Hanoi – Thai Embassy / Thai Visa Trip (Non-Moto)
Seeing as I had never been to Vietnam before, I figured I would apply for my new Thai visa in the capital city. I decided to go on the weekend to get a taste of the city before applying for my visa on the Monday morning. (Next time I visit I hope to ride in Vietnam instead.) *FOR DETAILED INFO ON THE THAI EMBASSY IN HANOI, GO TO BOTTOM OF REPORT*
Saturday 8th June 2019
Flight: AIR ASIA (direct from CNX to HAN)
The start of my trip boded well, when I realised I had a whole row of seats to myself on the flight.
When I arrived at Noi Ba airport, I first got some money exchanged then bought a data sim card (all from the information desk area. Yes, probably cheaper elsewhere, but I wanted fuss free).
Normally I go to my accomodation by taxi when I arrive at a new place, but as I had plenty of time I decided to take the bus. I figured the slow ride to my destination would give me a chance to look at the scenery. The best bus to take is the number 86 express (clean, with aircon and wifi). Walk out the airport, turn left, then cross over the road.
The bus stop is easy to spot and at just 30k Dong to the old quarter, it’s a bargain. DETAILED INFO ON THE BUS HERE
The bus dropped me off within walking distance to my hotel/guesthouse and I enjoyed the walk to get there.
I stayed at Hanoi Lucky Hotel (cheap and cheerful and within walking distance of much of what I wanted to see)
When I first arrived at my hotel I was initially informed that there was no booking for me (despite me booking and paying in advance via Agoda), but it was soon resolved. I got my key and got cleaned up. My room was ok, but there was this rather ususal addition…
After a shower and change of clothes I headed out into the city.
A great people-watching spot at all times of the day. This area is very popular with locals and tourists. There are some nice terraced restaurants and coffee shops surrounding the area too, where you can watch a birds-eye view of the activities below.
Next stop was a walk to (and around) Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
The road area around the lake gets closed off from traffic during the weekend, so it was a pleasant experience to walk around this zone. Lots of people were out enjoying the lakeside area.
I stopped in at Thủy Tạ Café for dinner and a drink whilst the sun set. The view was nice, but my food was not so great (but I confess I am not a big fan of Vietnamese food in general, and much prefer the layered flavour and spiciness of Thai food).
I walked around and enjoyed the sights, albeit being a bit noisy for me (I have a terrible low tolerance for noise).
I woke up refreshed after a good nights sleep only to have the sudden horror realisation that I exchanged too many dollars into Dong, leaving me with not enough money to cover my visa fee the next morning. Do’h! As it was a Sunday, all the banks were closed. My first stop was an ATM, in the hope that I could withdraw money in Dollars. Turned out it would only give Dong. So, my next step was searching online for an independent backstreet money exchange.
But coffee first! I stopped in at Conifer Four Seasons Book Café, which has a view of the lake.
This area is popular with families and it seems many bring their children here in the hope of them having an opportunity to practice English with foreign visitors. The children were lovely. I had language exchanges with four different children that morning.
Next stop was a backstreet money exchange bureau.
Often these dumb moments can produce an unexpected adventure or additional interesting moment. ..so long as it all works out in the end.
Once my money was sorted out I took a Grab Taxi Bike ride to Train Street. I remember seeing this street on a program many years ago and it was on my must-see list. I wanted to get there before the train was due to come though.
As for taking a Grab Taxi Bike in Hanoi, that can be quite an experience in itself…
When I got to train street it looked great. Like something out of a movie set.
Lots of cool little coffee shops lined both sides of the track. (Food was meh though)
The train coming through was fantastic! I loved it!
I next took a Grab Taxi Bike back to the main Old Quarter hub and found a small café serving Egg Coffee. (Egg Coffee was apparently created during the war, when milk was in short supply, so a milk alternative was created using egg whites. More info HERE)
During my visit I tried Egg Coffee, Coconut Coffee, and Traditional Vietnamese Coffee.
I compiled a video of all three variations:
I walked around for a bit then headed back to my hotel for a siesta, in preparation for an evening stroll. Hanoi was baking hot, so with all the walking I was beat!
In the evening I walked to Ưu Đàm Chay, a famous vegetarian restaurant in Hanoi. Having not enjoyed the food much so far, I figured I would give this famous place a shot. There were many great reviews about it. It did not disappoint, despite there being more Thai inspired dishes than Vietnamese. I ordered the pumpkin soup, some seasoned stuffed tofu and a salty lemonade.
The pumpkin soup was a work of art and delicious, as was the salty lemonade.
The tofu though had that very vinegary flavour that preserved tofu can sometimes get. ..so that one was a bit of a thumbs down.
I walked around the lake area, enjoying sights and sounds, including some foreigners busking.
I titled this video “not begpacking” because I personally think it is rather unfair to taint buskers with the same brush as begging. (“Begpacking” is a recent term which describes foreign travelers sitting in streets (usually developing countries), begging for money to help fund their travels).
I posted a full description about this video and my thoughts on it, on my Facebook Page.
You are welcome to enter into the discussion via this link: FB – NOT BEGPACKING.
An early rise for me as I planned to get to the Thai Embassy as soon as it opened (at 8:30am), and I planned to walk there. The Monday morning traffic was hectic, extremely noisy, and felt quite dangerous at times. Initially I thought that when the green man came on for pedestrians that there would be no traffic coming through at that time, but vehicles still came around from the left. Given the copious amount of traffic in the city, and at this busy time, it felt precarious crossing the road. In truth I have never encountered a more inconsiderate driving culture before. They see you, but don’t stop. This is not just my own unfamiliarity with the system, this is plain and simple obnoxious driving/riding. The horn usage is also insane and unnecessary. I was also honked at for merely standing on the roadside. In truth it irritated the hell out of me and my ears were ringing from the constant OBNOXIOUS honking.
(I made the thumbnail small, incase feet grosses you out..but these marks are from a car tire. The car saw me crossing but just didn’t stop until the very last minute, bashing my hip slightly and catching my foot with the tire. Thankfully my foot was not ran over completely, and only the top soft tissue bruised. Was a very scary moment though!
I arrived early at the consulate and so had a quick coffee at Highland Coffee. I liked the name (given my Scottish background), but the coffee wasn’t good (I am such a coffee snob..sorry). It was very noisy inside also (maybe I am really a terrible snob? :O – actually, it’s more that I am just very introverted.)
After the chaos of pedestrian life I rested up for a little while before going out to get a coconut coffee, and then visit Đền Ngọc Sơn (Temple of the Jade Mountain).
Entry fee: 30,000 dong. Lovely temple on Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
After visiting the temple I decided to get a Grab Taxi Bike to take me The Temple of Literature. However, it was proving difficult to get one. I had a strange situation of a young local man on a motorbike telling me he will take me where I want to go for free. Something just felt really off. Because of this, and because of waiting around for so long, I ended up flagging a local taxi cab instead. The price for a cab via Grab Taxi was around 30k, so I figured it wouldn’t be a whole lot more. In the end though, she tried to charge me over 400k !! We had a bit of a fight about it and I gave her 100k with a curled lip and a bad taste in my mouth. Outrageous. It is no wonder that companies like Grab are going to push local cabs out of business with these kinds of insulting scams.
Văn Miếu- Quốc Tử Giám (The Temple of Literature)
I enjoyed the temple, although not in the same goose-bumpy way that Cambodian history gives me. It was a little busy despite being an off-peak time. Worth the visit though.
By the time I had viewed all of the temple and also a small place next to it I was very hot and tired. I got myself a Grab Bike ride and headed back to the hotel to rest up. My legs were throbbing from all the walking too and my foot was feeling a little achy from being almost run over. That night I just chilled out and relaxed. I slept early.
After waking up quite late I headed to a small hidden cafe for (apparently) the best traditional coffee in Hanoi. I liked the little doorway and the small path to get to it. Made it feel like a secret place.
When I entered there was a local TV film crew interviewing the owner. I decided to sit outside and watch the view, rather than disturb the crew inside. The view was very nice as it gave me a view of the cathedral and local life riding by.
At this restaurant there was some minor altercation of some kind, which resulted in the owner shouting. At first I had my earphones in, listening to relaxing music, so I didn’t notice until after the couple in front of me got up fast, looking a bit spooked out. I actually think the owner might just have been having a small fight with a family member. The owner was actually really lovely, so I think it was just a mini domestic of some sort. It was a good meal and at great prices.
After lunch I took a Grab Bike to the Vietnam Military History Museum. This turned out to be the highlight of my trip (along with my visit to Train Street).
See for yourself just how spectacular the display is.
War is always a sad event, no matter who the victor is. As I walked around my skin prickled thinking about the history. So many lives and families affected. Terrible really. In my own family my grandfather was killed in WWII, leaving behind my grandmother who was pregnant with my father at the time. My grandmother already had one young daughter to care for, so was now left to cope on her own during very tough times. I cannot imagine how she coped, or how different history would have been if not for the war.
After more wandering about (will post a few photos at the end of the write up), I rested up in my room again. The weather was relentlessly hot and I walked a lot during my trip. Plus there was the incessant city noise. I had to take some rest stops to recharge my internal battery. When the sun was beginning to set I headed out to Hoàn Kiếm Lake.My plan was to film the famous five way intersection from Legend Beer restaurant. It was really mezmerizing to watch!
Once I had my fill of traffic chaos I walked to St.Joseph’s Cathedral area to enjoy a quieter dinner. I had previously spotted a nice looking place whilst drinking coffee at the Hanoi Cafe’ and figured it would be a nice spot for watching the people around the Cathedral. It was a quieter respite from the noisy Legends Beer spot.
I went to bed happy that I had a small taste of Hanoi and that my visa was good to go. The next day I would be flying back to Thailand.
I had another lazy morning lie-in before checking out earlier than I needed to. I only had a very small bag with me, so I decided I would just make my way slowly around the city then get the bus to the airport. It was a nice walk, but very hot. I took a few more photos before getting on the bus.
At the airport I ate lunch at Hai Cang restaurant and had another Vietnamese coffee. Sorry to say, but a huge thumbs down. The food was not good, the service not much better and the coffee so sweet that it was undrinkable.
I checked in and treated myself to a small bottle of really great perfume. I suppose that is one of the benefits of flying. Duty free prices!
The flight was just a short 1.5 hours from Hanoi to Chiang Mai, and I was greeted with a rainbow just before landing back in Chiang Mai.
I had parked my bike in the airport free carpark, which started up with no issues. As I rode back to my home I was profoundly aware of the lack of noisy horns being tooted, and very grateful for it. It made the ride home feel like someone had switched off the city sounds. It was a rather Zen-like experience. It makes me wonder what Vietnamese people think when they come to Thailand.
Hope you enjoyed this trip report.
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THAI EMBASSY HANOI
(I chose this embassy for my new visa because I had heard it was a very quiet embassy and a quick process. Which was true. On the Monday morning there were only four of us waiting to make the application)
Visa application hours:
Monday – Friday
09.00 – 12.00 hrs
(Observe local holidays and Thai holidays)
Visa applications should be made in the morning between 9am and 12 lunchtime. The Embassy opens at 8:30 am, however, so you can fill out your application and wait to be seen from this time onwards.
You will be given an appointment of when you should collect your visa. The time I was given was 4pm. You cannot collect earlier than the appointment time. So, it is best to book a late flight out (if flying out the same day), or book for the next day.
Cost of visa varies depending on type of visa, but currency accepted is USD. Make sure that you have dollars for paying for your visa.
The manner in Vietnam is more curt, so expect the officers to be a bit sharp. I additionally provided a bank statement along with my non-immigrant visa application, because I heard this may occasionally be requested. I think it is a good idea to print out just in case asked. Note that some countries can enter Vietnam and obtain a free Visa on Arrival, however, other countries (such as the USA) will need to apply in advance. The full list of countries/info is HERE
Photo Highlights – A selection of photos from my trip (click to view full size)