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Hanoi

By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor

Our Editorial team's advice

Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, has a population of around 6.5 million, but this is estimated to be growing at a rate of 3.5% each year. The bustling city has all the advantages and disadvantages of your typical Asian capital. Buildings that date back to the colonial era, be it Chinese or French, stand next to towering business centres which rub shoulders with pagodas and temples. It is a place of contrasts, where authenticity blends with modernity and urban frenzy with meditation, and it is this contrast which lends this historical city a special identity. From Hanoi you can easily reach, by land or sea, Halong Bay, considered by many to be the eighth marvel of the world, where tourists from all over the world flock to enjoy a cruise among the islands strewn across the turquoise blue sea. Whether you visit Halong Bay by land or by sea, it should be an essential stop-off on your travels in Vietnam; you will undoubtedly be enthralled by its mysterious atmosphere...

To see

In Hanoi, visit the old town, the ethnology museum, the pagodas, including the one-pillar pagoda built in the shape of a lotus flower, the Temple of Literature dedicated to Confucius, the mausoleum and Ho Chi Minh's house on stilts. If you're travelling with children, we recommend that you go to the water puppet theatre on the banks of Hoan Kiem Lake, where 4 shows are put on every day. We also recommend a visit to the old citadel, which has recently opened to the public.
In Halong Bay, visit Dau Go cave, monkey island, Quan Lan Island and its fine sand beach, the Van Don archipelago, which is an ecological paradise, and the national park of Cat Ba Island.

To do

In Hanoi, go for an early morning walk around Lake Hoan Kiem and then head to the Old Quarter for a strong Vietnamese coffee and a fresh baguette. You can also stroll through Dong Xuan market and enjoy the atmosphere which reigns day and night. This is the perfect place to shop for fabrics, shoes and tableware as well as fruits, vegetables and fish.
In the area surrounding Hanoi, visit Cuc Phuong National Park for an excursion into the countryside. This will take you 90 miles from Hanoi and travelling by bus from the capital will take you around 3 hours, so single day trips are not ideal. Alternatively, you can organize transport through a travel agency in Hanoi but this option will obviously be a little pricier.
In Halong Bay, go on an overnight cruise around the bay; visit the archipelago in a kayak and bathe in the turquoise blue water. It is also worth taking a walk in the night market, or going to visit the fishing harbour in the old part of Halong.

pros

  • +  The beautiful colonial architecture
  • +  The UNESCO Worl Heritage site of Halong Bay
  • +  Despite being Vietnam's capital, Hanoi still manages to offer tourists a relatively peaceful atmosphere

cons

  • -  Large cities in Vietnam are well known for scams so make sure you book any tours or transport through a reputable agency or hotel
  • -  Hanoi is the most polluted city in Southeast Asia
  • -  Unlike Ho Chi Minh, dollars are not as widely accepted in Hanoi

To think about

Many tourists find it difficult to communicate on arrival in Hanoi as most locals do not speak a word of English. Whilst this can seem annoying when you are tired from your flight and just want a simple taxi ride to your hostel or hotel, it can actually be a positive thing. At least the Vietnamese are trying to protect their language from English encroachment. Moreover, it is not hard to learn the basic phrases with a guidebook or a dictionary and the locals will appreciate the effort that you are making to learn their language.

To avoid

Although it can seem tempting to make like the locals and rent a motorbike to get around the city, if you are not an expert driver, this can be extremely dangerous. It is much more relaxing to choose a bike instead. Also avoid accepting any offers of hotels or tours from youths when you step off the train at Haiphong as you will very probably end up as the victim of a scam.

To try

There are a number of exotic treats to be sampled in Hanoi. For the adventurous traveller, many restaurants in Hanoi serve cobra dishes which come in several forms - from a shot of cobra blood to snake cakes and even snake spring rolls. Do be careful where you eat cobra though (reputable restaurants where locals eat are the best bet) - after all, it is a venomous snake and if it is not prepared correctly, you may end up digesting some of this venom. For those wanting a slightly less risky dinner, head to the Old Quarter for a good choice of cheap food and street stalls. Here you will find everything from eel soup to international classics such as donuts and coffee.

To bring back

Hanoi has some of the finest silks in Southeast Asia. The village of Van Phuc in Hanoi is well known for the high quality silks produced there and you can buy products made with this material all over the city but especially on a little street named Hang Gai, just near the Old Quarter. Also in the Old Quarter are plenty of art stores selling a whole range of pieces. Here you can find old Communist advertisements from, during and just after the Vietnamese War, as well as hundreds of canvases and pastel paintings. All the artwork here is relatively cheap - ranging from $2 to $25.

Weather Hanoi

These indicators are used as a set of criteria to predict overall weather conditions in Hanoi . The different indicators are there to help you prepare for your trip to Hanoi so you can make plans based on the weather forecast, whether it be a trip to the beach, walking, visiting attractions and museums or winter sports... Here you'll find a precise, overall weather score for each week in Hanoi , which takes into account temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds.

Weather October
Overall rating 72/100
  • Temperature indicators 96% Hot / Optimal

    The maximum temperature is <24°, temperature felt between 30°C and 33°C.

  • Bad weather indicators 54% Showers

    Showers - averaging between 2.5mm and 3.5mm per day.

  • Sunbathing indicators 50% Sunny intervals

    Cloudy with sunny intervals (40% to 60% cloud cover).

  • Wind indicators 64% Light warm breeze

    Near optimal comfort: moderate to light winds (between 6 mph and 7 mph) in a warm enviromnment (>24°C).

  • Humidity indicators 62% Normal

    Slight feeling of discomfort due air humidity registering higher than 65%.

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