I arrived in Hanoi from Mumbai, yesterday morning. I am here for an investor conference on the Vietnamese economy. This communist nation is considered by Asia experts as a mini-China in it's sunrise stage. I got in a few days early to take get some much needed R & R and enjoy this exotic French Colonial era town, with a 1000 year history. The Hanoi airport is a small relatively modern airport (compared to many Indian airports). I had to wait for about an hour to get my visa on arrival. After that, I was off on a cab heading to my hotel in the city ($10 for a 45 minute ride). Hanoi's facade reminds me a bit of small towns in India, except Hanoi is cleaner. The traffic is just as chaotic with lots of Honda mopeds and scooters weaving in and out of traffic. There is a lot of vehicular pollution and many bikers wear masks to cover their mouths. Luckily, the French quarter is not as crowded and the traffic is bit lighter. The driver spoke no English and in the end tried to charge me twice as much but I was firm and paid him the $10 bill I had shown while negotiating.
I found a few restaurant choices and a nightclub to complete the evening. As I headed back to my hotel to get ready for the evening, I walked past a busy alley where I a lot of teenagers on bikes were entering and exiting. Curious, I stepped in and found that it led to a local ice cream shop selling sticks of delicious milk and milk chocolate ice cream. It turned out to be a local favorite with city's teenagers who come here to have ice-cream with their friends. The ice-cream was delicious and I got talking to some kids who wanted to practice their English with me. I took some pics of my new friends and proceeded to a local mall. The mall was pretty dead and I guessed that consumerism was still in its early stages in the economy here. However, I saw quite a few popular European brands. I picked up some Evian water bottles for the toom and headed back to my hotel which is right next to the Hanoi Opera. The Opera house has beautiful architecture and looks stunning at night.