Hanoi: The Perfect Introduction to Vietnam

Where do I start? I fell in love with this bustling city in the North of Vietnam instantly. I was actually surprised that the weather was pretty cold during this time of the year. The plan was to spend a day in Hanoi and head to Halong bay and stay for 1 night and be back again and stay for 2 more days.

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Normal day in Old Quarter

The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is located North of the country. Hanoi is a great place to experience both traditional and modern Vietnamese culture. It offers an eye-popping introduction to Vietnam. From the narrow and busy streets of Old Quarter to the serene and peaceful atmosphere of Hoan Kiem Lake, there’s always something for everyone in Hanoi.

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Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

How to get to Hanoi from Noi Ba International Airport 

Because I arrived in Hanoi at 12:45am, I decided to spend my first night in the airport and wait for the Airport Bus No. 86 in the morning. This bus route will connect you to downtown Hanoi from Noi Bai international airport and vice-versa, costing only 30,000 VND. It was a pleasant experience riding this bus because the one who will assist you can speak English. The guy even sat beside me and showed me a map of where I will go down and the way to my hostel.

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Bus No. 86

For more information about this bus service, you can visit this post by Suximi’s Corner.

There are also other options such as riding a taxi (expensive!), Uber, shuttle buses/mini vans and local buses No. 7 and 17 (I heard this is the cheapest one and usually locals ride the bus.)

Where to stay

You will never ran out of options in this city especially in the Old Quarter. Whether you are on a tight budget like me or willing to splurge, there’s always something for you. You can get a bed in a dorm room for as low as around $4 (less than PHP 200!). You can check out hostelworld.com for other options.

I decided to stay in Funky Jungle Hostel for one night before I head to Halong bay the next day. This is pretty much a party hostel where there is a bar in the ground floor. The beer is a bit expensive compared to the one outside hence decided not to buy one there. I stayed in a 6 -bed dorm room and met another Filipino traveling around Vietnam who just got back from Halong bay. Hi Ronnie! (or maybe Ronny?)

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Image from HostelWorld.com

And did I say this is a party hostel? Don’t be surprised if you hear noises in the hallway in the middle of the night, probably drunk travelers who had too much beer. My French girl roommate even brought in a guy, and you already know what happened next. Alam na!

After I got back from Halong bay, I couchsurfed in a place somewhere in Bạch Mai, Hai Bà Trưng, Hanoi. I get to save 2 nights and my hosts even prepared dinner and lunch for me. They also have an English school which I joined 2 of their classes and had language exchange with their students. It was a great experience! You can check them out at EGO English.

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Second batch of students I had language exchange in Hanoi

What to do in Hanoi

3 words, EAT AND DRINK!

Throughout my stay in Hanoi all I did was, drink coffee, eat local food, and try the local beer. I shall make separate posts solely about Vietnam coffee and my culinary adventure after I end my trip in Ho Chi Minh, my last stop in Vietnam.

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The famous Bun Bo Nam Bo

I was supposed to do a city tour on my last full day in Hanoi however my guide for the free tour I signed up for called in sick last minute, hence made me panic cause I have no idea of things to do and visit. So instead of visiting museums, pagodas, etc, I decided to explore the food and coffee scene in and around the Old Quarter.

Coffee

Back home, I sort of stopped drinking coffee but I AM IN VIETNAM, one of the best countries for coffee. You will easily spot local coffee shops in every corner, Vietnamese people love their coffee! During my stay in Hanoi I have tried 4 different kinds of coffee and checked out different coffee shops. So far I have tried the following:

1. Coffee with Condensed Milk – The Hanoi Social Club
2. Coffee with Coconut Milk– Cộng Cà Phê
3. Chocolate Eggnog – Tầng trệt Cosmo (Not sure if this one is caffeinated or classified as coffee at all)
4. Egg Coffee – Giảng Cafe

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Egg coffee! Doesn’t look good but the taste is amazing.

Food

Hanoi gets pretty overwhelming if you’re not used to the smell and taste of their local food, which is common among Westerners. But for us Filipinos, kebs lang, cause some food are already seen in the Philippines.

Good thing I met Hugo, a Vietnamese who grew up in Paris and speaks English, who showed me a local restaurant where they mainly sell deep fried dumplings, spring rolls, to name a few.

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Deep fried spring rolls and shrimp cake

Tip: Eat where the locals eat. Watch out for those unassuming places where the locals gather. 

When in Hanoi, one should not miss Bun Bo Nam Bo, also known as stirred beef vermicelli, Pho, Banh Mi or Vietnamese sandwiches and Nem which is more known as spring rolls.

Beer

For a beer drinker like me, Vietnam is heaven! Local beers here is so cheap, but don’t get you expectations too high, you get what you pay for, especially if you get the Bia Hoi which you can get for as low as 3000 VND. For those of you who is not familiar with Bia Hoi, it is a type of draft beer popular in Vietnam which is made everyday, you will find it pretty much everywhere. One of the most popular place to grab some Bia hoi is in “Bia Hoi Corner” at the intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen in the Old Quarter. Just grab a stool, watch people pass by, interact with locals and enjoy your beer!

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Bia Hoi Corner

The journey continues

After spending a day in Hanoi, I headed to Halong bay the next day and stayed there for 2 days and 1 night. To be honest, I was actually looking forward to be back in Hanoi to explore the city more and it did not disappoint.

Up next will be my adventure in Halong bay, which was pretty interesting!

Cheers!


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19 thoughts on “Hanoi: The Perfect Introduction to Vietnam”

      1. I actually skipped Sapa! I guess the landscape is somewhat reminiscent of what we have back in the Philippines. I’m already in Hoi An and making my way down south. I’ll probably check it out if I get the chance to go back.

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      2. I actually will be going next fall or winter! My cousin and his wife live in Manila. Her family is from near Vigan and I’m hoping to get up there this time! I was in Sagada, Manila, Tagaytay and Cebu last time. Hoping to get to Bohol this time! Any tips?! I’d love to meet up if you’re in Manila when we’re there!

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      3. Good choice with Bohol! Palawan is another great option, either El Nido or Coron. Vigan is a heritage site pretty much like Hoi An, where buildings were preserved from the Spanish era. Keep in touch and hit me up when you’re in Manila! Hopefully I’m there and not travelling. Lol

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