Summer 2018: Hanoi

We both agreed that Hanoi was the most livable city we visited in Vietnam--lots to see, do, and eat, beautiful buildings, lots of green space. We were lucky to visit on a weekend, because many of the main streets were closed to cars and bikes, allowing pedestrians to have more space to move around and socialize.


EAT:

Bahn Mi 25 - A bit out of the Old Quarter, this Banh Mi spot is popular with tourists and locals alike. Cheap sandwich, great bread, quick service.



Giang Cafe - Egg coffee is a uniquely Hanoi specialty, which Giang Cafe claims to have invented. An egg white foam is added to a hot or cold coffee, making for a creamy (and very filling) dessert-like drink. Mine had cinnamon, while Rick opted for regular. It reminded me of liquid tiramisu! We met a wonderful couple from Singapore in the cafe, who kindly took our picture and shared with us a bit about their country. Looking forward to visiting in a few weeks!




Pizza 4Ps - I told Rick when we arrived in Hanoi that sometimes, I just need a pizza. Luckily, that craving was easily satiated at Pizza 4Ps. They have incredible service (everyone greeting you as you walk to your table, fantastic waitstaff too) and the pizza was delicious. Perfect crust, and fresh toppings. We were seriously impressed! I know you don’t visit Vietnam for pizza, but this place is worth a stop!





Kem Trang Tien - In the evenings, many of the streets in Hanoi close for pedestrians. Near our hotel, we saw many locals eating ice creams, and discovered a local ice cream factory. For 66 cents total, we enjoyed delicious ice cream popsicles. I opted for chocolate while Rick got coconut.



DRINK:

Mad Botanist - Billing themselves as “the gin specialists” in Hanoi, the Mad Botanist is a speakeasy-type bar on the top floor of a building across from St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The lower floors are still under construction (and will become a dim sum restaurant). The bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable, recommending not only great cocktails but also other great bars. We enjoyed their gin selection, and the drinks. We visited twice!






The Alchemist - Another speakeasy, this time above another bar. Great whiskey collection, and killer happy hour pricing. We got two cocktails for $7!




DO:

Hoa Lo Prison - Made famous as a POW prison during the Vietnam war, the prison has been a stronghold and detention center since the 1800s. It was initially used by the French during colonial times. John McCain was a prisoner here, and we enjoyed learning more about the war, the prisoners, and the “Hanoi Hilton” from the Vietnamese perspective. The first-ever US ambassador to Vietnam was a prisoner there, and a number of future politicians were held in the prison as well. There were pictures of them in the camp as young men, and then returning years later.







Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum -  We walked over to the Ho Chi Minh museum and mausoleum, which is located near the Presidential palace and a number of government buildings. We did not go inside (not enough cash on hand to get in), but you are able to see Uncle Ho’s embalmed body if you do. The gardens are supposed to be beautiful as well!

the presidential palace


Walk around the little lake, near the Old Quarter - There are two lakes in Hanoi, and the smaller of the two is near the Old Quarter. Most shops and things to do will be in this area, and this was where we spent most of our time. The streets were closed to vehicles, and tons of people were out with their dogs, playing games, and listening to music. It was great to see a weekend from a more local perspective! One of the funniest things was watching small kids drive around in kiddie cars--they don't really have yards or driveways, so the closed streets are where it's at!





Practice English - In the parks during the day, there are many students eager to practice speaking English with tourists. We had a chance to walk and talk with two boys, aged 9 and 11, who wanted to know our ages, favorite things, and hobbies. They were so proud of themselves after our conversation, and even let me take a selfie of all of us :)



SELF-CARE:

Spas Hanoi - I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is one of the best massages we've ever had. Rick and I both agreed that we felt like jello afterward (in a great way). We opted for Vietnamese massages, and weren't disappointed!




Tsnow Boutique - We discovered that ceramics are a local specialty in Hanoi. Created in Bat Trang village nearby, there are multiple shops all over the Old Quarter selling pottery. Tsnow had great prices, and was my favorite of all the shops we visited. I was especially grateful to the girl in the shop who spent about 20 minutes carefully bubble wrapping everything I purchased. I was feeling a bit nervous about getting everything home, but this will make it much easier (though I still have to carry it all around with me for 4 weeks #worthit!)




Ngo Minh Tailor - Guys, I don't think Rick will ever buy clothes off the rack ever again, after finding Ngo Minh. He was able to get custom dress shirts and chinos made, and they will keep his measurements on file for future orders! They've got one happy customer over here!



Bambou Silk Tailor - Not to be left out, I researched the best ladies tailor in Hanoi and found Bambou Silk. Based on recommendations from The Internetz, we headed to the Cho Hom silk market to purchase fabric. They had aisles and aisles of incredible stuff, at great prices. The selection was unreal! Then, I took my fabrics to the tailor and she created exactly what I wanted, based off of images I showed her. I ended up with two tops, a dress, and some fab pants.






ManGii Shoes - After feeling like he missed out in Hoi An, Rick quickly discovered that the best custom shoe maker in Vietnam is actually in Hanoi! So, we stopped in to get him a custom pair of shoes for his birthday. It was fun to see him get sized, choose what he wanted, and talk with the people in the shop. They will ship his boots to us at home, and they will probably arrive right around when we get home!




LOGISTICS:

We stayed at the Hilton Hanoi Opera, booked with points (20,000 per night).


We flew to Hanoi from De Nang on Vietnam Airlines, purchased with our Capital One Venture card (flights are qualifying travel expenses, which means they can be paid for with points!).


We used Grab to get to and from the airport.

Can't wait to tell you all about Laos!
--E&R

We are currently in: Luang Prabang, Laos
Next stop: Bangkok, Thailand

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