Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi was our last destination in Vietnam before our month visas expired and we had to find a new country to explore. We broke up our stay with the package deal, that I talked about in my last post, to Sa Pa and Ha Long Bay. Our home base was the Hanoi Holiday Center Hotel. Here we stayed for a total of four days. 

Map of Hanoi’s city center

Day 1

We were given this marked up map to be able to explore the area a little better. Our first stop was food, as usual. We went to this locally known noodle place that was across the street on the corner from us. 

My Xao Bo 25,000 VND

At this point in our travels, this one plate of noodles was possibly one of the best meals we’ve had yet. It was full of sautéed veggies, tender pork and delicious ramen noodles with some sauce that I still can’t describe, but you can make it spicy with the side of chili pepper soy sauce that comes on the side. 

After our lunch, we decided to walk around to explore some of the city. In my opinion, Hanoi is more of a walking city. It is definitely a good place to sell your bike right away if you’ve been doing the whole South to North Vietnam trip on a motorbike. The roads are as hectic as in Ho Chi Minh, but there are just so many stores one after the next that it would be too dangerous to try to stop and look at all of them the whole time.

Walking around Hoan Kiem Lake

We walked over to the Ngoc Son Temple that is located on Hoan Kiem Lake. You can pay a small fee to walk over the old bridge that connects you to the temple, but we just enjoyed a stroll around the lake and admired from afar. 

Because I have gotten the idea to start making beach shell jewlery from all of the beaches I go to while traveling, I was in search for some other useful accessories I could buy to complete the look. Thankfully, there was an entire street dedicated to jewlery, sewing and whatever other crafty materials you may need! 

One of the many crafts shops that line the street

I got a few things; enough to start. I also used my bargaining skills to get a better price, but I’m positive I was still paying more than the next Vietnamese person.

Bargain hunting for some string

After a long and hot day of walking around, we went back to our hotel to chill out until dinner. For dinner we went to go find the walkable street food area. Either people don’t follow the rules of not driving on the walking only street, or we weren’t in the right area. However, we found a damn good place that was packed with people outside sitting at tiny tables and a full kitchen outside with men cooking.

Chefs at the street food restaurant

I went to order Pho Xao Bo, which I thought was noodle pork soup, but I ended up getting almost exactly what I ordered for lunch that day… except the noodles were a tiny bit different. I enjoyed it the first time and, yes, it was still good the second time.

Day 2

Another day to explore Hanoi on foot. I always look for parks or botanical gardens when I get to a new location. So, we went to find the botanical garden in Hanoi. On our way, we stumbled upon the burial site of where Ho Chi Minh lies. It was a tremendously big building and front court yard. There were also active gaurds at the entry way with swords to prevent intruders.

Burial site of Ho Chi Minh

One tourist got a whistle blown at him because he stepped up onto the first set of stairs that lead up to the doors. He was looking at flowers and all of a sudden snapped his head over to where the whistle came from and leaped off of the stair. 

Another thing that I saw in Hanoi was street barbers! I thought this was fantastic because I love cutting and styling hair and doing so as a freelancer, but this was a whole other level of freelancing. So clever. 

Barber resting in his chair waiting for his next street client

Finally, we reached the Botanical Gardens. We had to pay an entrance fee of 5,000 VND which is about $0.22; so not bad. 

Entrance to Botanical Garden

The park was rather small and I didn’t see any flowers. I did see a cage with some peacocks, a pond, swing set that didn’t work and an outdoor gym though.

After our quick stroll through this not so botanical garden, we walked over to the Ho Chi Minh Museum. Sorry, we didn’t end up entering the museum, but there was a pretty pathway around it where it seems the botanical gardens had misplaced some of its flowers!

Our next four days were all a part of the package deal to Sa Pa and Ha Long Bay so we ended our night right after dinner so we could get a good night sleep and pack some of our things up.

Day 3

This day was only half of a day in Hanoi because we came back from our bus from Ha Long Bay. Our goal for the night was to find some authentic Japanese spicy ramen that we haven’t had since Tokyo and have been craving ever since. I found a few places that served it, but they were not really within walking distance. One of the workers at our hotel offered to lend us his motorbike after he called the rental place and found out it was too expensive just to drive to dinner. He was so kind, but I didn’t feel comfortable accepting that offer so we found another place nearby that said they had it, but it wasn’t on the menu.

Kimono Restaurant. This place has five floors, each with a different vibe. The first floor, where Enzo and I sat, was a little more casual with a sushi chef work station in the center and a sushi conveyor belt. I only got to see the third floor in addition to the first because that’s where the bathroom is located as well as more private tables with traditional floor seating. The staff was super friendly, elegantly dressed in traditional Japanese wear and the food was on point. 

Day 4

The last full day we had in Hanoi we dedicated to work. We are traveling for fun and leisure, but another part of us is here to experience life and make a career for ourselves while doing what we love. 

That’s me up there starting my career!!

Nah, I’m just kidding. Although, I’m sure this lady next to me whose baskets full of pineapples I’m holding makes a decent wage! She got some money out of me just by taking the load off of her own shoulders, putting her hat on me, having me take a picture with her and then handing me a bag of cut up pineapple. It was worth it for this photo and the deliciously ripe pineapple though.

After this happened, for the next eight hours of our day, we spent time on our laptops working at one of the Highlands Cafe shops in the center of Hanoi. 

After we maxed our brains out for the day we walked around the city at night for the last time before our flight the next day. 

View from Highlands Cafe

Next flight — Layover in Singapore — destination Bali, Indonesia!

~ M + H


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