We woke early the next morning for breakfast, another included massage and a dip in the pool, the latter of which received much laughter from the hotel staff as it was raining once again. It was then time to check out and take a taxi back to Da Nang train station for our onward trip to Hanoi. Upon arrival at the station we found that the train had been delayed for a couple of hours so we settled in for a bit of a wait. As that couple of hours passed the departure time got pushed back further, and further, and further until it looked as though it may actually be the following day before the train arrived. At this point we were using the station Wi-Fi to have a quick check of AirBnB and we found a place half way between the station and the airport. The lady at the ticket counter was able to give us a refund on our train tickets so we accepted this, booked the apartment and then bought flight the next morning to get us up to Hanoi.
By the time we had walked to our AirBnb we were both rather tired so we stayed in and went to bed rather than going out to explore Da Nang itself however from the window of the flat we did have amazing views out across the city.
In the morning we woke up and walked to the domestic terminal of Da Nang airport and made the quick flight up to the north. In Hanoi we got an airport shuttle straight to our hotel, the Light Hotel and were able to check in straight away. The lady at reception was very helpful and gave us some tips on where to go in the city.
Our first stop was to go and get some lunch at Hanoi Social Club which we had found recommended in our travel guidebook for its brunch menu. It was crowded but we did manage to bag a sat on the top floor in a rooftop garden setting. We both went for the potato fritters with chorizo which was so good and Fraser had his first taste of egg coffee, a Hanoi specialty, which he enjoyed but said was a little bitter.
Once fed we strolled along the road towards Hoan Kiem Lake which was not far away. In the middle connected to the shore by a bright red bridge is Ngoc Son Temple which we paid a small entrance fee to visit. If I’m completely honest it’s nice to walk over the bridge but there’s not a massive amount to see in the temple, the view from the edge of the lake is probably the best thing about it so we didn’t stay here long.
We then went back past our hotel in the opposite direction to find something I was really excited to see, the area where the train passes inches away from locals’ houses on either side of the track. We found and wandered along it to try and get the best spot for the 3 o’clock train. At one point a local entrepreneur had set up a café area with seats on the tracks which we thought was an excellent idea so we each got a drink and only then did we realise our big mistake- the 3pm train only runs at weekends. There were many people there who had made the same error and I think this is because there is very limited information out there about the exact timings the trains passes. If you do want to see the train, all the times are written on a blackboard outside the railway café. Despite this set back we still had fun balancing along the tracks and were able to take plenty of photos.
We had a quick pit stop at our hotel before going down to the lobby to meet with our food tour we had booked online with Vietnam Awesome Travel called the “Hanoi Food on Foot Tour”. Our guide greeted us at the entrance and then we set off to collect the rest of our group (there were 8 of us which is the maximum size) and we prepared to start eating. Our first port of call was Bun Bo Nam Bo where we had a delicious noodle, beef, veg and peanut dish that got us off to a great start. On the walk to the next restaurant most people had banana fritters from a guy on the edge of the street but as I am a complete banana-phobe I gave that one a miss. Next were some thin wraps with pork and mushrooms in from a family run place that were ok before we were able to try something Fraser in particular had been twitching to get his hands on for days- Banh Mi. This is essentially a Vietnamese sandwich in a mini baguette (the French colonial influence is clear for this one). They were divine and well worth the anticipation. Then it was on to Thanh Hop for some Bun Thang which is a rice noodle soup with meat and veg- again, really yummy. Then we went to a slightly posher, less street food, place for meat on a stick (gorgeous) and a slimy thing on a cracker (not quite so enjoyable). Our final destination was for pudding and I can safely say I am not a fan of traditional Vietnamese desserts. We tried a couple including one with black beans and yoghurt and I unfortunately didn’t like any of them. This tour was amazing. We tried some stunning food (more was nice than not), got to see loads of the Old Quarter of Hanoi and also learnt loads of really interesting facts about what we were seeing and eating on the way from our lovely guide.
During one of our chats on the tour our guide had heard of Fraser’s slightly disappointing first taste of egg coffee and immediately told us to go and try Café Giang which is where the drink supposedly originated from. We took her on her word and went straight there after saying goodbye to the rest of the tour. It was far too late for caffeine at this point of the night but coffee isn’t the only option, you can also have egg matcha, egg beer or egg chocolate the latter being what we both opted for. Oh My God!!! It was amazing!! It tasted like a warm chocolate mousse. The whole place was really local with barely any tourists and was also very cheap. This is definitely somewhere to go when in Hanoi.
Once finished here we made our way back to the hotel to pack day bags for our next 2 day in Halong Bay. I got seriously good vibes from Hanoi and an afternoon was not long enough to explore it, if only our train had arrived and been on time as we would have been there the full day and could have visited the Ho Chi Minh complex which had been high on my hit list.
Have you had any terrible travel days/ experiences? Where have you done any good food tours?