May 21, 2011

Things To Do in Hanoi

Our second last stop in Vietnam was the northern city of Hanoi.  We stayed in the "old quarter" where it was much more historic and chaotic than some of the other 'districts', but also where most of the budget accommodation was located.  We spent nearly 4 days in Hanoi, doing a bit of exploring but also quite a bit of 'administrative' stuff, like organising our upcoming trip to Halong Bay (=1 day), some shopping (=half day), packing and shipping off a box of stuff home (=half day), and going to the police station (=half-day--more on that later!).  The girls were also both sick with colds on our first day there too, so they mostly stayed in bed that day too.  While we discovered that Hanoi had quite a bit to do, especially for families unfortunately we didn't get a chance to do many of them--but it did look promising though!  Here's some of what was on offer and what we did do:

  • Water Puppet Show:  In the 'old days' the Northern Vietnamese peasants developed this tradition of 'water puppets' performed in the rice paddy fields.  Today this ancient craft is performed in Saigon as well as in Hanoi, where it is reputed to be the best.  We caught the 45min show, scoring front row seats too, paying the $5.00 US/100,000 VND each for the 'premium' seats (we paid for 2 and the kids sat on our laps).  Regular seats cost $3.00/60,000 VND.  There are 3-4 shows per day.  The girls quite enjoyed it and having the front row seats certainly made a difference as the wooden puppets are quite small, especially if viewed from the back row, although the theatre wasn't large.
  • Walking the Old Quarter:  The 'old quarter' is where the action is!  Traditionally each street was named according to the wares which were on offer in the area:  sewing, paint, wholesale clothing, footware, stationary, dry goods, etc.  It was a very hectic area, with narrow footpaths so you were more or less left to walk among the traffic, but luckily with the narrow streets, it was all 'one way' traffic at least.  As such, very slow to move through, especially with young kids, but lots to see and street food to eat.  The best spring rolls and 'pho' in Vietnam!
  • Hoan Keim Lake:  This centrally located lake separates the Old Quarter and the French Quarter.  It's a lovely stroll around its perimeter.  Crossing over The Huc Bridge finds you on a little island containing several historic temples, including the Den Ngoc Temple (Temple of the Jaded Mound).  Lovely and leafy here.  (See main pic)
  • Hanoi City Circus:  We discovered on the internet that there was a circus here too, as in HCMC.  However unlike in HCMC, it apparently is very popular.  We tried to get tickets without any luck as it was sold out for days.  FYI:  it's located across from the Nikko Hotel in Lenin Park.  Book early apparently.
  • Museum of Etiology:  This was highly recommended to us, but unfortunately we didn't have enough time to go.
  • Water Park:  Sounded interesting, but it is located a bit outside of the city and we didn't have time to go.
Guess what was being wholesaled here?!

Old Quarter alley

Old Quarter Madness

Lots of Food Hawkers Around--this one was lotus root we think. 

Old Quarter


  1. Those "lotus roots" are actually fresh water chesnuts.

    1. ahh-yes, i think you are right (don't know why we thought lotus root?)!