Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and gateway for a lot of people into the amazing country. Not only is it the entry point for Halong Bay but it’s also a great place to explore for a few days. After my last visit I couldn’t wait to explore again, see some new places and check out some new sights.
Arriving at Hanoi airport, it’s easy to get a taxi into the City and I had planned ahead by downloading Grab. It’s the Asian version of Uber and you can either pay in cash or through an account. Last time I visited Hanoi with friends the hotel was erm… cockroach friendly, so I had booked a nice one called the Light Hotel in the old quarter.
I had 48 hours before flying on to Hong Kong, so what can you do in that time??
Is there anything better? It definitely ranks up there with my fave foods, so what better way to start the day than with some Phó the clear noodle broth that everyone in Vietnam eats.
Fancy an on the go lunch? Banh Mi is sold everywhere, French influence is found in the baguette and pate but the rest is solid Vietnamese…filled with fresh herbs, vegetables and pork.
Wash it down with Vietnamese coffee and finish it off with a French pastry, the influence from being a former colony is still strong in the food. Dinner could be fresh whole fish, BBQ or one of the egg pancake dishes like Banh Xeo where you wrap meat skewers up.with peanut sauce and crunchy salad leaves.
Stuck for dessert? Some Vietnamese cakes could go down a treat, with their blend of European and Asian flavours, or try some fresh and tasty Asian fruits!
Ho Chi Minh
The former leader’s presence here is impossible to miss, with his mausoleum dominating one area of the City along with the huge museum dedicated to his life and legacy.
The area around the Mausoleum is nice to walk around, with some gardens and the famous downed B52 plane hidden in a small lake nearby.
The museum is interesting if you enjoy learning a little about a country while you’re there, and really interesting if you’re a history buff. Especially with the information on Vietnam’s communist era.
There is also the big lake nearby which is nice to stroll around, or cross the central road running through it and check out a temple, war memorial and grab a drink or an ice cream.
The famous old quarter is full to the brim with coffee shops, hole in the wall restaurants and street eateries.
Unfortunately it’s also full of the same souvenir and tour shops. Its definitely a worthwhile visit to wander around and now and again you’ll find a little slice of the real old quarter.
On this visit I only spent time there in the day, but the nightlife is cheap and fun. It really starts when the curfew hits and you’re snuck from bar to bar.
The other cool thing can be found on street walking the length of Phung Hung St you pass life-like paintings of Vietnamese and Hanoi life. It’s super instagrammable and you can have a lot of fun posing at each place.
Hoan Kiem Lake
Found within the old quarter, the area around the lake is great to take a stroll first thing in the morning and, as the sun goes down you’ll catch all the locals exercising and enjoying romantic walks. It’s the small temple in the middle of the lake that most people come to see, crossing a lovely red bridge it’s a peaceful sanctuary in a very busy City.
At night everything is lit up beautifully and it’s a great place to come before heading into the winding alleyways of the old quarter.
Hanoi Train Street
I didn’t know this existed last time I came, but I wish I had! Found just on the outskirts of the old quarter, it’s cool to walk along the tracks in the daytime.
The fun part of this street is when the train comes through, usually in the evenings or more frequently on the weekend. You arrive early, pick one of the tiny bars and sit on the typical plastic stools drinking a nice cold beer or cocktail, chat to the locals and wait.
Then when it’s nearly time, you edge right up to the walls of the street and watch as the train comes down…filling the street as it zooms past. It was really fun to do and our bar got us to put coins with our names on the tracks. If we found then flattened it’s supposed to be good luck, and I found mine!
There are a few other things you can do whilst in Hanoi, Hoa Lo prison is interesting to find out a bit about how the French treated the Vietnamese. Thang Long, the Imperial City doesn’t quite live up to its name but was pleasant to walk around, I liked the bunkers the most. There are even a couple more lakes to wander around that aren’t far away. Of course the aforementioned Halong Bay is an amazing place to visit. Hanoi is also a great start off point to explore the North such as Sapa.
The real essence of Hanoi though is immersing yourself in the culture, food and people, and enjoying the neverending sea of motorbikes that somehow part around you as you cross the road.