One must travel smoothly, slowly and steady – that’s the total opposite of our Hanoi experience.
It was rough, fast and exciting! 🙂 Rough because there was only 1 flight available daily from Manila to Hanoi via Cebu Pacific – and it’s midnight! There was literally no sleep weekend for me and JR. Mainly me, because I’m very thrilled about this trip. I planned this several months ahead. I have this big vision of Hanoi in my head – it’s chaotic, colorful and tasty, It is indeed! Hanoi, particularly Old Quarter where we stayed is small enough for one day of sightseeing but it requires a lot of walking. But not to worry because the weather is perfect and it allowed us to roam around without sweat (March 23-25, 2017).
It’s a mix of urban life and scenic greenery. Old Quarter is decked with quaint houses and establishments against the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake as its backdrop. There are vendors everywhere wearing their native hats, rushing motorbikes that won’t stop for you, and coffee shops in every corner. If you walk towards the lake, you will escape the small roads that will lead you to Hoan Kiem District – it’s surrounded by parks. Alas! You’ve reached the heart of Hanoi!
Around 6 in the morning there are seniors doing aerobics/yoga with their red old-fashioned fans. During afternoon, it’s packed with tourists from different corners of the world. And in the evening it’s usually crowded in front of the Thang Long Theater for the Water Puppet Show.
Hoan Kiem District
There’s an entirely different world of food beyond Pho. We opted to go for the top rated restaurants to make the most our trip. I had several on my list but we don’t have enough time to visit each one of them, Madame Hien and Essence Hotel Cafe made the cut. It’s the most accessible within the vicinity of our plotted itinerary. I can still taste the fried pork spring rolls from Essence – it’s crispy on the outside and so much flavor in the inside. They also have superb customer service. The fresh rolls from Madame Hien is a must try too! Don’t hesitate to try other cuisines aside from Pho, you won’t regret it!
Essence Hotel Restaurant
Madame Hien Restaurant
Never skip the vendors selling Banh Mi on the sidewalks, NEVER! The best grilled sandwich I’ve tasted for Php60.00!!!
It seems like they have a coffee social scene – it’s everywhere! Hanoi is known for their unique take on coffee and it’s definitely something that you wouldn’t want to miss! In our short stay, we only tried 2, both have egg coffee as its specialty.
Cafe Pho Co
It’s the definition of hole-in-the-wall. You have to walk a narrow alley to get to a house-like cafe. But what’s on the top floor will surprise you. Be sure to visit during sunset or at night.
Temple and Pagoda
It’s possible to visit all temples and pagodas in one day if you start early. You can rent a motorbike for $10 for one whole day. We tried to squeeze as many as we could in 2 days and decided to pick a few – my favorite amongst them is the Temple of Literature – a very picturesque attraction in Hanoi.
Temple of Literature – Temple of Confucius
Tortoise Pagoda in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake
Ngoc Son Temple
Trấn Quốc Pagoda
If you are as jolly as Jr and I, who always wears a smile on your face, don’t change a thing. But don’t expect all locals to reciprocate. On an average of ten people that we greeted, only 3 or 4 responded with a nod or a smile. It’s not them being rude but it’s what they have gotten used to.
If you are traveling to SouthEast Asia, please give yourselves a favor and visit Hanoi.