We have just come to the end of our time in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi! What a way to start our trip, plunged right in the deep-end and had a pretty big culture shock, but we have fallen in love with this city. Mental traffic and all. We spent about about a week in Hanoi (with a few day trips) and got to see nearly everything that we wanted to do.
Where we stayed
For our first few nights in Hanoi we decided to stay in Iris Boutique Hotel in Old Town. We came to this decision mainly because of jet lag. Both of us get cranky when we haven’t had enough sleep and so we wanted a nice quiet environment where we could nap and get used to the timezone. For our remaining time in Hanoi we stayed with Bedgasm Hostel, which is just around the corner from Iris Boutique Hotel. Obviously a lot cheaper than the hotel but also a lot more hustle and bustle. It was comfortable enough with charging points next to every bed and curtains for privacy, but we found that 12 people in a room is far too many.
How to get around
We found the best way of getting around for us was walking. When in a new city we like to walk to places so that you can see every part of it. Hanoi was perfect for this. There is something different on every street, literally. You can also hire motorcycles but just watch to for the insane traffic and driving around the city. Uber is also available in Hanoi and is usually cheaper than the traditional taxis. Or you can use the local equivalent Grab, which is most popular for its motorcycle taxis. You’ll be able to see them in their green helmets and green cars.
When in Hanoi you must try Bun Cha! It is thought to have originated in Hanoi and is traditionally grilled pork with rice noodles accompanied with a dipping sauce, fried spring rolls and a mix of leaves. All combined together create bun cha. Delicious! Another of our favourite meals was banh mi. Basically a baguette with some kind of yummy filling. We had a chicken and carrot filling and a tofu with cucumber and carrot filling. Both so tasty and not necessarily tasting just like a sandwich we would have at home.
Hanoi is full of things to do but actually just walking around Old Town in Hanoi was an experience in itself. Going down all the backstreets, seeing the long tall buildings and the multiple knots of wires to telephone poles, the motorbikes whizzing past you and the odd things you find for sale. Old Town is a great place to explore and hang out.
The temple of literature is a serene oasis in the middle of the chaos of Hanoi. These traditional buildings and gardens are perfect to get away from the stress of the zig-zagging traffic. Whilst we were there we saw a large group of girls graduating. They were all wearing traditional ao dai and floral headdresses. They put our photoshoots to shame, well its not hard really but they took so many and knew all the poses. Their insatgram game must be on point!
On a couple of occasions we ventured out of Hanoi for day trips to Ha Long Bay and Van Long nature reserve. Both are easily accessible from Hanoi (Ha Long Bay- 4 hrs, Van Long- 2hrs) and most tour companies do pick ups from Old Town. We didn’t book either of these before we came out so don’t worry if you are not sure, however we did find it cheaper online than in the local tour offices. You can try and haggle the prices down but be aware that most of the time you will get what you paid for.
Hanoi has been a great start to our trip!
Next… Hue and Hoi An.