When 2023 started, I told myself I was going to try different things. Bearing in mind I was embarking on my Vietnamese adventure just one week after the start of the year, I decided that besides writing and photography, I was going to also try to get some video footage and create some humble compilations for those who just want to get a taste of the places visited without having to read my ramblings. So here it is – 5 minutes on Hanoi. Take a look if you’d like, and subscribe if you’d like to keep track of the videos I will upload on Vietnam. Or, just keep an eye on this blog, as I’ll be posting more 😉
Now that I’m moving on to write about other parts of Vietnam, I also wanted to finish off the chapter on Hanoi with some additional things that did not warrant a whole post, but definitely deserve to be mentioned. While I only spent in total about 3 days in Hanoi, it is incredible how much I got to see and experience – mostly how much I have learned. This was the first time I was in Asia, and Hanoi will always be forever my first impression of this massive and diverse continent.
The noise, the smog and the traffic are definitely things that I won’t miss, as after two days I was craving peace. And while you can find this peace walking around Hoan Kam, or visiting one of the temples (the Temple of Literature is definitely a must-visit!), my eyes were starting to get red from the smoke and I was finding it hard to breathe. I could understand why everyone seemed to wear medical masks, a cruel reminder of the pandemic to me, but a must-have accessory to walk and drive on the roads of Hanoi – especially if you are not used to it.
Yet, mostly, Hanoi has impressed me. So rich in history and culture, with so much to do. The people are so kind, and the food is absolutely delicious.
(MORE) PLACES TO VISIT
There is no history without women and yet so many female faces and stories are forgotten in many many History books, too many. And this place is a homage to the strong and brave women who made history, as warriors, rebels, and heads of the family in vietnam, highlighting the great importance of women throughout the its History. On their website, they state their mission as follows – to enhance public knowledge and understanding of the history and cultural heritage of Vietnamese women in historical and contemporary life; to build up the museum to become a centre for the preservation and cultural exchange, thus contributing to promoting gender equality and the progress of women.
Hoa Lo Prison
This place is not for the faint-hearted. Hoa Lo translates to Hell on Earth. The prison was built in 1896 by the French colonists, with the purpose to incarcerate and to torture those who were against the French colonial government – political prisoners overall. Men and women were brutally tortured and kept in conditions no person or animal should be kept in. The stories are simply horrifying, a strong remembrance of what humans are capable to do to each other.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
If you think puppet shows are solely for children, think again. You really should not miss a water puppet show in Hanoi, a staple of Vietnamese culture. Water puppetry dates back to the 11th century, originating in the villages of the Red River Delta in northern Vietnam. The puppets are made of wood and lacquered and the show is performed in a waist-deep pool. There are bamboo rods supporting the puppets under the water, controlled by the puppeteers behind the screen (in my video on top there is some footage from the show).
The Thang Long Theathe in Hanoi was established in 1969 and has brought the art of Water Puppetry to more than 40 countries. Make sure to book tickets in advance (I booked my ticket for the next day). Ticket prices depend on where you sit. For the best sitting, I paid the equivalent of £7.
PLACES TO EAT
A small restaurant with the friendliest waiters, Tung’s Kitchen is definitely a great choice if you are in the Old Quarter feeling peckish. I had the traditional Chả Cá, which consists of chunks of white fish marinated in turmeric and sauteed in butter. It is served hot with lots of salad and rice paper.
This place is perfect for vegetarians, with a very wide choice of traditional dishes with a vegetarian twist. Again, very friendly space. I had the traditional Vietnamese Pancake, a crispy rice flour pancake, stuffed with veg and prawns – Bánh xèo.
This place is just by the Temple of Literature. I was in need of lunch after visiting the Temple and I had not tried Pho yet. I know that pho is basically the face of Vietnam – but if you don’t eat red meat, like me, it is actually quite difficult to try it out. I discovered they did chicken pho in this place and after reading some positive reviews online, I decided to try it. Well. I must say I am definitely not a fan of pho, but at least I tried! It reminded me of a Portuguese chicken soup (canja) we typically eat when you’re sick (but not exclusively). I never liked it and after a few spoonfuls, I had to leave it all behind. either way, the soup is so filling, that I was full very quickly.
This was where I had my last meal in Hanoi. This place is hidden in a narrow alleyway, but it’s definitely somewhere to go. Very kind staff and a fantastic menu. It is a bit more pricey than other places, and it is clearly made for tourists – they offer Vietnamese cooking classes as well. Still, if you are feeling like you need a nice place to simply relax. The space was beautifully decorated, and they had some piano music in the background, giving me the perfect space to relax after a full day of sightseeing.
And this is all – for now – hopefully this could be some practical information for those looking to visit Hanoi in the future 🙂