I arrived in Noi Bai International airport in Hanoi early evening. The immigration and passport control was a breeze since I already had the necessary paperwork or visa ready. American Citizens need a visa to get into Vietnam. I had to go to a Vietnamese Consulate in San Francisco to get mine, which only took about 20 minutes. You also have the option of mailing it to them.
We took a taxi, (Click here for taxi prices in Hanoi) and headed to our hotel in old town where we decided to stay so we could see how the locals went about their day. I suggest you get local money, the Vietnamese Dong (VND), from the ATMs at the airport. This is because not all small establishments in Hanoi accept credit cards. It is always a great idea to have some local money on hand. Click here for current conversion of money.
We arrived in our hotel and we were not disappointed. It was busy, noisy and almost chaotic, which was probably why they provided ear plugs to guests. After resting a bit, we headed out for some good, authentic “pho” in a nearby restaurant recommended by the hotel receptionist.
Photo Credit: TripAdvisor (Monster07)
The picture above shows the main entrance of our hotel in Old Town Hanoi (click here). It has great reviews from TripAdvisor. The hotel room was a decent size with the basic amenities which was just fine with me because i just needed the room to crash in at the end of the day.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The ironic part of seeing the body of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi was that the Mausoleum is not located in Ho Chi Minh City in south Vietnam but in the capital city of Hanoi. The good thing about visiting the complex is that it is free to get in. However, they are very strict with opening hours, so you have to be there before 10:30 am. Expect a (very) long line to get in and be sure to dress appropriately (No hats or shorts). Once inside the Mausoleum, you will walk in a single file into a square room where Ho Chi Minh’s body is laid in the middle of the room.
It’s hard to miss this heavily-guarded bright yellow building. The Presidential Palace is where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked during his reign. Although it is also within the complex, you can only get as close to the gate or view it through your camera..that is, if it has good zoom capabilities.
This is a random building inside the complex. These kids are probably having a school field trip, I assume. This reminds me of when I was in grade school……waaay back.
Tran Quoc Pagoda
A visit to the oldest temple in Hanoi should not be missed. It is free to get in until late afternoon. Again, decent attire is required to respect the culture and because it is a place for prayer. Inside the pagoda you will see smaller, more valuable statues and the amazing intricate architecture. A visit to the temple gave us some insight to the culture and religious life of the Vietnamese people.
The Lang Pagoda was another one I visited. I was welcomed by a 3-panelled gate, a lush garden and brick-paved path. Here, I saw students, jumping and throwing their caps up in the air for a group photo
Other fun stuff….
We visited a ceramic-making factory. There were a lot of beautifully crafted ceramic art on display. I almost bought a teacup set but I still had a lot of places to visit and I didn’t want it to break in the process.
This was a puppet show..but not just an ordinary puppet show.. A puppet WATER show!
The art of crossing the street: you look RIGHT, then you look LEFT, and CROSS the street without hesitation. The traffic will (hopefully) adjust to pedestrians. You can follow my expertise on crossing the street at your own risk.
On our last night in Vietnam, we decided to hit the bar scene..and it was a different experience. The bars were all lined up on what would normally be a sidewalk and chairs took up some of the street space. Basically, you are seated in a small chair, drink in hand, doing small-talk then a motorcycle or a car just zooms right by you. This is how to soak up the nightlife, culture and noise of the town. It was definitely a remarkable, death-defying way to end my short (and sweet) visit in Hanoi.