Day 7 – Hanoi
We woke up on a Christmas Eve in Hanoi not knowing what to expect. We were completely free on our own this day so we took it easy and didn’t have to scramble out of bed first thing in the morning to rush out for some planned tour activities. So we had a very good night sleep on our comfortable beds. When we were ready we went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Since we were in Vietnam, we ordered pho and ate to our heart’s content. Of course their western breakfast sets were good as well so we ordered some and shared. With sufficient dose of coffee and tea to get us going for the day, we went back to our rooms and planned where we would like to visit.
We decided to visit the French Quarter first and recce restaurants for our lunch and dinner for these two days. So after we got ourselves suitably dressed, we left the hotel, turned right and head towards the French Quarter.
It was a cooling winter morning also a little misty and was really nice to roam around the city. First we went to the famous Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi nearby to check out the hotel and restaurants. We used their nice washrooms and took pictures of the surrounding. This was indeed the grand old dame of Hanoi, a French colonial-style hotel very near Hoan Kiem Lake. We went in from one entrance and exited from the other and turned left towards the Opera House.
It was not very busy when we reached there so we took some pictures in that area and then we walked towards another Accor hotel, Hotel de I’Opera Hanoi. We went into the hotel and looked at the menu for Christmas meals at the restaurant. We liked the ambience of this artistic hotel and took some pictures as well. Having spent some time hanging out at this hotel, we left and took a slow walk towards the railway station. We were heading to Hotel Mercure La Gare, another Accor hotel.
We looked at shops along the way and passed by the corner of Hoan Kiem Lake and soon we arrived at Mercure hotel. It was already near noon so we simply went straight to the restaurant and had lunch. Since this was an European Hotel, we ordered western meals instead of the traditional Vietnamese dishes this time. We ordered different types of pasta and grilled fish with mashed potatoes and the food was really very delicious. This was one of the best meals we had in northern Vietnam. We took our time to enjoy our Christmas lunch and got ourselves recharged after the morning walk. As the lunch was so good, we made reservation to come back for dinner as well. Soon we made our move and left and walked back slowly towards Hoan Kiem Lake.
We passed by the famous Hanoi prison but we didn’t go in to explore. We walked further down and soon reached Hoan Kiem Lake. Over here we enjoyed the park surrounding the lake and took more pictures. There were tourists as well as locals enjoying the peaceful and beautiful park around the lake. We went to a café and a restaurant along the lake and took a look at their menu and then moved on.
After that we crossed the busy road and explored the busy streets in the Old Quarter. It was an eye opener for our two boys venturing into these chaotic streets shared with so many motorbikes, cars and pedestrians as well as walking street hawkers trying to get ahead from point to point. Soon it was time to chill out in a café to watch the world go by on the streets. We entered a café named Lamore to have coffee, ice cream and cakes to rest a short while.
Our elder daughter suggested to treat us to foot massage for the guys while the ladies would enjoy some facial treatments. She surfed the internet on her phone with the free wifi from the café and found a decent outlet nearby. So after our tea break, we went onto the streets again and after a few turns found the shop, Mido Spa.
It was a rather nice and decent shop and when we entered the premise, we were served by their friendly staff with menu for treatments that were on offer during their happy hours. We like the ambience of the interior and the smell within the premise was good as well. We were offered tea and after all the discussions and decisions made, we guys were ushered up the second floor for foot massage while the ladies went into the room for their facial treatments. It was a relaxing and enjoyable treat for us all. Our tired feet were pampered and the ladies had their faces refreshed.
When we were all done and were waiting on ground floor lobby to make payment, the shop owner graciously provided us with more drinks and served us fried Vietnamese spring rolls for another round of afternoon tea. We guessed it was Christmas Eve so we had our special treats. The spring rolls were very good and so was the tea. When we were done, we thanked the owner and left the shop.
Roaming the Old Quarter was an interesting pastime in Hanoi. This was another colourful place reminiscent of the old Chinatown in Singapore in the sixties and seventies. People of various trades jostled for space on the busy streets with police occasionally whistled to get inconsiderate motorists to move on instead of stopping and holding traffic on the narrow streets. As we were exploring the town during winter, we didn’t feel so stressed up and tired due to the cool weather.
As we moved on, we stopped by some shops to buy some souvenirs. Our younger boy bought a pair of sports shoes for his school use for coming year while our elder daughter bought a pair of Converse walking shoes. Before it got dark in town, we went back to the hotel to shower and rest before coming out again for dinner. It was a fruitful day as we enjoyed the unique character of the Old Quarter in Hanoi as well as the charming French Quarter that resembled a bit of Europe.
Evening came quickly and we found ourselves on the streets again. We still remembered our great lunch at Mercure Hotel earlier in the day and we were excited to head back for dinner. As we had gone there during the day, we knew the way well so we didn’t take very long to reach there. Along the way, Hoan Kiem Lake was nicely lighted up with youngsters posing for pictures everywhere and the French Quarter came alive with so many young people hanging out.
It was an enjoyable walk to Mercure Hotel during this evening and we went straight into the restaurant again. This time we were ushered further into the restaurant which was beautifully decorated for Christmas.
When we were seated at our table reserved for us, a waitress came over to present us with a gift. We were pleasantly surprised as the manager had given instruction to present us with a souvenir which was a scroll of an artwork of Hanoi. We were so thrilled and grateful to be treated so well by the hotel as their guests though we were not staying with them. As for dinner, some of us still had pasta, while others had burgers, sandwich, fish and chips and grilled fish. This Christmas dinner was very enjoyable and memorable as well. It was a feeling of being in Europe where we spent time together some years back. As Accor members, we did enjoy substantial discount for our meals as well. It was a great night out and a great dinner. Eventually we had to depart and would come back the next time should we visit Hanoi again.
As we walked back towards the lake, we found the whole place getting more congested with motorbikes and human traffic. By the time we reached the French Quarter near the Opera House, it was nearly impossible to move ahead. Apparently, the young people in Hanoi were hanging out in town to soak in the Christmas festivities. There wasn’t much point trying to jostle with the crowd so we made our way back to our hotel. Of course we took pictures at beautiful spots along the way.
When we reached our hotel, the staff informed us that we were all invited to attend their Christmas party after 11 pm that night and told us to get ready. So we went back to rest in our room first. Nearer to 11 pm, the hotel staff called for us to join them for some happy time so we obliged and went down to the restaurant where we had breakfast every morning. All the tables were arranged together in the middle with food and drinks all laid out nicely while the chairs were arranged on both sides of the wall.
Soon the hotel staff got the party going and entertained us with songs and of course food and drinks as well and we had a great time. These young people who managed the hotel were really sincere and friendly. When some former guests who happened to walk past the hotel, they were warmly invited in for the party as though they were meeting long lost friends. We were really glad we chose to stay in this hotel not only because of the favourable room rates but for these fantastic staff they had operating the hotel.
After filling our stomachs again with food and drinks after the heavy dinner at Mercure Hotel, we took our leave to return to our rooms. We were really tired after spending nearly the whole day on the streets in Hanoi. Check out Agoda rate on this wonderful hotel: Eclipse Legend Hotel It was already past midnight so we headed straight for our clean, nice and comfortable beds. Before long, we were already gone with our dreams to be awaken to another great day of adventure on Christmas Day in Hanoi.
Continue to Day 8 ...