Destinations

5 reasons to love Hanoi

Get among the motorbikes and go with the flow!
Hanoi

This bustling city in northern Vietnam is a tourist’s delight, especially if you’re a foodie.

1. How to get there

One of the best things about travelling in Vietnam is that once you’re on the ground, it’s cheap. The good news is, Jetstar now flies to Hanoi, so getting there needn’t bankrupt you either. I flew from Auckland via Melbourne, with a fab three-night stopover in Bangkok on the way. Southeast Asia offers excellent value for money for Kiwi travellers, so if you’re penny-pinching, this is the way to go. I’d been to Hanoi before but without the Ginger – a real foodie – and I was so excited to visit again and show him this crazy, vibrant part of the world.

2. Where to stay

La Siesta Trendy Hotel is the sister of Hanoi Elegance Ruby, which I loved on my last visit, but this time it was booked out. I can now highly recommend the Elegance group. The staff are absolutely divine – beyond helpful – and La Siesta Trendy was in a great location, with breakfast served on a lovely little rooftop terrace. We went to two different Elegance hotels for massages while we were there. The one at La Siesta Classic was good, but the herbal massage at La Siesta Diamond was out of this world.

A spring roll with a fab view from the Sofitel Plaza rooftop bar – life is looking up!

3 What to eat

Where do I start? Follow your nose! Or follow something like Hanoi Street Food Tours. There wasn’t one happening when we were there, but owner Mark Lowerson gave me some tips anyway. We had crab soup for lunch on little chairs outside a hole in the wall in one place – delicious – and followed it up with a second lunch of barbecue pork. We also loved the fried fish cooked at the table at Cha Ca Thang Long, just one street over from our hotel. Public Food Store 37 is a trip down memory lane, with old transistors hanging from walls and a local vibe. We worried about how to get home, but Hanoi has Uber.

The crab soup from this little store made up for the pain of sitting on a wee stool.

4. Where to drink

Across the road from our hotel (see what I mean about a good location?) was Mojito bar, but I much preferred Talidoto, a walk away, recommended by three different people. We had a great chat with the manager Quong, who gave us other good places to go to as well. I always head for a rooftop bar and the pick is probably Sofitel Plaza, where the views from the 20th floor are fabulous. Don’t get confused with Sofitel Metropole, which doesn’t have a rooftop but has a certain old-world glam and is near the Opera House. The Avalon rooftop looking over Hoàn Kiém Lake should have been lovely but, um, walking through scaffolding and listening to the associated hammering and drilling kind of killed the buzz.

This happy peddler reminds me one can never have too many hats!

5. What to do

In three days, we mostly ate, slept, browsed the stores for propaganda posters, got massaged and wandered the streets, avoiding getting squashed by motorbikes. This is part of the fun of this city, so we decided to do a night-time Hanoi Food Tour by Vespa. Don’t worry, you each get your own scooter driver and ride pillion as you’re whisked around the city, stopping to nibble on Hanoi specialties while taking in the sights. It was pretty hilarious and quite loose, so take your sense of humour with you – and a raincoat. We finished the night at a Hooters-style cowgirl bar, which the 10-year-old Indian boy on our tour particularly liked. Gotta love this city.

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