Tips and Tricks for getting the most out of your trip to Hanoi
Hanoi was a different type of city that I had not experienced in Southeast Asia yet. The city located in northern Vietnam will be in culture shock at first but within 24 hours you’ll be a pro. The streets are narrow, the city is overpopulated with motorbikes, and the smell of Pho is everywhere.
Need To Know: Crossing the Street in Hanoi
I know it sounds ridiculous but you need a guide for crossing the street but trust me you’ll be thankful when you get there. The streets are too narrow, which makes it hard for cars to drive through. The street signs and stop lights are scares throughout the city so it makes crossing the street a little tricky.
The best way to cross the street is to take your time to walk slow and steadily, and don’t hesitate. It takes a couple of tries to be confident. Especially if you aren’t aware of how to do it when you first get there. The locals know how to navigate around foreigners. They will not hit you no matter how much you think they are going too.
Need To Know: Hotels in Hanoi
Another great find thanks to hotels.com, at Hanoi 3B. I knew I wanted to find a hotel within walking distance of Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter. Since we were unsure of how many days we would actually stay (because we wanted to make the trip to Halong Bay) the hotel was able to accommodate our flexible schedule and didn’t have an issue with adding on another night.
The hotel itself wasn’t the nicest looks-wise, but the staff was very friendly. They were able to give us tips and recommendations for our time in Hanoi.
Need To Know: Hanoi Street Food
Street food is the theme of Southeast Asia. Wandering the streets of Hanoi there are a million food stands around. However, you wouldn’t notice them without seeing the people in front of eating there. Most of these stands have kid-size tables and chairs on the sidewalk to eat at. All are Dongs only. The popular dishes being served are pho, Bahn mi sandwiches, and bun cha (pork and rice).
Need To Know: Sites to See in Hanoi
Believe it or not, Hanoi is filled with rich and historic culture. In the center of the city is a huge lake, Hoan Kiem Lake. You can take a nice leisurely walk around the lake. Surrounding the 1-mile radius are a couple of historic sites. On the northwest side of the lake, you can visit the Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of the Jade Mountain) and walk across the Huckster’s Bridge to view it. There is an entrance fee but a very small amount.
North of the lake is street vendors, stores, and stands that are selling little souvenirs. Also in that area is the Thang Long Water Puppet show is located. If you’re into performing arts and want to experience traditional Vietnamese culture you have to check this out. The whole show is about an hour’s experience with the story and music told in Vietnamese. We had no clue what was going on the entire time but were able to appreciate the beauty of this ancient Vietnamese tradition. The shows book up in advance so I stop by the ticket booth and preplan your show.
Another historic site we visited in our time in Hanoi was the Hot Lo Prison, known to American’s as The Hanoi Hilton. This is the historic site where the Vietnamese people held the POWs during World War II. I’m not that much of a history buff, but it was very informative of what took place there. I found this site to be similar to a lot of memorial sites around the world.
Need To Know: Shopping in Hanoi
Shopping in Hanoi is hands down one of the best places to do so. Not only are you able to pick up a bunch of handcrafted souvenirs, but you can get a full wardrobe in Hanoi with your favorite brands for less. Hanoi has different districts within the city of where to pick up your favorite items. There is a shoe district, silk district, undergarment district, and the list goes on.
Most of your favorite brands are manufactured in the city and can be found for less than you would get them overseas. The best part is you can haggle your price down too! When the night market is going on, you can find a pair of Nike sneakers that would cost you $200 for $20. Don’t worry they not fake either.
Need To Know: Pampering Yourself in Hanoi
As you’re walking around looking for a nice new pair of sneakers, you will stumble upon a ton of spas around the city. Similar to the rest of Southeast Asia, you can get 60 min massages for $7 and gel manicure and pedicure for $20.
The best massage I got during my whole vacation was at Midori Spa. There are a couple of locations but the masseuses are blind women. It was hands down (no pun intended) one of the best massages that I received during the duration.
Hanoi was nothing like I expected it to be but I enjoyed every part of it. The city of Hanoi is definitely a culture shock but if you explore it well enough you can find the calm and peacefulness in between the hustle and bustle of the city life.