Hello! Its been already a month ago since I visited Vietnam but I didn’t find any time earlier to tell you about my trip. Let’s start with Hanoi, which was almost similar to how I imagined it. Full of lantern, motobikes, street vendors, eateries and most of all chaos. Traffic rules don’t exist here, traffic rules don’t have any function and transporting the whole family on one motorcycle (without wearing a helmet) is the most ordinary thing in the world.
Besides Hanoi being the most chaotic city I’ve ever been to, I expected it to be modern like Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur but Hanoi isn’t that modern yet. I didn’t discover any trendy shopping malls, fancy cocktail bars or rooftops but did enjoy the authenticity of the city, the old buildings and narrown streets in the old quarter, the friendly locals and most of all the fantastic (and incredibly cheap) Vietnamese food.
We had about 3 full days here and had sufficient time to explore this city. These were my favorite spots I came across:
We stayed half of our stay in Hanoi at the Oriental Suites Hotel (58 Hàng Đào, Hoàn Kiếm/ Old Quarter), a mid range three star hotel with rooms starting at about $35 a night. I can wholeheartedly recommend this hotel, located in the old quarter. The rooms with complementary fruit and snacks (Orea cookies and more!) were modern, clean and luxurious (considering its price point). Also the the breakfast was wonderful; fresh Phở, hamburgers, grilled cheese and many more dishes to choose from. And the staff was just so sweet which made our stay at this hotel even more pleasant. The only thing I was missing was a window in the room. But we booked the cheapest room, for a few dollars more I am sure you do have one.
The second half of our stay in Hanoi (after returning from our little road trip in the area), we booked a room at La Siesta Hotel & Spa (94 Mã Mây, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm/ Old Quarter) which was also located in the heart of the old quarter. A more luxury four star hotel with room rates starting at about $80. This hotel was the best hotel of my whole Vietnam trip. Spacious brand new rooms, great service and the best breakfast ever offering Phở, spring rolls, french baguettes, eggs benedict and more. Also it’s restaurant Red Bean was one of my favorites during my whole trip.
– Red Bean (94 Mã Mây, Old Quarter). The fine dining restaurant of La Siesta Hotel & Spa with the well- known chef. Prices are significantly higher compared to most of Hanoi’s Eateries but still reasonable compared to Western standards. A five course menu set starts at $20. I think dining here is so well worth the price.
– Bun Bo Nam Bo (67 P Hang Dieu, Old Quarter). The place to be if you’re more into dry beef noodles. I had my question marks with restaurant hygiene, but the Bun Nam Bo was here was one of the best in town.
– Nét Huế (240B Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm). A local restaurant serving authentic Hue- style dishes such as Bun Thit Nuong (noodles with grilled beef and Banh Nam (steamed rice pancake with minced shrimp).
– Green Mango (18 Hàng Quạt, Old Quarter). If you had enough Vietnamese food and feel more like eating pizza, something fusion or something Western; the pretty and peaceful courtyard of Green Mango would be a good choice. Loved the drinks here too.
– Zoka (25 Nhà Chung, Hoàn Kiếm). Vietnamese Sandwiches are a must when visiting Vietnam.
– Che (67 P Hang Dieu, Old Quarter). For all kinds of Vietnamese desserts. My favorite is the Cendol (a green jelly dessert with coconut milk).
– Fanny Ice Cream (51 Lý Thường Kiệt, South of Hoàn Kiếm Lake). For French style ice creams combined with Vietnamese ingredients.
– Kem NZ (39 Lý Thường Kiệt, South of Hoàn Kiếm Lake). More ice cream to cool off.
– Madame Huong (39 Lý Thường Kiệt, South of Hoàn Kiếm Lake). Where you can find all kinds of French pastries.
Despite me not being the biggest coffee drinker, I was hooked on the Vietnamese one during my whole trip. No day went by without me drinking at least a cup a day. Besides the Vietnamese being extremely good in making noodles, another thing they definitely master well is (ice) coffee making! Here a few (good!) coffee cup (chains) you can find in Hanoi:
– Cong Caphe. My favorite Vietnamese coffee chain. Order a coconut coffee smoothie.
– Highlands Coffee. The Vietnamese version of Starbucks…
– Vici Coffee (26 Đường Thành, Old Quarter).
– Le Cafe (59 Ba Trieu, French Quarter).
– Aha Coffee (42 Lý Thường Kiệt, South of Hoàn Kiếm Lake).
More than coffee:
– Boo cafe (308 Ba Trieu, South of Hoàn Kiếm Lake/ French Quarter). A chill spot with lounge couches and all kinds of inventive juices, smoothies, small bites and delicious treats. Have a seat at the roof.
Beer and Booze
There isn’t that much of a bustling nightlife in Hanoi (yet). The good thing is, a beer often costs you less than a soda. You’ll have a pint for less than a dollar. Head over to P.Hang Tien/ P. Ta Hien to quench your thirst with backpackers and local youth.
– The Rooftop (83 Lý Thường Kiệt, Trần Hưng Đạo, South of Hoàn Kiếm Lake). The view isn’t spectacular. But if you do want a drink with a view and some music, this rooftop bar and lounge one of the few options to choose from.
Whereas foodlovers can eat their heart out here, Hanoi isn’t really the place to be for fashionista’s. Shopping malls are very scarce and trendy shops are hard to find. However, if you’re looking for knock off’s or cheap knick knacks Hanoi has enough to offer. Most of the small stores are centered around the Old Quarter, where every street has it’s own specialty:
–P. Hàng Đào: The beginning of this street is full of shoe vendors selling cheap (knock off) shoes from all major American brands. Further down this street you’ll find lots of clothing. Hàng Đào is also where the Weekend night market begins, going all the way till P Hang Giay (Friday and Sunday 8-11pm). Here you can find all kinds of trinkets such as sunglasses, clothes, shoes, phone covers, accessories, souvenirs, food and more.
–P. Hàng Bo: The street to be for the DIY lovers. Here you can find rhinestones, ribbons, buttons, and plenty of other trimmings.
– P. Hàng Ma: Providing lots and lots of lanterns, party supplies and children’s toys.
– P. Hàng Quat: The street for vases, silver and gold antiques, mirrors, photo frames , table ware and more home knick knacks.
– P. Hàng Bac/ Hàng Be/ Lý Quốc Sư: If you’re looking for Vietnamese propaganda art, I am sure you’ll find something here.
– Don Xuan Wholesale Markets (Don Xuan): Located North of the Old Quarter at the end of Don Xuan street. Here you can find more cheap sunglasses, fabrics, fruit, clothing, accessoiries and shoes.
– Cho Hom Markets: This market South of Hoàn Kiếm Lake is comparable to the Don Xuan Wholesale Markets.
We didn’t had time for lots of sightseeing. But if you have some time left, besides the old quarter have a stroll around Hoàn Kiếm Lake
and walk further south down the lake to have a look at the Vietnamese Women’s Museum (36 Ly Thuong Kiet, South of Hoàn Kiếm Lake) in order to see an illustration of the lives of Vietnamese women trough the years.