After my friend being scammed as soon as she landed in Hanoi, we decided to explore Hanoi city without hard feelings.
I don’t have high expectations because the city is not my favorite destination, however, Hanoi has its charms. As the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi has many things to do and see and a whole lot of a different culture to absorb. This is not my first time in Vietnam so I’m used to the huge amounts of motorbikes on the street but it’s fun to see a newbie’s reactions.
Walking around the Old Quarter is a charming activity and a must-do while in Hanoi.
The facades of the old houses add charm to the streets and the once French influence is clear. They are super photogenic and host traditional businesses. Enjoying the Vietnamese way of life is one of the most interesting things to do around here, as well as shopping. The streets seem to be organized by business type, one sells clothes, other shoes, other flowers, other lighting … Taking time to explore the city on foot through these streets is a must.
Hoan Kiem Lake Hanoi
Another place not to be missed is Hoan Kiem Lake that buzzes with life. Over the weekend at night, the area becomes pedestrianized and the crowds that gather around the lake are incredible. Several groups dance to different types of music. Each occupies a space on the street identifiable by the circle of people around them to appreciate their art. From hip hop to ballroom dancing, this area becomes a distracting attraction to enjoy.
Somewhere amid the confusion, there is a gathering of very well-groomed dogs, some dressed and furred in various colors. It looks like a fashion dog meeting. It’s funny to see them all there. Meanwhile, in the midst of all that is happening, there are street vendors with fruit and other Vietnamese foods to try. Being here is emerging into their culture for a little while. I like to sit and admire everything that is going on! However, during the week the scenario is no longer the same. It is still a square with a lot of people but the animation is not as fun. Seeing the lake at night is charming because the lighting decoration gives it life. There is a pagoda in the middle that gives Hoan Kiem Lake all the charm.
There are actually several pagodas and temples to see in Hanoi. Among them the Tran Quoc Pagoda, Quan Thanh Temple, the One Pillar Pagoda, the Imperial City, and the Temple of Literature. Most of them require tickets to enter.
Quan Thanh Temple:
Tran Quoc Pagoda:
One Pilar Pagoda:
The Imperial city:
Temple of Literature:
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum:
There is nothing to see besides the picture below so you can skip it.
Hanoi train street
Another major attraction in Hanoi is the famous narrow street where the train passes inches from the houses that follow the railway. It is known as the train street and is a peculiar place. I didn’t watch the moment when the train passes, but still visiting this street was fun. The train only passes twice a day, so it is best to visit the street at these times. The street itself is super charming and some businesses took advantage of this place to rise here. Therefore you can enjoy a Vietnamese coffee or other drink just next to the train line and perhaps wait in there to see the train pass by. *this was in March 2019 and I’m not sure this street is still open for tourists the same way.
Cham temples Hanoi
A place that is not very visited by tourists and that stands not so far from Hanoi is the Cham temples. About 50km away from the city center and reachable by bus, these temples are a great retreat from the hustle and bustle of the street. They are in such a peaceful and calm place. I’m glad I decided to visit even tho it took us all day to do so. The bus takes about 2 hours to get there but is very cheap. The bus that will get you there is bus number 107.
This was actually the place I enjoyed the most to visit in Hanoi. There is no other foreign tourist here. I only come across a group of Vietnamese who were also visiting the complex. Besides all the emptiness in the area, there was a man charging the entrance. He was standing there all alone.
To reach the Cham temples, you first have to go through several villages with thatched and wooden houses that give the place such a picturesque feel. You hear the birds, the various animals, nature. It is a fascinating place. If it wasn’t for this group of Vietnamese, we would have that place just for ourselves. We stayed there several hours as the complex is large and we did not want to use one of the tourist electric buses that were available. We did everything on foot and gladly so we could taste all that the green space has to offer. The sounds are what I like most, several exotic bird sounds that accompany us all the way. Not even the mizzle kept me from loving this place. Walking these paths makes me wonder what would be like to live in such a village in total peace. It is an inspiring place.
The most distant place are the three temples of Cham architecture. They are very similar to the temples I saw in Cambodia in the Angkor Wat complex, but are orange in color. From here you can see Dong Mo Lake. What a beautiful sight!
In addition to these three Cham temples, there is still one of quite different architecture that seems to be new. It resembles the architectural style I saw in Thailand. It is so golden!
We walked through the complex for long hours, including lunchtime. I mean, it wasn’t lunchtime because it was almost three in the afternoon, but we hadn’t had lunch. We were starving, but there seems to be no place to eat a hot meal. Fortunately, nice ladies from a closing restaurant served us some instant noodles that tasted like heaven. This does not seem to be a place with much tourism and that’s good because so we could appreciate the moment without fake treats for tourists. Numerous colorful butterflies accompany us as we explore the inspiring area.
We returned to the bus station as night was falling and the bus was leaving. We could say we didn’t catch him for 5 seconds. Fortunately, the career is regular and the next one appeared in about 10 minutes. It was a good day spent here in this village.
We stayed in Hanoi for 3 nights and I would say that is enough.