Tag Archives: Temples

Your Atypical Envoy To Quirky Hanoi

Hanoi is a some-kind-of-a quirky city – oddly different yet familiar.

Sidewalks lined with parked motorbikes.

Streets are ruled by motorcycles that weave through crowds and through each other, everyone moving along with an unwritten rule to preserve the flow. The rule? DON’T HESITATE. Yep. As soon as you decide to cross the street, keep walking forward. Don’t do the cha-cha-cha lest you confuse a driver and wind up wounded by a motorbike.

Lazy Sunday. My view while trying my first cup of Vietnamese iced coffee.

Sundays are lazy and calm… Until a group of local ladies find out about a sale in a shoe store at a street corner. Then a whole swarm of them will elbow their way to the pair and size they want and fight over voices for the price and a purchase. So many things are produced in Vietnam and so there are loads of things for you to buy… and for cheap! Clothes, shoes, and bags are only the tip of the Vietnamese Shopping Iceberg.

Pretty dresses for adorable babies line the walls of this boutique shop along Hang Gai Street (Silk Street).

Everything happens along the street, ON the street, and on the sidewalk. It made me wonder if they actually call them side-WALKs and not side-Whatever-You-Want-It-To-Bes. On a sidewalk, get yourself a mini plastic chair and table from a cafe and sip on their world-renowned coffee (iced on a hot day) as you watch pedicabs with foreign dudes taking pictures and videos. When the sun retires, join the locals as they pour out onto the street from the bar drinking not-so-strong beer while eating peanuts.

Locals drinking and eating peanuts on the street on a Friday night.

Most things are lowered. A lot of chairs and tables outside are low. Even dogs stay short. I saw chihuahuas and and other mixed breeds, all short. Also short, some of the vendors’ tempers. Like any other place, I suppose, there are some friendly locals and some not-so-accommodating ones. Most, I would say, are cordial. Save for the lady in some shoe store that swatted my shin with a slipper and a lady selling hats in the covered market. It’s as if her smile was worth a trillion bucks. HAHAHA.

So let’s talk about the vendors. A bit of a warning, they will charge you more because you’re a foreigner. A lady tried to sell me a munchkin for US$2! One hundred pesos, really? No way. :p Also, they may hound you. So it’s best not to entertain the vendors patrolling the streets because they might follow you down as Gin Blossoms said he would!

Read up on the local legends, particularly the legend of the Ngoc Son Temple seen behind me here.

Walk. Walk. Walk to the temples and museums. There is so much to learn and experience in Hanoi! As long as you’ve got your trusty Google Maps, you’ll be alright. And, AGAIN, be wary of snatchers. Some of them pass by you on a bike and swipe whatever you’re holding. Pretty crafty, they can be!

That’s me taking a break in the temple of literature. Thank you Franco V (He’s on Instagram) for the photo!

And let’s not forget the food culture. As long as you don’t really think about the whole cleanliness issue, you’ll have a great time trying a whole slew of Vietnamese dishes! Hehe. But, really, I enjoyed food tripping in Hanoi. I enjoyed it oh so much, I even prepared a video about it! So, since I can’t seem to find my writing groove, Let me leave you with a video I edited from my salvaged Hanoi footage. Also, if you decide to visit Hanoi, this may be of help. Enjoy!

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Hanoi, Vietnam, Travel Basics

Hanoi is the Capital of Vietnam found in the North (vs. Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, the largest city in Vietnam, in South Vietnam). It is the second largest city in the country and  serves as a political center.

Vietnamese currency is the Dong with the smallest bill at 1,000! I was a millionaire in Vietnam… Which doesn’t say much, really. Exchange rates can be found here.

Language will be a barrier so it’s important to know a few basic phrases. Though they still won’t understand you unless you can pull off the accent as well.

(By the way, this post is more about the information and not much about the experience. The “cute” post with all the photos (at least those salvaged from my stolen phone) are  HERE. Hehe!)

How To Get There

Flying to Hanoi isn’t very convenient when coming from Manila. Most flights head to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC – commonly known as Saigon) but Cebu Pacific recently started flying directly to and from Hanoi twice a week. Unfortunately, the flight schedules are less than ideal in a city with a 12 Midnight curfew.

From Singapore, I believe Jetstar has affordable flights. And coming from HCMC, I’m pretty sure you can find cheap domestic flights! 🙂

From the Noi Bai airport, a taxi is the only way to the main city so make sure your Hotel provides you with a serviced car/cab!

Where To Stay

Most travelers stay in the Old Quarters or French Quarters. This area maintained the original street layout of old Hanoi with streets being named after the goods sold along it. And so, we have Silk Street and Leather Street and Silver Street and so on. There are numerous hotels to stay in here and you will be surrounded by great shops, cafes, and eateries!

If you don’t expect the sun and moon of the hotels, then you’ll be alright in Hanoi. I stayed in Hanoi Deluxe Hotel which was quaint but clean and comfortable with a friendly staff.

Hanoi Deluxe Hotel. US$18-35/room/night http://hanoideluxehotel.com/

Hanoi Old Centre Hotel. US$25-$60/room/night http://www.hanoioldcentrehotel.com/

Hanoi Elite Hotel. US$40-$90 http://hanoielitehotel.com/

May De Ville Old Quarter Hotel. US$50-$100/room/night http://maydevilleoldquarterhotel.com/

And here’s a big, luxurious one!

Hotel Sofitel Metropole Hanoi.  http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-1555-sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi/index.shtml

How To Get Around

Walk. All you need is Google Maps and you’re good to go! If you like walking as I do, most everything is walkable.

Taxi. They’re metered so you know exactly how much to pay. But most cab drivers can barely speak English and they may not understand your pronunciation so best to show them where you’d like to go on a map (Google Maps, you rock.)

Motorbike. There are guys in street corners that offer you a ride on their motorbikes. They overcharge, though, so best to ask your hotel how much it should cost. These guys are NOT legit. Hehe.

Bike. If you’re brave enough, why not ask your hotel where it’s best to rent a bicycle for you to use? 😀 If I stayed longer, I may have tried this out for an afternoon. 😉

Pedicab. I didn’t ride a pedicab just ‘coz I didn’t see any local on one. Loads of foreigners take pedicab rides around the old quarters, though! I’m guessing these guys have tourist rates, though. So, again, ask your hotel how much they should cost you.

Where To Go

Sightseeing

Hoan Kiem Lake. Ngoc Son Temple. Turtle Tower. The Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) is the largest lake in the city of lakes – Hanoi. It’s HUGE. In the north area of the lake is the Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of the Jade Mountain) which you can get to through the Huc Bridge (Morning Sunlight Bridge). The south area of the lake has the Turtle Tower. The legend that surrounds this lake is pretty interesting so read up!

National Museum of Vietnam. This is in the right side of Hoan Kiem Lake, separate from all the other sites below.

Temple of Literature. The most popular of all the Temple of Literatures (there are several), this temple served as the first university in Vietnam. Today, it is still one of the most important historical sites in Hanoi and even appears on the Vietnamese Dong – 100,000 bill.

Vietnam Military History Museum. Vietnam’s military history is very interesting as their wars against their (French, Japanese, American?) conquerors helped shaped the identity of the country. Naturally, there are 2 sides to every story. In the museum, you will see weapons, pictures of war, tanks and aircrafts, etc. The museum tells the story of a united Vietnam, never acknowledging South Vietnam’s government or their defiance of the socialist rule. Hmm. Pretty intriguing. Time to read up!

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. It is huge and the garden that surrounds the building is pretty,  but off-limits. I didn’t get to enter as it was closed (only open in the mornings) but in its central hall is the embalmed body of Chairman Ho Chi Minh. Every hour, the guards change. But, rest-assured, they all strictly enforce the rules – no shorts/skirts (don’t show your legs), no crossing of arms, no hands in pockets, no photography or video recording, no smoking, and no noise!

Ho Chi Minh Museum. This museum is dedicated to their late leader Ho Chi Minh and also tells the story of Vietnam’s struggle against foreign power. Once again, two side to every story. And… The winners often write (subjective) history. Which makes me question world history in general… Good thing I don’t know much about it. HAHAHA.

Shopping.

EVERYWHERE. I particularly enjoyed shopping at the boutique shops in Hang Non street!!! If you’re a lady looking to buy clothes and shoes… FIND THIS STREET. 😀 A whole bunch of local girls shop here so I’m pretty sure it’s the place to be!

Oh. And when shopping… Bargain!

Night Market. WATCH YOUR VALUABLES. This is where my bag got slashed and my phone got stolen. AYAYAY. ANYWAY. This happens Friday – Sunday night along Hang Ngang street and Dong Xuan street.

Outside the City

Halong Bay. One of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, Halong Bay is definitely worth visiting if you have the time. Tours range from day trips to weekend stays either in hotels or junk boats. You can ask your hotel about it, search online, or even walk around the Old Quarter to find agencies that provide tours! http://www.halongbay-vietnam.com/


There are loads of other interesting places to see like Sapa and the Cuc Phong National Park. You can bike around, trek, or lounge, it’s really up to you! Check this site to find out more. http://www.hanoitraveltours.com/

What/Where To Eat

Hanoi is one amazing food trip. 🙂

Cha Ca La Vong (Resto/Dish). 14 Cha Ca Street. Beware of copycats right across the original! Cha Ca La Vong, the only thing on their menu, is grilled fish cooked right in front of you with turmeric and dill leaves, served with rice noodles and peanuts. Put as much chili as you’d like. SO GOOD. I want to eat this again but the dish isn’t found anywhere else!!!

Bun Bo Nam Bo (Resto/Dish). 7 Hàng Điếu, Cửa Đông. A bowl of beef noodles and veggies. This isn’t as soupy as Bun Thang or Pho. It’s pretty good. But I honestly didn’t enjoy it that much. I guess it just isn’t my taste. But still, it’s worth trying for yourself!

Little Hanoi (Resto). Ta Hien Street. These guys have other branches but this one is the original. Order their fresh rolls, oh so good!

Bun Thang (Dish). Cau Go Street. Bun Thang is a soup dish (add chicken!) served in various eateries. Just pick a place on Cau Go street. This dish is de-lish!

Quan An Ngon (Resto). 18 Phan Bội Châu, Cửa Nam. This restaurant is a must-see. They serve Vietnamese dishes galore under a huge tent in a courtyard of an old villa. Waiters are very helpful. And it’s always full of both foreigners and locals!

Pho. I don’t think I need to tell you any more about Pho. Hehe. :p

Also try The Highway on Bat Su Street which is where I tried eating crickets! They have a whole slew of delicious familiar and unfamiliar dishes there you can try. And Gecko is another safe bet with various branches around Hanoi (Old Quarters, mostly).

Okie dokes! That’s about it for the basics. To find out more about my experience, check out my Hanoi video on my YouTube Channel or read the next post!