Hanoi is an exciting city full of action, rooftop bars, gorgeous street food and zillions of bikes whizzing back and forth. It seems like it’s trying to catch up, and very fast, with the rest of the world after decades of setbacks such as the devastating Vietnamese (or American as the locals call it) War.
After taking a very pleasant flight from Laos capital Vientiane, we arrived to Hanoi just in time for my birthday. And what a place to be on that special day!
Kristina’s birthday drinks in Hanoi
We squatted on one of the famous tiny chairs by the road side and had a couple of beers in a chain bar/cafe Cong, followed by another bottle on the house. How did they know its’ my birthday? Nah, they were just being friendly, the youngsters.
A great place to be on your birthday if you are in Hanoi is the Rooftop Bar! As travellers and not having cocktail attire in our backpacks, we feared we are inappropriately dressed for this kind of place. But it was all good in the end.
We were soon enjoying a beer and a rum cocktail. To our surprise, it wasn’t shockingly expensive as we thought it might be. A total of 380,000 VND ($ 17.00) for a beer, cocktail and fantastic panoramic views across Hanoi. Shame about the rain though.
Rooftop Bar, 83 Lý Thường Kiệt, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội,
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Caffeine fix on every corner
It’s the place to visit if you love coffee. With cafes scattered on every corner you will soon be sipping one cup after another.
The best thing about cafes in Hanoi, apart from heavenly coffee, is that they are open till late. Most of them turn into bars, but still serve coffee even at 8pm. The Vietnamese do love their coffee, at any time of the day it seems.
If you love coffee as much as I do, you might find it useful to have a look at my Coffee Guide in Hanoi blog post.
The magical Old Quarter of Hanoi
The city’s jewel and tourist attraction surely is the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake. I loved how the red bridge reflected in the green water. A beautiful place to walk around at any time of day, or night.
But the star of the city for us is definitely the Old Quarter. Complete with the French colonial architecture, street food, temples and pagodas it is the heart and soul of Vietnam’s capital.
The abundance of places to eat and drink makes the Old Quarter a buzzing district of Hanoi. But out of all the places we popped in to the Polite Pub for a pint. A cosy and very polite place for a drink, but far from a good old English pub.
Polite Pub, 5 Hàng Hành, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.
The tiny colourful stools
You just can’t pass by the little stools without a smile on your face, it really adds even more charm to the already likeable city. Surprisingly it was fairly comfortable sitting on the small stools.
Paying our respects to Ho Chi Minh
It’s not every day you get to see a mausoleum of some of the world’s well known political figures like Lenin or Ho Chi Minh. Even though my childhood was filled with legends about the glorious Lenin, I never went to see his burial place in Moscow. So instead, I got to see the Ho’s mausoleum in Hanoi.
We didn’t get to have a glimpse at the man himself as we wondered over to the monument later in the day, but if you have a chance, do pop in. Just don’t forget to dress modestly.
The streets and the traffic in Hanoi
The volume of motorbikes on the streets make Hanoi seem like a crazy place. It seems like there’s no order on the streets, but somehow it all works. Crossing the streets is challenging in Hanoi, especially for first timers. I really struggled to get to grips with it, but you learn, eventually.
The best advice we got from a local Vietnamese was ‘just close your eyes and walk’. That’s how you cross the streets in Hanoi.
Here is a quick video that Charlie took during the rush hour. And no, you are not safe even on the pavement.
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Living like a local in Hanoi
Living like a local in Hanoi definitely added to our whole experience. Wandering out of our apartment into the beautiful Do Hanh street with the locals staring at us in wonder every morning, was an experience in itself. We were definitely the only westerners in the area.
It was the local area where we sampled some of the best noodle soup for breakfast, beautifully tender beef for lunch and chocolatey smooth coffee.
What was your favourite thing in Hanoi? Let us know in the comments below…
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