27.07.2013 - 27.07.2013 31 °C
Today has been a soggy day of sightseeing. We got up nice and early to find Hanoi was overcast with stormy skies and heavy rain. We got ready and stayed inside hoping it would clear. By 11am it still had not cleared and we were eager to get out so we put on our rain coats and braved the rain. We walked through the back streets and went into a small cafe for a morning coffee. Vietnamese coffee is very strong and sweet as they put condensed milk in it and it was delicious. After half an hour in a cafe we went in search of some brunch. We had previously read about these sandwiches with pâté and different meats and we spotted on in a small alley. It is called Banh My Pâté and we weren't really sure what to order as there was a cooler full of different things. We just asked for two and the lady said 'meat' and we said yes. She then said 'everything' and we obviously said yes. She warmed up some bread in her street side oven and then fried an egg in a pan. She added pâté to the pan and let it cook. She then filled the warm baguette with three types of meats and salad and added the cooked egg. It was yummy and really tasty, a great brunch meal which we ate in shelter from the rain under a shops tarpaulin.
We then headed for St Joseph's Cathedral as we thought it would be worth a visit but it was closed until 2pm. We decided then to walk to the train station and have a wander around the french district which according to our guide book is in that area. The walk to the station was quite long and very wet as it poured with rain the whole time. The streets are mental, continually full of traffic weaving in and out and beeping their horns. All the paths are filled with parked motorbikes so you have to walk on the road and the pavement is uneven and muddy. When we arrived at the station there was a queuing system like Argos. You took a ticket with a number and waited to be called. It soon became apparent that no one gave a flying frig about the system and it was just a free for all so we joined a huddle that had formed around a kiosk. When we finally got to the front a man tried to barge in front but Chelsea said 'no' and we were seen next. we bought a ticket to Hue for the 29th as we had read the trains can book up and it cost 703000 dong. It is quite expensive for us but we just can't face another overnight bus journey so soon after the horrificness that was the journey from the border to Hanoi.
After paying for and collecting our train tickets we set of in search of the French district. It very soon became clear that our guide book was garbage and that the French district it pointed out was a collection of big French buildings on big wide traffic polluted streets and did not transport you to Paris like it promised. A word of advice to anyone wondering which guide book to take to SEAsia. Do not buy a rough guides one, they are crap in every way possible. We are hoping to find the real French district before we leave as our other guide book points to a different area of the city. After a wet and disappointing walk around the city we headed back to the Cathedral.
The area around the cathedral is lovely. It is full of small streets that all meet at the cathedral and that are full of really small eating houses, cafes and shops. There is everything from small Vietnamese street food style shops to expensive boutique clothes shops and posh cafes. We went into a really nice cage overlooking the cathedral and had a drink to get dry out of the rain. We sat for a long time lingering over our pricey drinks, talking and watching the street. It was lovely.
After we went into St Joseph's and were surprised by its interior. The outside is quite an unattractive concrete building but inside is really nice. Wood carvings, stained glass and high ceilings. It was nice and peaceful and we sat on one of the pews for a while admiring the architecture. It was a nice change to see a church and we haven't seen one for months.
By this point it was late afternoon so we headed back to our guest house. We relaxed and showered, dried our rain macs and washed our muddy feet. For tea we walked to the old district. We are still shocked everything we go out at just how busy and frantic the city is. We walked around for a while overwhelmed and not sure where to eat and settled on a Bia Hoi place for a 5000 dong beer. We ordered several snack bits to share for food and it was gorgeous. We ordered crab spring rolls, steamed pork dumplings, fried chicken, and a sort of chicken stir fry an rice meal and we shared them all over several beers. It was a great, relaxed meal and the best way to enjoy Hanoi we think, sat on small tables on the street trying several different nit-bits.
After 4 Bia Hois it was time to come home as we have an early start tomorrow. We have booked on a trip to Halong Bay. It has cost $25 but we don't think we would be able to do it ourselves for that price so we though we would book onto a stress free trip and let someone else take us. We are looking forward to it and have been since we were back in England so hope the weather is a bit better and we can actually see it.