A little wandering around and we were primed for a nap. A quick little lay down went a bit long and we woke up starving. Out we went in search of food and a little more exploring of Hanoi. I really wanted to find something local, I didn't want to come all this way to eat my meals in the Americanized restaurants. I would be perfectly happy with a noodle soup or some fried rice. Since it was a little late now, everything began to close, but we kept walking around beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake and the city kept buzzing even as the hours past. We learned that the people were preparing for a three day celebration of Hanoi being 1000 years old. The Vietnamese take great pride in their culture so this was a pretty big deal. The lake was surrounded by lights and music playing, it was pretty cool.
We did eventually find food. It was noodle soup served straight out of the pot street side. We pulled up a seat basically in an ally and joined a handful of others for a midnight snack. Doesn't get more local than that.
The next day we were also spending in Hanoi, but this time we were more so killing time until we caught our overnight sleeper train to Sapa.
In the morning we found a great bakery for breakfast, fresh banana bread, croissants and all things yummy. Of course, this is simply a counter roadside and there is no place to stop to eat. You practically get run over while bagging your goods. Nonetheless, you can't beat fresh baked pastry for breakfast. We ate while we walked to this enormous three story market that is described as a tourist sight on its own. And it was. This place was huge and sold everything you could imagine. Consumer sensory overload. We didn't stay long.
We left one market for another and went to check out the "shoe market". It was probably six blocks long of one shoe "store" after another. Nothing of great quality, but kept us looking for a few hours actually.
After that we wandered around in search of lunch and a nap in the park. We found lunch, but when I laid down in the park it didn't take long for the police to come over blowing his whistle and yelling at me. Apparently parks are for "looking" and "sitting", there is no napping allowed, not even lying down. So much for that.
We left the park and went to see the old POW prison now dubbed the "Hanoi Hilton". Pretty creepy stuff. After that we took a cyclo (little cart on the front of a bicycle that you sit in and a driver pushes you around in) to the water puppet theatre. This was highly recommend in my guide book but turned out not to live up to its reputation. At least I got that nap I was looking for.
Back to the hotel for a shower and a change then our taxi was to pick us up and take us to the night train. When we woke up we'd be in Lao Chai which is a 2 hour bus ride to Sapa where we'd be doing some incredible trekking.
More pictures of Hanoi here: