I arrived in Hanoi after midnight because my flight was delayed. With blurry vision, I stumbled over to the visa counter to get the visa sticker thing. It was pretty painless and after a stamp, baggage claim, airport pick-up, and sim card purchase – I arrived at my hotel a little after 2 am. I only had one day in Hanoi so I made sure I didn’t sleep in too much the next day. Hello, five hours sleep! After my hotel brekkie, I was out the door into the steaming pits of hell a.k.a Hanoi in summer.
- Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Pagoda
I was overwhelmed stepping out into the Old Quarter. It was loud, hot, and crowded. I headed for Hoan Kiem Lake straight away because I knew it would be a little more peaceful and I was right. Had a yummy first Vietnamese coffee looking over the lake at the island after walking around for about 30-minutes.
2. St Joseph’s Cathedral
Next, I headed to St. Joseph’s Cathedral and it was beautiful. The street leading towards the cathedral is also worth a visit. Lots of trees, cute cafes, and popular restaurants.
3. Vietnamese Women’s Museum
After grabbing a quick mango juice from a cute café, I headed for the Women’s Museum. It’s a wonderful collection dedicated to the history of the Vietnamese women and a great gift shop where I picked up some awesome presents (for myself).
4. The Hoa Lo Prison Museum
No rest for the wicked! I was exhausted by the heat but headed to my final destination of the morning, Hoa Lo Prison Museum. It’s a great museum and I couldn’t recommend it enough. They’ve put loads of effort in to make it as informative as possible. Definitely not to be missed.
5. Giang Cafe (not really)
After an hour break at my hotel, I was back out in search of an egg-coffee. My original plan was to go to Giang Cafe where it originated but it was too busy without AC. Not going to happen. I ended up going to a Cong café which was cute but HOT.
6. Themed Streets of Old Quarter/Railroad
Tracking down a cool spot to view the famous railway proved quite difficult and it made me a little underwhelmed by the end of it. There are so many tourists and it’s littered with trash. Worth a stop but don’t dedicate hours to it.
7. Dinner Time in Old Quarter
Dinner was some spring rolls while being interrogated by locals on how I travel by myself. They were completely shocked and terrified for me. Such a cool interaction with the locals though.
How to get around Hanoi
I walked everywhere and never once took a taxi. Personally, I like to see places on foot and I saw how small/doable this was so I went for it. It’s extremely hot in summer and you do tire pretty quickly. There were other places I wanted to see but I literally hit a wall at around 6:30 pm. I also had a 6:30 am start the next morning to Sapa so I wanted to save my strength.
Would I recommend Hanoi?
Absolutely, but only for a day or two. It’s quite small and there are other places to explore, but I feel like I would be ready to move on after two days. It’s loud and chaotic but I understand if you wanna party because that’s the vibe at night for sure. I am returning to Vietnam in December but it will be down south, however, if I ever return to Hanoi I would love to see them:
Dong Xuan Market
The Ancient House
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The Temple of Literature
Excited to bring you Part 2 of Vietnam with my Sapa experience!