I should probably start with explaining the title of this post. I would love to say that we spent our days in Hanoi being cultural, expanding our minds and ‘finding ourselves’ as one does when one goes travelling; when in reality all we did was find ourselves in the bottom of a beer bottle which is how we ended up one drunken night at an underground illegal rave.
Hanoi was our first stop in Vietnam and once again another first for me. I have visited Thailand twice before with my family so I had my expectations and was fully prepared for the ‘looky looky’ men bothering you and having to (and expected to) barter everything. I was very naive and knew absolutely nothing about Vietnam and its history.
Our hostel in Hanoi was lovely and had free local beer everyday, what’s not to love?! We were right next to pub street which was a blessing and a curse. It meant we could be home in 2 minutes but it also meant just ‘going for a beer’ never ended well. I really liked Hanoi as a city, its tiny streets were packed out with shops, markets and restaurants which means your always finding gems in unexpected areas. To be honest I wasn’t a fan of Vietnamese food but there was a lot of variety, Trip adviser was our savoir for finding nice restaurants in our budget but of course we tried a few of the local dishes.
If you thought Bangkok’s traffic was mad then Vietnam will blow your mind. Vietnam as a whole is inundated with motorbikes, everybody has them and they will try to load as many people and things onto one motorbike as possible. It also means that trying to cross the road is an interesting experience. They have traffic lights but nobody seems to abide by them. The best piece of advice I was given by a local man was to just start crossing the road slow and steady and do not stop abruptly or run; the motorbikes will see you and avoid your route. Sounds easy but is very daunting the first time which is why we tried to cross the road with the local commuters as much as possible.
Now to the best part about Hanoi… Beer! Beer street isn’t very big but damn is it lethal. Local beer is around 75p and buckets of spirits are pretty cheap too. I’m not sure if it’s a law, or just a general rule to keep the police off their backs, but most clubs or bars with loud music will keep their doors shut after a certain time to keep noise in. This is how we found ourselves in an underground illegal rave in Hanoi.
Walking to another bar a man opens up, what I thought was a shop front shutter, and tells us the party is through here and to get in quick before the police find out. You can hear the beat of the music in the distance but all there is is a dark alley way sloping further down into the darkness. Armed with a large Scotsman we decided to check it out. As you reach the end of this suspicious alley you open this big door to reveal a packed out club full of drunk tourists blaring thumping music. Not sure on why the police couldn’t know or why it was so secretive but my god was it a good night. It wasn’t long before the club was shutting and we were once again told to get away from the location as quickly as possible before the police arrived. Weird.
Our time in Hanoi wasn’t all partying and hangovers, we also visited the museums and the old Prison. I knew absolutely nothing about the Vietnam war prior to this and it was an eyeopener learning about it. One thing I will say, the museums and information they provide can sometimes be very biased. Luckily Dee knows so much about the Vietnam war (and history in general) so was able to fill in some of the blanks that were left out and give us a different side of the story. All I will say is if you visit museums in Vietnam be very open minded and do some research when you get home, as some (not all) were very biased.