I first ventured to Hanoi last January, and was greeted by some pretty chilly weather. “It’s so cold, even water buffalo are freezing”, the lady at my hostel told me. That’s pretty damn cold, let me tell you.
Cold? In Southeast Asia? It wasn’t meant to be like this! I whimpered to myself.
So it was with reluctant feet and a several layers of clothing that I set off to explore Hanoi. Within 10 minutes, I was so glad that I did.
Before I knew it, I’d been wandering for hours, happily lost in the backstreets and marvelling at the masses of motorbikes, breathing in the scent of scrumptious street food and overwhelmed by the beauty of the French architecture.
Hanoi is a truly wonderful city. In fact, it deserves a big High Five! So here are five of our favourite things to do in the City of the Soaring Dragon.
Jump into beautiful and bustling Hanoi
Five must-do Hanoi experiences
1. Get lost in the Old Quarter
A stroll through Hanoi’s Old Quarter is an experience in itself. The majestic colonial architecture and pretty town square, complete with cathedral, has a distinctly European feel.
Luckily, the waft of the street food, locals dining on the pavements on plastic chairs, and general chaos will remind you that you’re firmly routed in Vietnam. Turn a corner and you’ll discover some of the Hanoi’s nicest shops, along with its biggest market, Dong Xuan. Get stuck in, on our Hanoi Welcome Package.
Take to the streets and get lost in the Old Quarter
2. Chow down on street food
You’ll smell amazing food everywhere you go in Hanoi. The smells just waft around the streets. If you try anything, make sure it’s a steaming bowl of phở, or beef noodle broth – Hanoi’s signature dish. As well as being amazingly tasty, it’s also amazingly cheap. Chow down with the locals for around $1 a bowl.
3. Cruise on Halong Bay
Just a few hours from Hanoi lies the magical Halong Bay. This UNESCO World Heritage site is the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city.
Explore the beautiful Halong Bay, just hours outside Hanoi
It’s high on the list of most backpackers, but there’s a reason the tourists keep on boarding the junk boats. The reflections of the limestone formations in the green-blue sea is simply beautiful, and spending the night on a traditional junk is an experience not to be missed.
4. Run for the hills in Sapa
When the motorbikes get too much, there’s only one thing for it: retreat into the mountains. Just a hop, skip and a sleeper train away from Hanoi, Sapa is where it’s at if you’re looking for trekking and tranquillity.
It’s also home to some of Vietnam’s largest ethnic groups, who live in the surrounding valleys and villages. Ask us about our 4-day Sapa Adventure, which will see you exploring the local villages, as well as meeting the inspiring people of the hill tribes.
5. Sip some infamous coffee
So you’ve heard the one about the coffee that’s made out of weasel, err, poo? Well, it’s all true. Almost. The infamous ‘weasel coffee’ is made out of coffee beans that have been consumed by civet cats, and then passed through their digestive systems and collected. Regarded as one of the most expensive coffees in the world, weasel coffee may have the ick-factor, but when in Rome, and all that…