From I was a little girl, Vietnam has always been a magic country far away. My mom studied in the US, and her best friend in university was from Vietnam. She’s visited us in Norway, sent me Christmas presents from Vietnam when I grew up, and sent photos and long letters describing her life there. I guess when I decided to make Southeast Asia a priority, Vietnam being first on my list was a given.
I spent some time deciding between Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Hanoi. Two factors made my decision easier. The first was that I wanted to visit Halong Bay, which is easily combined with Hanoi. The second was that I simply fell in love with the idea of walking around the old part of Hanoi, and the fact that Saigon is much more cosmopolitan.
When choosing a hotel in Hanoi, make sure to stay in the old part of the city, preferably as close to Hoan Kiem Lake as possible. This is where you’ll find St. Joseph’s Cathedral from 1886 and the old city gate, which is actually from 1010!
Getting around in Hanoi is easy. Taxis are safe and everywhere. They might not use the meter, but with some haggling it works out very well. What I would recommend though, is to bring a mobile phone with a map and GPS. Sometimes the drivers will take you on a detour, but if you bring a GPS you’ll always know if they take you straight to your destination.
While taking a walk around the lake, make sure to visit Ngoc Son Temple. You have to pay to enter, but it’s worth it. Even the gates are unique.
The Ho Chi Minh museum is probably one of the most famous buildings in Vietnam, and you learn a lot of history when visiting. While there, take a walk outside the museum, and visit the One Pillar Pagoda, which is one of the most iconic Buddhist temples in Vietnam.
The Royal Palace is not open to public, but still worth seeing from the outside. It’s pretty close to the Ho Chi Minh museum. The golden color is stunning, and I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it.
While walking around The French Quarter, I came across this beautiful “globe”. Nobody could tell me what it was, but to me it symbolizes peace and is a great way to end my blog post on Hanoi. I was truly charmed by this city and would love to come back some day.