Hanoi is a capital of Vietnam with a population of about 8 000 000 people.
HOW TO GET THERE
Flight from Hong Kong is about 2 hours, from Singapore is 3 hours and a half. Tickets price for a direct flight from Hong Kong and Singapore is almost the same - less than 200 USD if booked in advance (2 weeks before the flight) and more expensive on Christmas, New year and other public holidays. Before going to Vietnam check if you need to apply for a visa.
FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE CITY
Hanoi International airport is Noi Bai International Airport. It has 2 terminals - international and domestic flights. When arriving to Hanoi, the first thing to do is to get from the airport to the city. As in any airport you can simply get a taxi or use a public transport, but the best (cheaper and more convenient) option is to arrange a transfer with your hotel. You can be sure you won’t be cheated or scammed by taxi drivers, you don’t have to waste time on finding a taxi stand and the only thing you should do is just to find a guy with your name on board in the arrival hall. One more advantage of this option is that you don’t have to change money at the airport as you can pay for your transfer when arriving at the hotel.
The first 10 minutes the traffic is okay but the closer to the city the crazier the traffic is. Everything like in chaos – narrow streets, millions of motorbikes and beep beep beep sounds all the time.
The first impression of Hanoi after being there an hour– friendly people and non stop beep sounds.
So next step is check in at the hotel. There are a huge range of 3 stars hotels in Hanoi to choose from. Average price is 30-40 USD per night. For this price you can find a nice modern hotel with free WI-FI, an air-con, cable TV and free amenities. Breakfast is included in most hotels. Our hotel was in Old Quarter district and it is 40 minutes’ drive from the airport.
After checking in it is high time to walk around and grab some coffee. We have been living in Asia for almost 4 years and got used to many specific features - Hong Kong is a very specific city of contrasts with overcrowded streets, dirty districts and old ruined houses covered with mould, Bangkok is full of street vendors and stinky smell, Bali with its chaotic hectic traffic. It seems like Hanoi has everything in double. I was really impressed by its rhythm in city center. There are almost no roads for pedestrians, moreover, it’s even not enough space for cars. Overall, Old Quarter district is noisy, overcrowded and dirty. Almost all buildings are not higher than 3 floors. Everything is in great contrast - architecture in a colonial style as a reminiscence of the French colonial regime with a print of Asian poor life. Just wandering around the center, you pass by a huge amount of shops – household stuff, clothes, souvenirs, fruit etc.
A very nice shop for souvenirs is in the heart of Old Quarter district, there you can find magnets, calendars, notebooks, postcards with Viet symbols. All prices are fixed and even credit cards are acceptable but with a bank charge of 3%.
The next step after exploring Vietnamese street culture is to try Vietnamese authentic food, which is becoming more and more popular all over world. Hanoi is a perfect place to have such a gastronomical experience. I can highly recommend you Ngon Villa restaurant. This restaurant in colonial style has its own concept of presentation Vietnamese cultures and traditions. And you have a great opportunity to try dishes from North, Central and South Vietnam choosing a buffet option just for 360 000 VND (about 15 US dollars). Can you believe that? A highly romantic atmosphere with candles and lovely music. A perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.