Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels.
This week, I’ve been chatting to Metro Girl, the blogger behind the fantastic Memoirs of a Metro Girl, who has a passion for travel and for her hometown of London. “Ever since I did Camp America when I was 19, I’ve developed a love of travel and even quit my job for a year so I could travelling. Although my mortgage payments and career restricts how often I can travel these days, I always try to see somewhere new on my annual leave.” When she’s not travelling, Metro Girl spends her time exploring her hometown of London and blogging about her adventures.
Welcome to Postcard From! Where was your most recent trip?
Hanoi, Vietnam. It was a bustling city, a mix of old and new worlds where the motorbike is king. There is so much to take in, it’s a bit of an assault on the senses – in a good way. I loved it and can’t wait to return.
Ooh, sounds amazing! How was the weather?
I went in February 2014 so it was still winter in Hanoi. It wasn’t too cold though – hovering between 18-21 Celsius, but there was drizzly rain often so bring an umbrella or raincoat.
Where did you stay?
We stayed at the Golden Sun Villa Hotel near Hoàn Kiếm Lake and the Old Quarter, which is where you are likely to spend most of your time. You can get a really high standard of accommodation at affordable prices in Hanoi. Our place was a small, boutiquey hotel with comfortable suites and really helpful staff. So many attractions are in walking distance and there are a huge choice of restaurants, coffee shops and street food stalls nearby to choose from.
Sounds fantastic! What did young up to in Hanoi?
Checked out the embalmed remains of former Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh at the Mausoleum which was fascinating. Shopping and walking around the Old Quarter. Drinking coffee overlooking the Cathedral. Visited some of the temples and pagodas around town, including the Ngoc Son Temple on an island in Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
Lots, then. What was your highlight?
The Water Puppets Show was very funny and entertaining despite not knowing the language. The Women’s Museum was fascinating and really gives you an insight into the recent history of the country and what life is like for women in modern Vietnam. I was stunned and impressed by the huge contribution of Vietnamese women during the country’s wars.
Go on and make us all really jealous – what was the food like?
Everywhere we went was brilliant. We tried a mix of soups, noodle and rice dishes and fried fish. We particularly enjoyed Quan Bia Minh with a balcony overlooking the Old Quarter so you can people watch, and Highway 4, a trendy small chain, also in the Old Quarter which is a good place to try Son Tinh rice liquor. Bun Cha (barbecued pork with vermicelli) and Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) are two of the most popular dishes in the region, which my travelling companion loved (I‘m vegetarian so obviously didn‘t try!).
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone planning a similar trip?
Crossing the road is not for the faint-hearted. Just be confident and walk at the same pace – the motorbikes will go around you. Bring more Vietnamese Dong than US dollars – I found the former made things better value when shopping and also didn’t cause confusion because you usually got change in Dong regardless of what you paid in. If you’re planning to ride a motorbike taxi or spend more than a couple of days there, it may be worth buying a face mask because the pollution is pretty heavy due to the volume of bikes.
And finally, time to impress us! Whats the most useful word/phrase you learnt?
Cám on (pronounced ‘Gahm uhn‘) which means thank you. It was the only Vietnamese I learned, but was really appreciated by the locals.
NB . All images are owned by Memoirs of a Metro Girl.