I hope you enjoyed part one of our guide to the things you must do in Hanoi. Hanoi is such an incredible place that we couldn’t fit it all in just one article and have had to finish it off with this second helping…
Find The More Obscure Landmarks
Whenever we visit anywhere, we always try to find the more unusual places within the location and Hanoi is no exception. Obviously, we are very aware of the war in Vietnam that ended in 1975 and had heard about the huge number of American B52 planes that were shot down by the Vietnamese during this war. One of these planes landed in the Huu Tiep Lake within the city of Hanoi. We had to see this landmark, so we walked through the city and down some narrow streets to find it. It did not disappoint. The wreckage is still a very prominent feature in the area. It is a terrible reminder of the horrors that occurred during that time, but something I would recommend seeing.
Hidden down some busy streets, on the edge of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, you will find a very interesting landmark. This is the Hanoi Train Street. This narrow road is lined either side by the typical slim, tall buildings of Hanoi. However, unlike other roads within the city, mopeds and motorbikes are not the danger on the road here. Instead, twice a day, a scheduled train heads up the street towards the station. It is so surreal. Health and safety was definitely not an issue amongst the locals, as they wash their clothes, do their dishes and just going about their daily business right outside their front door, literally right on the train tracks.
Although it is slightly off the beaten track (no pun intended), it isnt too difficult to find, directly south from the main station. We made sure to get a good spot on one side of the tracks, however, a local lady who lived there, indicated us to stay as far back as we could. Suddenly, the train could be heard- it was very exciting. As it approached, the driver honked the horn. It was deafening. Being so close to the train as it whirled right passed us was so exhilarating and something not to be missed.
While in Hanoi, we really wanted to get a good view of the city from above. In European cities, we are always able to find an old cathedral or tower with 360 views from the top. However, Hanoi’s oldest buildings are temples and only a couple of storeys high. Thankfully, we stumbled across a hotel with a restaurant called Skyline on its roof. This is such a hidden gem.
We booked a table for dinner one evening and the food was great. Although pricey by Hanoi standards, it was still very reasonable. As the place was so fantastic, wonderful views, well decorated, excellent service and food/drinks, we decided visit the place twice, the second time was just for a drink, to enjoy the daytime views of Hanoi. It really is worth visiting- you wont be disappointed.
Hanoi is a great city, with lots going on, especially around the main lake. Every weekend they close the road around Hoan Kiem Lake, allowing cyclists, runners and groups to use it for fitness. It was wonderful to see so many people enjoying the lake and getting healthy. Vicky was so inspired, that she decided to join in with a couple of the dance classes that were taking place. Although the main fitness mornings happen on the weekend, there are still groups of people dancing and working out during every part of the day – seven days a week, which anyone can be a part of for free.
Ride a cyclo
The roads of Hanoi are the busiest I have ever seen anywhere in the world. It is a crazy yet exciting place to see. Nearly everyone travels by motorbike or moped and there seems to be absolutely no rules to the road. Even at traffic lights, the motorists don’t seem to wait at a red light. It is really is non-stop, all the time. And such a fun place to try and cross the road.
We didn’t get chance to hire a bike, however, we did get the opportunity to ride in a cyclo. This was absolutely brilliant and a very thrilling way to travel and see the sights of the Old Quarter. The ‘talented’ drivers just rode us around the roads, dodging in and out of traffic, speeding along each street. It was so much fun and a great experience.
Soak up some culture and history
One of our favourite places we visited in Hanoi has to be the Fine Art Museum. It was a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours to enjoy Vietnamese art throughout periods of history.
What I really liked about the work shown in the Hanoi Fine Art Museum is how it represented the daily life of the Vietnamese, their history as well as all the things they hold dear. Lots of the pieces on display were of traditional farming, home life or depictions of the war or Ho Chi Minh.
There was also so very sizeable and ever so impressive Budhist art in the gallery. I particularly liked the massive sculptures of Buddha in female form. Lots of the art was hundreds of years old and the quality of the craftsman ship was simply astounding.
See the sights at night
During the evening, the city is just bustling, especially on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings as they hold a night time street market, an exciting place to wander through. There are so many different souvenirs to check out and the markets are not to be missed. Although the city’s normal traffic dies down quite a bit at night, it is still a busy and fun place to be. Check out Bia Hoi Junction, the main nightlife hub. Here you will find loads of places to go for a drink and you’ll even get to sit on the tiny plastic stools that the regulars use, whilst enjoying your local beer.
Whilst in Hanoi, we loved walking around the lake at night. There are lots of people around, some dancing, some doing yoga-like moves, some just taking an evening stroll. The lights of the city are reflected and sparkle on the water. They use coloured lights to show off the temple and bridge in the lake. It is truly a magical sight to behold. One evening, we even popped in to a lake-side cafe and had an ice cream sundae whilst enjoying the views.
As mentioned previously, we had visited Skyline, the restaurant on the roof of a hotel. The place itself uses fairy lights to great effect, enhancing the atmosphere brilliantly. It is a wonderful location to visit at night as the drinks, service and the views from the top were great. We could see Hoan Kiem Lake all lit up below and had a full view of the city’s skyline in the dark. With all of the lights and the chilled out atmosphere within the venue, it was a fantastic place to end an evening.
Head North and see Sapa
Hanoi is such an exciting, unique place to visit, however, we were keen to see more of the country during our trip. Vietnam is just beautiful and has so much variety to offer. I would recommend after checking out as much as possible in Hanoi, getting away from the city to enjoy the landscape beyond, including the area of Sapa, north east of Hanoi.