Three hours plane ride from Manila, Philippines I found myself in Hanoi, Vietnam. At first, I was gazing between Hanoi and Saigon or Ho Chi Minh, which place suits my personality. I chose Hanoi because of its vabriant personality partixularly the Old Quarters and its nearby some of the tourist attraction in the northern part of Vietnam.
Hanoi City Tour
While doing some research on the places to visit in Hanoi, I came across with Free Hanoi Tour ( check tripadvisor for details or simply google it).
I chose a package that best suites me. It is a whole day city hour (9am -4 pm) which includes Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh Museum, Ho Kiem Lake, Hanoi prison and strolling around Old Quarter.
Just booked a trip with them.
My guide for the trip was Quang ( a 20 year old male student).
Trivia: the guides in the Free City tour are mostly students who offer their services, be more fluent in English and have fun with tourist.
Quang fetched me at the my hotel at 8:30am, he early that I am still having my breakfast that time. He was nice fun guy, he is a conversionalist and like giving details about the place we went to. He was also ready to take me pictures up the point on asking on why girls love taking pictures because his girl is always like that. He has a good heart, I gave him a tip at the end of our trip but hesitant to accpet because he was there to help ( such a good soul). He just wanted me to write about my experience on their website. More power to him.
Going back, Temple of Literature (entrance fee: 35000 vnd), in this place I learned more of Vietnam culture, how Confucious teachings influence their way of life and the influence of Chinese to them. The place is huge as it is composed of five quadrants of Big temples.
From the Temple of Literature we walked to Ho Chi Minh museum ( kinda long but its okay, I tend to appreciate the architectures along the way. I understand the history in this place, how they consider Ho Chi Minh as a hero during the war. Parts of museum was under construction then so no entrance fee needed.
After that two historic place, we just eat somewhere before proceeded to St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Actually, this isn’t part of our itinerary but I told Quang that I wanted to see this church.
We also went to Ho Kiem Lake ( actually the lake was a few blocks from my hotel). Certain cafes and shops surrounded the lake. Hanoi is known as colonized by France way back, so can see French touches in their food and some architectures.
Quang also brought me to Hanoi Prison museum (entrance fee: 60000 vnd), I got oriented on the judicial process of Hanoi especially during the war. The agony of prisoners that time saddened me.
After the trip, using his motorbike, Quang and I strolled around Old Quarter and Hanoi. We passed by the Hanoi government agencies, malls and buildings. What amazed me were the murals along the hi-way. It depicts their culture, values and history. The tour ended at 4pm.
In the evening, I explored the night by exploring Old Quarters while waiting for the night market.
Hoalu Tam Co Tour (34$)
Located at the Northern part of Vietnam particularly in Ninh Binh, it took us 3 hours to reach this attraction.
I am astonished by the grandeur of the place. Seems like stepping in an old Chinese era with the royalties around. A lot of Chinese inspired architecture around the place.
Hoalu Tam is a serene place where limestones were scattered every where. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate pristine beauty of the place but I am a little bias if I would say Palawan (Philippines) is still the best when we talked about limestones. But of course Hoalu, you can paddle the boat and experience Vietnam culture at its finest (there’s nothing there in Palawan). I also tried to ride through a bicycle in the place to appreciate and be thankful of all the wonders of God.
We all got back to our bus at around 5:00 PM and headed back to Hanoi with one bladder break on the way. ETA to Hanoi is around 7:00 PM.
One of the highlights of this trip was meeting other foreigners sharing the passion in traveling. I felt flattered knowing that they have gone to the Philippines and really appreciate my country. They are the nicest after all.
*The tour includes buffet lunch.
Night market opens every Saturday and Sunday. A long stretch of good finds and yummy food for a reasonable price.
You can take home varieties of Vietnam coffee, it’s just every where. Also the famous rice pulled noodles.
Quang brought me to one of the streets that served Bucha ( must try while in Hanoi). It is said it was originated in Hanoi thus for some reasons not available to other parts of Vietnam.
Bun Cha is a noodle soup with pork. It will be serve by a plate of rice noodles, fresh herbs and a bowl of cold broth with grilled pork, spring rolls and some vegetables . The combination of broth and the pork make it unique and delicious.
I also tried other dishes along the streets like Pho, Banh Cuon, Banh Mi and others.
Coffee shops are everywhere in Hanoi. Try also their cakes and breads at reasonable prize.
I booked my stay at Hotel Alibaba at the heart of Old Quarters. It is a four storey (old) building. The cheapest I got. I stayed in the 3rd floor, so the struggle was climbing the stairs with my luggage ( they dont assists client). It was mediocre, nothing special about place, they don’t serve breakfast after all. But what I appreciate in staying here were the staffs; they were so friendly and humble. I don’t mind spending an hour talking about them even sometimes we had language miscommunication. We just laughed at it.
The hotel also transfered my from/to the airport for 19$ one way.
My three full days in Hanoi was well spent. I treasure the place, love the people and embrace their culture. Thank you Vietnam for warmth hospitality and for making me at home.