We flew into Hanoi to start a month long trip traveling Vietnam. We traveled from North to South, whereas many people travel the other way around. Not that it makes much difference, but if you where a solo traveller looking to join a few people along the way perhaps it would be better to travel from Ho Chi Min (formally Saigon) to Hanoi. You would properly meet a lot more people travelling in the same direction as you. Another thing I would definitely recommend and is something I have added to the bucket list is to buy a motorcycle (which isn’t hard, so many traveller sell theres on after they are done) and drive the length of the country. That way you see so much more of the country, some of the views we seen driving from place to place were incredible. I was itching to get off the bus and take some photos. If you got the guts for it, then this is something you should defiantly do!
For getting around Hanoi, I would defiantly recommend Uber over getting taxis. It was so handy and fares where always around 1-2 dollars.
Where to stay
The Backpackers hostel
Now there are three different hostels under this name. There is the backpackers downtown, which is the massive party hostel where the entire bottom floor is a bar. This hostel also runs the infamous Castaway tour to Halong Bay. The other two are the backpacker hostel original and old quarter. They are both the same in terms of layout and how social they are and both have sky bars. They are party hostels as well but would not be as crazy as the downtown hostel. We ended up going on the pub crawl with the downtown hostel and it was great craic. All hostels are conventionally located in Hanoi old town, which is rich in culture and has great nightlife. We stayed in the Old quarter hostel, it was clean and the breakfast was good. I would defiantly recommend staying in any of these hostels if you are looking to have a good time.
Things to do
Hanoi Old Town
The hostel offers a free walking tour every morning, which you should definitely go on. The tour takes around most of the key sights in the old quarter, which includes Turtle lake, the Cathedral, markets and other notable areas around the district. They also give you a brief history of the city while walking to the different locations. The best part of the tour in my opinion is this really old school vietnams coffee shop where you have the opportunity to try an egg coffee, which is a specialty in Vietnam. Sounds disgusting yes but it is actually amazing, it tastes like a desert. So make sure to try one if you have the chance.
The Women’s Museum
I really enjoyed this museum, it went through all the Vietnamese customs for women and the history of women in Vietnam. It was very interesting to read all about how they live now and in the past. The most interesting part about the museum though was deffenitly the section on the women’s involvement in the war, these women where bad ass MFs. To read about everything they did was pretty impressive so I would highly recommend visiting for that section alone. It was pretty inexpensive to at just 30,000 dong.
Ho Chi Min Memorial
If you don’t know who Ho chi Min is then perhaps you better read up on him before you go. He is pretty much loved by everyone, most people referring to him as uncle Ho. He was the president and was a major general in the war. He is also on all the Vietnamese bills. His body was preserved when he died and is kept in this memorial. People queue for hours just to visit him. We didn’t fancy queueing for hours to see him, so we just went to visit the memorial. Also, around the memorial is the presidents house, which is painted a horrid mustard color!
This is an obvious port of call for everyone who visits Hanoi. It is easy to see why as it is breathtaking. Halong bay is basically 2000 different little islands poking out of the ocean. It is easy to see why it is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We went with the tour that the hostel offers, we chose going for three days/ two nights, which cost around $139. I would defiantly recommend going for that long as it takes a good while to get out to the bays itself. For the first night, we stayed on the boat and the second night we stayed on their private island in the bay which was amazing. Definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip.