Hanoi is one of the largest cities in Vietnam. It has a population of 7.7 million and last year they had approximately 5 million motorbikes registered there. So, it is no surprise that the traffic is absolutely insane and crossing the road is nothing short of a small mission!
Where to stay
We stayed right smack dab in the old quarter in the Hanoi Marvellous Hotel & Spa. I could not recommended this hotel enough. The staff went over and above to ensure that we had a pleasant stay. They were always available to help us book trips, taxis, recommend places to eat and something so simple – they remembered our names and greeted us using them. It was such a small touch but made such a huge difference to the overall experience. Not only were the staff friendly, they genuinely cared about our comfort. Every member of staff knew what activity we had done that day, and simply asked us about it. Something that a lot of hotels could learn a lot from!
What to do
Visit Tran Quac Pagoda
Just outside the city, about a 10 minute drive, you will find the famous Tran Quac Pagoda that is often used as one of the many symbols of Vietnam. We took a taxi from our hotel out here, and spent some time wandering the grounds before heading back in to the city.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a short walk from here, so if this is something you would like to see, you are in the perfect location to visit it afterwards.
Go see the red bridge at Hoàn Kiêm Lake
This lake is right in the centre of the old quarter and is one of the busiest and most touristic area of the city. The lake is home to Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda sitting in the centre on a small island and also the red wooden bridge which is a great photo spot. While we were there, the area was under construction so we didn’t get a very nice photo…but sure look!
Go see the Thang Long Water Puppet Show
One of the most famous things to do in Hanoi is go to see a water puppet performance. These traditional stories have a strong reference to Vietnamese folklore. They tell of day-to-day living in rural Vietnam and Vietnamese folk tales that are told by grandparents to their grandchildren. These include stories of the harvest, fishing and festivals too. It was a weird hour, as the whole thing was in Vietnamese, but enjoyable none the less!
One thing that you must do in Hanoi is eat lots of delicious Vietnamese food. While there are many food tours that you can book on to, we decided to just wander around ourselves and pay some of the best well known restaurants a visit for their famous bites – these included the following:
- Bun Bo Nam Bo (Beef Noodle Salad) -67 Hàng Điếu, Cửa Đông
- Banh My 25 (Vietnamese Sandwiches) -5 Hàng Cá, Hàng Bồ
- Quan An Ngon (Banh Xeo – Vietnamese Rice Pancakes) – 18 Phan Bội Châu, Cửa Nam
- Bun Cha Ta (Bun Cha – Pork & Noodles) – 21 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ
Check out the train track running through the city
Running through one of the main streets in Hanoi is a fully functioning train track. The train goes by twice daily (3.30pm & 7.30pm) and is surrounded by local houses and markets. It was a really thing to see amongst all of the hustle and bustle of the town just inches away from people’s houses. One of the best places to watch the train go by is between Lê Duẩn and Khâm Thin street in Hanoi’s old quarter.
Drink egg coffee
Vietnam is famous for egg coffee – while I didn’t try it, Andrew did once and let’s just say it was an experience! Giang Cafe is famous for this so be sure to check it out!
The main weekend market that runs through the Old Quarter district from 7pm onwards every Friday to Sunday stretches from Hang Dao Street to the edge of Dong Xuan Market. It brings together all of the random merchandise that Vietnam has to offer. Expect cheap clothing, fake bags and watches and the usual tourist memorabilia.
Overall I really enjoyed Hanoi. It was a great introduction to madness that is Vietnam, and definitely a city not to be missed.