I hardly prepared for my trip to Hanoi and there were several things I wished I had known before embarking on that journey. Here are the 8 things I should have known about Hanoi:
1. Winter is not the best time to go to Hanoi. Hanoi, experiences winter from November to March and has two stages: mild and dry during the first half while humid on the second half. As we were there during the second half of winter, we were able to experience the humidity full on. It was drizzling most of the time during our stay in Hanoi and it was really foggy during our Ha Long Bay cruise. As a result, all the photos we took were drab. Aside from that, my shoes were muddy the whole time and we even caught a cold.
2. If your hotel does not advertise about having an elevator, it probably doesn’t have it. Our hotel didn’t advertise any, so we didn’t get any. We had to trudge up and down four flights of stairs the whole time we were there. And I also observed that most of the stairs in Hanoi were steep, with around 45 degrees in pitch.
3. Motorcycles also use the sidewalk. Before leaving for Vietnam, my sister gave me two pieces of advice: eat street food and don’t hesitate when crossing the street. I guess the last advice managed my expectations a bit on how I should be moving around the streets of Hanoi. What I wasn’t prepared for was that even when we were already on the sidewalk, motorcycles would still blow their horns at us like we were in the middle of the highway. Crazy.
4. Having filtered coffee in winter is not always the smartest thing. No doubt, Vietnamese coffee is one of the best I’ve tasted. But to have filtered coffee in the middle of winter will not always be a success. By the time all the coffee was filtered into the cup, it has already gone cold.
5. Places that call themselves café-fast food don’t always have food. I learned this the hard way on our first day when we couldn’t find a place to eat after a good dose of walking around in Hanoi. During afternoons, cafés would only serve coffee and the pastries on display. So, if you’re visiting Hanoi, make sure you eat lunch during the normal lunch hours.
6. The souvenir shops near the Water Puppet Theater sell cheaper goods than in the Old Quarter. The price difference may not be much, but if you’re buying a lot, the difference becomes more distinct. Here’s some price comparison:
- scarf – Theater: 100,000 VND; Old Quarter: 125,000 VND
- pouch – Theater: 30,000 VND; Old Quarter: 50,000 VND
- t-shirt – Theater: 50,000 VND; Old Quarter: 75,000 VND
7. How to eat Bun Cha. The Bun Cha is a very popular Vietnamese dish. But because of an upset stomach, impending colds and a lost appetite, I was not able to enjoy it at all. Add to that was that it looked too oily for my taste and the fact that I couldn’t do anything about it because I do not know how to eat Bun Cha. When I go back to Hanoi, I will make sure to give this dish another go.
8. The toilet stalls in the Dong Xuan Market do not have doors. To me, Hanoi is like one big Divisoria and the Dong Xuan Market is the Divisoria Mall. I needed to pee very badly when we were there, so I paid 2000 VND to be able to use the rest room. But lo and behold: the Dong Xuan Market toilet stalls do not have doors. And I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.