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The Socialist Republic of Vietnam

 

 

 

 

 

Hanoi (Vietnamese: Hà Ni), the capital of Vietnam, and also its second largest city, is a fascinating blend of East and West, with Chinese influence from centuries of dominance, and French design from its colonial past. It is largely unspoiled by modern architecture of the 1970s and 80s, and is now going through a modernization that is making it a rising star in Southeast Asia.

 

 

 

 

Understand

 

 

 

 

 Invading forces from every direction agree: Hanoi makes a fine capital. It has held that title for more than a thousand years, through several invasions, occupations, restorations, and name changes. The Chinese conquered the imperial city of of Đại La in 1408 and renamed it Tng Bình. Le Loi repelled the invaders in 1428 and applied the name of Lê Thái . For his efforts, he received the crown and a slew of legends about his heroic exploits, many centred around the Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter. The Nguyen Dynasty gave the city its modern name of Ha Noi in 1831, but they had transferred power to

The first western-style universities in Vietnam were founded in Hanoi, and today, it is the leading centre of scientific study and research in the country. Hanoi retains much of its older colonial charm, despite the battles that have raged over it; conflict had the side effect of making it largely oblivious to modern architecture, and as a result, few buildings in the city centre area are higher than five stories. The Old Quarter is second only to

As you walk along the street, you may find that people start talking to you. It is a cultural norm there to make conversation with strangers. They might ask you where you are from and other general questions. And be very cautious especially if a lady will approach you and over-solicitously insist that she is a student without being asked what is her station in life.

It takes awhile to get used to that. However, there are times when you find this friendliness extremely helpful, such as when you are lost or need help.

The Tourist Information Centre, +84 4 926 3366, Dinh Tien Hoang, just north of Hoan Kiem Lake, can provide a fairly useful map (bewilderingly, the blow-up of the old town is missing making it useless in that part of town) and other English-language advice, as well as limited free Internet. They aren't completely without bias.

There are self-help interactive screen information booths around the Old Quarter but their purpose is to superficially conjure the image of coming-of-age "Vietnam has arrived" impression to the unsuspecting passerby. An example was an inquiry typing out the American Embassy as prompted by an empty field, then it flashed on to the next interactive page asking for which district (one may not be aware that the US embassy has branches in every district) - smart and amazing!

 

Climate

The Tet holiday (Lunar New Year’s Eve) is in the Spring. Flowers are the most beautiful during this time of the year. The weather starts to warm up with light rain here and there during the week. Hanoians believe that these light rains bring prosperity and luck for the New Year.

The Summer, on the other hand, is quite intolerable. The heat alone would be alright but there is the humidity which would start to manifest in the air since Spring.

There is something unique about Hanoi’s Autumn. The weather is perfect with less humidity in the air. The temperature would drop by now, offering people a chance to take out their fleece and jackets. Moreover, there is this type of tree – "cay hoa sua" which only has flowers in Autumn. The flower has a very distinct smell. If you have the chance to visit Hanoi during Autumn, make sure you ask the local people about this type of trees and where you can experience their distinct aroma.

Winter can be quite brutal because it is not only cold, but also very humid. The winter in Hanoi feels even colder due to the fact that Vietnamese houses typically don’t have a central heating system. Many houses don’t have any types of heating at all.

January is a drizzly and even rainy month. It may rain two days or days in a row all day long for a week. Don't go unless you have an aversion to getting a glimpse of the sun.

Get in

 

By plane

Most people arrive at the Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), 35 km (45-60 minutes) north of the city. The airport might seem relatively small considering Hanoi's importance to the country, but this might benefit travelers by making the airport easy to navigate and no need to arrive hours in advance (the limited waiting space is one reason why non-travelers are discouraged from entering the airport) to make sure there is plenty of room for those actually using and working in the airport. Several airlines run flights from Noi Bai, including:

Aeroflot (

AirAsia +60 3 2171 9222) - Many good offers from

Asiana Airlines (

Vietnam, and also its second largest city, is a fascinating blend of East and West, with Chinese influence from centuries of dominance, and French design from its colonial past. It is largely unspoiled by modern architecture of the 1970s and 80s, and is now going through a modernization that is making it a rising star in Southeast Asia. Hue by then; it remained there until 1887, when the French made Hanoi the capital of all Indochina. It changed hands again in 1954, when it was ceded to Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh after almost a decade of fighting, and it became the capital of North Vietnam; upon reunification in 1975, it assumed that title for the entire country. Hoi An for uninterrupted stretches of colonial and pre-colonial architecture, well-preserved on dense warrens of narrow, wonderfully atmospheric streets. It trades the commercial boom and sprawl of Ho Chi Minh City in the South for a more understated charm, worth enjoying for an extra day or two, and with countless transport options and travel agents, it makes a perfect base for exploration of the North. Moscow-Sheremetyevo) Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. Seoul-Incheon)

Cebu Pacific (

China Airlines (

Manila) Taipei)

China Southern Airlines (

Dragon Air (

Beijing, Guangzhou) Hong Kong)

EVA Air (

Taipei)

Hong Kong Airlines (Hong Kong)

Indochina Airlines 63 Ly Thuong Kiet St. – Tran Hung Đao Ward – Hoan Kiem District.

Japan Airlines (

+84 4 3941 1411, Kansai, Tokyo-Narita)

JetStar Asia/Pacific Airlines +84 4 9550550 - Discount Vietnamese carrier (formerly Pacific Air) for domestic flights and low-cost flights to/from Singapore.

Korean Air (

Lao Airlines - Small airline with 4 flights a week to/from

Lot Polish Airlines (

Malaysia Airlines +60 3 7843 3000) Daily flights from Kuala Lumpur.

PMTair (Phnom Penh,

Qatar Airways (Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi,

Shanghai Airlines (

Singapore Airlines +84 4 3826 8888) - Full-service airline with daily flights to/from Singapore.

Thai Airways International - Two flights daily to/from Bangkok.

Busan, Seoul-Incheon) Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Phnom Penh. Warsaw) Siem Reap) Doha) Shanghai)

Tiger Airways (Singapore) +84 4 94 54565)

Uni Air (

Kaohsiung)

Vietnam Airlines - 25 Tràng Thi (corner of Quang Trung) +84 4 934 9660 fax: +84 4 934 9620, - The primary national carrier.

Vladivostok Air (

If departing from Noi Bai airport via Vietnam Airlines with no checked luggage, walk to the last airline check-in counter and to the right of it, there's a sign showing check-in for passengers without checked luggage. Using this counter is a great time saver if it applies to your journey.

 

From the airport

Taxis to central Hanoi can be hired at Noi Bai . There is a fixed price taxi stand right outside the exit, offering fares between US$15-16 into the city. It is slightly more expensive than the tout taxis, but you pre-pay for the trip, so no hassles about the fare. Other drivers may try to take you to a hotel of their choice to collect a commission, but if you are specific about your destination, they usually give in. As you leave the airport all sorts of US$ prices will be quoted by taxi agents, ranging from around US$15-$30. Be sure you have a clear price agreement with the driver before getting into the car as the price quoted by the agent may not be what the driver is expecting. If you have changed money into dong at the airport you can, of course, pay in local currency. The prevailing rate at the end of 2010 seemed to be around 350,000 dong. If you fly in late and don't want the taxi haggling hassles consider pre-arranging a private transfer with your hotel .

If you already have a hotel booked, you might ask the hotel to dispatch a driver. The nicer hotels will do this and put the fare on your room bill.

Public buses to the city centre from Noi Bai airport take about an hour. Bus #07 crosses the Thang Long bridge and goes to the Daewoo Hotel on the western part of Hanoi (almost an hour on foot to the historical centre of Hanoi). Bus #17 crosses the Chuong Duong bridge and goes close to the old quarter, to Long Bien (just a few blocks from Hoan Kiem Lake - the destination of most tourists). Prices are 4,000 dong and 5,000 dong, respectively. To catch buses 7 or 17, go to the 2nd floor of the terminal, proceed outside, and walk along the ramp to your left. The ramp, like a highway overpass, will take you to the other side of the road than if you had just exited on the 1st floor arrivals section. Buses 7 and 17 depart from right at the end of the ramp. However, baggage is not permitted aboard the buses, so you may need to wait a few minutes to try your luck several times or give the conductor a small bribe, i.e. paying for the baggage as well. Don't listen to taxi drivers or shuttle bus operators that claim the stop for the public buses is a few kilometers away or that service has been terminated. Public buses operate from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Shuttle-buses from the airport to Hanoi stop at the Vietnam Airlines Office on 1 Quang Trung (a bit south of the old quarter but conveniently stocked with taxis and motorbike drivers, of course!). Tickets are sold in the building in front of which the minibuses park, or you can give the fare directly to the driver. The cost is US$2 or 40,000 dong for foreigners (insurance reason), and 35,000 dong for Vietnamese (which includes VN-Americans),which rate is indicated on the sticker fixed to the bus's body. The driver will potentially give you trouble if you have additional bags, but if you push, you will get the same US$2 rate. They also try the 'typhoon in Ha Long Bay' scam whereby they take you to a street where you cannot see the hotel name and tell you that the Ha Long Bay guests are still in the hotel and they will take you to their other hotel for the same price. This place is a complete dive facing the highway. You should also beware the drivers trying to offer you a ride to your hotel for US$5, claiming the Old Quarter is 5km from the office - it is much cheaper to go to the Vietnam Airlines office and switch to a taxi (or walk, it's 2km MAX to anywhere in the Old Quarter). The taxi will not cost more than the US$3 price differential and if it does, you should refuse to pay as the driver has cheated you somehow.

 

By train

Trains to

All other trains use the main Hanoi train station (Ga Hang Co, 120 Le Duan, +84 4 825 3949), for daily services from cities in the south including

There are also train services to the north-west (including

Tickets for all destinations are sold in the main station, though there are two counter halls, north and south, serving the respective destinations.

Technically, there is a queuing system in place to buy tickets at Hanoi Station which involves obtaining a numbered docket and waiting to be called up to one of the ticket counters. In practice, the process is chaotic and many locals disregard the system altogether, often pushing their way to the counters to be served. If travelling to Nanning, China, it is advisable to ask a staff member where to go, as not all counters can sell these tickets.

Buy your tickets as early as possible, especially since sleeper-tickets can be sold out several days in advance. If you can't get a ticket anymore, try a travel-agent who still might have stocks. You may also try your luck in the station just before boarding time, agents still holding tickets will be eager to sell as the departure draws near. Nevertheless, travel agencies in Hanoi are known for their bad business practices. Some of them will try to overcharge you up to 300%, so it is better go to the train station by yourself and find out about the prices before you agree on any deal.

 

By bus

Most of the "open-tour" bus itineraries either begin or end in Hanoi, with

Many of the same companies also sell tickets to

See

Vladivostok) Nanning, China depart from Gia Lam Station (GPS 21.05213,105.87939), about 5km north-east of Hanoi Station, although tickets can be purchased from Hanoi Station. A ticket for a soft sleeper compartment (4-berth compartment) costs 568,000 dong per person. Be cautious buying these tickets from hotels or travel agents in the Old Quarter, as they may quote prices substatially higher. Hue and Nha Trang. The Reunification Express goes all the way to Ho Chi Minh City, although there is very little 'express' about it. Lao Cai, from which you reach Sapa. To board trains bound for these destinations, you have to enter the railway station compound through the "backdoor" at Tran Quy Cap station. Just tell your driver which destination your train is heading to. Be mindful of any "helpful" stranger who offers to carry your luggage - he probably has a sum more than the cost of the ticket in mind for the help. Hue the next (or previous) stop (12-14 hr, US$8-9), and from there to Hoi An, Nha Trang, Dalat, Mui Ne, Ho Chi Minh City, and other cities in Vietnam, depending on the bus company. Most seem to stop at their office which could be right next to the old district / most backpacker hotels. Check when booking ticket. Vientiane and Savannakhet in Laos (US$16-18). Do some research before you buy a ticket as rattle-trap scam buses abound on this route. Ho Chi Minh City to Shanghai overland if you're interested in crossing over to China by bus or train.

 

Get around

Taxis are the best way to travel long distances, but the cyclos, or pedicabs, are a cheap way to make shorter trips. Taxi fares are not always consistent, and the rates for each taxi company have not been standardized. For lone travellers, rides on the back of motorbikes (actually low-powered scooters) are popular too (known as xe om, literally meaning motorbike-hug).

By taxi

Some meter taxi owners in Hanoi will attempt to negotiate a flat fee in advance rather than use the meter. If you have a fair idea of how far you're going or how much you're willing to pay, this is probably a good idea. If the driver refuses, turning around and walking away will almost certainly change his mind. Don't sweat it, it's all part of the expected negotiation protocol. It has also become common for the drivers of some of the less reputable taxi companies to "fix" their meters to run faster hence running up a high bill very fast! The recommendation is to only use the reputable and reliable taxi companies. These are Hanoi Taxi, +84 4 3853 5353), Taxi CP, +84 4 3826 2626), Mai Linh Taxi , +84 4 3861 6161). Another common scam by taxis is that the driver takes you for a "sightseeing" - and extends the tour to make more money. This is very hard to discover unless you know the city well, but if you catch your driver doing this (e.g. going around Hoan Kiem Lake twice), demand that he stop the taxi and leave the taxi without paying.

Be very careful with meter taxis in Hanoi. Some have central locking, and are known to lock passengers in, and demand large amounts of US dollars before letting them go. The driver may threaten to have you beaten up or arrested should you not give in to his demands, but if you kick up enough of a fuss, they will let you go.

Most taxi drivers speak limited English, so it's a good practice to get your hotel to write the name and address of you destination in Vietnamese to show the taxi driver, and get your hotel's business card in case you get lost.

Be vigilant when taking a taxi - driver jumps out at destination and dumps most of your bags out of the trunk. While you're busy putting rucksack on he has taken off with your other bags.

Be vigilant also the meter which can run as far or even faster than a digital clock. Do keep an eye on the meter during the journey. Fare flag drops starting at 9000 to 12,000 dong.

 

By motorbike driver

Motorbike drivers can be found on virtually every corner, especially in the Old Quarter. Expect to be offered a ride every half-block (or more). You should absolutely negotiate a fare in advance, and again, turn around and walk away if you don't like their offer. There are far more drivers than tourists, and they know it - your fare could be the only one they get all day. You should also write down the negotiated fare (with all zeros) to avoid confusion. Even if you do speak Vietnamese, a driver might pretend that you said 50,000 dong instead of 15,000, In case of argument over fares after the ride, keep calm and repeat the original agreement (remember, you have the leverage). A typical 10 min fare should cost no more than 15,000-20,000 dong. Many drivers will accept US dollars as well. At the end of a ride, some will offer to hang around to drive you to your next destination - either be clear that you don't want a return ride (and don't go near him when you leave), or get a price in advance. Otherwise, you might be surprised when the driver tacks on several million dong for having waited.

Keep your wallet out of arms reach of the drivers when you pay, less honest motorbike drivers are not adverse to grabbing your wallet and helping themselves to any notes they like the look of before jumping on their bike and speeding off.

 

By cyclo

Negotiate first or avoid using the cyclos services, they can demand 200,000 dong (US$12) for a short ride of less than 100 m (330 ft). At the end of the journey, a few men will come over to translate, and they will pretend to help and later insist that you pay the demanded amount.

Motorbike rental

Motorcycles can be rented for around US$5-6 a day, and can be arranged by most hotels. This is good for making lots of trips around the city for individuals or duos, but be careful: Hanoi traffic is very difficult place to sharpen motorbike skills. Park on the sidewalk with other bikes, and be sure to lock the front wheel. Locals will help arrange the bikes near their stores. Many shops that have bike attendants will give you a ticket in exchange for parking your bike. This may or may not come with a fee (typically ranging from 2,000-5,000 dong). The ticket will either have your license plate number written on it, or the ticket itself will be numbered, with that number subsequently chalked somewhere on your bike. In such cases (where you've been given a ticket), the attendants may ask that you NOT lock the steering column or front wheel of your bike so that they can rearrange the bikes as customers come and go.

 

By bus

Scam free, cheap but a bit difficult to comprehend at first, the buses in Hanoi are relatively fast and surprisingly comfortable. Pick up a map with printed bus lines at the Trang Tien street (the book street by the Opera house) and spend a few minutes to identify the over 60 bus lines, find your bus stop, wait for the bus, pay 3,000 dong and off you go. If you are unfamiliar with the city, make sure to inform the conductor where you want to get off.

By car

Hanoi's traffic is chaotic, with seemingly perpetual traffic jams, and a large number of almost suicidal motorcyclists and pedestrians. As such, driving yourself around is not recommended, and you should leave your transportation needs in the hands of professionals.

By Metro

The city will be serviced by Metro sometime around 2015. Construction began in 2010.

 

See

Museums

Vietnamese Women's Museum - Bo Tàng Ph n Vit Nam, 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoan Kiem District (Located in central Hanoi, 1 km South of Hoan Kiem Lake), +84 04 38259938 (

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. 8.00 to 11.00 from Tuesday to Thursday, and over the weekends 8.00 - 11.00. The city down south may have his name, but only Hanoi has the man himself, entombed in distinctly

Ho Chi Minh Museum, 19 Ngoc Ha St, Ba Dinh, +84 4 846-3572 (

Ho Chi Minh's Vestige In The Presidential Palace Area, No.1 Bach Thao, Ba Dinh, +84 4 0804 4529.

info@baotangphunu@org.vn, fax: 84 04 38259129), Tu-Su 8.00AM-4.30PM. This often overlooked museum has recently benefited from an extensive renovation of its permanent exhibitions. The modernised interior is well laid out with information in Vietnamese, English and French, and contains a huge amount of information on the fiercesome female heroines of Vietnamese history. There are also exhibitions on the rituals and traditions surrounding women in family, as well as a beautifully presented collection of intricate hand-made ethnic costumes. A particular highlight are the regularly updated special exhibitions on a diverse range of subjects, from contemporary issues such as single mothers and street vendors to traditional medicine and Mother Goddess worship. English language tours are available on request. 30,000 dong.   Lenin-esque fashion - against his wishes, but that's how it goes. No talking, revealing clothing (shorts should be knee length and no exposed shoulders), or other signs of disrespect allowed while viewing; photos are allowed only from outside, in the grand Ba Dinh Square. Purses are allowed into the tomb, but expect them to be searched by several bored soldiers along the way. Left luggage is handled in a complicated scheme: there is an office near the street for large bags, with separate windows for Vietnamese and foreigners, and a further office for cameras, which will be transported to a third office right outside the exit of the mausoleum. Items checked in at the first office, however, will stay there. Note that the mausoleum is closed for a couple months around the end of the year, when the body is taken abroad for maintenance. free..   bthochiminh@hn.vnn.vn). 8AM-11:30AM, 2PM-4PM, closed M and F afternoons. This gleaming white museum and its gloriously ham-handed iconography are the perfect chaser to the solemnity of the mausoleum. The building, completed in 1990, is intended to evoke a white lotus. Some photos and old letters are on display on the second floor, but the main exhibition space is on the third floor. It includes cars crashing through walls to represent the chaos of post-war American capitalism, soldiers charging around with electric plugs, a cave hideout re-imagined as the inside of Ho Chi Minh's brain, and several other postmodern confections integrated with the main story of the man's life and his country's struggle. One of the more informative museums in Vietnam, and perhaps one of the oddest in the world. Guides are available in English, French, Chinese and Russian, but don't bother; the displays are labeled in English and French, and it's hard to imagine the guides doing much other than belaboring the point. 25,000 dong.   Summer 7:30AM-11AM, 2PM-4PM. Winter 8AM-11AM, 1:30PM-4PM, closed M F afternoons. The exit from the mausoleum takes you right into the grounds of the, uh, vestige, where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954 until his death in 1969. The nicely landscaped complex includes two of Ho Chi Minh's houses, kept shiny and "as he left them" by the authorities, as well as a garage with two of Ho's "used cars" and a carp-filled pond. The Presidential Palace is also nearby, but it's not always open to visitors. Pamphlets are available in English, Chinese, French, and Korean. Guided tours are usually available if you wait. 15,000 dong.  

One-Pillar Pagoda, (Tucked away between the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum). Travellers find the One-Pillar Pagoda either charming and lovely or utterly pointless, depending on how many tour groups are crammed into the small grounds at the time of their visit. Free.  

Fine Arts Museum - Bo Tàng M Thut, 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc St. Tuesday to Sun from 9:15am to 5pm. Only party-approved art is shown here and there is no information in English and only little in Vietnamese. But it is an interesting museum at any rate, with pieces such as the wonderful pictures of soldiers on boats depicted on prehistoric bronze drums, Buddhist art, and revolutionary art of the 20th century wars. Also some interesting silk paintings. 20,000 dong.  

Army Museum - Bo Tàng Quân Đội, Dien Bien Phu St. 8AM-11:30AM, 1:00PM-4:30PM, closed on Monday and Friday. Vietnam's military history extends back some two millennia, and this museum covers it on four buildings with interesting pieces. Item descriptions on museum exhibits are in Vietnamese, French and English. On display outside are the ubiquitous MiG-21 jet fighter, T-54 tank and many bombs and articles captured on Indochina and Vietnam wars. closed monday and friday. 30,000 dong, additional 20,000 dong to take pictures (rarely enforced).  

Air Force Museum - Bo Tàng Không Quân, Truong Chinh St (SW of the city centre). There's a decent outdoor collection of a UH-1 helicopter, Soviet-built MiG fighters, a huge Mi-6 helicopter, and other aircraft; unfortunately they've been exposed to the elements for some time and local kids climb over them.  

National Museum of Vietnamese History -Bo tàng Lch s Vit Nam, 1 Trang Tien St. 8AM-11:30AM, 1:30PM-4:30PM. This is a collection from Vietnamese history from about 1,000 years back until 1945. Many antiques and the such. 15,000 dong, students 8,000 dong and under 15, 2,000 dong. 15,000 dong for a camera/30,000 dong for a video.  

Museum of the Vietnamese Revolution -Bo tàng Cách mng Vit Nam, 25 Tong Dan St (and 216 Tran Quang Khai St, Tu-Su 8AM-11:45AM, 1:30PM-4:15PM. This museum gives a very informed and detailed account of the Vietnamese struggle against first the French (starting in 1858 -- on the first floor), then against the Americans (on the ground floor - ending on 30 April 1975). It is housed in a colonial French building which was completed in 1932. The building, designed by the architect Ernest Hébrard is considered as a successful blend between the colonial French architecture and traditional Vietnamese architecture, called Indochina architecture. He created double-walls and balconies for a natural ventilation system and protection from sunshine. 10,000 dong.  

Museum of Ethnology - Bao Tang Dan Toc Hoc Vietnam, Nguyen Van Huyen St, Cau Giay district (Bus 14 from Hoan Kiem Lake - ask the conductor when to stop, and take a 500 m walk towards the museum (backtrack a little from the bus stop, and when you see a large street perpendicular to the street that you dropped off, take that street and walk down the street until you see the Museum of Ethnology to your left). Bus 38 goes from right outside the Temple of Literature to the street the museum is on.), Tu-Su 8:30AM-5:30PM. covers mainly the culture and ritual practices of the various ethnic groups in the whole of Vietnam - one of the key attractions of the museum is the open-air exhibition, which has houses of some ethnic groups, which even comes with inhabitants in costumes. The museum features actual explanations of the exhibits in Vietnamese, French and English. The Museum of Ethnology houses the excellent chocolate and baguette cafe, which has excellent fare at a reasonable price - an excellent pit-stop after the museum visit. 25,000 dong for foreigners.  

Hanoi Museum - Bo tàng Hà Ni, Pham Hung St, Cau Giay district.  

 

Temples

Temple of Literature

Temple of Literature - Văn Miếu, Quoc Tu Giam St (south of the Mausoleum). The Temple of Literature was founded in 1070 and established as the country's first university six years later. The courtyard features numerous stone tablets, each mounted on the back of a tortoise, with the names of graduates.

Ngoc Son Temple.

Bach Ma Temple, 76 Hang Buom St, Hoan Kiem district. Time: the 12th to the 13th day of the second lunar month. Objects of worship: Bach Ma God (the symbol of God of sun), Long Do God (the god defends the east), confer a title of "Thang Long Capital of Nation royal tutelary god". Xuan Nguu presenting rite.  

10,000 dong.   Extends out into the lake, with small but attractive grounds, displays on Vietnamese history and, more memorably, displays on the giant turtles, including a mummified specimen. 10,000 dong.  

 

Parks

Hoan Kiem Lake.

Ho Tay - West Lake, (northwest of the city). mostly a residential hub of the well-to-do. Hotel Intercontinental and Hanoi Sheraton are on this lakefront. The shores are occupied by numerous fishermen  

Lenin Statue & Park, (Dien Bien Phu St, across from the Army Museum). One can always feel the diversity and liveliness of Hanoi there. In the morning, there are low-energy aerobics class for the elders and aerobic class for younger in the morning. During the day, one can enjoy the tranquility in the park since everybody is either at work or in school. In the afternoon, it becomes a playground for children and students as well as for soccer teams and badminton players.  

Ly Thai To Statue & Park. The park faces Hoan Kiem lake with a beautiful view of the busy Hang Bai street and the serenity of the willows on the bank of the lake. Many Hanoians view this mini-park as their favourite place because it is a symbol of the integration of modernity and tradition. One would surely encounter a group of youths who is practicing hip-hop and break dance while at the same time, meeting a three-generation family enjoying a walk in the park.  

 

Wartime sites

Hoa Lo Prison (The Hanoi Hilton), 1 Hoa Lo, Hoan Kiem. 8:30AM-11:30AM, 1:30PM-4:30PM. This prison was built by the French at the turn of the 20th century, in classical French prison design. This is where the French imprisoned and executed many of the Vietnamese freedom fighters. Now a museum (2/3 of the prison was torn down to make way for the Hanoi Towers), the museum exhibits the brutal French colonial regime and the struggle of the Vietnamese people against imperialism in chilling detail. The prison was also known as the "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam War as it held American POW's shot down. Little emphasis is given to this period however, and the exhibits shown can be frustratingly skewed in propaganda, choosing to show solely propaganda photos of prisoners being treated well and playing basketball, playing chess, and other staged events. They also claim to have John McCain's flight suit from when his plane was shot down. 10,000 dongs.  

B-52 Lake - Huu Tiep Lake, Ngoc Ha Precinct, Ba Dinh District. Until 19 December 1972, this was just a small brackish pond just off Hoang Hoa Tham Street, about 1 km west of the mausoleum. On that day, in a twisted retelling of the Hoan Kiem legend (see above), Vietnamese anti-aircraft guns (possibly with the help of flying turtles) retook the enemy's eight-engined, 100-ton sword and sent it too, to the shallow bottom of the lake, where it remains today.  

Downed Aircraft Memorial. Along Thanh Nien Street on Truc Bach lake there is a stone plaque commemorating the shooting down of a U.S. Navy (not "USAF" as depicted) aircraft in 1967. Peruse the Vietnamese script and you can pick out the name of John McCain, one of the airmen.  

Army Museum, (Dien Bien Phu street, across from the Lenin Statue mini-park and is in the area of embassies). Retells the stories of many battles throughout the country’s history. There are documents as well as models in the museum to make the retelling more interesting. They have the model of the B-52 plane, tanks and even canons.  

 

Theatre

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (57 Dinh Tien Hoang St, across the street from the shores of the Hoan Kiem Lake, +84 4 824-9494, fax +84 4 824-5117, A visit to the water puppet theater is a real highlight of a trip to Hanoi. Live musicians accompany folk legends from Vietnamese history, told with wooden men, women and dragons, dancing and splashing on the face of the water. The narratives are sung in Vietnamese, but a list of titles is available in several languages. It is more of a visual-musical thing which is universal, just ignore the dialogues and narration but be on the look for special effects. Even in the 21st century, they still elicit an ahhh moment from the audience. Tickets are 60,000 and 100,000 dong. There are several performances throughout the day, and it's even possible to buy tickets even if the showing is going on for 15 minutes. And if you missed the first 15 minutes, be the last to leave and mix in with the incoming audience for the next performance. Camera passes are an extra 15,000 dong, but whether you buy one or not is purely on the honor system. Don't worry about getting wet, but the seats are very small, and visitors with above-average height will have to squirm a bit.

 

Cinema

Megastar— is on the 6th floor of the Vincom City Towers, 191 Ba Trieu. The tickets range from 50,000-80,000 dong depending on the movie and the show time. The movies are relatively new, perhaps one or two months later than in the U.S. The movies are not dubbed. There are subtitles so both non-Vietnamese speakers and locals can enjoy the movies.

August Movie Theater (Rap Thang 8)— is on Hang Bai street, 5 min away from Trang Tien Plaza and the commercial area, such as Pho Hue, Hai Ba Trung and Trang Tien streets. 15,000-30,000 dong.

 

Gym

If you want to do some mild weight training on a budget, head to 88 Hang Buom st, a short walk from Hoan Kiem Lake. The cost is 20,000 dong per session as of November 2009. Locals apparently pay 130,000 dong/month. Be aware, however, that the gym is in very poor condition. The floor is hazardous and no one will spot you whilst benching so ensure your last rep you are able to place the bar back or go with a friend. The front of the gym is full of scooters and the rear wall has pictures of Uncle Ho exercising back in the day! Drinks are 10,000 dong.

Rock climbing

VietClimb,So 40 Ngo 76 An Duong, +84 914 548 903. Hanoi has a climbing gym that opened on April 5, 2011. Opening hours: 2PM-10PM from Tue-Sun. 200 m² climbing surface, a 50 m² café & terrace to chill out, and a climbing pro-shop. Also a great place for finding out where to climb immediately outside of Hanoi.

 

Learn

Cooking classes

Hidden Hanoi, 137 Nghi Tam Rd (aka Duong An Duong Vuong), Tay Ho, (

Vietnam Culinary School, Hanoi Administration Departments, (

EZcooking Class, 49 Lane, 49 Huynh Thuc Khang St.

Hanoi Cooking Centre, 44 Chau Long Street (close to Truc Bac lake), +84437150088, Cooking school, retail outlet and beautiful court yard cafe with an excellent menu of asian and western favourites. Hands-on cooking classes and short courses in a relaxed atmosphere, designed by chef Tracey Lister  

 

Buy

ATMs

ATMs are everywhere and cash is king here. There is a transaction limit (2,000,000 dong). For a higher transaction limit (4,000,000 dong) try the ANZ and Techcombank. Many places will accept USD as well.

Check exchange rates daily.

Markets

Hang Da. A 6-story building to house the market is currently under construction; all the kiosks are now located in the neighboring area, either on Phung Hung (second-hand clothing), Duong Thanh or Ly Nam De streets. They offer everything that one can think of, from pets, groceries, prepared food to fabric materials.  

Cho Hom (the equivalent meaning in English would be Noon Market but the translation is not close), Pho Hue. They offer everything here. What it is famous for is the fabric market on the second floor. There are many kiosks selling different types of fabrics ranging from cheap, affordable to very good quality with a high price. However, please bear in mind that when shopping, take your time. Never rush into buying anything. Sellers often give a very high price that you can bargain down to half or one-third of the original price.  

Dong Xuan. Famous for being the market for wholesalers. They have from school supplies, stuffed animals to clothing. It is quite an experience to spend some time in the market observing the sellers and buyers.  

Night Market. Usually opens from 7PM, this unique market gathers on a walking street in the old quarter. Has anything from pirated DVD to traditional ornaments. Prices are

 

Eat

Since the mid 90s, Vietnamese cuisine has grown in quality and variation, and is now very diverse and most delicious. Most famous remains 'Pho Ga' (chicken noodle soup) or 'Pho Bo'(Beef noodle soup). There are various dishes including chicken, beef, fish and seafood, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of restaurants nowadays in Hanoi catering to everyone's taste.

In Hanoi, there are hundreds of street restaurants in small kiosks on the sidewalk, with plastic tables and chairs on the pavement. Eating at these restaurants is a great way to experience the local food and culture. It is worth mentioning that food quality, freshness, and hygiene can vary greatly. A bowl of noodle soup goes for 20,000 dong (Jan 2011) and market food stalls offer fruit portions, sausages, donuts, and other eats for 10,000 to 20,000 dong (Jan 2011). Be sure to get your change as a few vendors seem to 'forget' to return it to you, and learn a little Vietnamese because vendors often will not speak any or much English.

The rule of thumb is if the price is expensive, hygiene quality may or may not be OK, but if the price is cheap, definitely hygiene quality is compromised. There seemed to be no regular food Health Department inspector working regularly in the city.

 

Exotic treats

Next to Beijing, Hanoi is probably the second in the running to the world's exotic food paradise.

The suburb of Le Mat (aka the Snake Village) has numerous restaurants specializing in cobra foodstuffs. Live cobras are stored on the premises much the same way one would find live lobsters at a Western seafood restaurant. If one orders cobra blood wine from the menu, the waiter will take a live cobra, kill it on the spot, drain the blood into a shot glass of rice wine, and top it off with the cobra's still beating heart for you to gulp down! Not for the faint hearted (excuse the pun). Le Mat is about ten minutes across the river from downtown, take bus 10, 15 or 17 and get off at the large "mega-mall" just beyond Gia Lam station, and walk 500 metres down the road at the right of the mall. Cobras are not cheap at around 400,000-1,000,000 dong (USD$50-) but it gets turned into a dozen unique dishes, enough to share between three or four people.

A local delicacy in the Hanoi area is dog meat (tht chó), which is especially popular in the winter. There are a number of restaurants in the Tay Ho district. Another exotic regional taste is ca cuong, an extract from the belostomatid, or giant water bug. Just a few drops are added to noodles for the unique aroma.

Be sure to check out the boiled duck fetus eggs sold by peddlers almost everywhere priced at 5,000 dong. This delightful experience consists of the vendor cracking the egg in front of you, and peeling the shell and dropping the contents in a plastic micro bowl, then garnished with juliened ginger, basil leaf, and sprinkled with chili sauce. You can see the severed head and beak of your chick that fell off if you are lucky enough to have your first bite from a different spot - Bon Appetit!

 

Budget

Look to the Old Quarter for atmospheric street stalls and reasonably priced Western and local fare.

Quan Bia Minh (Minh's), 7a Dinh Liet (100 m north of the lake), +84 4 3934 5323. 7:30AM-11:30PM. Popular restaurant with lovely casual upstairs terrace, Minh speaks English well and keeps her staff attentive. Variety of western, vegetarian and Vietnamese food, all reasonably priced.  

Bun Cha, (corner Hang Non and Hang Manh, Old Quarter). some rate this as one of the best examples of Bun Cha in Hanoi, and therefore Vietnam (apparently in the south, Bun Cha is specifically advertised as Hanoi-style). For about 80,000 dong each, you'll get a bowl full of tiny pork-mince rissoles that have been char grilled over an open flame, and a massive plate of pork rice paper rolls that have been fried in oil, twice. With this you also get a phenomenal dipping sauce (fish sauce, made from sugar, garlic, peppers usually), a massive plate of greens and herbs, more bun (rice noodle) than you can handle, and a bottle of local beer. It's full of locals and not so many tourists, so you can be assured the experience is authentic. Great food but expect rude service.

Cafe 69, 69 Ma May St (opposite Friendly Hotel). Good place to eat Western food in the heart of the Old Quarter, although some travelers find it expensive and the food inferior quality.  

Com Binh Dan, (Hang Bo, several side streets in Old Quarter). often only open during lunch hours (11AM-2PM). these are an excellent way to get an inexpensive, home-cooked Vietnamese meal. The best ones have loyal followings of workers who eat there every day. rice with two or three toppings (which y



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