Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam will be celebrating its 1000th year in October. This is no mean feat for any city and a quick look around will certainly reveal just how old it is.
There’s plenty to see and if you weren’t aware that Vietnam is on the VIP network, do take note now. The last two posts I’ve been filling you in on some of the Vietnamese locations from our network including Hoi An on the north central coast and about my motorbike journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi.
I’ve finished the biking trip now and spent the last two weeks here enjoying the capital seeing as I won’t be here for the birthday celebrations.
It’s been great strolling the lakes, marvelling at ancient pagodas, visiting Ho Chi Minh’s body entombed in the mausoleum, getting to grips with elements of the Vietnam War and others in various museums, enjoying streets dedicated to selling produce like fake money for the temples or a profession such as tin smithing and some great coffee and food.
Here’s a list of things that you absolutely shouldn’t miss in Hanoi:
1. Visit Uncle Ho in all his embalmed flesh at the mausoleum.
2. Wander the old quarter and its rabbit warren of streets. This is also the main tourist quarter and in amongst the many hotels and restaurants you’ll find old houses to visit, historic pagodas, shops selling lanterns, towels or incense sticks and people tin smithing or black smithing.
3. Endulge in your daily dose of caffeine – Vietnamese style – which means it’s strong and has a healthy addition of condensed milk. Great for a wakeup in the morning!
4. Visit the beer corner, cnr Pho Ta Hien and Pho Luong Ngoc Quyen, known as Bia Hoi corner. A great place to get draught beer (4000 dong or USD 0.25c a glass) and chat with fellow travellers. A few hours can easily pass on the stools here.
5. Join locals for a bowl of pho noodles either bo (beef) style or ga (chicken). A bowl costs a whopping 20,000 dong or USD $1.
6. Get to grips with elements of the Vietnam’s wars – visit the Army Museum to see details of Vietnam’s involvement with the French and Americans and a lot of captured US Army tanks and planes. You can also go to the Ho Chi Minh Trail museum, the Hoa Lo Prison where American POWs were kept or the Women’s Museum or Revolutionary Museum.
7. Visit the Joma cafes – http://www.joma.biz/Joma/Welcome.html – in Hanoi where your purchase of mouth watering breakfast, lunch or dinner options of the western variety (think homemade muffins, rolled oats, milkshakes and lasagna) goes to supporting troubled communities in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. See the website for more details.
8. Take on Hanoi traffic – at the best of times but especially at peak hour, traffic is bound to raise your heart rate and get your adrenalin pumping. A motorbike taxi between 5-6pm in the evening is the best way to get in the mix, or better still rent a motorbike yourself – not for the faint hearted.
9. Journey out to the Perfume Pagoda, about 60km from Hanoi. The atmospheric cave location is up in the mountains that you access via boat and then a covered walkway.
10. Take a morning or evening stroll around one of Hanoi’s lakes.
As you can see there’s just so much to see and do so do start planning your trip here now. For those interested in the motorbike journey between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, feel free to post below or email for details – firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope you’re enjoying the VIP Backpacker’s Travel Blog. There’ll be an update added every other Friday, so keep tuning in to keep your travel dreams alive! If there are any travel topics you want covered feel free to contact me, Jo, at email@example.com