Before arriving in Hanoi, I have already booked a two-way airport transfer going to and from my hotel. I made a couple of enquiries online until I found the cheapest one, which was Hanoi Airport Transfer. It offers pick-up and drop-off services to and from Noi Bai International Airport. Compared to others, their rate was really competitive. I paid a total of 27 USD (16 USD was for the pick up service from the airport to my hotel and 11 USD was for the pick up service from my hotel to the airport). The only reason why I chose this option was because I only had limited time in Hanoi. However, I wouldn't have chosen this if I was going to stay in Hanoi for a few couple of days. This is because there are a lot of options available which are cheaper than a private car or taxi. For more information about these other options, you may check this site.
It was raining when I arrived in Hanoi. I felt the exhaustion as soon as I got on the plane from Incheon to Hanoi so I made use of the thirty-minute travel time from the airport to my hotel to rest for a bit. I checked in and hoped for the rain to stop. At around 4 in the afternoon, I decided to go out and stroll around Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh Complex. From my hotel, I took a ten-minute taxi ride (40.000 Dong) going to my first stop which was Ho Chin Minh Mausoleum, located at the west part of the Old Quarter. This is Ho Chi Minh’s final resting place and is also an important place of pilgrimage for the Vietnamese.
Presidential Palace and Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House (Summer : 7:30 to 11 am and 2 to 4 pm, winter : 8 to 11 am and 1:30 to 4 pm, closed every Monday and Friday afternoon, 25.000 Dong). From Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, I walked straight, turned left and continued walking until I arrive at the entrance of the Presidential Palace. It was a grand yellow building which was the house of the French Governor General of Indochina. The Stilt House on the other hand was the home and workplace of Ho Chi Minh from 1958 until his death in 1969.
One Pillar Pagoda (Free). I walked from the exit of the Presidential Palace going to One Pillar Pagoda. I heard that it is a must see attraction in Hanoi, so I made sure I’d visit this place too. It was a small temple which was built in one pillar located in the middle of a lotus pond. In my opinion, it wasn’t impressive at all even if it was unusual. However, Vietnamese people believe that it has miraculous powers. According to some, couples who wish to have a son come to visit, put some offerings and touch the lotus stone.
Temple of Literature (8:30 to 11:30 am, 1:30 to 4:30 pm, closed every Monday and Public Holidays, 30.000 Dong). I followed my map and walked through the streets of Hanoi until I arrive at the Temple of Literature. The Temple of Literature is an example of a well-preserved Vietnamese architecture. It is one of the many temples in Vietnam which is dedicated to Confucius. It was a nice spot to relax and skip the hustle and bustle of Hanoi too.
Hanoi Cathedral (Free). From the Temple of Literature, I took a taxi (40.000 Dong) going to Hanoi Cathedral. However, it was closed during my time of visit. I spent a few minutes admiring the façade of the cathedral. It was beautiful and the architecture was remarkable too because the design resembles Notre Dame de Paris.
Hoan Kiem Lake (Free). From Hanoi Cathedral, it was just a few minutes walk away to Hoan Kiem Lake. Hoan Kiem Lake is considered the centre of Hanoi. I spent an hour wandering around the lake. I entertained myself by watching the locals doing yoga, jogging, aerobics, and tai-chi. I’ve also seen a lot of couples posing for their wedding pictures too! In addition to this, Huc Bridge can also be seen at Hoan Kiem Lake. However, I didn’t cross the bridge because it was very crowded and it was already getting dark too. Instead, I just sat on a stone chair and observe Hanoi’s life. It was relaxing!
Hanoi Opera House. From Hoan Kiem Lake, I walked to Hanoi Opera House. It was late so I just took a photo of the Opera House from a distance. I actually wanted to see the architectural design of the building but I was scared of Hanoi’s traffic condition, so I decided to leave and go to Dong Xuan Market.
Dong Xuan Market. From Hanoi Opera House, I walked through the streets of Hanoi going to Dong Xuan Market. During my time of visit, it was busy because of the celebration of Mooncake Festival. Locals and tourists filled the street! I enjoyed looking through the items being sold by the street vendors and tried some local street food too!
It was really crowded and some streets were closed because of the celebration so I decided to go back to my hotel to get some rest. One unfortunate incident happened though when I was on my way going back to my hotel. The crowd was really huge and perhaps that was the reason why I didn’t noticed that I have been robbed! My Vietnam Dong and USD were in a small envelope inside my bag and suddenly they were all gone! I was lucky though because my wallet and my mobile were not taken. I still felt blessed after all.
Roaming around Hanoi was actually easy but you have to make sure that you have a copy of the map before doing so. Tourist spots like Ho Chi Minh Complex, the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi minh’s Stilt House, One Pillar Pagoda, and the Temple of Literature are just walking distance away from each other. I personally avoided taking taxis when I was there because one thing which travellers normally complain about Hanoi is taxi scams. However, you have an option to take the reliable taxi companies like Mai Linh, Taxi Group, and ABC. I enjoyed walking to see Hanoi although I’ve spent just a day there. I am planning to visit some time next year and I will try to take another mode of transport too! I think that would be fun!
I stayed in Hanoi Bella Vita Hotel, a small and cozy hotel located in the historic Old Quarter of Hanoi. I loved my room because it was clean, stylish, spacious and comfortable. The staff was nice, welcoming and friendly and they can speak English really well too. The hotel also offers in-house service like body massage and if you are planning to visit Halong Bay or Sapa, you could also ask them to arrange a tour for you. However, the breakfast menu has limited selection. In general, I loved Hanoi Bella Vita Hotel and it is a good place to stay at especially with regard to value for money.