Hanoi – Vietnam
So, you finally decided to explore the stunning and vibrant Vietnam? If you think there is a better way to explore Vietnamese culture, get the first feeling of traditions and of course, experience a considerable culture shock than visiting Hanoi, then you’d be very wrong!
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam that is located in the northern part of the S-shaped country. It’s a huge city with over 8 million people living there and almost triple the number of motorbikes operate in daily traffic. Many people get scared of Hanoi, as the first thing they will see and experience is probably the chaotic and unorganized traffic of Hanoi. To be realistic, the traffic is extremely chaotic, but don’t let this aspect discourage you from exploring the gems of Hanoi.
The city has many things to offer when it comes to attractions, but it’s crucial to remember that the locals call the city – “our beloved village”. There is much more to explore in the city than checking out the most significant attractions as the culture is very strong and locals aren’t ashamed to show it to every foreigner. If you’re looking for the place that will provide you with a fantastic vibe and nurture you in every possible way, then Hanoi is the perfect place to explore! So here are 5 places you don’t want to miss while you’re in Hanoi – Vietnam!
#1 Old Quarter
Let’s face it up, the Old Quarter is the most lively area of Hanoi that will show you the authentic Vietnamese culture, and of course, many traditional food and activities people do. To get yourself familiar with the cultural etiquette, you don’t need to read guides as you can simply take a long walk through Old Quarter!
The genuine recommendation is to take a long walk after their dinner time (around 6 pm), as that is the time when the whole action starts. People who’re living in Old District will just put tiny chairs and tables in front of their houses and prepare authentic food or serve drinks. Once you feel exhausted, simply sit down, order a beer and enjoy their Pho or Banh Mi while observing the streets.
Also, this area has a unique structure as the streets are thematic. What does it mean? Well, by thematic street I meant, each street will provide you with something special. It means there is a beer street, a food street, a shoe street, a backpack street and so on. You probably get the idea what’s going on in these streets.
Insider Tip: If you have time, visit Old Quarter during the weekend as the majority of roads closes for the traffic and you don’t need to worry about avoiding speeding scooters or horning taxi drivers. Sit down in Cong Café and enjoy delicious coffee or tea while having an amazing look at the life going on in front of your eyes.
#2 Hoan Kiem Lake
You will naturally stumble upon Hoan Kiem lake while exploring the Old District as the lake is found a home at the beginning of the district. The lake is often called a Turtle Lake and it’s a trendy hangout place for locals. The lake has two islands with a colorful bridge connecting the bigger island where Ngoc Son Temple can be found. The smaller island can’t be reachable, but it’s just a great addition to the lake as the old pagoda sits there.
Ngoc Son Temple is a marvelous place as people usually pray for beloved ones who passed away there. Also, keep in mind that the entrance fee is 20,000 VND which is less than a dollar! It’s definitely not worth to visit the place during night time as it’s usually overcrowded.
Hoan Kiem Lake is the hot spot for active locals who’re leading a healthy lifestyle. You will notice many older people jogging, dancing or even play badminton around. Also, if you’re a foreigner, don’t be surprised if you’ve got approached numerous times by locals who just want to sit down with you, buy you a drink and practice their English. Such an excellent way to have a relaxing day while learning about local culture.
#3 Infamous Train Street
Like I sometimes like to say, Vietnam can be a chaotic environment very often, especially for people who’re traveling to Asia for the first time. You will be greeted by so many horning sounds, motorbikes racing all over you, delicious street food, smiling people and much more. It can be easy for your senses to burn out! Wait, as it isn’t the climax yet!
There is a street in Hanoi where the train passes twice each day! Yes, you heard it right! The street is not just any street, as the street has many shops, market, food places set up there and also, locals are living their everyday life.
What makes this street so unusual that I had put it on this list? Well, the train passes each day at 3 and 7 pm and during this time everyone is rushing to move away their stuff as train literally passes few inches from house doors.
It’s such a picturesque place and will provide you with an authentic Vietnamese vibe! Sit down there, order a fresh beer and just observe the life of locals there.
#4 Dong Xuan Market
Hanoi is a known city for doing detailed shopping. Literally, everything you can imagine, and even things you can’t imagine can be found in Hanoi for the affordable price. The Old Quarter is a very popular place to shop as everything is organized in the street that are specialized for a single product and that can save you a lot of time. It’s not a strange thing why many people decide to buy there, but a huge interest means bigger prices also!
Don Xuan market is a perfect place if you want to go shopping, experience unique local culture and get low prices for the products you want to buy. The whole market finds home in a huge, four-story building that has specialized stories. For instance, the lowest story is specialized for the street food, , and seafood. The smells of food can be overwhelming, and very attractive for you to spend much time there! The local specialties like Pho, Bun Cha, duck blood soup will cost around a $1 for a considerable portion. Also, you will see many locals enjoying the food there, which means you can’t go wrong eating there!
Other stories mainly sell merchandise, clothes, and souvenirs for a very low price! Don’t forget to bargain as the starting price can be even 50% higher than what these sellers expect.
#5 Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
It’s very likely that you’re knowledgeable about the recent Vietnamese history and the name Ho Chi Minh resonates with you. He was the leader of communist party during the Vietnamese war and an essential person for Vietnamese people. However, there are mixed opinions about him, especially when it comes to younger and more open generations. Anyway, that hasn’t stopped proud Vietnamese to build a stunning mausoleum to give the respect to their great leader. The mausoleum was opened in 1990, which was 100th anniversary of his birth, but it was built in two years during the last years of war.
The construction process was awe-inspiring as they collected pieces and materials from all Vietnamese provinces. The mausoleum is opened during the day, but only for a few hours, so be sure to check the exact working hours. Also, the most astonishing fact is that the embalmed body of the leader is there and goes on the maintenance in Russia each year.
The mausoleum and surrounding complex is huge and will give you chills. Such a great place to learn about the Vietnamese war and history!
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Have you ever been to Hanoi? If so, please share the places we didn’t include in this list!
If you would like to read more on Vietnam – read our post on 7 UNIQUE CULTURAL THINGS YOU WILL EXPERIENCE IN VIETNAM.