Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital and it’s buzzing with life; scooters and people everywhere. When we arrived it was late at night in a car and the one thing that struck us was how people drove their motorcycles. I read somewhere that there are more scooters in Vietnam than people – I don’t know how accurate that is, but it definitely felt that way! Motorists driving scooters would get on the sidewalks to bypass traffic; there is no such thing as pedestrian right of way here as we quickly learned, haha. That being said, Hanoi is full of well-dressed people making their way through the day on motorcycles. The other thing that struck us was the French influence that remained in its architecture.
We stayed in a lovely French-style villa with the cutest interior design and architecture.
Our first night there we went out and walked by the lake and went down some busy streets where it seemed locals and tourists alike were watching a big soccer match. When the Vietnamese team scored, there was a big uproar of cheer so we walked down the street and cheered along with everyone 🙂 On that same street though, I got accosted by hosts at the different restaurants trying to bring in customers. One actually grabbed my arm and tried to playfully bring me and my group into the restaurant; however, Suzie and Andrew jumped in and sternly said “no, cam un” (no, thank you). I didn’t feel threatened and generally wasn’t bothered by the interaction, but it was definitely unusual.
Hanoi’s streets were busy and full of beautiful flowers – I don’t know if it was because it was Christmas day but flowers were EVERYWHERE!
So here are some tips for Hanoi:
- Try the street food, it’s very good. Just look for busy stalls/places.
- Try the egg coffee (as well as the Vietnamese coffee). Hanoi has a cool cafe scene.
- Eat lots of fruits.
- Stroll by Hoan Kiem lake in the evening – it’s pretty.
- Water puppet show? My sister did it and she liked it but I didn’t go so I can’t advise but it seems to be a popular thing tourists do in Hanoi as it originated there.
- Maison Centrale, nicknamed Hanoi Hilton Prison by American POWs, was obviously biased in its write-ups but interesting enough. However, if you’re not into memorial-type things like this, skip the stop by all means but do go to the War Remnants Museum in HCM City – that was heartbreaking and it had a more balanced approach to the war. I’ll talk about it a bit in my Saigon post.
- Cyclo tours – just be a tourist and do it, it’s crazy how these guys maneuver the traffic. It’s also an easy way to see big landmarks like the Opera House, Temple of Literature, etc.
- If you have time, go to Ninh Binh nearby to see the rice fields – my only regret was not carving out time for this!
Even if you go to Hanoi without much of a plan, it’s easy to immerse yourself in its life and culture.
Until next time,