Vietnam's capital city boasts 3.5 million people, yet within the picturesque Old Quarter, it can seem as though it’s a small town.
Hanoi is also the jumping-off point for beautiful Halong Bay to the east, and the tribal hill station of Sapa to the west.
Here is WoWasis' Hanoi Top 10!
1) A walking tour through the Old Quarter is a must. Many of its tiny streets are dedicated specifically to various crafts and trades, from tinwork, to lanterns, to headstone carvers.
2) Take a leisurely walk around beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake, in the quarter, and enjoy an ice-cream or beer, lakeside.
3) The Municipal Water Puppet Theatre in the Old Quarter features two astounding shows every night, showcasing the hundreds of years old art of water-borne marionettes careening around fireworks, accompanied by one of the best traditional music ensembles in Vietnam. It's located at 57 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Tel: (04) 824-9494, Shows at 6 and 8:30 pm
4) The Temple of Literature is the site of Vietnams oldest university, founded in 1070. The architecture and grounds are breathtaking.
5) Ho Chi Minh is as revered in Vietnam as King Rama V is in Thailand. In Hanoi, you can queue to see his body under glass, at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum museum complex.
6) Check out the wonderful fashions on Hang Gai Street, in the Old Quarter, with dozens of shops selling wonderfully-designed clothing and accessories. Visit WoWasis’ Hanoi fashion shops reviews to find some of the best!
10) Food is a delight in Hanoi, whether you’re eating a chicken dish at a street stall, drinking a Han Noi Beer at a corner cafe, or enjoying a cooling sugarcane drink, fresh-squeezed on the spot.
Why go to Hanoi?
We think Hanoi's perhaps the best-kept secret, in terms of large cities, in Asia. The lack of nightlife has kept it relatively free of the tourbus hoards that descend on other scenic cities of its size, which makes it a welcome break on any itinerary.
Here, the bustle of thousands of motorbikes, walkers, hawkers, and food stalls disappears as if my magic around the hour of 11 pm. At that hour, many streetlights are turned off, and the city becomes serenely quiet, taking on a new sense of majesty. Those looking for trendy nightspots will be happier in Saigon, while those wishing to experience a jewel of a city transforming itself into a country town will prefer Hanoi.
Getting into Hanoi from the Airport
Noi Bai airport is 35 km north of Hanoi, and it takes 45 minutes to one hour by car or bus to get into the city.
There are plenty of taxis ($10 USD), but another option is taking the Vietnam Airlines minibus just outside the terminal into the Old Quarter.
It leaves every half hour, costs $2 USD, and makes several hotel stops prior to its final stop at the Vietnam Airlines office just southwest of the Old Quarter.