Hello fellow travel enthusiasts, have you traveled anywhere recently? Well, I have. A few weekends ago I had the opportunity of visiting Vietnam's capital city, Hanoi. Hanoi, whose streets swarm with scooters, lies on the right bank of Asia's Red River.
Ming Mang, the second emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, was the one that gave Hanoi (inside river) its name. The city has a diverse culture of French, Soviet, and Asian influences thanks to its history.
Here's a summary of the said history:
Settlement in Hanoi dates back to at least 3000 BC. And throughout history, the region has been under several leaderships. These include Nanyue which ushered 1000+ years of Chinese rule in Hanoi; Ming Dynasty which was the last Chinese sovereign dynasty; Vietnamese Le Dynasty which overthrew the Ming Dynasty in 1428; Nguyen Dynasty which was the last ruling family of Vietnam; and the French who occupied Hanoi in 1873 and 1946. The Vietnam War (1955-1975) considerably destroyed the city. And while rebuilding it, Soviet architecture was heavily applied. Hanoi became the capital of Socialist Republic of Vietnam on 2 July 1976.
Is there an airport of entry?
Yes, the award-winning Noi Bai International Airport. To get from the airport to Hanoi, you can either take the express bus no. 86; a taxi; airport bus shuttles; or a public bus.
Regarding where to stay,
Expect to be spoiled for choice as Hanoi has plenty of both luxurious and affordable hotels. I won't make any recommendations since my preference might not be yours. However, here's a tip, book the first night only in advance. That way if you're displeased by your initial choice you can always check into another hotel.
Once you've settled in its time to hit the streets of Hanoi, let's go!
Explore the Old Quarter
In the Old Quarter pedestrians and scooters try to outdo each other in number while street foods beckon you at every turn. In short, it's noisy and lively. Oh, and you know how there's dodgeball? Well, you'll play a lot of dodgescooter here lol.
As you walk around, admire the unique architecture and colonial-era built buildings. Sample the various street foods which include pho rice noodles, barbecues, cha ca fish and others. Also, step into any coffee shop and have a French baguette as you try out different types of java.
The Old Quarter is also a dream come true for any shopping enthusiast. Its streets have dozens of shops selling all kinds of merchandise fit for souvenirs. These include paintings, quilts, silk products, lacquerware, jewelry, coffee beans, clothes, embroidered material and bags, shoes, etc.
To extensively explore Old Quarter you'll need to set aside at least 4 hours. Preferably morning to early afternoon when it's moderately hot.
Tour Hoan Kiem Lake
Unlike the Old Quarter, the ambiance at Hoan Kiem Lake is quiet hence serene. In the lake is a small island called Jade upon which sits Tortoise Tower (18th century). Inside the tower, you'll find a preserved giant turtle (circa 1968) among other miscellaneous historical artifacts.
Pop in at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Although water puppetry is now widespread, the art originated in 11th century Vietnam. In this theatre, puppets perform in a pool of water and tell various stories musically. One such story is the legend of the Restored Sword of King Le, a tale of Hoan Kiem Lake and the giant turtle.
Visit the Hanoi Opera House
The Opera House was built in 1911 by the French and renovated in 1997. Its dazzling architecture features Gothic themes, pillared domes, shuttered windows, a glass room, and others. Moreover, you can get to watch a variety of concerts including symphonies, Vietnamese opera, ballet, etc.
Take cooking lessons
A definite must for anybody that loves cooking and enjoys Vietnamese foods as I do. Highway 4 eateries offer great half-day culinary lessons. Plus, you get to eat the fruits of your labor, yum!
I cannot possibly exhaust everything to do in Hanoi on such a short article. But here's a list of things I felt should be on the list haha.
- Visit Ho Chi Minh's burial place in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh was an influential Vietnamese leader.
- Check out Hoa Lo Prison otherwise, Maison Centrale or Hanoi Hilton.
- Stop by the Lotte Observation Deck Hanoi and see phenomenal panoramic views of Hanoi from the 65th floor.
- Tour the Vietnam Women's Museum. The artifacts in the museum narrate the evolution of the Vietnamese woman.
- And your kids will love ice-skating in Savico Megamall Hanoi, playing in the water parks, and a fun-filled day at the Hanoi Central Circus.
- Check out Hanoi's fine dining places and enjoy gastronomic Asian food
Take me back!!!