On the Path of The Tall and Narrow
When driving around or strolling around in Hanoi, you would not fail to see some amazingly interesting buildings. Many are narrow, and quite a few are quite tall. The reason for this is that similar to in Thailand, the building owners are taxed based on the measurement of the front of their house. Therefore in a bid to reduce taxes, the house owners tended to build houses that have very narrow fronts, but to have sufficient space for the whole family, they built upwards.
In Thailand, it is slightly different. The houses there tend to be narrow and really long, but are seldom very tall.
Of bright colours and Facades that are painted
Another great feature of the houses here are the colours. Probably due to the influence of their previous French colonial masters, the houses here sport bright yellow, brilliant blue and even green facades. However, due to the poverty of city dwellers, only the front of the houses are painted, and the exterior side walls are left in the original and natural colour-which is grey or off-white.
If you take a look at the buildings, you will see that many have nice terraces and balconies with ornamental balustrades and windows with wooden shutters-which gives the place a very European feel and charm, of course, it is with a Vietnamese twist. :- )
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Discover Vinh Ha Long
A trip to Hanoi would be incomplete without a visit to Ha Long Bay, a world heritage site. The bay is beautiful and is dotted with thousands of limestone islands and islets jutting out of the tranquil sea.
Ha Long is about 3 hours away from Hanoi. It is easier to book a tour (can easily be arranged from the hotel) rather than travelling on your own. There is option for a half-day cruise around Ha Long bay which takes about 4 hours or you may even want to stay overnight on one of the boats. Packages usually include seafood lunch/dinner on board the ship.
The rock formations sometime resemble dogs, turtles an even a famous formation known as the fighting cock formation. It may take days to actually see all the features of the bay but for most visitors a half day cruise suffice. But do take note that the long travelling time between Hanoi and Ha Long may mean you would like to spend more time here!
Or alternatively you may spend some time along the tourist strip of Bai Chay (where the jetty on the mainland is) after the cruise. There is an amusement park, the usual touristic stuff like cafes, bars and even a casino. Or you can do some shopping at the night market.
Traditional Vietnamese handicrafts.
Handmade Products by ethnic minorities in Vietnam.
Is a non profit organization, have based on Sapa - if you visit Ta Phin village, you will see the house of this org. Colourful Brocades bags, clothes..etc..
when in a red country, try the red beer
Though this was in the more touristy area of town and surely the prices were indicative of being a tourist trap, it was mostly frequented by Communist Party types. So, it was more interesting than it appeared from the outside. It was certainly a nice upscale place but the beer was run of the mill brewpub fodder, though for Vietnam this made it still one of the tastiest beers around. The Bia Do (Red beer) was a dryish hoppy beer and a nice change of pace from the bia hoi that had become my staple. The Bia Vang was lighter colored beer and not quite as tasty. They were pricey though at 15,000 dong ($1) a beer!
There are many small travel agencies in the old quarter of hanoi offering U tours and trips to Halong Bay, SaPa mountain tribes...
I guess anyone may offer the same. There are some famous ones, but here is my experience:
1.- Kangaroo Travel. I tried first here, as I had read they were good in the LP guide. They were fool for the next day, when I wanted to start. Then I asked them if I could leave my rucksack (was heavy) there while I looked for something else, as I didn't have hotel yet and didn't want to carry it around. They simply said NO, they weren't very polite :-(((
2.- Sihn Travel. Then I went to a local agent of this all Vietnam company. They have many local little branches. I found the worst of all. The guy didn't speak any english and seemed to me a little dumb, so after 30 minutes trying to explain him what I wanted, I left.
3.- Then my motorbike driver advised me to go to ODC Travel, a new local company. They were kind, helpful, and convinced me with many photos, exhaustive details, and even comments left by other foreign travellers... I finally chose this and I must say it was a good choice. I had what I paid for, the service was OK, the boat wonderful and was highly satisfied.
This reminded me that AVIS ad of the 50s: "We try harder" (than Hertz, no.1). Sometimes small companies offer a more exquisite service because "they try harder"...
Address: 43 Hang Bo St. / 142 Hang Bac St.
Tel (84.4) 828 87 29. Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org