last update : December 2017
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The capital of Vietnam is full of magic, the best part of the city is probably the old quarter. You can walk around endlessly in the old quarter of Hanoi and you'll discover a new part every day. If you ask, some of the hostels and hotels will be happy to give you a map of the different walking paths of the quarter. Wandering through the streets and stores is a nice way to spend a day or two in Hanoi. If you find the railway tracks, walk in the direction of the tracks and look inside the Vietnamese houses on it's sides.
Hanoi is also full of countless modern museums, most of which are devoted to the preservation of Vietnam's difficult history. There are more than 10 big museums such as the Ho Chi Minh Museum and the Museum of National History.
Hanoi is located on the west bank of the Red River (hence the name Hanoi "riverbank") and is the second largest city in the country. You can take a walk next to the river. at one pint you'll see a red bridge in the middle of the lake that will take you to a small island in the middle of the Great Lake. On the lake there is another museum and an ancient pagoda.
Walk around the Old City, try to talk to locals, laugh with a Vietnamese woman who sells fruit and try to pick up the baskets she picks up on her shoulder. It's incredibly heavy.
STREET FOOD IN HANOI
The national dish is rice noodle soup called Pho and can be found almost everywhere. In fact there are different types of Pho- you can order it vegetarian, with meat or chicken and there are probably countless different variations for the dish.
The best experience of course is to eat the dish at one of the seller on the street (rather than in a restaurant). However, it is very worthwhile to carefully examine the booth you choose to eat from and its level of hygiene. Western tourists that are not used to Vietnamese food, do not have the same strong immune system as Vietnamese.
On the streets of Hanoi's Old Town you will see a lot of improvised small restaurants along the pavements, where a lot of locals and tourists sit together on small, cheap plastic chairs. The colors are ENDLESS.
Look for the booths selling chicken legs on skewers and right next to it some bagels with cheese - a further reminder of the constant integration of the ancient Vietnamese tradition with the French influences on it.
A few words to make things easier:
HELLO- Xin chao
THANK YOU- Xon cam on
SORRY- Xin loy
NOT GOOD- Khong tot
HOW MUCH- Bao nhieu
WHAT TO SEE
Chosen as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, a cruise in the Halong bay is an unforgettable experience. The bay is beautiful and breathtaking, you can not help but look up at the beautiful cliffs in the middle of the bay. The area is huge and has nearly 2,000 islands of all sizes filled with lagoons and caves to walk around and admire. The bay with all its islands is spread up to over 1,500 square kilometers. You can take a cruise between these islands, and each of the hiking trails you choose will include various attractions - entrance to caves, snorkels, sleeping on one of the islands, kayaks and other activities.
My recommendation if you guys are young is to choose one of the most interesting tours living from the Old City of Hanoi -
This hostel chain has two hostels in Hanoi - one of them in the Old City and offers cool activities in the evenings. It has a nice nightlife, full of young people and lots of activities (including day trips to Sapa and other cool places in Vietnam).
THE MAKONG DELTA
Sailing in the Mekong River is a great experience. You can stop to visit the villages and the floating markets and of course stop and eat fresh seafood. The river itself is divided into small canals and smaller rivers. There is so many travel agency and hotels in Saigon that offers tours to the Mekong, and there are all kinds of options available- from a day trip to a week trip.If you want to travel by yourself, the nearest town is My to. Regular buses to My to depart from the main Station of Saigon, and the journey takes two hours.
The Mekong delta is in the southwestern region of Vietnam and is in fact the part of the Cambodian border. The Delta produces more rice than all other parts of the country thanks to the remarkable fertility of the Delta's soil. In fact, the Delta is also the second largest exporter after Thailand. The people living in the area are very sociable (like a nice combination between North Vietnam and Cambodia).
Another remnant of the French influences is Sapa, a former French town in the northwest part of the country, close to the border with China. Sapa is surrounded by wide mountains and valleys, and its uniqueness is in it's rice terraces. Among the mountains around Sapa is also the Pansipan, the highest mountain in Vietnam (3,143 meters high), which you can reach by foot. When you arrive at Sapa, you'll meet local women in colorful clothes who will offer you hospitality in their homes and tours to the rice fields. Take with you a flashlight, toilet paper and some sunscreen :)
HOMESTAY IN THE VILLAGES NEAR SAPA OR THE MAKONG DELTA I do not think we can argue about the fact that Some of the Vietnamese are not so nice to Western tourists. They can't be blamed, after years of War and attempts of colonization by the French, some Vietnamese do not offer any warm welcome to western tourists in their country. However, in Vietnam there are a lot of minorities which live in large and small communities, who are actually very welcoming and will be happy to host you and prepare accommodation, meals and participation in the local traditional lifestyle. Keep in mind that it is usually sleeping on the floor and eating near a bonfire, but it is so much fun.