The City For Peace
The capital of Vietnam, has a population of over 8.1 million people (2nd largest city). In October of 2010, it officially marked the 1,000th year since the establishment of the city.
Hanoi is a huge city filled with many other things to do besides my recommendations. While staying in Hanoi (or Vietnam for that matter), go with the flow. Meet new people and get recommendations from them. Some of the most fun places we went and activities we did were all recommendations from fellow travelers. LIVE BOUNDARY-LESS!!!
Where To Stay:
While visiting Hanoi, I recommend staying in “Old Quarter”. Old Quarters has the traditional Vietnamese atmosphere. It’s made up of small street blocks and alleys. We stayed at a Hostel called Babylon Garden Inn, which was one of my best and favorite hostel experiences!! They have free breakfast, free beer in the evenings, laundry service, a pool, AIR CONDITIONING (hard to find in Vietnam), and they have a travel desk where they can help you arrange trips, tours, and rentals!!!
What To Do:
- Throughout the day, trains come through this residential neighborhood, only coming inches from the buildings
- There’s also cafes along the track, get there early so you can get a prime spot
- Mon – Friday
7 pm; 7.45 pm; 8.30 pm; 10 pm
6 am; 9 am ; 11.20 am; 3.20 pm; 5.30 pm; 6 pm; 7 pm; 7.45 pm; 8.30 pm; 9 pm ; 11 pm
- Mon – Friday
- PS- the train does not slow down or stop for people on the track, watch and listen to the locals
2) Visit Cafes
- Cafe Dinh
- It’s hard to find, it’s through a small ally and up some small stairs
- Make sure to get the egg coffee, world famous
- The Note Cafe
- More expensive
- Cute cafe with the walls covered in Post-it Notes with messages from people around the World
- Hidden Gem Cafe
- My favorite cafe we went to
- All the tables and chairs are made out of recycled material
3) See a Water Puppet Show
- Water Puppetry has been around Vietnam for more than 1000 years
- It’s a performance that you will never forget. It’s a one hour show, all in Vietnamese
- There are 5 shows available everyday
- 3PM, 4:10PM, 5:20PM, 6:30PM, and 8PM
- To buy tickets, it’s easier, and much cheaper, if you go to the theater itself
Located within Old Quarters: Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
4) Go See St. Josephs Cathedral & Walk Around Hoàn Kiếm Lake
- The name meaning “Lake of the Returned Sword”, is at the center of Hanoi
- The Cathedral was built back in 1886, making it the oldest church in Hanoi.
- According to Catholic Hierarchy Catalog, there around 6 million Catholics in Vietnam, representing just below 7% of the total population.
5) Rent MotorBikes and go to Ba Vi National Park
- We rented motorbikes from Babylon Garden Inn (which the payments and bikes are already there for you convience), but there’s other places around where you can get motorbikes for cheap.
- The Park is about 1.5 hours away from Hanoi
- Just outside of the park, theres is a waterfall and waterpark, costing about 150,000 VND (less than $7).
- Go to the Cactus Garden– with over 1,000 cacti species, it’s a spectacular greenhouse/dome that’ll make you think you’re in a kaleidoscope.
- When the French colonized Vietnam back in the 19th century, they used Ba Vi as a vacation spot. There’s an abandoned church with moss covered walls and tress sprouting out of the roof, it’s called Cathedral Pour Bavi.
- There is also 3 peaks you can trek to:
- King Peak: the highest summit in the park
- Tan Vien Peak: a temple where they worship the God of the mountain range, which is 1 of the 4 immortals in Vietnamese mytholgy.
- Ngoc Hoa Peak: third highest peak
6) Get a Drink at Unicorn Pub
A world-renowned cocktail bar with a laid back atmosphere
Very welcoming staff that can speak english
Try the ‘Pho-cocktail’ (2012 international award winning cocktail)… and make sure to watch as they prepare it!
7) Hỏa Lò Prison- AKA ‘Hanoi-Hilton’:
- It was a prison used by the French colonists in French Indochina for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for U.S. prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.
- This Prison is where John McCain was held for over 5.5 years.
Best Food & Drink
1. Bia Hoi!!!
Popular in the Northern part of Vietnam, it’s a cheap draft beer that only costs about 50 cents. It can be found in small bars, but mostly sold on the street corners.
2. Huong Viet
One of my favorite places to eat in Hanoi. Delicious and cheap Vietnamese food. Map
3. Ta Hien Beer Street
The heart of ‘Old Quarters’ Hanoi, this is where a lot of restaurants and bars are located. Often referred to as “International Crossroads” because of all the different nationalities that gather here. Map
4. Vietnamese Coffee
Not like your typical Western Coffee, this coffee has a strong taste and is served with a small metal drip filter that sits on top of your cup, often over condensed milk.