I know I bitch a lot about Hanoi in real life. (Yes, let’s start off this post with an honest confession)
But…that’s only when I feel stuck in Hanoi or restricted by curfews and responsibilities. I mean the world is so big and who doesn’t want to experience more than just his/her hometown. Anyone with a wanderlust heart will empathize with this feeling of being stuck at home.
Now that I live in Saigon (Ok…it’s not that far away…still the same country but believe it or not, it’s two different worlds) and that my parents have moved abroad, I can freely and truly enjoy my own town.
The energy in Hanoi is always bubbling…literally. The scorching summer heat and the madness of millions motorbikes make you feel like a molecule boiling, bouncing around in a tea kettle.
Hanoi is also a romantic city. It rained for a few days when I was in Hanoi. Woking up early, walking around the alleyways of Old Quarter with lines of green trees, and absorbing the fresh scent of rain – I felt like being lost in a Woody Allen movie or an impressionist painting.
(By the way, this is why I love New York so much. Both its chaotic and artistic atmospheres remind me of my hometown, Hanoi.)
I was back in Hanoi for a week to visit my boyfriend. And here I’m retracing my itinerary.
(I also fell in love again with Hanoi. So much that I cancelled my flight to stay for some extra 3 days. True story.)
WHAT TO DO IN HANOI
I booked Hanoi Posh Hotel at 4A Hàng Giấy, at the center of Old Quarter, near the market Chợ Đồng Xuân. Everything is closed by. The staff is nice and extremely helpful. I have booked some other hotels but I always come back to this one as it has the best amenities at an affordable price. Also, look at the view, onto to the hustle & bustle of the city. Who wouldn’t want to wake up with this view.
I stayed in room 403 and 503 for this view. I booked directly with the hotel and pay by cash at the price of 510,000 VND ($22) per night .
Address: Hanoi Posh Hotel, 4A Hàng Giấy (Old Quarter)
Every food stand in Old Quarter is beyond delicious! The competition here is fierce so to have at the spot at the center of the city, the food needs to be excellent. I just randomly walk around and go to places that are crowded. And each time, I’m not disappointed.
Here are some highlights:
• Cháo Sườn Cô Là (Pork Bones Porridge)
(Pictured in the 1st image)
I actually order the porridge through the Facebook page. It’s a street food stand that has been selling pork bones porridge for 20+ years. It’s so successful that there are lots of copy cats and the stand owner has been bullied to move around (yes, there’s a whole viral dramatic story behind this stand). To make sure I got the authentic porridge, I just order through the Facebook page run by the owner’s children.
I normally hate porridge but this exceeded my expectation and the hype. For 30,000 VND, you can order in a delicious breakfast. (Yes, we Vietnameses eat weird stuffs for breakfast).
Address: Next to 2A Lý Quốc Sư (crosscroads Hàng Bông-Lý Quốc Sư) (Beware of Fake Ones…Check their Facebook page or call 01655092802).
• Bún Cá 42 Hàng Đậu (Fish Noodles Soup)
This is also normally a dish that I don’t like but this place is a classic in Hanoi. It’s a few steps away from Hanoi Posh Hotel so very easy to walk to for breakfast. (Yes, as you might notice by now, Vietnameses like to eat liquid dishes for breakfast).
The broth here is packed with flavor, a mix of sweetness but the color is still clean. I was instantly addicted to this dish and kept coming back here for breakfast.
This is also something you might not find in Vietnamese restaurants abroad so definitely give this soup with white noodles and fish balls a try.
Address: 42 Hàng Đậu, Hoàn Kiếm District
• Bún Chả Hương Liên / Bún Chả Obama (Noodles with Grilled Pork & Spring Rolls)
This place has been gathered a cult following for awhile, before the famous Obama’s visit.
Address: 24 Lê Văn Hưu, Hai Bà Trưng District
• Phở Bát Đàn
This is what you see in most guidebooks but surprisingly, this is still the go-to place for locals. Phở is perhaps the most famous dish from Vietnam but it never goes out of style. The perfect comfort food for any season.
If you travel throughout Vietnam, you will notice that Phở tastes differently in each region. Try Phở at this location 49 Bát Đàn for an authentic original Hanoian taste. (As a Hanoian, I’m a snob and of course believe that Phở from Hanoi is the best one After all, Phở has its origin here).
This location is also (in)famous for its military self-serving style and long lines. Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi has definitely reincarnated here in these owners with piercing look and silent tone. Just line up, choose your style of beef (I usually choose tái – rare), give cash, then side away, and wait for your bowl of soup. Yes, it’s exactly like the scene from Seinfeld.
Address: 49 Bát Đàn, Hoàn Kiếm District
• Mỳ Vằn Thắn 86 Phố Huế (Wonton Noodle Soup)
This is my favorite Hanoian dish – I cannot find this exact version in the South or anywhere where. Inspired by Chinese soup, this dish has egg noodles mixed with dumplings, eggs, and slices of pork.
Address: 86 Phố Huế , Hoàn Kiếm District
• Ưu Đàm Chay Restaurant (Vegan Restaurant)
Address: 34 Hàng Bài, Hoàn Kiếm District
• Cosa Nostra
Discovering Việt Thanh shuttle bus for the airport-Hanoi route is such a revelation. I have been stupidly using ride-sharing services or Taxi to transfer between the airport and the city and back. One way costs on average 300,000 VND ($13.5); Yes, a roundtrip then costs 600,000 VND ($27) – almost a one way ticket Hanoi – HCMC of budget airline on a cheap day.
One way of Việt Thanh bus is only 40,000 VND ($1.7). No need to buy the ticket in advance online. In fact, you cannot find a legit official website for the brand (maybe this is the one). It’s not affiliated with Vietjet either – even though it uses the color and logo and even phone number of Vietjet (!?!).
Simple pay by cash when you board. You can find the bus at Gate A and E of the airport. The bus departs 24/7 from the airport.
In Hanoi, the station is at 69 Trần Nhân Tông, next to the circus and park. It departs every 30 minutes from 4am until 9pm.
The staff and drivers are extremely sweet. I arrived early at 6:15pm for a 7pm departure. It was just me and another guy but the staff decides to drive us early at 6:30pm. Clean bus, fast ride, no extra stops – how I wish I have known this shuttle bus earlier, I could have saved so much money. But now you know
Address: 69 Trần Nhân Tông (From Hanoi) or Gate A or E (From Airport)
There’s no sightseeing in this list … but I don’t think Hanoi is a city for sightseeing. It’s a city for people – watching. You can discover a lot about this city by just wandering around, get lost, and observing the people here
Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Old Quarter, and Triệu Việt Vương (coffee shops street) are 3 prime spots to have a stroll.