What to do in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam
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After travelling for a month in Thailand, on March 3rd we enter a new state: Vietnam.
We take an Air Asia flight from Bangkok for at a cost of 67 € with 20 kg baggage (we book it 15 days in advance). We arrive in Hanoi at about 11 pm and stay at the Golden Sun Suites hotel. This week is a very special week because we travel together with Marica's parents and sister who came to visit us. We pay about 12 euros per night per person in a triple room and buffet breakfast included. Excellent service.
The next day we begin to explore Hanoi which once was called Thang Long (the city of the dragon that flies above). All tourists visiting Vietnam pass through Hanoi. It is a passing city both if you want to explore the north of Vietnam and the famous Halong Bay (https://www.marsontheroad.com/en/destinazioni/67/the-surreal-landscape-in-halong-bay).
We have identified 7 things to do in Hanoi:
1. Wander through the old quarter. The oldest part of Hanoi corresponds to many streets full of tourist shops that sell everything between which it is easy to get lost. We were amazed by the presence of many western cafés and many ancient houses coloured with hanging flowers that have a special charm. Moreover, as in every Asian city, there are many stalls selling food and tea where people sit on doll-sized stools, around very low tables. You can also visit the Cathedral of Juan where we attend a photo shoot of a married couple.
2. Walk through the lakes. The city of Hanoi is characterized by the presence of various lakes that differentiate it from other cities. The most famous and most popular is Lake Hoan Kien where there is a temple very popular with tourists reached by crossing a red bridge: Ngoc Son Temple. Another place of interest is Lake Ho Tay, known as the West Lake, divided only by a strip of land from Lake Truc Bach. Right here is a very nice pagoda: the Tran Quoc Pagoda (free admission).
3. Visit temples and pagodas. We specify that there is a difference between the two buildings: a temple for the Vietnamese is not necessarily a place of worship but is dedicated to famous historical figures such as Confucius or Ho Chi Minh; while a pagoda is a place of worship where people pray and make offerings. Among those we visit are the Ngoc Son temple, the Quan Tranh, the Tay Ho, the Tran Quoc Pagoda and the Temple of Literature which is the first university in Vietnam. Entrance fee is 30,000 dong - just over 1 euro - and you can also hire an audio guide for 50,000 dong. The complex is very large and includes gardens, ponds and rooms with different celebrities revered.
4. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This character was the greatest revolutionary and politician in Vietnamese history. In this mausoleum is preserved his body that can be visited by following very specific rules. Nearby is also the One Pillar Pagoda built by Emperor Ly Thai Tong. Entrance to the mausoleum is only possible in the morning and is free.
5. Try the egg coffee. It might seem strange to you, but we can assure you that it is a tasty and sweet coffee; in fact it is a coffee with zabaglione cream. There are various cafes, especially in the historic centre, where it can be found. It is ideal for taking a break from the noisy and chaotic city.
6. Go to the weekend night market in the historic centre. As in every market in Asian cities you can find everything: typical local crafts, clothes, imitated North Face garments, food and much more. We walk for a few hours and have dinner at one of the local restaurants. Prices for rice with fish vary from 2 to 3 euros. Price for a beer just over € 1. To try is the Pho Bo: beef soup, Hanoi specialty, which is eaten throughout the day but especially for breakfast (we did not make it!).
7. See the puppet show on the water. Let's go to the theater near Hoan Kien lake: Thang Long Water Puppet. There are stable times for performances: 15, 17.20, 18.30. The ticket price is 100,000 - around € 2.60. The show lasts about 50 min. We book it in the morning to go in the evening at 5 pm. The show starts with the performance of various local artists who play typical instruments; then continues with the puppet show in the water, such as the dragon dance, the buffalo playing the flute, fishing, etc. It was a very interesting show especially because it was the first time we saw such a thing.
Hanoi at first glance is a city that does not hit because of its excessive traffic of scooters and other means of transport. The streets of the centre are a total chaos and the hardest thing is to cross the road. Nobody respects the traffic light. We must arm ourselves with courage and try to cross hoping that no one will come upon you. Many times we found ourselves with the scooter a few millimetres away. Despite this, the Vietnamese only very good at dodging people. While in the evening, if you want to go out and enjoy a beer, you can go for a walk in Ma May where most of the clubs are concentrated, usually with loud music.