There are so many things to do and attractions in Hanoi! Let’s find out what are some of the things to do right here in Hanoi Vietnam!
So we were deciding which city to go to. Hanoi, the capital city or Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam? In addition, Ho Chi Minh City has the historical war tunnels. However, we decided to go for Hanoi because of its accessibility from the airport as well as the opportunity to visit attractions to its east and west , namely Sapa and Halong Bay.
Hanoi is located on the north east of Vietnam. On this trip, we visited Halong Bay (the UNESCO World Heritage Site) to its East and Sapa (350Km northwest of Hanoi). Some rate of conversions when we visited at the end of 2009
1USD = 1.4SGD=18,000VND OR 1SGD=13,000VND (Vietnam Dong)
Average haircut : 250,000 VND for gals
Taxi ride from Hanoi train station to Bat Su St:
50,000 VND (not 100,000 VND!)
Bia Hoi (Beer) at street corner: 6,000 VND for 1 glass (Yes it is really that cheap!)
Pastries: 6,000 VND @ local bakeries (11 Cha Ca St)
Foot massage: USD4 for 30mins (Au Trieu St)
Souvenir magnets: 10,000 VND
Day 1 (Arrival and trip to the Hotel)
We arrive at the Noi Bai Airport (Vietnam) and were greeted by our friendly driver with the sign that says “Hanoi Boutique Hotel : Kate”. Everything was smooth until we got on the car…
1. Max Speed. The car was moving at a maximum speed of 60km/h! No matter how fast it was trying to go or how it was overtaking other cars (can you imagine?) it was still travelling no more than 60km/h. Talk about safety…
2. High Beam and Horn. Everyone seems to be driving with their high beam lights on. The most interesting part was, EVERY car and motorcycle were sounding their horns throughout the journey! Our driver was practically placing his hands on the horns throughout the entire journey!
3. Crossing the road. We witnessed how an old lady crossed the road amidst endless trails of motorcycles. The trick is, to cross at a constant pace. The old lady was walking really really slowly across the road, it didnt seem like she was looking at the on coming traffic at all! The key was, she was moving slowly BUT at a CONSTANT pace. The result? Every oncoming motorcycle was able to predict her path and avoided her altogether! This little observation was put to good use throughout the rest of the trip. You really need this piece of advice, plus some guts, to cross Vietnamese roads.
As we approached the hotel, it really didnt look appealing at all. It looked like a 1 star hotel and the entrance was relatively small. But things started to change as you enter the reception, it was clean and inviting with renovations that looked new. But the surprise really came when we entered the room…
It immediately upgraded to 3 stars! Nicely decorated room, with a balcony view of the streets as well as a plasma tv! The toilet was clean and had toiletries (including towels) readily available. To top it off, WI-FI was free! We turned in early that evening, to the sound of horns on the streets…
Day 2 – Hanoi City, Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh Museum, Temple of Literature, KOTO – Know One Teach One, One Pillar Pagoda, Hoan Kiem Lake, Martyr’s Monument, Old East End Gate, Dong Xuan Market, Water Puppet Show, Bag/Shoe Street, City View Cafe
Soon morning came and we were (not surprisingly) awaken by the sound of the horns. It was nice to breathe the morning air and look out at the balcony, the streets before the hustle and bustle begins. We took breakfast and were pleasantly surprised by the chicken and beef pho that were served. It suited our taste buds well. There were also fruits and fruit juice to go along. Not bad…
We decided to walk towards the museums and Mausoleum (famous structure). Along the way, we stopped for an authentic cup of Vietnam cuppa. For 77cents (abt 50cents USD), we had one of the best coffee we’ve ever drank. It was rich yet wholely Vietnamese with aroma of the coffee with every sip. It was then it dawned upon us….Starbucks has been cheating our $$ all these while!
As we ventured on, we took photos of memorials, statues and a Catholic church. We soon stumbled upon the Mausoleum from a distance and decided to get closer to take some photos. As we got closer, we realised there were some important Korean officials visiting the place and there were literally no one in the vicinity except the police. So happily, as excited tourists, we took out our camera and started shooting. Almost immediately, the whistles started to sound and we were waved to move away from the vicinity! Much like prisoners trying to break out of jail, being whistled at…quite a traumatic experience. So enjoy the pictures that we ‘risked’ our lives for!
Next, we headed for the Ho Chi Minh museum, mainly because we wanted to use the toilet. We paid 15,000VND each to enter the museum. The museum showcased the history of its leader and some of the important milestones and significant events that took place. It also showed pictures of him meeting leaders of various countries at that time.
As we approached the Temple of Literature, it started to rain. We were then approached by locals with ponchos (make shift rain coats) ready with them. Some selling at 18,000VND while others only at 10,000. Because of the rain, we took only photos at the entrance and headed straight for lunch at KOTO (Know One Teach One).
The KOTO project was really to help children off the streets and to equip them with culinary skills so that they can become self sufficient and provide for themselves by either serving in hotels / restaurants or continue to teach others like themselves. Both Kate and I found this to be a very meaningful project and came by specially to support.
The food was GREAT! We had the roll with beef and prawn as well as the fried beef noodles. Both were delicious and both were authentic Vietnamese. We were very much satisfied, both with the quality of the food as well as with ourselves, being able to help a good cause. We ended off with Bia-hoi (Beer) to wash it all down…
We ventured back to the city and to the famous Hoan Kiem River where we took photos of the lake as well as the One Pillar Pagoda right smack in the middle of the lake.
Along a foot path recommended by Lonely Planet, we were able to take photos of the Martyr’s monument, Old East End Gate as well as the Dong Xuan Market where daily food supplies can be found. We also passed the black smiths street (whole street of black smiths) before heading to KFC (where else?) for dinner before our much anticipated water puppet show in the evening. This KFC was overlooking the centre of the city (pretty much a roundabout) with the Hoan Kiem Lake as the backdrop. So there’s actually a reason why we chose KFC for dinner….
Soon it was time for us to enter the theatre to watch the water puppet show. The show started with the Dan Bow player playing tunes akin to the chinese Er Hu. It is basically a stringed instrument with only one string. It was said that in the past, it was only played by males and that parents were worried that young girls would be attracted to Dan Bow players because of the enchanting tunes.
The show itself was interesting, with displays of the dragon, phoenix and puppets illustrating the legend. There was even small fireworks towards the end. Here is part of the show…
After the show, the puppeteers revealed themselves as the curtains lifted and they demonstrated (without the curtains) how they were moving the puppets behind the scenes. After the show, Kate and I walked past the shoes and bags street (literally lots of shoes and bags, Kate’s favourite) and we had supper at the City View Cafe. A little ex, but the view of the night was great. We had a pizza and some drinks to wind down the night…
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