Enter Vietnam. Red passport. No visa. Stamp. Go! Backpack: definitely over packed. Twelve dollar sim card for one month unlimited data. Uber arriving in eight minutes… first-time solo traveler arrival, check!
Exploring Hanoi begins with crossing the street. Pre-arrival advice #1, from a local: walk at a steady pace, try not to close your eyes, no running, don’t wait, nobody will wait for you. Street crossing in a bustling Vietnam city is an adrenaline rush every time, the more lanes, the faster the heart rate. Success is measured by how little you show it! Since there are very few traffic lights, every transportation type, from pedestrians to motorbikes to cars and trucks, just go in every direction somehow avoiding each other!
Pre-arrival advice #2, from a fellow traveler: you will always get a tourist surcharge if you don’t bargain. Personal experience? Buy a service from one local i.e. coffee, ask about how much another service should cost i.e. motorbike ride to location x - get local price every time!
Top 3 memories in Hanoi? The rush of blending in by motorbike ride. The cooling air on my sweaty body and racing heart beat as we swivel around obstacles on the road. Hoàn Kiếm Lake, which means “returned sword”, just steps away from Old Quarter, is inhabited by groups as large as thirty and as small as one doing Vietnam version of aerobics, dance and yoga.
Third, The Lantern Lounge, is a regular restaurant on the first floor but as you step up the stairs two large rooms, decorated with various shapes of lanterns appear. One of the rooms has slightly upbeat music, more lighting and a balcony for our side seating. The second room provides an even more intimate, dimm lit atmosphere with calmer music. Both rooms have lounge pillow seating and low to the ground tables for an intimate and zen-like meal and drink alone or a sharing of the meal and conversation with other travelers.