Good morning, and goodbye, Vietnam!

It’s the FINAL post from our epic trip to North Vietnam and I can’t believe it has taken me 16 months to completely document it!!

So enjoy these last few romps around the grimy, colourful and chaotic back streets of Hanoi!

We enjoy a much needed beverage high above the humid, hectic streets.

Then it’s off to check out yet more streets packed full of tourist tat, temple art and traditional water theatre puppets.

Silk dresses and graffiti, no image sums up Hanoi more that this. The dainty and ornate V the gritty, edgy realism.

A mobile seller displays his woven wares on the back of his trusty bicycle.

More floral delights and a seemingly impossible task for these electricians!

A moment of almost calm captured in the midst of the hustle and bustle.

No roaming would be complete without a hopeful wander over to Train Street to see if we can catch sight of the epic train . .

and we are in luck!

We manage to catch it, rumbling along in broad daylight, and you can really get a sense here of just how big, and how close it got!

And that is it folks! The end of another incredible adventure. Vietnam is a country on the up.

I predict it will soon overtake other over travelled places such as Thailand and Bali as the next up and coming ‘exotic’ hot spot.

So catch it while it still retains its natural charm and incredible traditions.

Until next time! Good morning Vietnam – and goodbye!! 😦

Street scenes

How much love can one human being have for markets? The answer – a lot!

Hanoi is just shopping heaven. This stall sells all things plastic and fake – from garlands of garish flowers and vegetables to rows of lucky pigs.

Then we’re heading back to Dong Xuan Market to carry on exploring the mountains of produce, fabric and tat that’s on offer.

On route I spot this very smiley flower seller, who zips along the crowded streets leaving a fragrant trail in his wake.

Dong Xuan Market is the largest in Hanoi and is housed in a four story, soviet style building.

There’s a bustling wet market, huge fabric floor and the ever fascinating dry goods section.

The market tumbles out onto the streets in a riot of colour, smells and shouting stall holders.

There are some many details to capture, you could spend a whole day just in a few square miles.

Piles of fresh vegetables form a colourful feast for the eyes against a backdrop of peeling paint and wet concrete.

Stall holders take a brief break in this tiny corner of the city.

Buyers browse a range of locally grown vegetables that they will pop into boxes, baskets and other receptacles on bikes and mopeds.

From furry rambutan to visceral, gutted fish, everything can be bought right here, literally on the street.

And everywhere are the ubiquitous conical hats, that could be passed off as sterotypical, but really are still an everyday sight.

Spray painted walls are reminiscent of Blade Runner and high rise Tokyo.

While cyclo sellers have baskets of items for sale, zipping past you at speed.

It’s an intoxicating, frustrating, deafening, colourful and exhilarating city.

More Hanoi MORE!

There’s an architectural oddity in Hanoi that doesn’t seem to fit in with the local style – St. Joseph’s Cathedral (Vietnamese: Nhà thờ Lớn Hà Nội, Nhà thờ Chính tòa Thánh Giuse)

It’s a late 19th-century Gothic Revival that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi to nearly 4 million Catholics in the country.

If you look closely you can see a tiny man up a ladder cleaning!

Below are just some of the incredible stalls on every street. Lots of the streets are themed according to what they are selling.

Below are some of the DIY shops – the Vietnamese equivalent of ScrewFix!

The city has grown organically – but upwards not outwards. That’s due to the cost of land -when the cities started growing, the laws were that you’d only get charged on the length of the front facade of the dwelling.

As a result you’ll see lots of thin, narrow but very high buildings, usually at least three stories tall.

These are called tube houses. Because of high population density you find them in cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh.

At the front of them you’ll find the whole of life being lived on the streets. Cooking, selling, arguing and chatting.

Whether it’s traditional food being cooked on teeny, tiny little stoves, to live crabs in buckets.

Heaps of fresh greens await a multitude of home cooks, while flower sellers hawk their wares on their rickety old bikes.

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And to finish it off, another of the fantastical, rainbow coloured lanterns.

Plus some cute little cooking moulds and tiny good luck charms.

Marvellous markets

From the serene green of Mai Chau we’re thrust back into the hectic hustle and bustle of Hanoi with its waves of moped riders.

We’re nearing the end of this epic trip but we’ve still got a day left to go explore some more . . .

That can only mean one thing . . . MORE MARKETS!!!! Here we are in the night market in the centre of the old quarter.

I have had my eye on these tasty, colourful, frozen treats all week . . . not too sure how good they are for your innards but they look very pretty with their dry ice plumes . . .

Enjoy a close up of these water coloured, icy beauties!!! 🙂 🙂

And here’s the stall keeper, trying to studiously avoid catching my eye . .

The next morning I am still alive and not frozen solid internally so off we go.

First a little mild stalking of the basket carriers (it’s par the course now, like a daily habit) then off to check in again at train street as we want to see the beast in the day – but alas not the right time! Try again later . . .

A back street alley reveals a slightly rickety hot drinks stand.

And we spy piles of yet more mopeds – I wonder what they call a group of bikes? A rabble, a roar, a cacophony? . . .

Lots more of this vibrant city to come before we hop back on the plane!

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!!

Rainbow women

We’re carrying on with our fascinating snoop around Bac Ha market in Sapa, North Vietnam.

Some of the sights make uncomfortable viewing for more western eyes including huge vats of horse stew – a delicacy here.

As a life long vegetarian I am fair happier, and in my element, in the colourful fresh produce section of this sprawling market.

It’s also the ideal place to watch / stalk more of the wonderfully attired local hill tribe ladies.

I think the rows of rainbow bright women above belong to the Flower H’mong tribe. Famed for their colourful clothing, a mix of traditional and modern man-made fabrics.

Another typical sight is the traditional conical hat – not just a sterotype but a very real, very commonly worn article in Vietnam.

The iconic headwear, known as non la, are handmade from bamboo and palm leaves and protect farmers from the scorching heat that can reach over 40c.

Sugar cane, rambutan and a whole host of delicious, colourful delicacies can be found heaped high in every corner.

But it’s not just edibles that you can buy – oh no – anything from brooms, saucepans and wellies to house bricks, cattle and even, sadly, cats and dogs for eating.

Or, if you’re one of the elder gentlemen, you can literally drink yourself into a stupor with this homebrew!

Just decant it from the large plastic jugs into your own container and weave your way home!

Various vegetables

Moving swiftly away from the grisly meat end of the market, I’m back on more palatable ground in the colourful vegetable section of Bac Ha market.

Mountains of jewel bright carrots, onions, courgettes and bitter gourds tumble to the ground wherever you look.

Tiny, scorching chillies, quail eggs and all the fresh herbs you could possibly want or need.

Purple aubergines are cheek by jowl against ruby red tomatoes, zesty limes and bunches of spring onions.

It doesn’t get any fresher than this and watching the nimble bartering between the stall holders and the hordes of shoppers is a sport in itself.

Lots more colourful snaps to come from this frenetic and fantastic market.

Street scenes

You could spend years just roaming the back streets of the old quarter in Hanoi and never get bored of the amazing sights.

From gorgeous bouquets to a caffine addict’s dream, fresh street food to all manner of dried meats, herbs and other delights.

My love of markets has gone into overdrive and I am in seventh heaven. . . .

I could have spent years just on this one street, enjoying the rainbow of lanterns and the ladies in their traditional conical hats.

Below the hubby is instructed to look natural as I attempt to stalk one of the surprisingly nifty older ladies who hoick around woven baskets of produce.

Everything in Hanoi is done in the street, socialising, selling, prepping fresh meat and eating too.

I was spoilt for choice when it came to souvenirs on this trip! Shame I couldn’t take all of those jewel bright lanterns home!

We stumble upon a group of conical hatted ladies. I am not sure what the pural of street vendors should be!

Markets in Hanoi, as in the rest of the country, are very visceral. With meat butchered literally on the floor in some cases. While fresh food is cheek by jowel with pollution spewing mopeds and open drains.

Dong Xuan Market is the busiest and most popular of the markets in the city.

Established in 1889, Dong Xuan Market is housed within a four-storey Soviet-style building on the northern edge of Hanoi Old Quarter.

You can buy pretty much anything here and it will be the subject of several posts!

But for now take a walk with us through the tiny alleyways of the market! Careful where you walk!

Back to Nam!

Finally after more than a decade I am finally back in the country that started it all – Vietnam!

Way back in 2008 I went on my first ever Asian adventure to Cambodia and South Vietnam and I have always wanted to come back and explore the north of the country.

And finally here I am! Husband in tow we have landed in Hanoi, the bustling Northern city that will act as our base for exploring this beautiful country.

We’re based in the frantic Old Quarter in the Queen Light Hotel,

The Old Quarter is a place of street sellers, a million mopeds and more chaos and colour than you can shake a stick at.

But we’re only there a night before we’re heading off for our first trip. A three night tour of Ha Long Bay and Tam Coc. So watch this space!

Buddha tooth relics

We’re still pootling around Chinatown, heading for the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. But naturally get distracted on-route by plenty of colourful sights.

From incredible street art like the traditional theatre scene above to the many stalls selling the very pungent durian fruit – an acquired taste that has been compared from anything from vomit to dog doo-doo in smell!!

Naturally my eyes are drawn to the myriad of bright coloured souvenirs . .

The hubby is not quite as enamoured by yet more lucky Chinese silk knots and tassels – but managed to raise a smile next to this very jolly buddha.

There’s also more traditional items on sale from beautiful Chinese writing, brushes and ink to delicate fans and piles of rice cakes.

Also some poor little flying lizards have become a street snack . . .

But finally we arrive at our destination. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

Built in 2007, the temple gets its name from what the Buddhists regard as the left canine tooth of Buddha, which has been recovered from his funeral pyre in Kushinagar, India and displayed on the temple’s grounds.

On the first floor you’ll find a huge prayer hall that is surrounded by hundreds of little Buddhas.

If you arrive at meal time you’ll be lucky enough to be able to partake in a free vegetarian meal too!!