Floating homes and restaurants in Cat Ba bay
Continuing up the east Vietnamese coast we strolled around Hue, Vietnam’s cultural capital, for a day to break up an extremely long bus ride linking Hoi An to Hanoi. Hue is also the closest city to the Demilitarized zone separating the north from the south.
The ancient city of Hue
Arriving in Hanoi, the country’s capital, we were struck by how incredibly noisy it was! The Lonely Planet’s description “A city with a blend of Parisian grace and Asian pace” is true but it took us a couple of days to recognise the “grace” through the “pace”. There are more motorbikes whizzing around the winding streets than you would think is possible and drivers do not hold back on using their horns...
Everything travels by motorbike in hectic Hanoi
Hanoi is an extremely busy city. We took time out from the hectic streets and went to visit “Uncle Ho” as the locals refer to him, in his mausoleum. The queues were endless and we were among the only non-Vietnamese at the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum complex. Uncle Ho looked rather fragile but was very well preserved probably thanks to his annual two week clean in Russia. The complex includes a really interesting Soviet-style museum as well as two of his former homes which both have rooms set-up in the way they were when he lived there – Lenin and Marx portraits on the walls of course.
A religious offering - burning fake money
After our standard Pho Bo lunch (beef in noodle soup) we headed to the city’s Temple of Literature which was built in dedication to the ancient scholar Confucius - it was Vietnam’s first museum set up in 1076 in order to teach the sons of mandarins.
Hanoi was also our jumping off point for a few days in Halong Bay. We stayed on an island called Cat Ba, a popular holiday spot for the locals, and although it rained for the entirety of our first day (possibly in preparation for our return home!), our second day on the island was gorgeous and we relaxed in a little bay overlooking the limestone karsts emerging from the water which Halong Bay is famous for.
Our beach in Cat Ba
Sunset views in Cat Ba
This concluded our whistle-stop through South East Asia and onto China!