To say I fell in love with Hanoi is probably an understatement (I declared we should move there less than 24 hours in…); I loved how unique the culture still is, I loved the hectic, scooter filled streets, I loved the food and the cheap beer and the delicious egg coffee! We were there for three nights and I’m already looking at the calendar trying to figure out when we can go back!
The flight from Bangkok to Hanoi is just under two hours and we flew after work on Thursday with Vietnam Air who I would absolutely fly with again. As a UK passport holder I get a 15 day Visa on arrival making immigration pretty simple (FYI, this is changing in March 2018), you must have evidence of your return flight to show the immigration officer. We hadn’t booked a transfer into the city and had been warned that taxi’s in Hanoi are notorious for scamming so we sauntered up the one of the many transfer desks and booked a private car for 500,000 dong (in Vietnam you are an instant millionaire in their currency, the Dong) which we were escorted to a few minutes later. The journey to our hotel in the Old Quarter took around 30 minutes from the airport.
I had done a little research and stumbled across the La Siesta Trendy Hotel and Spa on Agoda when we booked everything in August. The rooms looked funky and comfortable, the location was perfect and the reviews it got were great so we booked three nights for £88 a night. We arrived about 10:20pm and were presented with a delicious welcome drink and a cold towel before being shown to our 9th floor room. What I hadn’t realised was how low everything in Hanoi is, so our 9th floor room afforded us incredible views over the city, akin to a high rise in Bangkok. Our bed was ridiculously large and the chandelier bedside light was something I once wanted to do when we owned our own house so of course I loved that!
The breakfast at La Siesta Trendy was varied, fresh and delicious. I chose Phở for my first meal of the day and man, it was sooooo good! Thinking about the light clear broth with the succulent beef, rice noodles and piles of herbs and lashings of lime juice is making me salivate as I type! The eggs Benedict were good too, as of course was the fresh bread and baguettes, a reminder of the French influence that is still very strong in the city.
We headed out into Hanoi for a wander and were instantly hit by the hustle and bustle of the streets. In lots of places the pavements are either taken by parked scooters or street food vendors so you end up chancing your luck on the edge of the road! One thing for me that was very different to Bangkok is the horns and the honking; in Bangkok it is generally deemed rude to honk your horn, even if someone cuts you up, in Hanoi, if you are on the road you should let every man and his dog know it!
A Vespa tour of the city came highly recommended from a few people when I asked some Bangkok friends what we should do, so we booked a 4.5 hour ‘Insiders Hanoi’ tour with Vintage Vespa Tours Hanoi. I seriously can’t recommend this highly enough; we were collected from our hotel and saw so much of the city whilst being driven around on the coolest vintage Vespa’s. Our lead guide Trung spoke such good English and was so knowledgable, he even sent us an email recommending the best coffee shops and eateries for our stay. A typhoon from the South China Sea hit on Friday afternoon during our tour but we were soon wearing ponchos and continuing on!
Unbeknownst to me when booking the hotel, I had somehow booked a package that included afternoon tea and evening cocktails so after the Vespa tour we headed straight up to the 8th floor restaurant to enjoy a delicious afternoon tea. That evening we met up with some mates and headed out into the Old Quarter (in the pouring down rain…thanks typhoon) for Bahn Mi, more Phở and 30p beers!
Our second day in the city was again rather wet as the typhoon showed no signs of moving on, but we didn’t let that spoil our fun and went cafe hopping, stopping in some of the cool little shops as we went. I am not a coffee drinker but the Vietnamese coffee seriously changed that, particularly the egg coffee; a local favourite that is pretty much an espresso on the bottom with what can only be described as uncooked meringue on the top. So delicious and guaranteed to give you an incredible caffeine sugar buzz!! Trung recommended Cafe Giang which has been serving egg coffee since 1946 and was amazing, definitely seek it out if your in Hanoi.
Later that afternoon, we ended up perched on the 3rd floor of Cafe Pateta watching the world go by; a great spot with good views, craft beers and plenty of people watching! Our last drinks stop of the day was in the French Quarter at the Hotel Metropole, what we spent here on G&T balanced out the bargain drinks of the day lets just say that, but again it’s a lovely place to sit and watch daily Hanoi life – the ladies doing aerobics to the Macarena in the park opposite made for entertaining viewing! We walked back to our hotel that evening via the lake and after a quick meal back in our hotel headed out for a cocktail at a bar on our street called The Alchemist. I haven’t been in a bar that smoky in years and I don’t know if we were unlucky or if it’s always as pretentious but we clearly weren’t welcome and after one drink decided to call it a day before we died of dirty looks and smoke inhalation!
Sunday was literally that, sun-day; it was hot and the sky was blue! I enjoyed a final Phở breakfast before heading to the lake to see the famous red bridge in the sunshine. Afterwards we just meandered around the winding streets, stopping at a coffee shop every now and again for refreshment and air con!
We had booked the hotel car to take us back to the airport and I couldn’t help but feel that the end of the weekend had come all too quickly but did feel like we had done a lot in our three days in the city. This short taste has just left me itching to explore more of Vietnam and a serious hanckering to return to Hanoi!