This list could go on forever; the food, the culture, the value for money, the shopping, the food… Oh, did I mention that already? Without much convincing, I persuaded three of my most committed foodie friends to come along for the ride to discover the streets of Hanoi like never before.
Where to stay
The prices at 5-star hotels are so reasonable in Hanoi, and after a bit of research, we settled on the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. This is a hotel so rich in history and culture, it is almost impossible to match in any other country. In fact, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is one of the region’s few remaining hotels of its era. Built in 1901 by two private French investors, the hotel quickly became the rendezvous point for colonial society in the first half of the century. Following Vietnam’s independence in the 1950s, the new national government opted to maintain it as the official hotel for visiting VIPs. From Charlie Chaplin to Brad Pitt, just about everyone who’s anyone has stayed there. The four of us felt quite at home after finding out that fact!
We opted for a twin room Prestige Suite and couldn’t have asked for more. The beds were like clouds, the bathroom so spacious and relaxing, and the interior decor had a timeless feel to it . The buffet breakfast was up there with the best , serving traditional Vietnamese and western cuisine.
What to do
Once we were able to tear ourselves away from the hotel, we decided to book a tour through Travolor, starting with the ‘Half Day Hidden Hanoi Experience’. This took us to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where we learnt about Vietnam’s campaign for independence from French colonial rule, before moving on to the One Pillar Pagoda and the Presidential Palace. Lastly we visited the 11th-century relic, The Temple of Literature, which was built in homage to the Chinese scholar, Confucius. A private tour guide was included in the package which was a huge help, for the in-depth descriptions of each attraction and for transporting us through the hectic streets of Hanoi. We most definitely would have got lost and very confused without him.
For the rest of the day we decided to head to a spa and get a massage (which only cost about HKD$150 for an hour), eat at street food stalls and drink some incredible Vietnamese coffee—DO NOT visit Hanoi without going to Giang Cafe and ordering an egg coffee!
What to eat
Now we’re on to the good stuff! Anyone who reads my Food & Drink Column will know how much of a foodie I am, and of course, this doesn’t stop when I travel. After being in Hanoi for a few days we soon learnt that if we wanted to pack in as much eating as we could, it was a good idea to get another guide. We chose to do this as we hadn’t got very far when trying to experience street food the night before, as we didn’t speak the language and quite frankly, didn’t know enough about Vietnamese food to order.
The guide took us to some amazing places and introduced us to our favourite dish of the whole trip (and one we had never found in Hong Kong), Bún Chả—a bowl of rice vermicelli noodles (bún), served alongside grilled pork patties and tons of greens and herbs. The Pho (local Vietnamese soup with meat and vegetables) made anything we ate back home seem of a very low standard. Hanoi certainly showed our tastebuds a good time!
There are more than three flights per day from Hong Kong to Hanoi, taking just over two hours.
Sarah is a 27 year old professional world wanderer. Four years ago, she left the UK and everything that offered security and routine in exchange for a life of constant excitement and adventure. Through working as a Scuba Dive Instructor, freelance writer and running her blog www.coffeewithasliceoflife.com she now leads a life as a full time digital nomad. Based in Hong Kong you will most likely bump into her typing away on her laptop in one of the city’s latest coffee shops.