Just a couple of recommendations on Hanoi before I wrap up.
We stayed at the Hanoi Serenity Hotel. The rooms were good enough, the staff was very friendly and happy to help out in any way they could. The building doesn’t have an elevator, so you’ll get some extra exercise if you’re staying on one of the higher floors. What was great about the place was the location, with the old quarter opening up on the hotel’s doorstep.
We didn’t find any place amazing to eat in Hanoi although we tried recommendations from both Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor.
One epicurean pleasure was eating at Mediterraneo. It’s an Italian restaurant in the old quarter. The food is quite decent and I really liked the wine (although I am not too hard to please on this front).
What made it wonderful for me though was sitting on the restaurant’s balcony as the sun began to set. St. Joseph’s Cathedral is just at the end of the street, and if you go for an earlier dinner, you’ll be there during the mass. Sitting in the warm, golden, evening air, sipping red wine and listening to the deep peal of the church’s bells (one of my favorite sounds in the world), I could almost imagine I was back in Europe. It was amazing to watch the great number of people who were attending mass; so many that they spilled out into the courtyard in front of the church’s entrance.
I also managed to find another up-scale hotel not too far from the Serenity where I could pay to use their simple gym. Working out so helps my head space – I’m intent on doing this as often as possible.
Grains of salt
Looking back over our time in (and my posts on) Vietnam, I recognize that this was clearly the most challenging country for us (on our travels so far at least!). I’ve mentioned it before but I want to make sure I’m clear about it once more for anyone who might be considering traveling to Vietnam.
I believe that travel is a very subjective, luck (or fate?) based thing. Like life, it’s a mystery but fundamentally I do believe that we attract the experiences we need to have, even if we can’t understand or see clearly why we may need them at the time of their occurrence.
So I don’t (yet?) know why we had hard luck and a tougher time in Vietnam, but I do know that just because that was our experience of the place doesn’t mean that it should be written off. We’ve run into people who were turned off by India, the country that took our hearts by such storm that we are still, nearly a year later, entirely under her spell.
So if you’re feeling drawn to Vietnam, I totally encourage you to go check it out and see what kind of experience YOU have there. I’m sure it will be different from mine, and I’d love to hear about it. 🙂
Here’s the run down of where we went:
|July 22||Saigon||Lac Vien Hotel|
|July 31||Dalat||Hotel Chau Au – Europa|
|August 2||Hoi An||Hai Au Hotel|
|August 5||Hue||Hue Holiday Hotel and Huenino|
|August 10||Cu Nam||Phong Nha Farm Stay|
|August 14||Hanoi||Hanoi Serenity Hotel|
|August 18||Halong Bay||A Class Cruise|
|Aug 19 – 22||Hanoi||Hanoi Serenity Hotel|