanuts, and a matcha sticky rice coconut dessert. We waited in line to get Pho at Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su, which had some of the best pho we have ever eaten. To finish off our evening, we stopped at Café Pho Co for some egg coffee, which sounds disgusting but is actually sweetened goodness.
We found that crossing the street in Vietnam can be quite an adventure; there aren’t streetlights in most intersections, so in order to cross the street you just start walking “slowly and calmly” and hope the cars, trucks, scooters, and bikes go around you.
Hanoi was reminiscent of Chiang Mai – a fabulous little place, packed with lovely people, tons of culture and amazing food.