If you’re a first time traveler in Hanoi, then this post might be able to help you a bit in making your itinerary for your visit to this city which perfectly blends traditionalism and modernism. You’ll be able to find old buildings and architectures, while enjoying the modernized environment as well. This is my first visit to this city, but I quickly fall in love with it, even compare to Ho Chi Minh. =D
Before starting off with my journey, I refers to some travelers guide book and website on where to go and on the transportation option. Once you get out off the airport there will be lots of stands offering you to send you off to your hotel, you can either buy it one way or return (they will come to your hotel and pick you up on your departure date). If what they offer you is above 300.000 VND (for one way) then you’re scammed! Don’t take the offer but instead go for the other options which grab car, an application which works like Uber. It will only cost you around 225.000-250.000 VND even if your hotel is quite far away.
I tried to go here and there following the guides I get from the travelers book and website, and I summarized some place that in my opinion worth visiting.
1. St Joseph Cathedral
This cathedral located in Hoan Kiem District, it’s not too big, but it was quite a good place for a photospot, if you love taking pictures with your gangs or alone. I would recommend you to visit this site in the morning or at least before your lunch time, since after taking pictures, it would be worth a while to surf around the crowded small alley located nearby the cathedral, since there’s a lot of worth try famous restaurant in this area. So after taking pictures, you can make your tummy go happy first before set up for your journey that day. One of the restaurant located nearby is Duong Restaurant, which is owned by one of the finalist of Ironchef’s participant.
2. Walking around the Hoan Kiem Lake
You might want to spend some time to stroll around the Hoan Kiem Lake during weekends, since the government closed the road on weekend, so no vehicles can go in the area, so you won’t have to worry about the absurd vehicles in Vietnam. You can see some youngsters performing in the streets, either they dance, sing or even doing a group zumba, which is quite fun and refreshing to see. Remind me of Seoul’s Hong Dae area, where the youngsters are so eager to perform.
Aside you will be able to visit several tourist spot like Ly Thai To statue, Ngoc Son Temple (it was under renovation when I visited it, and they didn’t even inform you. So you paid for VND 30.000 and once you get inside, you see nothing but a renovation site, which makes you feel like you’re being cheated), Trang Tienh Plaza (if you would like to see what Hanoi’s shopping mall is like), and Hanoi Opera House.
There are several museums you can go to visit in Hanoi, though most of their theme are more on like war, military and revolutionary, but still it was quite an interesting place to go. Each of the museums normally will cost you 30.000 VND for the entry ticket, some 40.000 VND. But what you must put in mind is most of the museums here has a lunch break time (yes, you read well! Lunch break!) which mostly is at 11.30AM to 02.00PM, of course it differs from one museum to another, so you might want to check on their website before you come down for visit.
Vietnamese women museum is a museum on daily life in Vietnam, here you can see some of their traditional in doing their wedding, birth, fashion, and earn for a living. The 3rd floor of this building is dedicated to list of women who have participated in wars, some of them died heroic, some of them managed to survived through the wars. You can see a collection of weapons, things, clothes that being used by the individuals, which is quite fascinating I must say.
Vietnamese Military History Museum and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, these two located separately but it was within walking distance, therefore you might want to visit both place on the same time, so that you won’t go back and forth. Vietnamese Military History Museum located right across at the Lenin Park, and you can see the history of remarkable general who defends Vietnam from Han Dynasty Invasion up to their recent wars in 1950s. FYI, you need to pay 30.000 VND for per camera you brought in to the museum, and 40.000 VND for an entry ticket. I’m not really a fan of war and military, so I opted out my camera options. From here, you just need to walk for 10 minutes before you can get to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where you can see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, but camera is not allowed here. Remember to wear suitable clothes if you’d like to visit this place. Shorts and sleeveless shirt are not allowed.
Hua Lo Prison, which located just 5 minutes walk away from the women’s museum, is a prison which is used during the French colonization. Here you can see how the prisoners are being held, the punishment they get, their daily life in prison, and list of politicians who is being held inside this prison during the war, which I must say a quite horrible and scary place to visit. But if you’d love to know more about the colonization period in Vietnam, the visit to the prison is one of the worthiest visit among other museums visit in Hanoi.
Aside from the places I mentioned above, you might notice that some of the websites or guide book will mention about pagodas and temples which located in the center of the lake. Vietnam has a lot places like this, but I personally think that temples and pagodas in Japan or China might still be far better to enjoy and see. But if you’d like to visit then you might want to consider Temple of Literatures (where ancient scholars do the test and their name who passed the test is being scribbled into the stone monument), Ngoc Son Temple, and Tran Quoc Pagoda.