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Exciting Northern Vietnam!


Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam.With a population of 5 million people........each of whom appears to own a motorbike........this bustling, colourful city is an exciting place to spend a few days.With transport, food and accommodation so well priced , it makes for a very affordable vacation in a fascinating city. Divided into two main sections the The Old Quarter is located near to the Hoan Kiem Lake. From here you can walk to many of the interesting sights, or catch a taxi or cyclo for only a few dong. There are maps with walking routes which will give you a great over view of this historic part of the city. It is not the easiest city to traverse using a map, so take a few minutes over breakfast to work out where you are going

Museums in Hanoi – Note most are closed on Mondays

There are several very interesting museums including
  • The Temple of Literature – is a must!

  • alt-Temple-of-Literature-Hanoi.jpg


  • Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
  • Museum of Vietnamese Revolution
  • The Army Museum
  • Hoa Lo Prison Museum
  • Memorial House – very interesting old Chinese House
  • Women’s Museum
  • Fine Arts Museum

More Interesting Hanoi Features

Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, his stilt house and a museum are all in the same area. We did not get here, but you can see it as you are driving around Hanoi.

alt.Ngoc-Son-Temple.jpg Water Puppets, on the edge of Lake Hoan Kiem, originate in Hanoi and are a unique experience. It is open for four sessions from 4.00pm.I was sorry to miss this unique art form as it was closed when we went, but I had varying opinions.
CommentsOne woman said she was not overly impressed, while another advised that it was well worth viewing because it is special to Hanoi. She advised it was worth paying the few dong extra for front seats, to get a good view.

Ngoc Son Temple is in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake and reached by the bright red Huc bridge.This is a central feature of Hanoi's Old Quarter, and the best place to start your walking tour.

Walking Hanoi

The maps in the Lonely Planet are far too small to be useful. Try the Rough Guide for easier maps to read. Or buy a proper map from a street hawker, a bookshop or your hotel will have free maps, although a little limited.

alt.Hanoi-street.jpg Walking Hanoi is fascinating. Each street is representative of a product. So you have
  • shoe street
  • toy street
  • clothing street
  • blacksmith’s street
  • paper products street
  • towel street – yes really!
  • rope and string street- truly!
  • pots and pans street
and so it goes on.

They are not called those names, but that is what they sell. It is quite different to any other city I have ever been, in this respect.

Our very favourite street was the one we were staying in – Pho Hang Hahn Coffee Street! Vietnam has the most delicious coffee you will ever taste! We like it black, and it was hard to go past a coffee house. Grown in Dalat in central Vietnam, they are second only to Brazil, for world coffee production.Look out fo rhte weasel coffee!

alt-Hanoi-Markets.jpg The Market is well worth browsing through, with mounds of colourful fruit and vegetables, fish, meat being both prepared and for sale. The amazing thing was there were absolutely NO flies! Clothing, flowers and more. You see flowers for sale all around the city. Small stalls, women with flower filled bicycle baskets and many large, formal, floral arrangements.......often balanced on the back of a bicycle.

If they are adorning a car – you can look out for the bride.

There is a large flower market on the outskirts of Hanoi , as you come in from the airport,

Walking Around Lake Hoan Kiem and Surrounds

Start your walk at the red Huc Bridge across Hoan Kiem Lake to Ngoc Son Temple which is in the middle. This temple gives a beautiful view of central Hanoi’s Old Quarter. From here you can carry on past the rather unremarkable Martyr's Monument built in recognition of those who died fighting for the Independence of Vietnam,to the Water Puppet theatre. You get a good view from here of Thap Rua- the Tortoise Tower in the middle of the lake, although I think you get closer on the other side of the lake.

Crossing the road, you cross an expanse of paving to the huge statue of Emperor Ly Taito who ruled from 1028 - 1054. If you carry on behind this statue, you come to a busy tree lined road, with large luxury looking buildings in the usual yellow. Turning right you will arrive at the Opera House. Sandwiched between this and the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel is an outdoor restaurant that is a lovely place for a break and lunch.

We were not allowed inside the Opera House but had a quick peek before walking on behind the Opera House to a Museum which was closed. However, in front was a stunning Bonsai Collection. You can browse a round this collection. It is beautifully displayed on raised trays, with miniature figurines and characters to enhance the bonsai

alt-Bonsai-Collection-Hanoi.jpg After walking back through the streets to the lake, you can continue on round through musical instrument street, and if you haven’t already seen it, take the street up to St Joseph’s Cathedral. ( You will want to come back for a meal at Mediterraneo restaurant, opposite the cathedral one night).


Wandering back the same way you came, take the next left into Pho Hung Hahn......coffee street, which has several restaurants and coffee shops. There is also a selection of CD and DVD stores – although the best shop for DVD’s is Victory – Local advise proved correct! Around this area of the Lake there are several good restaurants. The one overlooking the Lake....... Thuy Ta Cafe has very nice meals and is a very pleasant place to rest a weary body.

Next door is a small, but very popular outdoor ice cream cafe. The locals fill the small space, including parking their motor bikes inside! We found the monks seemed partial to the ice cream here too.

Walking Route 2

Another walk takes you round the Lake, and at the Water Puppet Theatre you cross the busy road to go into shoe street.

From here you can take the routes suggested in the Lonely Planet, maps or even the girl on the desk in your hotel.Pho Cau Go to Pho Hang Be is where you will find

alt.Memorial-House-Hanoi.jpg Memorial House. This is a beautifully restored old Chinese Merchant’s House and well worth looking through. It has an intriguing display of home wares, and artifact.You can go upstairs and see women doing their hand crafts.

From here go past jewellery street to Bach Ma Temple. Not at lunchtime if you want to go inside. It was closed, as you found many things in Vietnam – lunch is a two hour break from 12.00 to 2.00pm.You can carry on to the East citadel wall. Unfortunately, because the army are located inside the citadel, all you see is the wall.

Taking the route through paper street, blacksmiths street,box makers,then herb sellers..... we arrived back at Point A by the Lake.


The multi storied Highland building has a restaurant on the top. It is well worth going up as you can enjoy delicious juices - try the fresh passionfruit, or lemon, coffee,drinks and meals, while you soak up the amazing view of the city and Lake. Weary, we saw the foot massage sign beckoning us next door.

Hanoi Foot Massage

We found we could have an hour long massage for $10US. Settled in leather arm chairs with views over the lake, we enjoyed a tea of our choice – I had strawberry, while having a relaxing and very professional massage, starting with a soak in foot baths. alt-View-of-Lake-Hoan-Kiem.jpg I can recommend this place. There were many Japanese and locals coming through the door. Always a sign the place is good.

Contact Details - Hong Mau Don - Foot MassageDinh Tien Hoang StreetHanoiPh: (04) 0362786

Day Tours from Hanoi

There are many day tours from Hanoi.These include
  • The Perfume Pagoda
  • Mai Chau
  • Halong Bay -although I suggest this is best as a one or two day tour
For further information go to Travel to Vietnam.

Hanoi Restaurants

There is a huge range of wonderfully diverse restaurants. You can indulge in a wide selection of Vietnam and Hanoi food specialties, as well as Italian, French,Japanese,Indian, Vegetarian...........you name it.It is here and we never had a bad eating experience.Go to Vietnam Food for more detail on food and restaurants.


Hightly Recommended Hanoi Hotel

Golden Sun Hotel- 23 Pho Hung Hahn St was a wonderful place to stay. Very central..it was literally metres from the lake front. We booked in for three days and then booked 1, 2 or 3 nights over the next three weeks.We stayed in a variety of rooms, and while the view was not always wonderful due to the mass of powerlines, common in Vietnam, the rooms were very nicely decorated. alt.View-from-Golden-Sun-Breakfast-Room-Hanoi.jpg The front desk staff were charming.Friendly, extremely helpful and made our stay most enjoyable. Nothing was too trouble. They booked day tours, taxis, airport transport and gave advice for sightseeing. We had complimentary fruit and wine on occasions, and a special night in an upgraded room.

The Breakfast is filling and delicious.I recommend the banana pancakes, which were more like crepes. With the breakfast taken on the top floor with close views overlooking the lake , it was a lovely way to start the day.

You Can Book this Hotel Through HostelWorld.

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