Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam is somewhat different from other capital cities. It is big, it has traffic, it has crowd but somehow it doesn’t seem to rush as compared to others. There is a sense of laid back city especially if compared with city like Ho Chi Minh City. There is no immediate ‘wow ‘ feeling when you first reach Hanoi. City has its own charm but it takes some time to start admiring it. However once you start to like walking in the city, you may end up walking 15-20 KM in a day like me.
Hanoi is a city to be explored on foot. Take a map in your hand, mark places that interest you and start walking. You will not be the only person doing that and can spot many tourists wandering in the same way. From the banks of Hoan Kiem Lake, to the streets around backpackers area, to the walking zones near museums; the streets invite you for a walk . These walks are your first close introduction with life in Vietnam.This is where you pass through various streets shop selling variety of items. This is where you observe the unique eating arrangements on roadside where people enjoy eating in groups. So, let walk through Hanoi via pictures below.
1. Old Hanoi Streets
Hanoi is full of wide streets in old quarter area which hosts a big market. Each street is named based on the things that are being sold in the area. There are streets full of only fruits shops, full of clothing stores, full of shoe shops etc. Its very big area and very confusing to remember routes for first time visitors.
2. Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake has a walking track surrounding it. I saw people enjoying walks, having refreshments while enjoying the view, couple photo shoots and even a wedding photo shoot going on. In the night time it’s altogether a different experience and the place looks more beautiful with the artificial lights around trees.
3. Ho Chi Minh Complex
There is a huge open space in front of Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum inside Ho Chi Minh Complex. You can enjoy walks along with other tourists and enjoy this peaceful place. There is a presidential palace, a museum and one pillar pagoda nearby and all can be covered in walking tour as they are adjacent to each other.
4. Old Quarter in Night
The same old quarter streets appear different in night due to yellow lamps all over the streets. It was raining that day so couldn’t capture it properly but still the pictures can give an idea. All the streets are lit with the lamps and you can see both tourists and locals walking in the area. In evening lot of road side eating joints get opened and hundreds of people eat and drink there in groups. It’s a good way to end the day with friends.
Hanoi is a city you will start liking from day 2 and not from day 1. It acts as a perfect entry to Vietnam and gives you ample time to adjust. Moreover if you are not accustomed to traffic and crowd, it prepares you very well to more chaotic but lively city Ho Chi Minh. But before moving towards South from North, lets have a stopover in Central Vietnam. Stay tuned to visit Danang.
- Carry your hotel’s card with you even if you remember hotel name along with address. Locals most probably will not understand your accent accurately. I had trouble making people understand a simple address 21 Ma May Street :).
- Carry water along with you as it may get humid and you will need to start searching for water.
- Be careful while walking on roadsides as motor bikes can come from any direction. People do not drive on footpaths like Ho Chi Minh City (More on that in future posts :)), but once in awhile it can happen. So don’t keep you eyes glued on smartphones or map all the time while walking.
- In addition to walks you can get a ride in cyclo in old quarter which are available for ride of 1 hour so that you can enjoy the views. I didn’t go for it but it must be fun. But make sure you fix the price in advance as you may be asked to pay exorbitant prices later.