Our second visit to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, after being here back in May 2016. We will stay here for three days.
DAY 1 – THE HANOIAN HOTEL
After a good phở soup in a local eatery, it’s time for us to check into our gorgeous The Hanoian Hotel. The manager got in touch with us prior to our arrival, to introduce his hotel and list all their services&tours, including Ha Long Bay, Sapa, Ninh Binh. Make sure you check their website thehanoianhotel.com to get the best deals! Located in the heart of the French Quarter, this recently renewed hotel stands out from the bustling streets.
We are welcomed with a hot tea and then are shown our lovely suite, we feel very lucky, there’s even a complimentary wine bottle for us! The room is so nice we would easily stay locked in for the 2 nights we have reserved, but we don’t want to miss the charm of Hanoi either. Together with the hotel staff, we examine Hanoi city map and listen to their suggestions. Crossing out the ones we already visited last time, we head towards the West Lake. Walking in Hanoi is very nice, especially in this area along the lake where sidewalks are larger and more spacious compared to average elsewhere. It’s not easy to find cities in Southeast Asia where walking can be considered easy and relaxing, often people live literally on the streets and the traffic noise is overwhelming, Hanoi represents a nice exception with some beautiful boulevards and green areas.
As the sun sets, Trấn Quốc Pagoda stands tall and beautiful in its red colour, watching the lake. We are not far from Ba Đình Square so we head there. The sky colours and lights tonight are marvelous, we enjoy a lovely sunset in front of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Walking past Hoan Kiem Lake we get to the Old Quarter through Hang Dao street, where the night market is held every weekend. Some street food will do for tonight, we return early to our cozy room at Hanoian Hotel.
DAY 2 – MUSEUM, OPERA, BUN CHA&BIA HOI!
The following morning it is heavy raining, we will have to adjust our plans to that. We opt for the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, featuring very interesting exhibitions about the role of women in the past, during the Vietnam War (some of them became national heroines), and nowadays, with many women who walk tens of kilometers everyday around town with the characteristic balance on their shoulders, to sell their products.
The cool weather makes us go for another warm phở for lunch. Later on we reach the wonderful Hanoi Opera House that was built by the French. We attend a peculiar cultural show performed by an amazing group of Vietnamese artists, a kind of acrobatic cirque where they use only bamboo sticks, poles and boards. Truly inspiring.
After the show we head to our favourite restaurant in Hanoi, Bun Cha Ta, which serves the typical of the same name dish. Bún chả is served with grilled fatty pork (chả) over a plate of white rice noodle (bún) and herbs with a side dish of dipping sauce.
At night, we dive into the lively Old Quarter to meet some friends we made in Da Nang, named Chau and Trang, and drink with them a few bia hoi, the cheapest draft beer you can find in Hanoi (normally at 5.000 dong, 25 cents!). With these prices, the party can easily go on all night long!
DAY 3 – GOODBYE VIETNAM
This is our last day in Hanoi and in Vietnam, as our flight Hanoi-Manila is leaving at night. Next destination: the Philippines! We enjoy another plentiful complimentary breakfast at Hanoian Hotel before heading to West Lake area again, to meet Chau and Trang who will lead us to a very local restaurant. Here we try Phở Rán, or fried pho, with fried noodles replacing noodle soup. Taking advantage of our local friends, we find another “hidden” spot where we taste cà phê trung, a.k.a. egg coffee, another delicacy of northern Vietnam.
Another thing to do in Hanoi, is walking on the railway tracks! From the train station there is a single track leaving direction north-east, not very busy with only few trains a day. That’s why people built houses on both sides, careless of the trains.
This alley is actually very quiet for most of the day, locals sometimes sit literally on the rails, while playing cards, chatting and killing time.
The staff at The Hanoian Hotel kept our luggage and allows us to change clothes before heading to the airport. We also have the pleasure to meet the manager, Mr. Martin, and have an interesting chat about local culture and travels. He explains us how Vietnamese hospitality works, how guests are to be treated, and we can just thank him for the awesome stay we had at his beautiful Hanoian Hotel! We can truly recommend this hotel, after living and traveling in Vietnam for almost two years, The Hanoian Hotel sits surely at the top of the list of the best accommodation.
More photos and info at thehanoianhotel.com.
We kindly refuse a transfer to the airport, we want to try the local bus and see if it is a recommendable option for other travellers like you. And yes it actually is a valid alternative: express airport bus n.86 links Hanoi Noi Bai Airport (both terminals) to Hanoi train station with departures every 25 minutes and several stops (Hoan Kiem lake, Long Bien next to the bridge). In details, the first bus from the train station leaves at 5am, last one at 9.40pm. From the Airport first bus leaves at 6.25am, last at 11pm. The trip is about 1 hour, longer during peak hours, and the fare is 30.000VND. Cheap and reliable.
It’s just goodbye, Vietnam!
-WHERE TO STAY:
- The Hanoian Hotel, Hanoi: excellent location, outstanding staff&hospitality, recently renewed interiors, rooms and suites available, wi-fi and breakfast included. Check website for more info and prices thehanoianhotel.com –
-HOW TO REACH HANOI:
- Ninh Binh-Hanoi train: 2h 30m, from 80.000VND/person;
- Hanoi-Manila flight, 4h 50m, from 60$/person;
- fly to Hanoi low cost with VietJet, AirAsia and JetStar.
-WHERE TO EAT:
- Phở Thìn Restaurant, 13 Lò Đuc, Hanoi: only big bowls of tasty pho, 50.000 dong;
- Bún Chả Ta Restaurant, 21 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hanoi: different options of bun cha, also vegetarian, from 80.000VND;
- Phở Cuốn Hưng Bền, 33 Ngũ Xã, Quận Ba Đình: try Phở Rán (fried pho) and phở cuốn (fresh rice noodle rolls)
- Quán Ăn Ngon Restaurant, 18 Phan Bội Châu, Cửa Nam: every kind of Vietnamese food!
- Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.