We flew from quiet Hoi An to busy Hanoi in the early hours to spend a day in the city before our cruise in Halong Bay.
Hanoi is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. The city is located on the banks of the Red River, surrounded by colonial buildings, pagodas and museums. This is a great place to explore on foot, and the city itself is known for its cuisine, vibrant nightlife, handicrafts and architecture.
Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to explore this city as we may have wanted to due to our short time here. We ended up exploring pieces of the Old Quarter, as we just didn’t have time for more. There are so much you can do, and so many day trips you can enjoy whilst using Hanoi as your hub in Vietnam, and I would certainly recommend spending at least 3 days here.
Read more about Hanoi: Things to do in Hanoi
TIP! This is also the perfect stopover for you who wish to venture out to Sapa and its spectacular vistas. It overlooks a valley with towering mountains as far as the eye can see, and the local people fill the streets with colors. Read more on Sapa here: Welcome to Sapa
If your planning a trip to Sapa, you should check out the following hotel and its awesome infinity pool: Topas Ecolodge.
Read more: 8 Best Day Trips from Hanoi
Okay, so let´s get back to Hanoi and our most limited time there. We stayed at a property called Hanoi La Storia Hotel. This is a cozy boutique hotel offering 3 star amenities, and is located in a tranquil street in the heart of Hanoi Old Quarter. Great value for money! Its also super close to the Night Market and other popular attractions, and the in-room facilities are fine.
Whilst we were here, we decided to spend our day just walking around the city, exploring its many popular sights and attractions. We also had on of our very best meals during the entire trip here, Bun Cha. You can only imagine the flavor explosion – truly a beautiful taste sensation! 🙂
Bun Cha is a Vietnamese dish of grilled pork and noodle, served over a plate of white rice noodle and herbs. You add your own spices, dipping sauce, herbs etc. Its delicious and you simply must try it when in Hanoi!
The Old Quarter is considered the main tourist destination in Hanoi. The streets are packed with scooters, bicycles and cars swarming all around you, and it is actually somewhat hard to walk on the tiny sidewalks. There are vendors everywhere, and visitors have no choice but to act local, facing the traffic and exploring this crazy, historical area, which by the way, is an absolute must-do in Hanoi!
We decided to walk around the popular Hoan Kiem Lake, which actually ended up being quite peaceful due to its atmosphere. This is a lovely place with a fascinating history. The legend has it that Emperor Le Loi had a magical sword from the Dragon King to fight against the Chinese Oppressors. This sword came from Hoan Kiem Lake, and was later returned after the successful battle when an enormous golden turtle surfaced in the same lake. Le Loi returned the sword to the turtle, and named the area Hoan Kiem lake, meaning “Lake of the Returned Sword”.
Have you ever been to Hanoi? 🙂