In this age when cities are defined by impressive skyscrapers and magnificent buildings, it’s a breath of fresh air to find a place wherein the beauty is defined by its authenticity, diversity, history, and originality. Hanoi is one of the few. Throughout the years, Hanoi, Vietnam has preserved its tradition and has respected its history. This has resulted to Hanoi leaving an indelible mark as one of the country’s top tourist destinations.
Hanoi is not like Singapore, Bangkok, or Hong Kong in which modernization is apparent. Tall buildings, modern train system, and astounding skylines are not what drive tourists to come, but, its richness in history. The growth in tourism is evident by the presence of diverse nationalities all throughout Hanoi. Anywhere you look, foreigners are there to admire things Hanoi has to offer. Whether you are staying in Hanoi for three days or a week, you wouldn’t run out of things to do.
Hanoi is for everyone. Food or history aficionados are surely to be contented with what Hanoi has for them. Travelers who wanted to escape their busy lives are in the right place. Backpackers will feel at home. Everyone will definitely love this wonderful place.
As mentioned, there are many things to do in Hanoi, but, today we narrow it down to ten. Here are the Top Ten Things To Do in Hanoi, Vietnam:
1. Backpack at Old Quarter
Old quarter is the haven for tourists. This small district of Hanoi is home to a number of small hotels, restaurants, market, coffee and souvenir shops. Efficiently situated at the heart of Hanoi, is where you can meet and greet fellow backpackers. A stroll in the old quarter will warrant you to see how diverse the place is. If you are side tripping to Sapa or Halong Bay, staying here is a must. Travel agencies pick up guests for the tour only at Old Quarter.
2. Rent a Bike or Scooter
With just a map and a destination, riding a bike or a scooter will be a nice treat. Like any other Asian countries, Hanoi also has issues about taxis. To prevent yourself from being victim of scams, rent a bike and explore the place. Everywhere you look you’ll see scooters. In fact, when you talk about Hanoi, it is a travesty not to mention scooters. Hanoi has lots of lakes that are good for picture-taking. A simple and fast stroll can give you a feeling of immersion.
3. Cruising the Halong Bay
A trip in Hanoi is not complete without a visit to the famous Halong Bay. Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world. Halong is four-hour drive away from Hanoi but that is nothing when you gaze upon the beauty of limestone karst and isles. The cruise will carry you all around the bay and will definitely leave you breathless.
4. Spring Rolls
There is nothing more satisfying than to have a taste of authentic Vietnamese spring rolls. Whether fresh or fried, this finger food is simply delectable. Mango, carrots, papaya, coriander, and pork are the main ingredients. Partner it with Vietnam’s own vinegar sauce and it’s heavenly. On the cruise, part of the itinerary is to teach you how to make spring rolls, so take advantage of it.
5. Hoa Lo Prison
A country is shaped by its history and there is no better place to indulge on Hanoi history than going to Hoa Lo Prison. Hoa Lo Prison was used as holding cells for rebels during the French colonization and it had seen native’s struggles for freedom and justice. The prison was also used for POWs during Vietnam wars. Although the prison today is only a part of the original prison, the marks of struggle endured is efficiently and prominently preserved and presented. If you only have to visit one historical site, let this be the place.
6. People Watching at Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake is the lake near the Old Quarter and is full of locals and tourists alike. Head down the lake during afternoon and circle the lake by a bike. After biking, sit on one of the benches to wait for the gorgeous sunset while watching people do their own business. You will see street vendors being charming to tourists, locals doing tai chi, some street performances, and different kinds of people from different countries coming together in one place.
7. Watch the Water Puppet Show
Water Puppet Show is probably the most popular show in Hanoi and one of the must-see. The show is in Vietnamese language but, a percentage of those watching are tourists, whom I bet do not understand the language. Nevertheless, the show itself, the presentation, the angelic voices, and the puppets are very entertaining. This is something you shouldn’t miss while you are here.
8. Cat Ba Island
Cruising Halong Bay is a rewarding experience and can make for good memories. But, if you are traveling for relaxation, a stay for a night at one of the bungalows in Cat Ba Island will surely fulfill the needs. Cat Ba island is located on an isolated island in Halong and features different resorts that speaks of nature. Kayaking, swimming, sun bathing, and simply nature gawking are some of what you can do while on the island. For those looking for peace and quiet, this is a perfect place.
9. Try Local and Street Food
Vietnamese food may not be as popular as, say, Thai or Japanese food, but, it is sure is as delicious. Lots of restaurants located in Old Quarter offer the best local foods in town. No one should miss the Pho for breakfast or Bun Cha for lunch. Sit on a sidewalk and haggle a place with other tourists trying to enjoy the local delicacies. And oh the egg coffee? Must try.
10. Watch Local Show
There is nothing quintessential without watching local shows. If one would want to join the local crowd, head to one of the local theatre and enjoy amongst the locals the authentic Vietnamese show.