Goodmorning Vietnam! After my days of Zen in Luang Prabang, I am trying to prepare myself mentally for my arrival in busy Hanoi. After a relaxed flight, that literally flew by, I find myself in a taxi on my way to my hotel in the heart of the old quarter. Within minutes I see thousands of motorbikes coming from every possible direction and I notice that traffic rules don’t really exist here: you can take over on the right side, keep driving when the lights turn red and sticking to the bumper in front of you as close as possible, is absolutely no problem, as long as you first honk your horn…at home this would be considered impolite, here it is just a way of saying ‘I’m coming’. Kind of like: ‘you may be dead within the next minute, but at least I warned you…’.
Hanoi old quarter – sights & highlights
My first impression of Hanoi is a busy chaos of traffic & people. A totally different experience from my meditational bike rides in laid-back Luang Prabang! What I was about to discover, was that Hanoi starts to feel like home very quickly.
My hotel in Hanoi:
My hotel, the Essence D’Orient Hotel & Spa, is an oasis in the bustling heart of the city. For under 40 dollars, you can book a luxury room, that has the same standards a 5-star hotel would have back home. The breakfast is AMAZING! There are so many options! One morning I decide to go for the Vietnamese breakfast with pho & dumplings. Absolutely delicious! I stayed in a room on the 5th floor and in a Junior Suite on the 3rd floor. I prefered the Superior Room on the 5th floor. It was more quiet and my bed was more comfortable than the Junior Suite on the 3rd floor.
Hanoi sights & highlights
Things to do in Hanoi – sights:
Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. This is a unique experience…You can feel communism with every breath you take. Before our visit, we need to leave all our belongings at the entrance, we have to keep our hands out of our pockets, walk side by side like soldiers & smiling/ laughing is not allowed. When I accidentally walk on the wrong side of the road, a very intense looking 1.55 meter tall soldier, with a huge weapen, orders me to get back in line…oops. The mausoleum is a pilgrim place for a lot of Vietnamese. Ho Chi Minh is a hero, almost like a god, to a lot of them. Therefore it is worth the visit!
Things to do in Hanoi – sights & highlights
The Museum of Fine Arts is a great place to learn more about Vietnam’s history and artworks. You’ll see a lot of interesting, archeological finds and beautiful sculptures from ancient times.
The Women’s Museum is an inspiring museum, that shows the customs & habits of women in different tribes in Vietnam, throughout the years. A visit will take you an hour, including a free audio tour.
The Temple of Literature, close to the Museum of Fine Arts, is one of the biggest tourist spots in Hanoi, so make sure to be here on time to avoid the busloads of Chinese tourists…’Goodmorning Vietnam!’. The beautiful temple was build in 1070 and was the first university of Vietnam. It was used as a university from 1076 untill 1779 and a lot of leading Vietnamese studied here, like the crown princess.Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake and go shopping south of the lake. This is a beautiful walk. Most of the streets in Hanoi have a speciality. There are streets where they sell soap, a street where they sell coffee etc.. This is the area where you can find big shopping malls with luxury brands too.
Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
Restaurants and street food tour:
Try a Street Food Tour! This will take you to local places that you would never find by yourself, or wouldn’t trust at first hand….The food is amazing and I met a lot of other fellow travelers. Such a fun night out! Click HERE for the tour I booked!
Delicious street food in Hanoi
Restaurant Red Bean! The prices are a little higher here, still not expensive for western standards, but the food is absolutely worth the money! I had an amazing dinner here! Try the pan-seared tuna, with sunshine tomatoes, asparagus, mango chutney, cheese and passion fruit sauce. Need I say more?
Have lunch at The Hanoi Social Club. This is a great spot for a Latte & Laptop session and there are a lot of tasty veggie options on the menu. The place looks so pretty, the staff is super friendly and they serve the addictive ‘egg coffee’ too….more about that later.
Restaurant Red Bean
Hanoi Social Club – hotspots Hanoi
Restaurant New Day is good for a cheap, traditional Vietnamese bite. You can sit outside on small seats, very basic! But it is a really cheap bite.
Green Mango has a quiet courtyard, where you can relax and take a break from the busy Hanoi traffic. The prices are a little higher here and the WIFI is fast. The food is just OK, so I would recommend sitting down for a cold drink or a coffee.
Restaurant Cau Go has a beautiful view over Hoan Kiem Lake. I loved the Banana Blossom & Chicken Salad here! Try the homemade ginger tea, with lemon en honey too!
Koto is a training restaurant, close to the Temple of Literature & The Museum of Fine Arts and the perfect spot for lunch after all the sightseeing.
Bun Cha Ta! This is one of my favorites in the list. This small restaurant serves only 4 dishes, but they are all very tasty and cheap! Try the Bun Cha, it is my favorite! This restaurant is also part of the Street Food Tour.
The restaurant in my hotel: The Essence Restaurant, is soooo good! Try the Ban Xeo and have the Nem for dessert….They have really high ratings on Tripadvisor and I understand why. Loved it!
Hanoi sights & highlights
Cocktails & drinks:
My favorite hangout was The Lantern Lounge. It was very close to my hotel and such a beautiful & relaxed spot, with amazing cocktails! The interior looks like a Bedouin tent and if the eastern vibe get’s you in the mood, you can smoke shisha. WIFI is fast here.
The Hanoi Social Club is also a nice place for a drink. They have an upstairs terrace and a good list of cocktails.
If you want to drink cheap beers, you just grab a plastic small seat in the old quarter and blend with the locals. My friend Lisi decided to order some chicken feet…Bon appétit!
Cocktails at the Lantern Lounge
The ultimate highlight of Hanoi for me is the coffee! I am not a huge coffee drinker at home, but damn, this coffee is GOOD! Somehow I ended up at Cong Caphe every day for a Côt Dùa Cà Phê: coffee with coconut ice cream, that they make with ice, coconut cream and condensed milk. Yummmmmmmm! You think you know what it will taste like, but wait untill you actually take your first sip… Addiction allert!
Don’t leave town without trying the famous Caphe Trung, aka egg coffee, at Giang Café! This basic cafe is very popular with the locals and it is not hard to understand why. This is the best egg coffee I had in Vietnam. Egg coffee is creamy, thick and sweet. Why don’t we have this at home?!
Coconut coffee at Cong Caphe, most delicious coconut coffee EVER!
Cong Caphe: best spot for coffee in Hanoi
Caphe Trung, aka egg coffee, so addictive!
The Hanoi Social Club has a really good egg coffee too! There are a lot of amazing coffee spots in this city, but I will write a special post just about coffee in Hanoi!
The weather in Hanoi can be a bit chilly, with tempeatures much lower than in the south of Vietnam.
The weather and temperature in Hanoi:
Hanoi can be a bit chilly, I wore my WINTER coat (!), so be prepared! The northern part of Vietnam has a different climate than the south.
Crossing the road
This is a lesson in assertiveness… Just go, smile and wave at the hundreds of motorbikes coming at you. Don’t hesitate, just keep walking in a slow, steady pace and then you will be fine, most of the time… What I discovered to be a golden rule, is that the motorbikes pay attention to you and will go around you, but cars won’t. So just pay attention to the cars! Our Street Food Tour guide made us, a group of 10 people, cross a huge square diagonally….I saw some flashback of my life during this ‘unique’ experience…