Off the train and back to the Hoa Binh Hotel at 5:30 am, everyone was exhausted. The front desk staff promised room by, perhaps, 9:30 am. A few cups of coffee before disheveled ex-Marine and I set out for an early morning walk to West Lake where active Hanoi gathers in the early morning hours to exercise. Tai Chi, group classes doing their own form of “aerobics”, Yoga, walkers, runners…View image, and individualistic exercises…View image. Vietnamese with there with friends, grandfathers watching grandchildren, senior citizens. Not only completely engrossing but it also made for some good laughs watching the unique exercises.
Tired, a slow walk back to the hotel trying to pass the time before badgering the front desk every 15 minutes (nicely, of course) when they thought the room would be ready. A room! Unpack for one night, shower and rest before heading out once more to admire and explore the houses…View image… in the French Quarter…
…and area around St. Joseph’s Cathedral…View image… with its many boutiques and restaurants. St. Joseph’s Cathedral was named after a Catholic church built by the French in the 1890′s.
A great, upscale lunch at Wild Rice, in and out of pastry shops for luscious desserts (the leftover French influence) and one last walk through the Old Quarter…View image… on the north side of West Lake. Checked out two different hotel/hostel possibilities for a return to Hanoi. The Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel near St. Josephs Cathedral and Hanoi Elegance Hotel in the heart of the Old Quarter. Both looked nice and clean.
We really could have used two more days just in Hanoi to experience more cuisine, revisit the “Hanoi Hilton”, see a water puppet show, and cruise more streets and quarters. If I could, I’d jump on a plane and just spend a week in Hanoi. But, it was time to repack for tomorrow’s ride to Halong Bay and an overnight cruise. (Read the previous Halong Bay articles.)