Following on from an earlier post, where I promised more detail on my Vietnamese experiences, I wanted to dig a little deeper and elevate the time I spent in Hanoi.
Hanoi was my first stop. Leaving behind the sweltering humidity of Bangkok, I stepped off the plane in Vietnam and was welcomed by torrential downpours. Silently, I made prayers to the weather gods that this was not the forecasting for the next month.
How to get from Hanoi airport to the Old Quarter?
I’d trawled through online forums to find an affordable way of getting from the airport to the Old Quarter. Thankfully, I stumbled on a answer; Viet Airlines shuttle bus. Go right outside the airport – ask for the shuttle bus, be seated and pay roughly 2 USD for y0ur ride.
Where to stay?
Two good travel pals I’d made through my TEFL course had told me to check into Chien Hostel in the Old Quarter. I took their recommendation and happily so. Chien Hostel is probably one of the most memorable hostels I stayed in during my travels.
- Free brekkie
- Great location
- Cheap, comfy beds
- Free beers during certain hours every evening
- Cheap meals
- Great atmosphere
- Helpful staff
Around the corner from Chien is a whole hub of street vendors, rustling up local eats. Hanoi is where I tried my first Banh Mi. For roughly 75 US cents / 50 p, I ate delicious pork banh mi, filled with egg, Laughing Cow cheese (for anyone that knows me, knows that this is a winning ingredient, pate, salad and chilli sauce). Simple. Delicious.
What is there to do in Hanoi?
The weather was pretty unpleasant when I was in Hanoi but on the day it was sunny, I wandered around the Old Quarter and checked out the Woman’s museum. There’s a lovely, big lake in the OQ (Hoan Kiem) that’s got a lot of buzz around it. One talented lady from the hostel, Darlene, was a street performer and used to use this area as her stage.
There’s also a water puppet show nearby apparently worth checking out!
I also spent a lot of time eating in Hanoi. Vietnamese food is exceptionally cheap – you can eat for as a little as $5 USD a day if you’re eating from street vendors.
Challenges in Hanoi
Before I arrived in Vietnam, a friend who had already backpacked through had pre-warned that Hanoi was a city full of illegitimate travel merchants. That, however, didn’t stop me from being a victim to a scam.
DO NOT buy your tours or transport tickets from Sinh Cafe Travel operators unless you are 100% sure it’s the original merchant. Due to the popularity of Sinh Cafe Travel, almost all travel agents in Hanoi now name themselves as the same, claiming to be the original store. However, 90% of them are not and are either selling you poor tours for the same cost, or charging you more than you should.
I got bumped on my bus ticket!
Unaware and slightly misled about night buses, at times I was left feeling unsafe in Hanoi. But again, due to the tour company rather than the city itself.
These guys are the originals: http://www.sinhcafe.com/
Where to go after Hanoi?
From Hanoi, most people tend to head to Halong Bay or Sapa. I’d recommend doing two days, one night in Sapa – including trekking and homestay and three days, two nights in Halong Bay. I was gutted to miss out on seeing Cat Ba Island as I only booked two / one. Don’t make the same mistake!
What were my thoughts about Hanoi?
Tasting new, local foods was certainly a highlight. But I also adored the hostel I stayed in as I met some really interesting people and had a lot of fun. I know a few people who got bad vibes from Hanoi, but for me it was full of character and charm. I’d definitely return.