I arrived at the airport late, around 11:00pm, then had a private car set up to pick me up and take me to the hotel. I was scheduled to stay at Hanoi Graceful Hotel, but they let me know before boarding the plane from Siem Reap, the A/C was out and they would transfer me to another hotel for the night. It wasn’t a problem for me because I was getting an upgraded room when the A/C was fixed.
The drive from the airport was about 45 minutes to Old Hanoi. I was surprised how developed the freeways, bridges, and buildings. I had not done much research on the area, as I was going to be using it as a stepping stone destination for Ha Long Bay and Sapa.
Old Hanoi looks a lot different than the ride over. The streets are lined with shops, restuarants, and lots of motorbikes.My first morning started at the interim hotel, Icon 36, I woke up to a pounding thunderstorm. I enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and took it easy in the morning as the storm passed through. At noon, I went to my original hotel, Hanoi Graceful Hotel and settled in a bit. The manager, Lee, was very helpful and informative. He helped me plan out my day in the old city.
Using my map, and checking it every five minutes because the streets are mazes, I made it to the Water Puppet Theater to purchase my ticket for later in the afternoon. The ticket was $4.50, not bad.
With several hours to spare before the show, I visited the Jade Temple and walked around the lake. I zig-zagged through some of the streets nearby and popped my head into some of the vendors. There are lots of things for sale: clothes, shoes, knick-knacks, pots, pans, food, jewelry, watches, cameras, etc. I’m considering ditching the suitcase, and buying a backpack so I’m keeping my eye out for one that I like.
Right before the show, I had a late lunch/early dinner at the restaurant next-door. The water puppet show was inside a theater with air-conditioning. It was very nice to sit down and relax after walking for several hours. The show was very entertaining and later I learned that this was a way of entertainment for the villagers when the rice fields flooded. This form of art started several centuries ago when they would use sticks in the rice fields and make up puppet shows.
In the evening, I headed back to the hotel to pack up my backpack for my early excursion in the morning to a Ha Long Bay. Hanoi is my base for some of my other overnight trips to Ha Long Bay and Sapa. It is a semi busy city and I only saw a little bit of it today, but it was easy and cheap, so I was happy. My evening ended with a sunset from my balcony. I will be back in a couple days.