I can describe the streets of Hanoi in two words. Chaotically exotic. I always have the impression that Vietnam is a very exotic country and that's what keeps me from going back there. Two years ago, I was able to experience life in HCMC during a short vacation. I decided to go back to Vietnam to see Hanoi this time and it didn't disappoint.
We stayed in a hotel at the heart of the Old Quarter, which I can say has it's poignant charm. I love the fact that the Old Quarter can be explored on foot. Anyone can just get lost in the labyrinth of streets in which one can see lots of different merchandise from fireworks, clothes, party needs, ceramics, bags, even gravestones.
Crossing the streets of Hanoi requires skills. I remember during our first day when I always needed someone else crossing the street to go with before I do since I don't know if I am audacious enough to do it on my own. I was crossing the streets like a true Hanoian though on my third day. :P
Exploring the streets of Hanoi is not much of a challenge. All you have to do is to have a city map with you and comfy shoes and you'll get around town in a breeze. My companion and I explored the city on our own, without a tour guide and was able to still visit the must-see places in Hanoi.
|Hanoi City Map|
We spent our first day walking around the Old Quarter. Some places that are around the vicinity of the Old Quarter are Hoan Kiem Lake and St. Joseph's Cathedral.
I suggest you stop and sit down at one of the park benches so you'll get to observe how Hanoians go on with their daily lives. I love how laid back they are and how they cherish the beauty of their city.
|The Huc Bridge|
|St. Joseph's Cathedral|
We visited St. Joseph Cathedral, a gothic church in the center of the Old Quarter during our first day in Hanoi. I wished to say a short prayer inside the church but unfortunately, the cathedral only opens its doors to churchgoers during weekends. I said my prayer of thanks in front of this grand cathedral, then proceeded to one of the shops in front to get the famous lemon iced tea. yogurt fruits and sunflower seeds. Yes, people from Hanoi love hanging out at these places. :)
|Hanoians taking a mid day break with friends, eating yogurt fruits and sunflower seeds.|
Hanoi is a pretty walkable city. My companion and I were able to go around Hanoi and visited the must-see places just by walking around. We visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda, the West Lake, the Army Museum, then back to the Old Quarter to buy some stuff to bring home.
|A park nearby our hotel.|
|Trees lined up leading us to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum|
|Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum|
|One Pillar Pagoda|
Hanoi is equally enjoyable during the evening. We felt absolutely safe walking around the Old Quarter. We also tried a lot of street food during the night and revelled the beer culture the Vietnamese truly enjoy.
|Center of Hanoi at night|
|Wanna try Bia Hoi? Try this place in front of a city hospital.|
|Hanoi, celebrating the earth hour in front of the Opera House|
|Street shopping at night!|
Hanoi is indeed a lovely place to visit. I would definitely be back there sometime soon. Everything is cheap, people are friendly and most of all the food is heavenly!
I have read someone's blog before, comparing how different Hanoi is from Ho Chi Minh City and I would certainly agree that they do have a different vibe. Hanoi is more relaxed and laid back compared to the very busy HCMC. One thing I noticed as well is that, the shops in Hanoi closes at around 11:00 PM or 12:00 midnight, unlike HCMC that keeps the establishments open till the wee hours of the morning. It was something that I dont really complain about. I love the fact that everything seems relaxed and unbent. A place that one can truly enjoy and get immersed in their slow paced life.
Read more about my Hanoi trip: