Hanoi sits on the banks of the Red River and it’s a definite must for anyone travelling to Vietnam. It’s a beautiful city with French influences. Some Vietnam travellers even refer to Hanoi as the Paris of the Orient, with its elegant boulevards and the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. The city definitely has a European feel in the spring when the trees along the boulevards are all covered in blossom. It’s also completely crazy, with mopeds, rickshaw and cars beeping and tearing through the narrow streets at all times of day. It’s an essential Vietnam travel experience, and somewhere that you certainly won’t forget in a hurry.
Crossing the road…
There are so many mopeds on the streets in Hanoi that crossing the road is a bit like playing chicken – it certainly raises your blood pressure. You might as well get used to it thought – the roads all over Vietnam are nothing less than mental so stay beady eyed during your Vietnam trip. In principle crossing the road is not dangerous, the traffic drives around you as long as you walk calmly and slowly across. The golden rule is – don’t move quickly.
The Old Quarter
The Old Quarter of Hanoi is one of the liveliest neighbourhoods. In the 13th century, the 36 streets were divided up among the craft guilds, giving each guild its own street. You can finish off the day by visiting the Municipal Water Puppet Theatre. Every evening, except Mondays, a performance is given at 8pm, and it’s very popular indeed with travellers to Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
A mausoleum was built for Ho Chi Minh after his death, just like Lenin in Moscow, so that everyone can view him lying in a glass sarcophagus. Surrounded by guards, you can queue up to take a look at ‘Uncle Ho’ who looks a little bit orange. They have used orange/red lighting so that the light won’t damage (discolour) the body. For the Vietnamese it is a great honour to be permitted to visit this embalmed body, so you must try to really fit in with their customs during such a visit – don’t put your hands in your pockets!
Eating and Drinking
Hanoi is great for food, especially if you keep an open-minded approach to what can be defined as food during your Vietnam trip. If you’ve got the stomach for it, try deep fried scorpion, deer penis, satay frog legs and camel kebabs. Tasty. For the less adventurous Vietnam travellers, you can stick to all kinds of noodles, traditional Pho soup and fresh summer rolls. All of these dishes will really add to your Vietnam travel experiences. If you get ‘noodled out’, you can try Kotos, a charity restaurant to help street kids get trained in the hospitality industry. They do a killer beans on toast, something that you may well be craving after weeks of noodle soup.
Whatever you do on your Vietnam trip, Hanoi will definitely be one of the most memorable places that you visit. From there, head to Halong Bay, meet the hill tribes of Mai Chau or travel to Hoi An to order a whole new wardrobe from the friendly tailors.