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Travel guide

Hanoi capital

A melting pot of French colonial architecture and Vietnamese city life, the capital of Vietnam stretches and rouses at the break of dawn to a honking swarm of motorbikes darting about, fused with the fragrant scent of the nation’s steamy breakfast - phở. It’s a city where you can walk from a tangled mess of narrow streets to tree-lined boulevards of the upscale French Quarter, a city which harmoniously melds together chaos and order. From breath-taking sights and sounds to shocking flavours, it’s a city which never fails to surprise even the most veteran of travellers.

HANOI CAPITAL

A melting pot of French colonial architecture and Vietnamese city life, the capital of Vietnam stretches and rouses at the break of dawn to a honking swarm of motorbikes darting about, fused with the fragrant scent of the nation’s steamy breakfast - phở. It’s a city where you can walk from a tangled mess of narrow streets to tree-lined boulevards of the upscale French Quarter, a city which harmoniously melds together chaos and order. From breath-taking sights and sounds to shocking flavours, it’s a city which never fails to surprise even the most veteran of travellers.

Halong Tours Booking’s Pick: Top 5 Must Do

Old Quarter

Spend a few hours or a day walking around in the tangled web of streets that make up the Old Quarter. Each bustling street is dotted with vendors in conical straw hats peddling their wares and you will be amazed at what you can see and find here. From entire streets selling clothes and bags to street stalls selling odd looking cuisine, the Old Quarter has it all.

 

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

G-Tip

Book tickets early as the water puppet theatre always sells out.

Experience a piece of Vietnamese cultural history through the water puppet theatre, made up of live musicians and puppets prancing around, manipulated by capable puppeteers behind the scene. Be ready for lots of fun folk music, water buffaloes, dragons and animated characters splashing around on the water.

 

Shopping

G-Tip

Remember to bargain to get the full value of your purchase. The locals are more inclined to give a better discount if you’re buying in bulk.

Lacquer ware, art pieces, silk, communist propaganda posters, and almost anything you can think of can be attained from Hanoi’s various markets teeming with local vendors hawking their goods. Vietnam is also well known for competent tailors who charge a fraction of the market price for fitted suits and dresses. Streets that are especially teeming with Vietnamese retail fashion include Nha Tho, Hang Dau and Xuan Dieu.

Halong Bay Cruise

G-Tip

Scout around the city for a good tour company and avoid ones which do not possess their own junk as you may be thrown onto another junk filled with more people than it can handle.

A three-hour drive from Hanoi city is the breath-taking UNESCO world heritage site, Halong Bay. Spend a night on board a junk or go for a day cruise along calm sapphire blue waters speckled with magnificent limestone islands. Kayak into the sunset while discovering the many hidden spots unreachable by boat before retiring onto the junk to indulge in a delicious seafood dinner.

 

People Watching

Hanoi offers a lot of exciting sights and the best place to take in these sights is a cafe which can be found on corners of streets all over the city. Sit down with a glass of iced Vietnamese drip coffee (called ca phe da, or for the milkier version which is served with condensed milk, ca phe sua da) and watch Vietnam unfold before your eyes. From people sitting on small stools by the sidewalks slurping in phở to a guy casually driving by with 128 steel water containers and his son strapped onto his motorbike, a café is the place to absorb all of Vietnam.

 

Halong Tours Booking’s Pick: Top 5 Must See

Hoan Kiem Lake

The still waters of the lake, surrounded by willowy trees and dotted with benches, invites one to while the day away. Sunsets are especially dreamlike here with picturesque pagodas and bridges sprouting out from the sparkling water.

 

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

G-Tip

Dress modestly when visiting the mausoleum and avoid short skirts or flip flops as you may be denied entry.

Thousands, including Vietnamese pilgrims and tourists alike, line up as early as 8am on the opening days to get a short glance of the well-embalmed body of Vietnam’s beloved Uncle Ho, housed in a grandiose gray granite edifice.

 

The Temple of Literature (Van Mieu)

A beautiful concoction of courtyards, pavilions and ornamental doorways make up Vietnam’s first university, one of the oldest and finest surviving structures in Hanoi built in dedication to the Chinese philosopher Confucius.

 

Opera House

A mini replica of the Palais Garnier in Paris, this majestic piece of architecture left over from the French colonial era was built in 1911 and houses many of Hanoi’s classical music performances, operas and international concerts.

Hoa Lo Prison

The French-built Hoa Lo prison allows one to glimpse into how Vietnamese and American prisoners were treated during the French occupation. A must-see to understand Vietnam’s turbulent past.

Halong Tours Booking’s Pick: Top 5 Must Eat

Bánh Cuốn

G-Tip

Always look for a place packed with locals for the most authentic and tasty experience.

Wake up early for the Bánh Cuốn as the Hanoi-ans eat it for breakfast.

These delectable little steamed rolled-rice pancakes stuffed with meat, sprinkled with fried onions and dipped into tangy sweet sauce are not to be missed.

Bún Chả Ha Noi

Bún chả is made up of a plate of cold vermicelli noodles, served with a bowl of hot steaming soup filled with crunchy vegetables and barbecued meat. Dip the cold noodles into the tangy, sweetish soup flavoured with just the right amount of fat for a refreshing meal that’s not too heavy on the tummy.

Phở

Slurp up some of these slippery noodles for breakfast, lunch or if you’re lucky, dinner. Vietnam’s most famous dish isn’t just hype as the broth is packed with rich beefy flavour and made even better with a few dashes of lime juice, basil, mint leaves and bean sprouts. Look for a local joint by a corner of a street packed with locals eating from tiny stools for the most authentic experience.

Nem

The Nem – rice paper parcels stuffed with glass noodles, ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, onions, egg and meat, deep fried to a golden brown – is the quintessential street snack in Hanoi. Dunked into a delicious medley of fish sauce and lime juice, these crunchy morsels are good any time of the day.

Banh Mi

Baked fresh daily, these baguette sandwiches are one of the great by-products of the French colonial period, married with the culinary creativity of the Vietnamese. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, the baguettes are filled with various meats, homemade mayonnaise and an assortment of sauces, then garnished with a dash of freshly cut cilantro, pickled carrots and radishes, making it one of the most sinfully delicious sandwiches one can ever attain. There are also vegetarian versions, or ones filled with fried egg, or satay. There are endless possibilities for the Banh Mi.

Getting There

By Air

Depend on which country you come from

Airport Transfer

G-Tip

Prior to arrival, check with Halong Tours Booking  if airport transfer is already included in your holiday package.  

For less hassle, a fixed fare taxi stand is located at the exit of the airport, offering rides to the city at USD$18. You can also opt to hop onto any of the other taxis waiting at the airport, but agree on the fare before or else you’ll find yourself in for an expensive surprise. Prices range from USD$15 – USD$20. Some of these taxis may bring you to a similarly named hotel or try to sell you accommodation and tours, so be careful.
 

Because of the many taxi scams at the airport, the airport shuttle buses are getting more and more popular among the tourists and locals alike. Taking about an hour from the airport and costing 40,000d, the shuttle bus will drop you at the Vietnam Airline office, a 1-minute walk from Hoan Kiem Lake, and a short 10-minute stroll to the Old Quarter. If you are lugging around big bags, you can take a 20,000 – 30,000d taxi ride to the Old Quarter from the drop-off point.
 

Public buses brings you right into the city centre. The bus stop is located on the right side of the airport terminal exit and a ride costs 5,000d, taking up about 1 – 1.5 hours. Buses run every 20 minutes from 5am – 10pm daily. Bus number 7 brings you to the Kim Ma bus station (2.4km from Hoan Kiem Lake) while bus number 17 connects to the Long Bien bus station (1.2km from Hoan Kiem Lake).

Getting Around

G-Tip

When crossing the streets, remember to go slow and not make any sudden movements. This allows the motorbikes and cars around you to anticipate your speed and swerve safely around you. Do not stop suddenly or run across the street.

If you’re not in a rush and have some time to spare, seeing the sights on foot in Hanoi can be very rewarding, especially if you’re staying in the Old Quarter, given the close proximity most attractions are to each other and the many cafes to stop at for a short rest and some of that obligatory Vietnamese drip coffee.

If you’re planning on touring, there are plenty of metered taxis at your service such as the Blue Bird taxi. While there are other reliable taxi services, always make sure they switch on the meter. Otherwise, you can bargain for a price or if you are not comfortable with that, you can always get another cab.

Should walking around become too taxing, there is always a cyclo (trishaw) round the corner offering to take you somewhere. While it can be a novelty to ride around the bustling city on a trishaw, you should be wary of cyclos because the drivers can sometimes be temperamental and are known for forcing tours onto unsuspecting tourists.

G-Tip

Always negotiate prices with cyclos and Xe oms in advance to avoid a fare scare later on.

Most taxi drivers speak very limited English so it’s best to bring along a business card from your hotel and an address to the destination you’re going to.

Xe oms (motorbike taxis) are also a popular form of tourist transportation for shorter trips. Just look out for the local lad out on his motorbike, looking around expectantly. Xe oms can be found almost anywhere in the city, especially if you’re not venturing far from the Old Quarter.

Taxi rates are very reasonable for longer trips if you manage to catch one without a doctored meter. The meters kick off at a rate of around 10,000d to 15,000d and every kilometre costs about 8,000d. Some trustworthy taxi companies include: Mai Linh (043-822 2666) and Hanoi Taxi (043-853 5353).
 

Motorbike / bicycle renting can be a cheap and fun option to see the city if you’re confident in your biking skills as the traffic can be quite intimidating. Motorbike rentals can be arranged with your hotel or a nearby guesthouse for USD$5 while bicycles can be rented for as low as USD$1.

Weather

G-Tip

Bring along a sweater when travelling in the colder months of December till February.

Hanoi gets especially hot with average temperatures of up to 36˚C during the summer months of May – August. This is also the period where it gets very rainy and wet.

Moderate weather can be found from September till November.

The city gets slightly cooler and temperature drops to a mild 10˚C – 20˚C from December till February.

Practical Tips & Information

Be careful of scams in the city. The most common scam thrown the newcomer’s way is the “price confusion” scam where locals will claim that the agreed price was much higher or had more zeroes. Always carry along a paper and a pen to write down prices with agreed vendors, be it transportation or shops. You don’t want to be paying 50,000d for something you initially thought was 15,000d.

When walking around on the sidewalks, always be aware of motorbikes coming from all directions. The sidewalks are just shortcuts in disguise to Vietnamese bikers, so be careful when strolling along. Just listen out for the incessant honking.

In case you run into any trouble, the police can be reached at 113. Should you need any medical help, International SOS is available at 04-934 0666 / 04-934 0555 (24-hr Emergencies).

 

 

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