After coming back from a long fun year abroad in Europe, I knew i'd be feeling some sort of traveling withdrawals. Especially since I had to jump straight back into an intensive week long summer school module the moment I came back.
Also, Jerald and I have been apart for half a year, and since he has graduated from University, he'd be starting his work life soon. So, at the beginning of august, we planned a short trip to Vietnam - a trip we wanted to take a year ago but never got the chance to.
Originally, we intended for it to be a weeklong trip, however, Jerald had to attend his convocation, on the 3rd of August, so we had to cut our trip short by a couple of days, and left out Sapa from our destination list.
Nevertheless, it was an incredible few days spent in Hanoi and Halong Bay. I would definitely want to go back and visit Vietnam again, there are so many other cities and smaller villages I'd love to visit (Sapa, Hoi An, etc.)
In Hanoi, we Jerald found this hotel room on a discount it was surprisingly HUGE. I was definitely not expecting it. I loved its hardwood floors, the sofa area, a large bed. Definitely a massive upgrade from the hostels I was staying in during all my Europe trips!
Hotels we stayed at:We were lucky enough to get rooms that were on the higher levels of the building, which meant we could look out and see the city at night or in the day!
Annam Legend Hotel - Average breakfast, but awesome room!
Hanoi Legacy Hotel - Hang Bac - Slightly cheaper but smaller room, decent breakfast!
Hanoi was way more than what I expected, and here are 5 of (my favourite) things to do in Hanoi & I think one should not miss if they were to be there!
1 | Go for a Water Puppet Show
This is a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show where around 10 puppeteers were in the water, and manipulating the different puppets. There was spurting water, fire, jumping and somersaulting puppets. Dragons, people, & fish puppets. This is Hanoi's oldest Water Puppet show/stage. And when we went to buy tickets it was almost sold out! Thankfully they had several time slots for the shows.
The receptionist at our hotel highly recommended it, and said it was really funny.
Since I don't understand Vietnamese, I didn't quite get the story. But, to be able to watch these puppeteers perform their craft, was rather incredible. Plus! All the music and sound effect were LIVE. It was cool. These performers work really hard though. After the show I was at ended, they probably had a 10min break before the next show was schedule to begin!
Duration of Show: approx. 1 hrRegardless of your comprehension of Vietnamnese, I think this Water Puppet show is definitely worth watching!
Cost: 100k Dong (USD$4.45) and 20k Dong (USD$0.89) for a ticket to allow you to take photos
2 | Walk Around Hanoi Lake
Hanoi lake is known as a couple's hotspot! Its quite a huge lake, so walking around the lake would take sometime. It it is a gorgeous lake where cars and motorbikes weren't allowed nearby - unlike the regular pavements by the roads! It was free from the insane traffic of Hanoi, which was something I thoroughly appreciated. The lake was super calm, serene, and just a great place to spend the afternoon.
As Jerald and I were walking around the lake, and snapping a multitude of photos, there were so many others sitting around in the pointy triangular vietnamese hats, tons of couples, and even some kid playing around.
Bring a picnic basket if you'd like, or just have leisure stroll around and people watch. No matter what you do, there is not missing the romantic Hanoi Lake when you're in Hanoi!
3 | Shop at the Dong Xuan Night Market/ Streets
One of my favourite things to do in Vietnam is SHOP. Before going for my trip, I heard from Jerald that a few of his friends found Vietnam to be a little uninspiring on the fashion front.
Initially, walking along the main streets of Vietnam I conquered with their opinions. Most of the stalls sold very similar items and they weren't anything special. That was until we found this one side street - Hang Quat Street - with all the interesting boutique shops, and I was like "SCOREEE!"
Other than shopping along the streets, It is also interesting to take a look at the Night Market and the Dong Xuan Market.
Dong Xuan Market is this wholesale market with food, clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, PLENTY of items. Sadly, they really mean wholesale when they say wholesale market. I saw this pretty pair of shoes, but the shop owner refused to let me buy it, and said "minimum 100". What would I even do with 100 pairs of the same shoe right?
So I just left the shop.
It is interesting to see how these wholesale market shop owners don't bother to tout, interact with tourist or attempt some sales. They merely stared at us when we walked by and then proceed on to packing their things.
I guess it is more of observing what they do, and having the experience of being in a crammed space with TONS of apparels that stood out. Oh I definitely felt a little claustrophobic inside.
4 | See the City From Above
When I was traveling around Europe, there were so many times when I climbed a up a bell tower, or went up to a higher ground just to get an aerial view of the city. Before going to Europe, I never really did such things on my travels within Asia - many asian cities don't have those kind of high rise buildings, or tall bell towers to begin with.
But as the capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi had several mid-height buildings and cafés with a stunning view of the city. The hustle and bustle of the streets below. The colourful signboards and buildings. The view from above and the vibe of the city you get when you're on the 5th of 6th storey of a building is so different from that on the ground.
5 | Enjoy A Cruise to Halong Bay
This is one of the most common excursion tourists take out of Hanoi. Almost every hotel offers booking services and information for a cruise to the stunning Halong Bay.
It usually lasts 2 days and you get to cruise around beautiful UNESCO Heritage site visiting several stops along the way (upcoming post dedicated to that - stay tuned!).
There you have it! 5 things to do in Hanoi as a rough guide for people who are thinking of visiting Vietnamese capital!
Since I have way too many pictures to share, i've decided to split them up so I can share more about what I did on different parts of my journey, and all my favourite moments. I hope you like this upcoming Vietnam Travel Guide series.
Watch my youtube video for highlights of what I did in Vietnam!