Why go to Hanoi?
Back in 2012, I couldn’t have expected for Vietnam to be one of the most visited countries in the world. I loved my experience in Hanoi but I honestly did not assume the influx of people asking me about the city or the big increase of airfare!
Hanoi offers you the opportunity to go back in time, to a war stricken Vietnam and an eager to rise nation. If you’re only focusing on Hanoi, you’ll be greeted with the best museums, artworks, and temples as it is slowly rising to be one of the most culturally rich cities in the world.
Find yourself in Hanoi and you’ll find an assortment of options for backpackers, luxury travellers, and those in between.
Many things have changed since 2012. For one: I learned to drink coffee. A lot.
Despite it all, I’ve always remembered my trip to Hanoi with the fondness especially because it’s one of the first South East Asian countries I was able to visit outside of the Philippines.
While you try to avoid the fast motorcycles coming your way as you cross the street (picture: streets with no signs and pedestrians), take note of the unique architecture surrounding the city. As Hanoi was previously occupied by the French, many of its charm stems from its mixed Asian and European heritage.
Walk through Old Town and you’ll be greeted by many European-inspired coffee shops with a unique twist. Go take photos over at the French Quarter and be stunned by Vietnamese peddling their way around tight corners with big bags of rice.
Despite articles and posts on the Internet about how some travellers do not like Vietnam (or Hanoi, to be specific) I’m a firm believer that you should go here and see it for yourself before believing anyone else.
And so, if you’re planning to head over here, I bring you my bucket list! Simple tips and recommendations to make your stay in Hanoi even better:
#1. Explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter
I was fortunate to stay at a hotel in the Old Quarter where its considered as the prime location for the best shopping, coffee shops, and museums in the entire city. Stay here and get lost in old Vietnam. Literally.
#2. Watch people do Tai Chi at Hoan Kiem Lake
Wake up at 5:00am or so, to head on over to Hoan Kiem Lake and watch the Vietnamese do Tai Chi. Even better, you can join them for free.
#3. Say a little prayer at One Pillar Pagoda
The One Pillar Pagoda sits on the middle of the Hoan Kiem Lake, which is a reproduction of one of the temples built during the Ly Dynasty. When you offer a prayer in the Pagoda, it symbolises hope for good health and a beautiful life.
#4. Visit the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts
With Hanoi’s thriving art scene, a visit to their museums and galleries is becoming a must! Check out the Museum of Fine Arts for their eclectic and oriental Vietnamese paintings.
#5. If you’d like it to be a little more interesting yet morbid, tour around Hoa Lo Prison
Hoa Lo may be labeled as a prison but now a days, it’s known as a museum where travellers can learn more about Vietnam’s history and know where US soldiers were imprisoned during the war.
#6. Watch a water puppet show
In Old Town, you can also watch the water puppet show at the Water Puppet Theatre — it’s considered as one of the oldest form of Vietnamese entertainment and can’t be seen anywhere else in South East Asia.
#7. Visit one the oldest building in the country
A visit to the Temple of Literature brings you to centuries ago where famous Vietnamese diplomats and philosophers studied. The temple was built around 1070 and was greatly inspired by Confucius.
Image taken from the Fanny Ice Cream Official Website
#8. Eat sushi ice cream at Fanny’s Ice Cream Parlour
The famous ice cream parlour originated in Singapore but has made a sensation all over Vietnam. Their ice creams are made with all natural ingredients and styled with only the best artisans.
#9. Drink good coffee at any hole in the wall
Okay, I admit I was not an avid coffee drinker back then. But I’ll have you know – I still remember drinking that tall iced caramel latte and thinking it was one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. And yeah, I also have a photo with it!
Admittedly, a few years later, my aunt came back from her recent trip to Hanoi and brought me home a bag of coffee beans. Best. Ones. Ever. Seriously.
#10. Go to the weekly night market
Our hotel was actually located near the Dong Xuan Night market in the Old Quarter. When you go here, you’ll find tons of trinkets, jewellery, and even cheap tourist souvenirs!
#11. Eat Pho
No Vietnamese restaurant in whatever country can ever compare to trying Pho in Hanoi! I don’t think I ever tried eating anything but Vietnamese food for a long while after my trip.
#12. See a show at the Hanoi Opera House
The Hanoi Opera House consists of weekly shows, much like the ones in Vienna with an Asian touch. You’ll have the chance to choose between comedies, local plays, and musicals.
#13. Soak in the history while walking around botanical gardens
If there’s one thing I remember about being in Vietnam (besides the shopping, honestly), it’s the botanical gardens all over the city. There’s going to be a beautiful lake in the middle of it while bride to be’s try to avoid one another while shooting for their nuptial video. Haha.
#14. Take a trip to Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is one of the great natural wonders of the world and therefore, makes your Hanoi trip all the more worth it. As far as I can remember, the entire trip would take you hours as you’ll have to ride a small boat to the Fisherman’s Village.
#15. See the entire city of Hanoi at Lotte Tower Observation Deck
Getting to see a full view of Hanoi at night or in the morning is one of the best things you can experience. It’s when people are most alive whether it would be farmers and restaurant owners or young professionals. Admittedly, the best time to go here would be either the first hour of opening or some time around 7-8:00pm as you also get to avoid the crowd this way.
Over to you:
Have you ever been to Hanoi? Or are you planning a trip going there?
Featured Image taken from Pexels