First time in Hanoi ?

by Arjun
Homemade Bahn Mi at Old Quarter, Hanoi

Hanoi

The capital of Vietnam has its own charm. Though I don’t prefer to have more than a day or two in big cities, as all big cities are almost the same. But I mean for Hanoi it is totally worth it. For Indian readers, Hanoi is no different than some busy parts of our country. Busy streets, no or very fewer people follow traffic rules. It is not crowded by cars or big vehicles, in fact, the whole of Vietnam has less, very less of cars due to high taxes. So the crowd mostly consist of two-wheelers zigzagging around the city streets and the on foot travellers. You can see busy streets, little dirty over the edges, the nice cooking fragrance from street side restaurants, some different kind of meat outside the shops on display, a lot of souvenirs around.

I must say, this part of the country still has that male-dominated culture intact. During the early evenings, you can see all the males of a family sitting out with their shirts off, on a small table with some meat and a beer. All the ladies slightly inside the house sitting together and chit-chat. Though exceptions are still there, where some of the women are also accompanying the men. But that is why I will say if you want to visit the whole of Vietnam start from North as there are a lot of differences among northern and southern Vietnam. Otherwise its more of a cultural shock.

On the contrary during the daytimes, you can see most of the women working in shops or other businesses. I mean it may not the situation but this is what I have seen in my 3-4 days stay in Hanoi. So my total stay in Hanoi is for 4 days, divided into 2 days before Halong bay, 2 days after Halong Bay. So Halong Bay is worth a separate blog itself. It will soon be published. In this blog, i will concentrate more about where to live, what to eat, what to do, etc.

  1. Where to stay

    Old Quarter, Definitely. Even though you are getting some good deals on stays in other areas, believe me, its pain to travel even 3-4 km in busy hours either by bike yourself or a cab. So if you want to enjoy this happening area, stay here only at Old Quarter. My first stay was in a Central Backpackers Hostel. The second was in Hotel/Hostel Golden Charm. Check out this detailed blog on things to remember while planning your stays.

    Central Backpackers Hostel, Hanoi

    Central Backpackers Hostel, Hanoi

    So do book your stay carefully in the city centre, otherwise, you will waste half of your time in commuting and the half in cribbing that how far is your stay from point of attractions. I must say their service is extremely courteous, In fact, one thing I would like to emphasise is that Vietnam is really a tourist-friendly country, maybe because it lacks tourists if compared to Thailand even though it has a lot to offer. The old quarter is one such busy city centre which is full of a market, hostels, a night market, a lake, all big brands, pick up points for several tours. In fact, most of the hostels in this area, offer free beer for an hour between 7-9 PM. It is the best place for having free beer, meeting fellow travellers, etc. Or you can find some good hotel deals below.


    Booking.com

  2. What to do
    1.  Halong Bay day tour: Halong Bay is one of the reasons I want to visit Vietnam again with my family. Yes, it is a Unesco World Heritage site, but something different. A night there with friends and family will be memorable. Also if you know swimming, it’s a heaven you can dive as many times you want from your cruise. Kayaking into so-called short caves is enough for giving novices like us a taste of what caving is and falling in love with it. Carefully plan your cruise company and bargain well for it. We went for Lan Ha Legend cruise, this is where I think we should have planned it earlier for a better deal both in terms of money and facilities. Though this company isn’t bad, believe me, the brochures you gonna see with agents and the actual condition of cruises is like the opposite.  Do book your package before you arrive there and check trip advisor for some good companies. I will soon publish a more detailed article on my experience at Halong Bay.

      Halong Bay Vietnam

      Halong Bay, Early morning capture


    2. Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake: Dedicate an evening for a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake. You can find a lot of big brands, food brands, street hawkers around. Moreover, if you are lucky to visit this place on weekend eve there are a lot of activities take place there where you can take part along with locals, socialise a bit and have real fun. Some crossings Have a shake/ice cream and walk around the lake. Sit for some time, relax, enjoy the street performances.

      Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

      Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi



    3. Take a walk in Old Quarter: Hanoi Old Quarter is a busy and fascinating part of the city where one can enjoy as many things as architecture, narrow streets, a bunch of scooters, motorbikes everywhere. Residents selling souvenirs and very affordable and delicious Vietnamese food. This is the most lively part of the city.

      Some street shows at old quarter during the weekend

      Some street shows at old quarter during the weekend

      Old Quarter streets Hanoi

      Old Quarter streets Hanoi


  3. What to eat
    1. MUST TRY – Bahn Mi: Bahn Mi, is one of the things I loved the most in Hanoi, kind of sauteed chicken with onion and sauces in a long bread just for a $. Below is the photo of the lovely lady with her stall selling delicious home-made Bahn-Mi. I had it three times in our couple of days stay.

      Homemade Bahn Mi preparation at Old Quarter, Hanoi

      Homemade Bahn Mi preparation at Old Quarter, Hanoi

       

      Homemade Bahn Mi at Old Quarter, Hanoi

      Homemade Bahn Mi at Old Quarter, Hanoi


    2. Must try famous breakfast of Vietnamese cuisine called Pho. That is basically a noodle soup along with rice and boiled chicken. It’s good if made properly. You can try them on any street side or also can check in your hotel’s breakfast menu. We stayed in Hotel Golden Charm in between the market, booked them via Booking.com. I must say they are way beyond our expectations in terms of amenities, food, services, buffet quality, etc

      Pho Soup in Vietnam

      Pho Soup in breakfast(Hanoi)


    3. Joma Bakery: We researched a lot online and finally decided to catch a cab to land at this desert heaven called Joma Bakery. All three of us below loved it.
      Carrot Cake at Joma Bakery, Hanoi

      Carrot Cake at Joma Bakery, Hanoi

      We three at Joma Bakery.(From left to right: Arjun Virmani, Jaytosh Srivastava, Yashu Mittal)

      We three at Joma Bakery.(From left to right: Arjun Virmani, Jaytosh Srivastava, Yashu Mittal)

      NOTE: Don’t assume that you will get similar kinds of food like Dominos India or McDonalds India in Vietnam. They are really different. If you are looking for something similar to Indian experience. I would say don’t go for that at all.

  4. Where to shop souvenirs

    So, don’t get fooled by shopping souvenirs like snake wine or something if you are on a budget. Shop little souvenirs like key chains, fridge magnets, decorated measuring tapes, also we found some nice handmade coasters made locally in Da Nang.
    The one we saw in the beginning and yes it is the one at which we landed after so browsing so many stores for bargain deals. Their prices may be maybe a bit, just a bit high. But that is totally worth it the quality if you compare the products which are being sold by nearby shops for cheap. So for the quality and if you compare it with the competition their price is JUST right. The store is called Amazing Hanoi. Do believe me, you will fall in love with their collection as soon as you pass by this store. It urges you to check this store at least once.

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