We arrived in Hanoi at dawn on Saturday 21st April feeling pretty shattered. We arrived to a warm , wet , grey Hanoian morning.
Our hotel taxi driver was there to meet us and we soon lost our grogginess taking in all the sights , sounds and smells of Vietnam in the early morning. Mopeds zoomed around the car , most of the drivers seemed to be young women, wearing hoodies and matching face masks . Some motorbikes were carrying crazy loads – stacks of birds in cages , a man with two full-size ladders . We passed markets , roadside stalls and over several bridges before entering the city centre.
Our hotel, Sans Souci IV is in a quiet street of mainly backpacker businesses . It is run by Yen , who is always cheerful and friendly and looks impossibly young for her job. We have a lovely room and it is surprisingly quiet at night . The top end of the street has several food hawker stands which seem to be busy day and night.
We had a snooze and then went off to explore the local streets and walk around the lake and enjoy the energy of Hanoi . It is easy to escape the noise by walking into a side street and we even managed the art of crossing the road without mishap .
We had a pre-dinner cocktail on the roof of the Marilyn cafe where we could observe the life around the Cathedral . Young people like to congregate in the cafes there and drink lemon tea and eat sunflower seeds. It was fun to watch from above as the night fell and bats swooped around us .
We ended our first day with a fantastic meal at the classy Madame Hien restaurant nearby . A beautiful old French colonial building with a Vietnamese/French fusion menu and many unusual and interesting flavours . A really great end to a full-on introduction to Hanoi .