Tuesday, September 25, 2012

84. What to do in Hanoi, Vietnam

We recently visited Hanoi on a five day trip.
Hanoi is described as the cultural capital of Vietnam. A beautiful place where East meets West, with busy market streets, tube houses, temples and pagodas mixed with French-style architecture like the Opera House which has been carefully maintained in the Old Quarter of the city. 

Right next door to the Old Quarter is the French Quarter, an affluent district full of luxury boutiques, small parks and home to the Sofitel Metropole, an immaculate colonial style hotel which reminds me of the Raffles in Singapore. We stayed in the Metropole Wing where luxurious old world grandeur has been preserved. The Opera Wing was added in 1996 in a beautiful neo-classical style. Rooms in both sides are lovely, but I'd take the historical side again. Try the afternoon tea, it's delicious and a great way to relax after a morning of shopping (I mean walking)!

Hanoi is a logical city, which I like... The streets in the Old Quarter which were once known as workshop areas, are named according to the crafts sold, for example 'Hang Dau' is the street for shoes, 'Hang Bac' is the street for jewellery (one of the oldest streets in Hanoi), and 'Hang Gai' for silks and tailoring. Simple!  

1. Hire a bike and ride around Hoan Kiem lake at sunrise (OK we did it at 8:00am). This is a great way to see the city... go early for a few hours when the sun is still low.

2. Eat Pho noodles... my absolute favourite, I ate them everyday!

3. Enjoy traditional Vietnamese at Koto restaurant - a non-profit restaurant with a training program for street/disadvantaged youths, teaching english and developing a hospitality career. Koto means 'Know one, Teach one'. The food is delicious and the average meal is $5.00!

4. Visit the Markets. Cho Dong Xuan market is good for souvenirs, fabrics, spices, fabrics, handicrafts and the atmosphere. Cho Hang Da is good for ceramics.

5. Wonder around the late night outdoor market, full of food stalls selling traditional street food. My advice is to only eat food that is cooked fresh right in front of you!

6. I did a guided Photography walk. It was a great way to see things from a local perspective.

7. The best places on Hang Gai to buy Scarves are Hadong Silk for fine silk shawls, scarves and pashminas (I bought 6 for friends and family at ~$25-$30 each). Khai Silk for high quality European styles (my top pick but more expensive), and Hoa Silk.

8. Go to Van Mieu the Temple of Literature, it is one of the oldest universities in the world founded to study Confucian thought. Initially it only admitted princes, but soon expanded to bright students. We were lucky enough to have a private dinner here, which was beautiful!

9. Visit Tran Quoc Pagoda - built in the 6th century, it is considered the oldest in Vietnam. Make sure your knees and shoulders are covered!

10. Try Vietnamese coffee... I'm not a coffee drinker, but I was told it's a must. The coffee is strong because of the French influence, and they serve it with condensed milk - ask for extra and stir frequently as it's quite bitter! The premium coffee is called Weasel coffee.

Finally, it was recommended we visit Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, but we ran out of time! 

 Hanoi is a walking city... spend the morning walking and the afternoon by the pool with a book. Leave time to explore the art galleries, whist there are plenty of cheap art stalls in the streets, Vietnam hosts some amazing artists. 

If you only have a few days in North Vietnam, stay in Hanoi for 2-3 nights then visit world-heritage listed Halong Bay overnight (it's a 4-hour drive from Hanoi).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...