Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and the former capital of French Indochina, has many names. In the 11th century, it was called Thanglong – “Soaring Dragon”, then Dongkikh – “Northern Capital” and only in 1831, having temporarily lost its capital status, did it receive its current name, meaning “City in the bend of the river.”
Hanoi really stands on the Red River, the water in which from time immemorial has a dirty brown color. It owes its diversity to a 1000-year history that has absorbed the traditions of the West and the East. Its Old Town, saturated with exoticism, looks like one big market. And just a short walk away is the French Quarter with green boulevards and the Opera House, modeled on the Parisian Grand Opera. Someone will find a socialist reserve here with monuments to Lenin and the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, someone will find an ideal city of colonial times. And for everyone, Hanoi is the gateway to Halong Bay, a UNESCO site and one of the most stunning landscapes in Southeast Asia. For Vietnam climate and geography, please check TopPharmacySchools.
How to get to Hanoi
The capitals of Russia and Vietnam are connected by Aeroflot, which operates daily flights to Hanoi, and Vietnam Airlines, which depart every other day. Do not discount flights with transfers. Comfortable transfers with transfers in Dubai and Doha from Emirates and Qatar Airways, although they will increase the total travel time by several hours, will allow you to save a little.
About 60 bus routes have been laid in the city and the district, along which clean, comfortable and air-conditioned cars run. Fare payment – to the conductor or driver at the entrance to the bus. A trifle is better to prepare in advance. Fares vary on different routes. With a large number of trips, it is more convenient to issue a monthly Xe Buyt pass for all routes. This can be done at the final stops, for which you need to fill out an application, submit a photo, pay the required amount and receive a ready-made travel card in 3 days. To understand the intricacies of the roads, Hanoi’s land transport scheme – Xe Buyt Hanoy (in Vietnamese), which is sold from conductors in buses and kiosks at terminus stops, helps. You can download it online in PDF format or install the Hanoi Bus app (in English) on your smartphone.
Taxi in Hanoi is a popular and inexpensive form of transport, the cost of a trip around the city is 60,000 VND, payment is cash only.
A great way to explore the center of Hanoi and its surroundings is by bike or scooter. Most hotels and guest houses offer them to their guests for rent: a non-motorized pedal (aka a bicycle), buzzing and needing gasoline (aka a scooter).
The only caveat: the traffic in Hanoi is crazy, there are few traffic lights and parking lots, but there are a lot of thieves and reckless drivers who do not comply with traffic rules.
The number of different hotels in Hanoi is amazing, especially in the Hoan Kiem area around the legendary Lake of the Returned Sword. To the south of the lake lies the French Quarter – once the administrative center of French Indochina with wide streets, a regular layout and 4-5 * hotels. Among them are the international Hilton Hanoi Opera, Sofitel Legend Metropole, etc. They attract with high-quality European-level service and developed infrastructure.
A labyrinth of tangled streets to the west of the lake is the picturesque Old Town, dominated by 2-3* hotels and youth hostels like the Hanoy Party Backpacker. Living conditions here are sometimes spartan – as a rule, without pools and saunas, in half of the cases – without air conditioners and restaurants. Regardless of the number of “stars”, the undoubted advantage of Hanoi hotels is the availability of free Wi-Fi and affordable prices.
A double room in the “five” can be rented for 2,000,000 VND, in the “treshka” – for 600,000 VND, a place in a shared hostel room costs 110,000 VND.
What to bring
Visiting Hanoi and not visiting one of its markets is like not climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Find everything imaginable at Hang Da (Phung Hung, Duong Thanh and Ly Nam De streets). Secondhand clothes, animals, insects, plants, food, household goods, a genie lamp and a viper’s eye in skunk syrup are in stock and for pennies.
At the Cho Hom market, you can buy equipment and factory goods – from extra-class for sane money to fakes, terrible even for Vietnam, for ridiculous pennies. Trade is appropriate. Wholesalers and those interested can look at the collapse of Dong Xuan. And, finally, you should definitely visit the night market, which, as a rule, opens not earlier than 19:00.
The most popular Hanoi souvenir is strong tinctures with snakes, scorpions and other reptiles, which are considered a powerful medicine. They are found everywhere – from expensive supermarkets to markets, and the place of sale does not affect the quality of the drink.
In the markets, it is worth taking a closer look at carved caskets, wall decorations, trays and mahogany figurines. There you can also buy a cone-shaped hat “nonla” – plain or varnished. Quite original are the “Ho Chi Minh sandals” – ordinary-looking flip flops that leave footprints backwards.
Large shopping centers are preferable when buying pearl or sapphire jewelry – they are cheaper on the market, but can easily turn out to be a fake. The same applies to clothes and accessories made of silk, shoes, bags, belts and purses made of crocodile skin, which are accompanied by quality certificates.
Scorpion with Cobra tincture 0.5 l costs VND 400,000, pearl bracelet – VND 200,000, silk robe – VND 250,000, handmade mahogany box – VND 500,000, crocodile skin bag – VND 1,100,000.
Souvenirs for the sweet tooth are toffee-like candies with coconut milk and candied fruits. For connoisseurs of tea – a variety of tea blends with lotus, ginger, mountain herbs. The best gift for yourself and your loved ones is the elite coffee Kopi Luwak, which is sold in specialized stores. Its grains, which have been in the stomach of the palm marten, are saturated with musk, which gives the drink a unique taste.
Cuisine and restaurants in Hanoi
Half of the local cuisine consists of all sorts of variations on the theme of rice and noodles. The second half is meat, seafood, vegetables and everything else that can be put in the mouth without risk to health. In a form adapted for tourists, you can join it in expensive restaurants in the French Quarter.
Those who want to get acquainted with all the diversity should look into the restaurants and cafes of the Old Town, which seem to have no number. Their menu will definitely include the traditional beef soup “pho bo” with noodles and ginger, noodles with minced meat “boon cha”, “bankuon” flatbread stuffed with meat and mushrooms. Cozy coffee houses with delicious coffee and fresh pastries, which are a dime a dozen in Hanoi, are a great option for breakfast or an afternoon coffee break. For an on-the-go snack, banh mi are French baguettes stuffed with meat, cheese, fish and seafood from countless street carts.
Light breakfast in a coffee shop – VND 40,000 per person, lunch in a cafe – VND 240,000, a good dinner with wine in an expensive restaurant – VND 800,000, street fast food – VND 20,000.
For a real exotic, head to Nhattan Street in the Taiho district with establishments specializing in dog meat dishes, or to the snake-breeding village of Le Mat 5 km east of downtown Hanoi. The menu of local restaurants includes dishes from cobra meat – raw, boiled, stewed with vegetables, in batter, fried to a crisp on the grill, in the form of a filling for sweet pancakes. From drinks – a mixture of cobra blood and vodka. True, the price of a “snake” dinner is quite high – 1,000,000 VND per person.