Destination Investigation – Hanoi

Hanoi was the final stop in Vietnam, we spent just three nights at the end of March. Everyone we met in Vietnam told us how crazy and busy Hanoi was, how it was so much worse than Ho Chi Minh, but we just didn’t think so. Maybe because we were used to Vietnam having been there for nearly a month by the time we touched down in Hanoi. We felt the city had a smaller feel to it with narrower roads, shorter buildings, and seemingly less traffic. Make sure to read our things to do in Hanoi before hitting the streets exploring.

Highs:

The Food – Generally the further north in Vietnam you travel the worse the food gets, that being said there were some different dishes that were only found in Hanoi like Bun Cha and a few others. We went on a great street food walking tour to find all the best ones in Hanoi, which was a great way to find our favorites.

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The Bai Hoi or local fresh beer – decent beer for less than $0.40usd

The prices – Just about everything in Vietnam is cheap, especially rooms. You can get a pretty decent room for just $12-15 USD per night with a kings size bed, nice bathroom, breakfast, wifi, and even a pool sometimes. We stayed at the Rising Dragon Hotel for around $20 and would stay again.

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Lows:

The historical sites – Every major museum or monument we visited was underwhelming at best.

The motorbikes – Even though they were less crazy than Ho Chi Minh, it was still bad and I was tired of crossing the street.

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The Food – Some stuff was good but others lacked flavor and just wasn’t anything that special. What made it worse was coming from the south and specifically Hoi An where the food was really good.

Tips:

Take the bus to and from the airport. The Noi Bai airport is about 30-45 minutes away from the city and taxis can be expensive (and will more than likely try to scam you). Some airlines, like Jetstar Pacific sell their bus ticket on the plane to the city center. The price should be around 40,000 VND.

how to get from hanoi to the noi bai airport (HAN) 3

Service is also available to the airport from the city via minivans for 40,000VND see how to get to the airport from Hanoi here.

Try the Bun Cha – this dish is only found in the north and is a soup with nice seasoned pork patties served with a spread of mint, basil, and other vegetables.

The Hanoi Hilton is not what you think it is – There is only a small room pertaining to the Vietnam war, the rest of the building is dedicated to the Vietnamese prisoners kept here during French colonial times.

The Ho Chi Minh Museum is strange – The displays made for the museum are very elaborate and very modern art inspired, which just confused me. I was hoping to learn more about the man whose face is everywhere in Vietnam, but unfortunately, a vast majority of the displays are in Vietnamese and not translated to English. It seems like they took every piece if paper that they could find with his name on it or picture he was in and stuck it on the wall, most of it was not that interesting or really important. I walked out shaking my head and missing that hour of my life.

Would I go back: Maybe

The city itself is fine but there isn’t a ton to do, three days is more than enough to cover everything of interest.

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Make sure to check out the rest of our Vietnam articles here.

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10 thoughts on “Destination Investigation – Hanoi

  1. like your site a lot but as a vietnamese person born and raised i have to disagree with your view on the goods and the bads and particularly the food. Northern Food is considered to be more delicate and sophisticated; it does not rely on chili to make its flavor. there are MANY dishes that are amazing with a great combination of fresh herbs / veggies, noodles or rice, and fresh produces. Bun Cha, Pho (the way Pho should be eaten is not with hoisin sauce as it’s supposed to be a light clean broth to bring out the fragrances of oxtail, beef bones, onions, charred ginger), Banh Cuon (Vietnamese steamed rolls), Mien (glass / vermicelli noodles) in all forms. All of these dishes (and I am not even naming street food) are very well seasoned and crafted. I am quite surprised you say northern food is bland.

    • We’ll have to get back to Hanoi and try some more food! We did enjoy our time here, but I guess we missed some good food spots. We may be back later this year, leave us some of your favorite places!

  2. If you went to Hanoi first I am sure the streets of HCMC would put you off to not like it. Too bad you were sick cause the food was amazing in HCMC. Hope the flu passed fast so you could enjoy your trip.

  3. We also found Hanoi underwhelming, and we weren’t sure if we had ‘done it right.’ We felt the same about the food – having come from Hoi An where we had been munching on things like Cao Lau and White Rose, it was soooo hard to make the transition to the food in the north, which is mainly bland. We did, however, fall in love with the concoction of fruit, coconut cream and ice that you find at the street food stalls – did you try that?

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