It’s easy to see the beauty of Hanoi, but for some visitors, it may be hard to look past the chaos and the hustlers trying to make a dollar or two off of fixing your shoe or making you buy their product. At times these ‘scams’ feel violating and can be very unsettling, especially when you come from a culture that teaches you to listen and be friendly to whoever approaches you. Unfortunately, hustlers see this cultural difference as an opportunity to trap the unsuspecting tourist into paying for something they didn’t want, like food that they were told to ‘try’ or getting a picture carrying a traditional bamboo carrier even though you never said yes. It gets forced upon you if you are unwilling to say no or unable to think fast on your feet. Once I got used to it, it brought wonder, adventure, and a new perspective.
Hanoi, I should have been prepared for you, but in truth, no description or youtube video can capture the chaos of your streets. Everywhere you step in Hanoi, you are dodging motorbikes and cars, trying to find your destination amongst buildings of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Nor does it do justice to the lush beauty of its streets lined with large trees with overgrown vines hanging from porches and window sills.
The first thing I did when I got to Hanoi was check into my hostel, pick up my camera and wander the streets. This is one of my favorite things to do when I first carve someplace. Not only does it allow you to vibe check the place, but you get to wander through ally ways and mast shops into markets and past sights you didn’t even know existed. Hanoi is definitely a great place to do this; with every street selling a different home good, from a fake flower district to party goods to pots and pans, the wonders are endless. I was able to spot a few temples that didn’t show up on any map
Over the course of 4 days, I was able to explore and fall in love with Hanoi, even with the rain, heat, and humidity trying to thwart my enjoyment. Many people will tell you not to come to Vietnam during June, July, and August because of the weather, but I don’t get to choose when my vacation is. So I have learned to embrace the rainy days and the sweltering heat, using the weather as an excuse to explore coffee shops and museums or take a cheeky mid-day nap.
Over the course of the six-ish days, I was able to explore Hanoi, and here is my itinerary! For more in-depth information, Explore With Me in my following few blogs!
Arrived! I paid for a Grab from the airport to my Hostel in the Old Quarter because the public bus was not easy to access. As I mentioned before, afterwards I walked around for several hours, getting a layout of the area. I ended up finding Noc Son Temple, eating at Bah Mi 25, and relaxing at Hidden Alley Cafe before finishing up my day walking through the night markets. Near the night market around Beer Street, I had way overpriced duck in the rain because I forgot to negotiate the price ahead of time. On my first day In Hanoi, I had growing tourist pains, but they did not prevent me from being excited for another day.
I woke up early and headed to The Note Cafe, which did not disappoint. I met a few fellow travelers here with whom I would spend time later in the day and the next. I had to ensure I was all caffeinated before I went on a private walking tour booked through my hostel. Don’t worry; you can book one via Hanoi Free Walking Tours. This tour is run by university students who are practicing English. They can be hit or miss depending on your guides. I really liked my tour guide, and he gave me a lot of inside into how young Vietnamese see the future of the workforce, and he asked to record me answering questions for a project. However, I feel like I missed out on the area’s history that other guides gave.
The tour was good; nonetheless, we went by sword lake, and My guide filled in some holes about the legend of the lake and Non Son Temple that I had missed the previous day. We stopped by a cultural center next to the lake, which hosts activities such as music, dancing, and games for the community. Next, we head to St. Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral, also home to the Archdiasis of Vietnam. I learned briefly about its history. Focusing solely on the french building, this church on the ruins of a famous temple. Then we headed to the infamous train street, where I need to come back and explore a bit more next time I’m in Hanoi.
Afterward, I wandered around starving till I found a fantastic Pho place that sold a Pho-like soup with minty greens in it. It was delicious. I believe this was the area of Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, but in my hunger and desperation, I forgot to mark it. Don’t worry; I did mark down the gelato place. Here is where I met up with the girls whom I met at The Note Coffee earlier in the day. Cooled offed by the sweet taste of gelato. One of the girls and I headed out to the night markets, where we walked around shopping till we were thirsty. We spent the rest of our evening drinking beer and watching the people walk by on beer street. I do have to say it was a successful first full day in Hanoi.
The Next day, I woke up early and met my new friend at the original egg coffee cafe, Cafe Giang. After we sipped on the sweet and creamy coffee, we popped next door to a Harry Potter Cafe called Always. This cafe had bomb-ass drinks before we took the long, hot, humid walk to the beautiful Daoist temple, Quan Thanh Temple. After the temple, we walked to Tran Quoc Pagoda, which ended up being closed before we passed the government buildings and Ho Chi Min’s Mausoleum to the Temple of Literature, a Confucius temple.
This temple was where scholars gathered to further their knowledge for the kingdom’s benefit. It also held the exams that would determine if you would be able to become a scholar, an opportunity once in a lifetime for members of the lower class that were accepted into Confucian schools. Before we stepped inside the temple, we made a pit stop at a lovely cafe called Refined. The cafe had a pay-what-you-can model and focused on community outreach training the future cafe owners of Hanoi. After we cooled off sipping on some excellent coffee, and walked around the ornate and beautiful Temple of Literature, we caught a grab( similar to uber) to Hoa Lo Prison Relic.
Hoa Lo Prisonprison is where many Vietnamese activists were held during France’s imperial rain as well as some American POWs during ‘The American war’ or ‘ Vietnam War.’ The prison’s history under the French is very dark but is also a testament to the determination of the Vietnamese people to be free to rule themselves. I think this was one of my favorite historical sights while in Vietnam.
Needing some levity to the heavy content of the prison, my friend and I went for a Bowl of Pho at Pho Thin. The Pho was simple but incredibly flavorful and hit the spot after a long day on our feet.
The day’s last stop was just next door to Pho Thin at The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, where we enjoyed the most delightful 1-hour performance played out to traditional music. Honestly, the theater was one of my favorite things I did while in Hanoi! We parted ways after the show because I was headed to Hue in the morning.
8 days later, I returned to Hanoi after traveling to Hue, Hoi An, and Ninh Binh. This time I was only stopping by for a night because Hanoi is an easy place to do a Halong Bay tour from. Most tour companies offer a van service from Hanoi to your cruise ship and back again, so I left Ninh Binh early in the afternoon to catch a Bus back to Hanoi.
I checked in to my hostel in the middle of a market district, selling lots of freshly butchered meat, just for a night. It was nice to be back in the city again, walking around and taking photos, especially since the on and off rain showers that had plagued my first few days here had finally broken, and the sky was bright. I walked around for several hours, taking analog photos and looking at souvenirs. I got a lovely simple pink silk swing dress tailored for my cruise. I ate at Bami 25 again before returning to my hostel and partied like I was 21, which everyone assumed I was. I had a fantastic evening doing Karaoke and dancing while going between my hostel and another. I miss nights like these, not that I could do them all the time, but every once in a while, it is nice to leave your inhibitions at the door finding freedom in the night.
Day 5… I Mean 6…
Several big mistakes were made at the end of my time in Vietnam. After my cruse of Halong Bay, I returned to Hanoi for a few hours and got my covid test for what I thought was my flight out that evening.
After having negative test results, I did a bit of cafe hopping, finding a bomb ass avocado smoothie at Coffee Trung And a refreshing tea at Laika Cafe. Then for my last night, I treated myself to a higher-end modern Vietnamese restaurant called Hanoi Culture, which was absolutely to die for.
That sounds like a mistake-free day; however, slowly, I started to feel sick throughout the day. With my covid test coming back negative, I knew I was in big trouble because It had to be a sinus infection or sinusitis. For the average person, it’s no big deal; for me, I get incredibly sick.
How did I know it was a sinus infection, you may ask. I know because it followed my usual pattern, starting with light symptoms weeks earlier. Pre-Vietnam, I was getting stuffy and having on and off sinus pressure which was no big deal till after I left Hano. Already having sinus issues, the cigarette smoke, exhaust from all the cars, and humidity did me in. I woke up on the day I left for Hue feeling rough. However, my symptoms seemed to improve after my first day out of the city in the countryside. Till now, the day I was supposed to leave Vietnam. I was relieved I was going back home (Korea) that evening because I was running a slight fever and knew I needed antibiotics stat.
I arrived at the airport early and took some medication to help me feel better, only to get through the check-out line to find out I mixed my departure date and was one day early. I cried, well, not then, back in my hotel room. I’m used to taking care of myself and dealing with being on my own 24/7, but traveling can get overwhelming for me, so getting sick into the mix of exhaustion was a little too much to handle. To top off my wonderful evening, there were issues with the hotel I booked last minute.
The following day I had to go and retake my covid test since the one I had that morning had expired. I did treat myself to another while avocado smoothie from Coffee Trung, which put me in a better mood. I was able to save my day from being a total waste before I ended up feeling extremely sick by going to the Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology. The museum was fascinating, covering the different ethnicities and tribes of Vietnam, everything from traditions to migrations from other parts of Asia. In fact, Viet is the largest ethnicity in Vietnam coming from the Tribe/ethnicity group that ruled the North (Nam). Eventually, the Viet came to rule all of Vietnam as we know it today. It’s pretty cool that the Country’s name is rooted in its history and hasn’t been westernized like many other countries have.
After the museum, my fever returned, so I went back to the cafe overlooking sword lake to spend the rest of my afternoon relaxing and reading. I got a refreshing pear tea and yogurt bowl that did not disappoint. Before I headed back to the airport for the final time, I filled my sick body with a piping hot bowl of Pho from Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su.
I wish I could say my trip home from Vietnam was a breeze, but it wasn’t. I won’t go into much detail about the ordeal of the airport and getting back home, but in short, I ran out of Tylenol during the day and could not find an open pharmacy, so I had to save my last to for getting through Incheon airport. Let’s just say my fever climbed very high while I was miserably waiting for my delayed flight, but in the end, I made it successfully back home 24 hours later (a five-hour flight plus days +7 hours from landing to my door).
Despite the rough ending to both Hanoi and Vietnam, I can’t help but love my time there. It is easy to see why Many people fall in love with Vietnam and its people while others leave with a bad taste in their mouths, never looking back again. I hope to return to Hanoi and visit everything I missed on this trip!
Explore Hanoi in Depth With Me!
The Temples of Hanoi
All The Eats Hanoi
Cafe Culture of Hanoi
The Sights of Hanoi
**For all of you worried that I caught covid, I did not. I had 2 more negative tests, and two doctors diagnosed me with sinusitis to confirm it. (The first didn’t give me antibiotics despite a temp of 102, which is why I had to go to a second one 2 days later, but I digress)**
All The Places
Ngoc Son Temple – 30,000 VND – P. Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000,
Quan Thanh Temple – aprox. 10,000 VND – Đ. Thanh Niên, Quán Thánh, Ba Đình, Hà Nội 118810, Vietnam
Tran Quoc Pagoda– ??? – 46 Đ. Thanh Niên, Trúc Bạch, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội, Vietnam
The Temple of Literature– aprox. 10,000 VND– 2RHP+PF Đống Đa, Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi Free Walking Tours – I signed up for a private tour through my hostel. This company is ran by University students who volunteer their time to practice English. – https://www.hanoifreewalkingtours.com
Ta Hien Beer Street- Tạ Hiện, P. Lương Ngọc Quyến, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Train Street – 98 chắn 5a, P. Trần Phú, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Hoa Lo Prison Relic – 25,000 VND + 100,000 VND for Hearing Guide– 1 P. Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Thang Long Water Puppet Theater – 150,000 VND + 100,000 VND for audio guide – 57B P. Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology – 20,000 VND – Đ. Nguyễn Văn Huyên, Quan Hoa, Cầu Giấy, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Dong Xuan Market – Free– Đồng Xuân, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi 100000, Vietnam
Weekend Night Market – 8 P. Hàng Đào, Hàng Đào, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Night Market – 127 P. Hàng Buồm, Hàng Đào, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
All the Eats
Banh Mi 25 – The Kitchen and carryout is across the street from their three spaces to sit-down and eat. Find a seat before you order – 25 P. Hàng Cá, P, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Pho Thin – 61 P. Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Pho some place near Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam I believe????
Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su – 10 P. Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Kem Trang Tien Gelatto – 35 Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Hanoi Food Culture – 60 Ng. Phất Lộc, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
All the Cafe’s
The Note Coffee – 64 P. Lương Văn Can, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Hidden Alley – No. 9B P. Báo Khánh, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Cafe Giang – 2VM3+9R Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam
Always Cafe – 8B P. Hàng Tre, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Refined – 43 P. Văn Miếu, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Laika Cafe – 1 P. Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Coffee Trung – 2RWW+GJ Ba Đình, Hanoi, Vietnam
Explore With Me
- Muan South Korea“Not Seoul,” “onion farmers,” “rural,” and high pitch cackles are what I hear every time I say where I live and work in SouthContinue reading “Muan South Korea”
- What About North Korea?For the third part of my ‘Is Korea Safe?’ series, I will to address the elephant in the room. ( Read Part I andContinue reading “What About North Korea?”
- 10 Vietnam Travel Tips1. Learn How to Ride a Motorcycle Vietnam has very poor public transportation in major cities, but outside of the major cities catching aContinue reading “10 Vietnam Travel Tips”
3 thoughts on “Hanoi”