2 and a half weeks in Thailand complete. Now we’ve moved on to Vietnam for potentially 2-3 months (depending on how much we like it).
We took a flight from our last destination Chiang Mai to Bangkok, then Bangkok to Hanoi and stayed in Hanoi for a total of 9 days on and off – we kept coming back after some shorter trips to Sapa and Halong Bay (blog posts to come).
We stayed in the brilliant Vietnam Cheers Hostel, first in their shared dorms and then in private rooms. Vietnam Cheers Hostel was great for us, for just under 80,000 VND each a night (about £2.60) with modern, cozy rooms, friendly, helpful staff and free breakfast every morning on the rooftop restaurant!
Hanoi is madness, but thankfully not quite on the same scale as Bangkok. Although the constant beeping of cars and mopeds took a lot of getting used to, I instantly felt quite at ease in Hanoi. The one big struggle was the currency conversion (1 pound = about 30,000 VND), but once I realised we were paying about 50p for beer, I was a happy girl. I was also a millionaire for the first (and only time) in my life!
Things to do (and see!)
1. Water Puppet Show
With a long-standing history, the unique Vietnamese Water Puppet shows really are a bizarre, but amazing experience. Hanoi has a number of popular shows, the most famous being the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. We went to the lesser known, but still highly rated Lotus Theatre – tickets cost us just 100,000 VND each (roughly £3.30) and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
You may be expecting a bit of a naff experience, similar to a puppet show at a kids’ party, but this short 50 minute show is nothing of the sort. Live musicians playing traditional Vietnamese music make each of the 11 short acts come to life. You will be amazed by how life-like the puppets appear as they glide through the water!
2. Vietnamese Women’s Museum
Although the idea of a museum dedicated solely to hard-working women was something I was excited about, I worried that I would be let down by the content. I needn’t have worried – over three floors I learned about Vietnamese women’s role in family, their contribution to history (for example in war) and their fashion and beauty traditions. I left feeling amazed at many of the Vietnamese matriarchal societies and the lengths these women would go to for their family and their country.
This is something everyone should go when in Hanoi – what a great way to spend a few hours for just 30,000 VND / £1 (or 60,000 VND each with an audio-guide – which I would recommend).
3. One Pillar Pagoda
Situated near the Ho Chi Minh Museum, the one pillar pagoda is one of the most iconic temples in Vietnam. It is shaped like a lotus flower emerging from the water and is said to represent Hanoi.
Entrance is free and the Pagoda is open daily from 8am-5pm. Do remember to cover shoulders and knees when entering the temple.
Eat Up, Drink Up
1. Banh Mi 25
Locals raved about it, tourists on TripAdvisor raved about it and later on we raved about it – Banh Mi 25, a Vietnamese sandwich store with queues around the street. You will spot lots of places selling Banh Mi (a Vietnamese sandwich usually consisting of meat, picked veg and chilli) but this spot quickly became our favourite.
Food was cheap (20,000-35,000 VND/ £1 or less for a large filled baguette) and the selection was great, with a large range of vegetarian options. We just kept coming back, over and over again!
2. Milano Coffee
A quiet little coffee shop with not a tourist in sight. Try the iced coffee – it was delicious and not as sweet as some of the Vietnamese coffee we have had!
3. Circle Coffee
Circle Coffee was recommended to us by a friend, who mentioned the great cocktails and egg coffee (a Vietnamese delicacy). We almost walked straight past the entrance, but tucked away from the busy Hanoi streets was a chilled-out, welcoming coffee and cocktail bar.
The interior is very quirky and I loved the quotes and writing on the walls. We were so impressed with our Mojito and our egg coffee and felt very relaxed here. Thank you to the lovely staff for making this such an enjoyable place to visit!
Places to (potentially?) avoid
1. Ho Chi Minh Museum
I really like ticking off as many museums as I can in new cities, but this one just wasn’t for me. English explanations were severely lacking throughout most of the exhibitions, so we ended up whizzing through the entire museum in about 15 minutes. There are definitely other tourist-friendly options if you’re interested in the history of Vietnam (try the Women’s Museum or the Military History Museum).
2. The Nest – Board Game Cafe
Coffee + board games = my dream, but sadly we were disappointed with The Nest. After reading a few negative reviews, we decided to plod on and see for ourselves what this place was all about.
The concept was great, but it wasn’t well executed. Positives:
- Coffee and milkshakes were tasty
- I liked the fact that staff helped you pick out board games that you may be unfamiliar with and also explained the rules
- Some games are ‘premium’ i.e. you have to pay an extra charge for them- we were not told about this before playing and then we got stung with a bigger bill than we expected (however staff did take this charge off after my complaining)
- The noise is deafening… and it doesn’t come from the customers – we were the only two customers in this cafe, but we could barely hear each other speak due to the staff shouting and screaming over a game of cards. Not very professional!
Hanoi is a great, vibrant city with lots to see and explore. I feel like I’ve got to know the city quite well after my 9 days on and off, but I am excited to move on and see something new now.
I definitely won’t miss the crazy moped driving and incessant beeping, but I’ll miss the lovely people we met and the even lovelier food.