From cold and foggy Sapa we took a daily bus to capital city of Vietnam to Hanoi. We didn’t have accommodation but we were not afraid to find something in such big city. But we enjoyed more than one day in Hanoi. Best location where to stay is Old Quarter which is around famous the Hoan Kien Lake (red bridge). Our bus stopped on the rush street and we had no idea where we are. Vietnamese guys offered us “cheap” drive to the lake. Even you are tired please, don’t trust them. Find any bar or restaurant where you can turn on wifi and check your position. We did it and lake was just around the corner! When you are really tired take a taxi but only with taximeter (still is good when you know your position).
We found hotel very quickly and we stayed on the north only 10 min walk to the lake. After quick shower we went to explore neighborhood “The Old Quarter” and drink the cheapest beer on the world at “Bia Hoi Corner”.
1. walking in The Old Quarter – one of the most famous location in Hanoi. It’s charming mix of French colonial and ancient Vietnamese architecture where you can find streets selling the most random things, thousands of motorbikes, restaurants, coffees and unique atmosphere. The best way how to see as much as possible is walk around. This area was an important trading center and because of it you can find streets with specific names. Even now you can find street selling the same thing.
Here you can see more photos from Hanoi streets
2. Enjoy atmosphere & beer at Bia Hoi corner – To visit Hanoi (or Vietnam) and don’t spend some time sitting on small plastic stools and drink the cheapest beer on the world is a crime. It’s crowded, noisy, small and dirty but this is authentic beer street atmosphere. We love to observe what is going on around and see locals in their drinking culture 🙂 The beer costs only 3000 VND per glass. It is draught beer, quite light (3-4% alcohol) with light yellow colour. Is made of 50% rice and is free of preservative! Beer is so cheap and light and everybody drinks it. Not surprisingly is finished very fast. Since beer is free of preservative has to be finished in 24 hours. The real beer lovers will not truly enjoy the beer taste. It is specific and for us does not taste like a beer but we had some. Well our Czech beer is still the best! You can find beer pubs in other parts of city but the best beer culture is here on Bia Hoi corner (corner of Luong Ngoc Quyen and Ta Hien streets). With beer you can order Vietnamse tapas – different fried finger food). Or around the cornet you can find many places where to eat famous barbecue, soups, Bahn Mi or other delicious Vietnamese food.
We went sleep early to wake up fresh to fully enjoy One day in Hanoi.
And here is how we spent our One Day In Hanoi:
1. Morning street food market in Hanoi – food lovers there is nothing better than enjoy morning market. We had one just in front of our hotel. It is real street food where all selling food lies on the street. You can buy meat, fish, sea food, veggie, exotic fruit, herbs, eggs etc. It is a gallery of local ingredients and if you are hungry you can eat soup. Click here to see full photo gallery and map to the market.
2. On the way to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum we went through Lenin’s park – it is weird to walk in Vietnam and see Lenin statue in the park. Well there is nothing special. Vietnam has not many Communist statues but one that remains is of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, which stands in Dien Bien Phu Street. The playground in which it is situated is now a favorite with local skateboarders.
3. Our 1st stop was Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – is a large memorial and one of the most visited attraction in Hanoi. We walked from our hotel and it took us about 20 min. It is a resting place of the most iconic leader known as “Uncle Ho”. For tourist it is extraordinary experience but for Vietnamese it’s part of a unique history. It’s a place where Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence in 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Mausoleum is closed on Monday and Friday and is open only in the morning and there are large (really endles) crowds, so arrive early. You have to follow strict rules – no shorts, no tank tops, no drinking, no smoking, no hands in pocket and no photography. Visitors are not allowed to stop inside but follow the line. You will be out fro mausoleum in a one minute. The embalmed body is yearly send to Russia for maintenance. Admission is free.
4. After long walk we had a lunch in KOTO – delicious food in famous restaurant next to the Temple of Literature. But this is not an ordinary restaurant! To eat ther you will support a non profit organisation who provides training in the hospitality industry to street kids and disadvantaged youth. More about KOTO clickhere.
5. Just next to the Koto was Temple of Literature – Vietnam’s first national university built and dedicated to Confucius, scholars and sages in the 1070. Despite wars and a natural catastrophe, the temple has preserved ancient architectural styles. Temple has typical architecture style composed of wood and tiles. Originally the university accepted only elite and royal members and sussessful graduates had their names engraved and can be found on the stone turtles. Many students lived, studied and passed the regional exam before joining the academy. Students focuses on literature and wrote poetry. Students also learned Chinese, Chinese philosophy and history. The temple is divided into five court yard, each with significance and history. We visited temple in exams period when countless students passed examination and took photos together. The temple is located about 2km west of Hoan Kiem Lake. Temple is closed on Monday.
6. Afternoon we walked back to Hoan Kiem Lake – Its cultural and historic heart located in the center of the Old Quarter’s streets. Its a perfect place for relaxing and escape from rush Hanoi’s streets. There is a story about magical sword and one of the greates heroes king Le Loi. Le Loi was said to have a sword of great power. The legend tells that the sword came from the Dragon King in his underwater palace to beat the Chinese Ming Dynasty. The story tells that sword gave to Le Loi strenght of many mens. After succesfully victory over Chinese was emperor Le Loi out boating on the lake. Suddenly a large turtle surfaced and took the sword from Le Loi’s belt, and dive back into the depths and never to be found again. Le Loi then recognized that the sword had gone back to the Dragon King with the Golden Turtle (Kim Quy), and he renamed the lake ‘The Lake of the Returned Sword’. In the middle of the lake is a small island with a small stone tower called Thap Rua (Turtle Tower) and its honor the magic turtle which still guards the sword of Le Loi. The story goes that a Vietnamese mandarin in the service of the French built a tower with kept secret to bury his father’s remains on the Turtle Islet. However, the people discovered his secret and removed his father’s body. On the top of Turtle Tower there used to stand a version of the Statue of Liberty, placed by the French. The statue was destroyed in 1945. Today large and rare turtles inhabit the lake. One giant should be the direct descendent of the original turtle and if we follow turtle’s bilogical classification, then there are only 4 remaining specimens in the world.
TIP: Even when you are only one day in Hanoi you can enjoy local ice cream which is just a hundred meters from the Southern point of Hoan Kiem Lake. We stopped there on the way back to the lake. It is called Kem Trang Tien and is hard to find but we saw local people walking with ice cream. So just follow them and you will entrace to the “garage” or “ice cream cave”. First we tried vanila scoop ice cream and then flavored ice lollies. Rice ice cream was really delicious.
7. Our last stop was Ngoc Son Temple -located on the north end of the lake is Jade island o which the Temple of the Jde Mountain (Ngoc Son Temple) stands. The temple was probably built in the 18h century to war hero General Tran Hung Dao who defeated an armed force of 300,000 soldiers. The temple attracts many visitors by charming scarlet painted wooden red bridge (Huc Bridge or Rising Sun Bridge). Pagoda is quarded by two towering pillar with Chinese words. The temple consist of a main building housing the altars and a huge bronze turtle displayed in a glass case.
We were pretty tired and after long walking one day in Hanoi we enjoyed beer next to the lake at the restaurant roof with a night scenic view!