Vietnam

Hanoi

Hanoi has changed so much since I was there 12 years ago.  I was shocked by how many more motorbikes there were on the streets and how congested the streets had become.  If you’re not into this kind of scene, Hanoi might not be your cup of tea.  However, traveling through Hanoi is essential when you want to venture through the North of Vietnam e.g. Sapa and Ha Long Bay.  To be honest, Hanoi is not my favorite city.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sunny day in Hanoi but it is the perfect home base for your travels in the North.  I have to say that the food in Hanoi is really good and there are tons of great restaurants to satisfy your Vietnamese food cravings.  There are museums and historical sites for the history nerds.  My Hanoi recommendations are below.

Wandering through the back roads of the Old Quarter

Turtle Tower on Hoàn Kiếm Lake

Cầu Thê Húc (Red wooden bridge)

View of the flag tower at the Vietnam Military History Museum

Hỏa Lò Prison or Hanoi Hilton prison

Rush hour

Eden Coffee my favorite cafe

The perfect resting spot

Tired from all the travels

Exploring the Old Quarter

Trying bún chả for the first time

All the different flavors

The Hanoi life

Pho 49

Banh Mi 25

The best banh mi sandwich

Duck at Home Restaurant

Egg coffee at Giang Cafe

Hanoi Social Club for lunch

TO DO:

  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum:  I didn’t get to do this the first time I was in Hanoi so I made sure I went this time.  It’s THE weirdest thing you will ever see or do but you get to see Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body.  It was such an interesting experience because both locals and tourists wait on line.  Make sure you go early because it’s only open from 7:30am – 11:00am.  I waited an hour and the line went by very fast.  The best part is that it’s free.
  • Hỏa Lò Prison or Hanoi Hilton:  The prison was built by the French during the late 1800’s and was used to imprison Vietnamese political prisoners.  It was then used by the Vietnamese to imprison US soldiers during the Vietnam/American war.
  • Vietnam Military History Museum:  Aside from the Vietnam/American war, I didn’t know much about Vietnam’s history.  This museum does a great job explaining all that’s gone down.
  • Hoàn Kiếm Lake:  This lake is a great landmark because it’s right in the middle of the old quarter.  It was also my favorite spot to go for a run.  There are a few good photo opportunities around the lake.
  • Old Quarter:  Wander through the streets of the Old Quarter.  Take your time to explore this magical place with its French colonial architecture, magnificent street food, local handicrafts, and temples.  There is endless people watching.

TO EAT:

  • Bún chả:  It is said that bún chả originated from Hanoi.  Everywhere I went people were asking me if I went to Obama bún chả (he went with Anthony Bourdain).  I didn’t get to go but I had bún chả at hàng mành – Đắc Kim.
  • Pho – The pho in the North is so different than the pho that Americans are used to.  There’s no hoisin sauce or srirarcha and the flavor is milder than the Southern counterpart.  The best example of Northern pho is Pho 49.
  • Banh mi:  A banh mi sandwich is a French and Vietnamese love child.  What makes this sandwich uniquely French is the crispy baguette.  The banh mi at Banh Mi 25 is the best one I’ve ever had.
  • Eden Coffee:  Vietnam is known for its coffee but it’s hard to find an American style iced coffee.  I loved Eden Coffee because not only do they have great coffee, there’s a beautiful indoor space as well as a roof top.
  • Giang Cafe:  Egg coffee might sound weird but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  It’s so good and Giang Cafe has the best one.
  • Hanoi Social Club:  I loved Hanoi Social Club for its salads.  I know salad right?  Salads are hard to come by in South East Asia.  HSC is set in an old French colonial building and has a great old world feel inside.
  • Home restaurant:  If you need a break from street food and for a more polished night out, Home restaurant is your spot.  Home is set in an old French colonial building and has the best Vietnamese food.  I tried cha ca here which is basically like bún chả but with fish.
  • Chops:  If you need a break from Vietnamese food and want something Western, go to Chops.  I had the best burger and fries here.  It was so good I went twice.
  • The Hill Station:  I almost wept with joy when I stumbled upon this quaint little wine bar.  Good selection of wine and local cheeses from Vietnam.

MORE INFO:

  • Hanoi E Central Hotel:  I LOVED this hotel in Hanoi.  Hands down the best service of any hotel I’ve stayed in, ever.  The best breakfast and it was free.  It was affordable and had a central location.
  • Mido Spa:  I was a girl who was in desperate need of a pedicure.  I stumbled upon Mido spa while I was walking down the street.  It was the first time I had a pedicure while laying down.  It was a very comfortable and relaxing experience.
  • I used Uber as much as I could because it was oftentimes cheaper than local taxis and you don’t have to haggle with anyone.