Our Vietnamese journey began in the capital city of Hanoi. The welcome was both warm and intense. Almost everyone we interacted with was friendly, sincere and welcoming. Our hotel in Hanoi was the best example of this. I rarely write about hotels we stay at but the Hanoi Charm Hotel is worth mentioning for their exceptional service. We paid for a 3 star hotel but received 5 star service. It truly was the best hotel service I have ever received and I have stayed at quite a few 5 star luxury hotels during my tenure as a wedding planner. Everyone should start their Vietnam journey at the Hanoi Charm Hotel as they could not be better ambassadors for Vietnam tourism.
Feeling fantastic about being in Vietnam after the warm welcome, we ventured out to explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter. It is packed with scooters and motorbikes along with its characteristic “tube houses” (long narrow buildings typically 3 meters wide by 60 meters long that house a shop in the front and many living spaces behind and above).
We escaped the intense streets of the Old Quarter with a slower pace stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake or the Lake of the Restored Sword.
As a reprieve from the heat and walking, we headed to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre after our stroll around the lake to see an art form that started in the rice paddies of the 11th century. The live orchestra and water puppeteering was fantastic and well worth the 100,000 dong or a little over $4 usd for the ticket.
Our evening was spent eating, thanks to a free food tour I had booked. Yep, you heard it right. Free. There are two organizations in Hanoi that offer free tours led by university students wanting to improve their English skills, Hanoikids and Hanoi Free Tour Guides. I highly recommend both of them. We took advantage of a free food tour with Hanoikids and an all day tour with Hanoi Free Tour Guides. Sorry there are no photos from the food tour. I was too busy eating.
Our second day in Hanoi was after we returned from Halong Bay. Our university students met us at our hotel at 9am and we set off for our day long tour of the city. Thirty minutes into our tour, the rain came. We were not to be deterred and paid outrageous sums of money for cheap plastic ponchos and continued on our way.
The day included a stop at the Dong Xuan Market, the largest covered market in Hanoi.
And a stop at the lovely Temple of Literature.
Hanoi is a good starting point for a visit to Vietnam. From here we were able to get to both Halong Bay and Sapa where we are currently. Super excited to share with you the experiences we’ve had in Sapa. Stay tuned!