I know that it’s already autumn, but let’s go back in time together for the sake of this post. Last summer vacation I spent a week in Vietnam with one of my dearest friends in Fukui.
My friend Laura and I came to Fukui at the same time and experienced living in Japan together at the same pace. However, directly after our trip to Southeast Asia Laura would be returning to America and I would be returning to Japan. There is a true connection that forms when you buy your first combini bentos with another person and participate in your first nomihodai. It being our last trip together made it very bitter-sweet.
We wanted to spend it in an interesting place but also focus more on relaxing and enjoying each other’s company rather than seeing EVERYTHING we could in a short amount of time.
From Japan, we flew into Hanoi and headed straight to our hotel in the French Quarter. We were staying there for five days and four nights and other than an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay we had nothing planned.
In the morning, we took the map that our hotel gave us of the area down to breakfast and just started circling things that looked interesting to us. We decided the lake, the cathedral (we are both catholic!), the yoga studio, the cooking class, and some of the art and history museums were the most interesting to us.
That day we started slowly checking things off of our list. The great thing about Hanoi is that almost everything was in walking distance of the French Quarter. We walked everywhere and didn’t feel tired or rushed. All the streets were clearly labeled and named! It was a welcome change from Japan where intersections are named instead of streets. The intersection names make directions really difficult to understand for foreigners.
The standout thing we experienced in Vietnam was definitely the food. We loved eating street food, taking our cooking class with Orchid Restaurant, and the market tour we went on. My favorite thing we ate has to be beef pho or bun cha. Both were so delicious and full of cilantro and spices. It was a welcome change of pace from the clean and subtle taste of Japanese food that we had been eating all year.
After all the eating that we had been doing, we desperately wanted to get some exercise and to feel a little less lazy and lethargic. We went looking for the yoga studio from earlier and attended a pilates class. The studio was hard to find because it recently moved from the French Quarter area to the Foreign Embassy District. There was a fantastic vegan cafe restaurant connected to the studio where we had lunch before returning to do some souvenir shopping.
I really loved Hanoi. It was perfect for a relaxing vacation with everything that you could want. It’s comfortable, walkable, has easy access to other areas of Vietnam, and has a strong sense of Vietnamese culture.
I have more posts coming up about my trip to Vietnam including a post about traveling by an over-night train, visiting the DMZ in Hue, and an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay. I’m hoping to get these posts out sometime soon!