We arrived in Ha Noi at around 6 in the morning after another overnight sleeper bus. As soon as we stepped off the bus, there was the usual barrage of hotels reps and taxi drivers trying to sell us a room. We happened to pre-book a hotel online, so we made the 40 minute schlep across town to get a feel for the city.
At the crack of dawn the city was alive. Women on bicycles delivering fresh produce and flowers. Locals eating hearty breakfasts at noodle and soup stands; parents taking their children to school on motorbikes, one kid in front and one in the rear; and retirees practicing tai chi or playing badminton.
We also witnessed how the wealthiest Vietnamese people live. The east side of Hoan Kiem Lake houses branches of some of the worlds biggest banks as well as huge storefronts of major fashion labels. Our hotel was located in the crowded Old Quarter of Ha Noi. Most tourists wind up staying in the Old Quarter, but it still maintains its authentic charm with streets lined with all sorts of housewares, electronics, and food shops.
We settled into a noodle shop for some early morning Banh Cuon, layered flat noodles with crumbled mushrooms and an optional egg on top.