We first walked through the streets adjacent to our hotels which all are narrow and windy with various shops, hawkers and street cafės on them. One of the streets further down is aptly named 'sneaker street' and here were hundreds upon hundreds of pairs of trainers of all brand names. We were both able to pick up a pair of 'Nikes' each which we needed for our trekking in Sapa (more on that to come), only costing £8 each.
After our purchases, we headed further down towards the lake. This area has a clear European influence (following French colonisation) and is totally different to streets just around the quarter. One of the first sights you see approaching the lake is Ngoc Song AKA Turtle Temple. Inside the temple is really cool as there is a giant embalmed turtle and a couple of small shrines.
You enter the temple, which is situated in the middle of the lake, over a bridge. The whole area is very pretty and we also saw a couple of women inside the temple seemingly with spiritual offerings including food and rice wine.
After a wander around the lake, with some standard photos with the locals along the way (I'm apparently a celebrity in Hanoi), we headed to some of the streets on the other side of the lake. We went back up to the hostel to freshen up, before heading out for dinner. There was an Indian restaurant recommended in our lonely planet, so based on this we headed to Tandoor. It was really good and highly authentic so we were both impressed. After a quiet night in the lounge area of the hostel with a game of pool, we called it a night.
The next day, we went to Hoa Lo prison which has a really interesting history from the times when Vietnam was a French colony and from the Vietnam war. To give a brief overview, during the French colonisation, it was used to imprison Vietnamese rebels seeking independence. The prison told some individual stories of Vietnamese prisoners, the reasons for their incarceration and various escape attempts along with depicting their torture and sometimes execution (not always in the most objective of manners).
The prison also housed American POWs during the Vietnam War and some general war history was displayed (again very biased which we had expected).
After the prison, we walked back to the Old Quarter, and I went on a hunt for a Vietnamese tailor as I really wanted to get a dress made. This proved easy to find, and after having my measurements taken, choosing a design and paying a 50% deposit, my new custom-made dress should be ready in 72 hours. I am very excited!!
We headed our for dinner with a guy from our dorm, Peter, and we all went out for dinner to a local restaurant called New Day which was excellent! We were planning on an early night after a few quiet beverages, but what actually ensued was a rather messy one involving a new drinking game, several new friends, a lot of free vodka shots and an underground club. Good night!!
The next day was a quiet one. After a bit of a lie-in, we packed up, checked out and prepared ourselves for the night train to and the next few days in Sapa, which is where we are writing this from. The day consisted of a laze about in the hostel, a hunt for socks, some scrummy hungover burgers and more Vietnamese food. All in all not much to report, although Rob did manage to catch 15 minutes of a Manchester United game which kept him happy!
We're in Sapa now so keep an eye out for the next update....