The Old Quarter in Hanoi has to be one of the most atmospheric areas in the world. With its winding streets, culinary delights and never ending flow of traffic, it feels like you could spend forever there and still not have explored every nook and cranny. It is absolutely bustling. Not in a big city London kind of way, but in a ‘I hope I don’t get hit by a woman who is carrying a FRIDGE on the back of her scooter’ kind of way (I feel sorry for the girl that Tim saw this happen to).
We spent 6 nights in the Old Quarter in 4 different hotel/hostels and loved it. We recently overheard a couple saying they had only ‘stopped by’ in Hanoi for a few hours while transiting through from Ha Long Bay and I couldn’t believe it! I know that everyone enjoys different things, but I really think coming to Vietnam and not experiencing at least 1 night in the Old Quarter is a shame. It is wild.
Sure, you are forever dodging motorbikes, being harassed to buy food and the honking of horns becomes your new jam, but sitting down with a cold beer watching everything zoom by is really, really cool.
There is so much going on and so much to look at, that just wandering around is an activity in itself. Even though The Old Quarter is well catered to western tourists, I have never been somewhere where they stand out SO much (myself included). Fumbling and confused we all walk around wanting to ‘act like a local’, but fail miserably. It is hilarious.
Of course, there are scams throughout the Old Quarter directed at us poor old tourists (overcharging, short changing, fast taxi meters, ‘free food’), but on the whole we found people to be honest and genuine. We met a 13 year old boy who was practicing his English with us and he said to Tim “What colour your hair?” Tim replied “Ginger… red” He said “Noooo, you blonde!” So, there you go – told by a 13 year old.