More street scenes

We’re off exploring the gritty streets of Hanoi again, and first up we head back to Train Street to see if we have any luck this time!

Enjoying a beverage and hoping to get an up close experience with a train.

We enjoy some iconic sights as we wait, but alas, no train again!

Never mind, there’s still plenty more to explore in this vast, fascinating city.

From ladies in traditional conical hats to mountains of cheap souvenirs.

Whole streets are dedicated to single types of goods including kitchenware and temple decorations.

Here’s one of the most iconic places in Hanoi, the President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

It is the resting place of Vietnamese Revolutionary leader and President Ho Chi Minh.

The imposing building is located in the centre of Ba Dinh Square.

The square is where Ho, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Vietnam from 1951 until his death, read the Declaration of Independence, essentially establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Hello Hanoi!

Again! Back in the bustling chaos that is Hanoi. Bleary eyed after rolling off the night train at 6am and unable to check into our hotel until 3pm!!!

So we while away a few early morning hours people watching. And Hanoi is very very full of people!

Whether they are wheeling their fresh produce along the street or making a scented spectacle.

Hanoi is a heady mix of modern and deeply traditional. Rich and incredibly poor. Old ways still pervade in a city swathed in pollution from a million mopeds.

We stumble across this group of energetic young dancers practising their routines.

This seems to be a favourite past time for young Vietnamese as you’ll see lots of groups of teens dancing or improvising on the street.

Then finally we can check into our final hotel of the journey, the glorious The Light Hotel.

One of the few hotels in Hanoi that can boast of a (very vertiginous) rooftop pool!

A perfect place to cool down and relax after humid, gritty days sight seeing in the busy city. Up here you could be a million miles away from the grimy chaos below!!

Rocking, rolling, riding

Leaving Hanoi behind again for now we’re heading on another adventure.

This time to a place I’ve wanted to see for over a decade, ever since I came back from South Vietnam, I have been obsessed with the incredible scenery of the rice terraces of Sapa.

So we’re heading further North, aboard the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai.

We planned the trip, once again, through Vega Travel and it all went fairly to plan (except for the poor girl forgetting to pick up the train tickets and having to hightail it back to the office on her moped to grab them!)

We’re bunked up in a cosy little cabin of four people, meaning we’ll be sharing with some total random strangers! But it is quite comfortable.

However don’t expect to sleep much as the train is nosy and clanks and bangs all through the night! (and use the toilet as early as you can as it becomes rather ‘ripe’ later on . . )

The whole journey takes around eight hours and arrives at Lao Cai at 6am!

From there we’re whisked off on a private tour of Bac Ha market, a traditional local hill tribe market and one of the true highlights of our trip.

Here’s a little taster to whet your appetite!

Traversing train street

We’re heading to one of Hanoi’s most unusual and hair raising tourist spots now – train street!

Trains rumble right through this narrow residential street and you can stand and watch.

Well you used to be able to – it has now been closed for health and safety reasons due to the number of selfie seeking tourists – so once again we managed to tick something off our list before it shut!

The train street is located between Le Duan and Kham Tien street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

The exact lane the train passes along is called Ngo 224 Le Duan.

Either side of the tracks are tiny cafes and eateries, as well as little houses.

Located in Hanoi’s Old Quarter the trains pass through just inches away from buildings and people’s homes.

Colourful artwork adorns the crumbling walls and chairs and tables are perched precariously close to the train tracks.

When the trains are due to pass by the cafe owners move their tables and usher people a safe distance away (however you’re still so close that you could reach out and touch the train – if you wanted to lose an arm . .)

Train street was built in 1902 during French colonial rule.

The train usually passes every day at 3.30 pm and 7.30 pm as it makes its way from Hue to Long Bien train station.

The whole neighborhood is only about 500 meters long and there are lots of households that have lived there for many generations.

The trains DO NOT SLOW down and when you actually see one coming, and feel it whipping past your face, it is quite terrifying but also exhilarating!

While waiting for the metal beast to appear you can take your pick from one of the many cafes lining the track.

They serve anything from beer and soft drinks to a peculiar Vietnamese speciality – egg coffee!

We’ll return again later in our trip to actually see a train trundling along the track . . .

Fantastic fabrics

Established in 1889, Dong Xuan Market is Hanoi’s largest indoor market and is crammed to the rafters with a bewildering array of goods from fresh produce, plastic hair accessories and makeup to electronics and household appliances.

Let’s explore just a small section of it below – the fabric floor!

Being the daughter of an immensely talented, fully qualified tailor did not, alas, imbue me with any noticeable sewing talents, but I do share my mum’s love of a good fabric!

And they don’t come any better than here . . . in this maze of tiny shops and endless expanses of coloured cloth – it’s tiring work, just check out the man below if you don’t believe me!

Every colour of the rainbow is here and every type of fabric, from tulle and satin to lace and cotton.

Whether it’s patterned or plain, embroidered, weaved or stitched, you’ll find something to oooh and ahhh over (if you’re a fabric nerd like me!)

It can be hard to find space to walk between the narrowly packed in stalls, so shop owners just crawl and climb over their vast stock.

So many choices! Another place I had to be literally dragged out of . .. but never fear, there’s LOTS more markets still to come 🙂

Hoan Kiem Lake

One of the key features of Hanoi is Hoan Kiem Lake. A large body of water in the centre of the city with a small temple in the middle.

Meaning Lake of the Returned Sword or Lake of the Restored Sword, it’s a fresh water lake in the historic centre of Hanoi.

Near the northern shore of the lake lies Jade Island on which the Temple of the Jade Mountain (Ngoc Son Temple) stands.

The temple was erected in the 18th century. It was built in commemoration of Tran Hung Dao, a 13th century military leader

Centuries old rituals are played out in the temple every day, including the ritual sounding of bells.

Alters groan under the weight of offerings including fruit, cake and incense.

Colourful carved painted wood and sumptuous fabrics adorn the temple.

There’s intricate murals to the entrance of the temple, before you pay for a ticket, cross the bridge and head over the water.

Jade Island is connected to the shore by the wooden Thê Húc Bridge, painted vermillion red.

The bridge’s name translates as “Perch of the Morning Sunlight”.