Most visitors to Vietnam will begin their holiday by flying into Hanoi. With it’s atmospheric old quarter, lantern-fringed lake and an abundance of bustle and noise resonating from the local stalls and mopeds, it’s easy to spend a happy couple of days experiencing this vibrant Asian city. Any guide book will give you the lowdown on the tourist spots, such as the Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and the Museum of Ethnic Minorities (both well worth a visit) but if you wish to see another side of Hanoi on your Vietnam holiday, read on…
1. Get lost amongst the steamy streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter
Hanoi’s old town is a myriad of sights, smells and noise. Give yourself time to wander into the heart of the city’s narrow streets, finding pop up stalls on every corner selling delicious cuisine, and dodging mopeds as they wind lazily in and out of strolling pedestrians. Stroll through the rabbit-warren streets, filling your belly with local culinary delights such as Banh cuon, Pho, Bun cha, Xoi and Banh goi. Yum! Our Street Food Safari evening tour is a perfect way to embark on a culinary journey through the Old Quarter, sampling local delicacies as you go.
2. Attempt to cross a road
When you first arrive in bustling Hanoi, the sheer amount of mopeds (and lack of road rules) can be slightly daunting. However, once you realise that you won’t get much sightseeing done without crossing a road or two, just start walking across slowly and you’ll find that the drivers will just wind around you and you’ll get to the other side with no problem. Easy peasy!
3. Visit the Huc Bridge & Hoan Kiem Lake at night
This famous bridge is definitely worth a visit on your Hanoi trip. In the daytime the bridge is flanked by emerald water, but at night the waterside becomes lit by lanterns hanging from the trees and the bridge glows a fiery red, adding to the reflections in the lake. The Huc Bridge is your route across to Jade Island which houses Ngoc Son Temple, a colourful pagoda which offers fab views across the water.
4. Visit a temple during Tet (Vietnamese new year)
If you manage to book your Vietnam trip over Tet, you will find it is a great time to experience this spiritual city. All through February the smell of incense fills the air and you’ll spot shrines and offerings all around. If you decide to visit a temple or two you will more than likely discover a religious ritual occuring and brightly coloured flowers on display. If you see a statue of a turtle, don’t forget to pat it on the head for good luck, and if you’re feeling flush, tuck a couple of dong under it as your own personal offering.
5. Bag yourself a beverage
Tired of having to pay £5 for a pint in your local pub? Head down to Bia Hoi Corner where a beer only costs about 25p! Sit yourself down on a teeny tiny plastic chair and rub shoulders with the locals, soaking up the frenzied atmosphere of scooters and cars whizzing by and a sea of people enjoying a beer in this buzzing location. Also hidden in the Old Quarter, you’ll find Giang Cafe Hanoi, a favourite haunt amongst locals that specialises in Ca Phe Trung, a.k.a. Egg Coffee. Yep, you heard it right. Developed when milk was scarce in Vietnam, this truly unique beverage combines egg yolk, condensed milk, coffee powder, milk, butter and cheese to provide a delicious, one-of-a-kind treat.