Hanoi is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination, thanks to it’s booming economy and diverse tourist attractions. I’ve been to Ho Chi Minh before so I was excited to go back once again to Vietnam to explore another city called Hanoi. We arrived at the Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi past midnight and we were greeted by our tour guide who was going to be with us for the next three days. He gave us a quick rundown of what our next few days was going to be like and how we were going to maximize our short stay by going to some of his favorite spots in and around the city. Here is a rundown of our itinerary and a couple of tips for first time travelers.
Visiting Hanoi: Tips for First Time Travelers
Get a credible and Reliable Tour Guide. I know how exciting a new place can be, but it can also be overwhelming. One of the ways to maximize and enjoy your stay in a new destination, especially if you only have a few days, is to hire a tour guide. We got the services of Hanoi Red Tours, a leading tour guide company that can give you different packages that would best suit your time and budget. I’ve heard of Hanoi Red Tours from friends who have traveled before and they swear by their reliability and expertise. We just got back from our trip and was so impressed with Hanoi that we’re already looking to book our next trip sometime early next year.
exciting adventures await in Hanoi!
Our tour guide Duc welcomes us to Hanoi
we were booked at the Crown Plaza West Hanoi on our first night
first meal of the day, a local favorite, Phoa Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup)
Visit popular tourist Spots. Tourists spots are popular for a reason! Go visit those places and find out why they’re so popular in the first place. Walk in the same footsteps of so many who have gone before you. Take the time to know their history and culture so you can better appreciate the beauty of the places and people around you.
On our first day in Hanoi, we went around the Ho Chi Minh Complex which was named after their very first President, and there, we got to see the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda and the Museum, where Duc told us many things about the history of Vietnam and Hanoi and how the Vietnamese are very proud of their first president because it was him who gave his whole life to serve his country and to fight for their freedom and independence.
we visited the Ho Chi Minh Complex on the morning of our fist day to learn a little bit more of their history and culture
the One Pillar Pagod is a historic Buddhist temple, it is one of Vietnam’s most iconic temple.
After visiting the Ho Chi Minh Complex, we visited the Temple of Literature, dedicated to Chinese Philosopher Confucius, it was the first national university in Vietnam. The university was eventually transferred in Hue in 1802. When we came to visit, we didn’t realize that it was also a graduation month in Vietnam which turned out to be perfect because we got to see so many students in their traditional Vietnamese dresses.
Luckily, November is a graduation month so we saw a lot of the students preparing for their graduation at the Temple of Literature
students came in their traditional Vietnamese dress called ao dai
inside the Temple of Literature
Try something different. Whether it’s exotic food, a thrilling ride, or an activity exclusive to the local destination, just go ahead and try it because you may never get the chance to go back there again. In our case, we got to try the cyclo, their three-wheeled bicycle taxi that appeared in Vietnam during the french colonial period. There has been a huge decline in their use since taxi fares have become lower and demand for faster vehicles rose. Today, the cyclo remains as a popular tourist attraction but even these may soon be banned from the streets of Hanoi. Since Duc got to negotiate with the prices initially, we didn’t have to worry about haggling for better rates and we got to see the old quarter while riding these comfortable (albeit S-L-O-W) cyclo’s.
Try the cyclo when in Hanoi as it will soon be banned from the streets of Vietnam
I can’t stress this enough. Food says so much about a country’s history and culture. While in Hanoi, we ate in this nondescript suburban building and I just remember it to be the tastiest meal I’ve had in Hanoi. There were none of the fancy stuff and it looked like a place a tourist would avoid but I am so glad that Duc took us there as we found out that Bun Cha has become popular for good reason, my mouth is watering right now just remembering the meal we had while we were there. I wish I had better photos but because we went shopping earlier that day, I didn’t realize we would be eating right after so I wasn’t able to bring a proper camera with me.
You may not be used to crossing streets just about anywhere, but here in Hanoi, even if it may feel like you need to fear for your life when crossing the streets, what with all these bikes, cars and motorcycles seemingly coming at you, be brave and be strong, don’t show them a hint of fear. It was so interesting to see some tourists look curiously at pedestrians and figuring out how they themselves were going to get to the other side of the street without being mauled by the onslaught of vehicles. But go ahead, you can do it. And if the fear is too strong to ignore, discreetly make your way towards the middle of the group you’re with and you’ll automatically have a human shield around you. I’m kidding, that’s mean. Just go ahead and cross the street already!
be careful when walking the streets of the Hanoi’s Old Quarter, cars bikes and motorcycles will come from all directions!
Try something new. Maybe buy something from the street vendors every now and then.