Hanoi Vietnam
Hanoi Vietnam

Adventure and opportunities abound in Hanoi Vietnam.

Adventure and opportunities abound in Hanoi Vietnam.

Hanoi Vietnam
Hanoi Vietnam

Hanoi sits in the north of Vietnam in the Red River Delta and is the current capital of this nation. Hanoi Vietnam bolsters a population of over 7.7 million and that many, if not more motorbikes on the streets.

In a seemly never-ending river of zipping face and beeps, moto bikes could be considered the native species of this city. Venturing around, you better accept that you will need nerves of steel to conquer (explore) this city.

The Old Quarter – Hoian Vietnam

Most tourists and some ex-pats opt to live in The Old Quarter, near Hoàn Kiếm Lake. This area of Hanoi is trying to hold onto its past. However, as tourism keeps rising, rents keep going up, it’s just a matter of time before Starbucks will start to pop up. But dear god, I hope not. As it is while on the ground in this city I saw a KFC logo adorning a classic building… this made me sad.

The wild charm of stepping out onto the streets in the Old Quarter and into the organized chaos is an experience every traveler should have. Its a magical experience to arrive from the airport, be ushed into your hostel or hotel. Get settled and then step outside. You get smacked by the noise, sounds, smells, and life of the street.

Pro tip: Embrace this moment of awe and wonder. Then shake it off as you will need your senses to be on point.

At the start of the 20th century, Hanoi, being composed of “36 streets”, the citadel, and some of the newer French buildings south of Hoàn Kiếm lake was a bustling city on the grow. Streets specialized in goods, from silk to bamboo. If you are quick with your Veitinmeases, you can see that the street signs still echo this.

The French influence is apparent in the building designs and the ever famous Banh mi French bread sandwich! YUMMY! At the time of writing this, one tasty Banh mi was going for between 20,000 VND ~ 45,000 VND ($1 or $2).

DSC01341 » Roaming Sparrow » 2024My First 24 Hours in Hanoi Vietnam

My first 24 hours in Hanoi vietnam were a bit challenging. My Western mind took a while to adapt to this new way of life. I found my self walking the streets looking for something to eat. Every place was just not right, or I did not see a place to sit… it was a strange feeling.

It was only after a day and a few poor choices that I began to see the abundance of food stalls and options that were available. Quite literally on every block, there is a food stall.

Pro Tip: To reduce your chances of getting food poising or sick, as a rule of thumb, only eat from stalls that have steaming food, and you can see them making it. Steam means the food is hot, this implies that the germs may have been killed. Also, look for stalls that have a lot of locals eating at them. This is a sign that it is a good place and the food has a high turnover. I say avoid the places serving western foods. They may not know the right way to cook this, and as such, this may have a higher chance of a food-based illness.

Its also worth point out. If you are coming from the West, you may be a bit put off by the food preparation methods. There is no FDA here to speak about. People butcher animals out back, clean them in the streets, and then serve them to you in the front. If you are up for an eye-opening experience, walk down some of the back allies, and see how the food is prepared. You may love it, or discover a new love for the hygiene standards the West imposes on restaurants. Just keep an open mind and try new things!

Hanoi Vietnam
Hanoi Vietnam

You are a tourist, best accept this and be on your toes.

Unless you live for a long time in Vietnam and learn Vietnamese, you will be a tourist first in the eyes of those you meet. I say embrace this. There are many benefits to this. The first being that people will be more happy to help you. I read a few stories of travelers who dress in bright colors. Why? Well, it’s not uncommon to have gate changes while waiting on a flight or a bus layover. If you stand out somehow, you have a higher chance of a local directing you to the right location if you miss the announcement. Also, locals may want to connect to learn about who you are and where you come from. It’s great!

But be aware. You are also a mark to some. People will come over and put a basket on you, smile and take a photo with you, you may think it’s just a friendly act, but chances are its cause they are looking for you to pay them. Or when you are distracted, you get taken advantage of. Don’t let this hinder your trip, just be aware that these things happen.

Pro tip: The further you get out of the “tourist” areas, the higher chance is that your interaction with locals will be more authentic.

Hanoi Vietnam
Hanoi Vietnam

Overley friendly can be a bit off-putting.

Do you not like to be touched? Well, put that hang up in the closet at your home. When walking around the Old Quarter, in some of the more packed bar and restaurant streets, you will be accosted with gestures to come sit. A lot of the bigger restaurants have one or more, I call them “fishermen” out front. These fishermen will gesture at a chair and say, “Sit here Free Beer!”. Some will even put their arms around you as four others come around, almost pulling towards a seat.

You will need to accept this and ether engage or just walk on past like you did not even see them. Yes, it sounds a bit rude, but if you stop for everyone who waves you over… you may not make it 100 yards from where you are staying.

In the end, it’s up to you if you will sit or not, but if you do slide past, be ready for the next person fishing for you to rest and have a beer at their location. It was a bit off-putting for me at first, but then, this is another cultural, its not the West, you have to adapt. So smile and enjoy the ride.

DSC01376 » Roaming Sparrow » 2024Getting around in Hoian Vietnam.

You have a lot of options with this. From cabs to the Grab app on our phone, to locals. If you choose to go the more “adventurous” route and snag a cab, get a flat rate from point A to B. If not you may be driven around for a long time as the meter clicks up. Lol.

Best to check with your hotel ahead of time for a pick up for the easiest method.

Another method that is more budget-friendly is the buss. Yes, when you arrive at the bus station, motorbike drivers will come over to you and ask, “Where are you going?”. I just tell them I am going on the bus. ONe they realize you are not going to hire them to drive you, chances are they will leave you alone.

Pro Tip about busses: You pay when you get on the bus. Most busses have a person that is on the bus. Just get on and sit down. Someone with a wad of cash will cove over to you. Pay them, and they “Should” give you a receipt; just hold on to this till you get off the bus.

Pro tip 2: If you are confused about what bus to take. Ask someone. By and large, people want to help you. Eat the ego and ask someone, even one of the moto bike drivers that tried to get you to hire them.

Hanoi Vietnam

Looking for a pleasant morning walk in Hanoi Vietnam?

The Long Biên Bridge is a historic French-designed bridge. It stretches across the Red River that connects two districts, Hoan Kiem and Long Bien of the city of Hanoi Vietnam.

For an exciting experience, get to the bridge before 6am. I suggest 5 am. Start on the Old Quarter side. Walk, so the river is on your left and the bridge on your right.

This walk for me was one to remember. At first, I was only one of a handful of people on this bridge at 5am. It starts off over a VERY BUSY food shopping location, then reaches out over the red river. The sidewalk you use is well, very sketchy looking. A rusty railing and the pavement is a quarter thick bit of concrete with a 50″ drop under it to the river. Every now and again, a block will move a bit when you step on it. Hahaha. It’s fun.

If you time it right, you will be coming back on the opposite side when the sun is rising at your back. People go for a swim in the river early in the morning, and the INSANE traffic will be starting, so you can get off the bridge before rush hour hits at full swing.

Hanoi Vietnam
Hanoi Vietnam

Pro tip: when passing on the bridge I recommend, standing to the side, your back at the railing, and waving the on comer past. You will get some nods of respect and, it’s a much safer method than trying to squeeze past someone. There are also pull off-break areas at regular intervals on the bridge. So if you need to stretch or you need to take a break, get to this area. You will also find locals here in the morning stretching.

Last pro tip. There is a commuter train that runs down the center of the bridge. Some people stand on the tracks for photos. DONT DO THIS. First, there is a live power line you can get killed by touching, also, trains faster than you, you have a high chance of getting hit. Remember, no unneeded risks.

Hanoi Vietnam
Hanoi Vietnam

Wake up early at least once in Hanoi Vietnam

If you only see Hanoi Veitnam in the day time after the sun comes up, you have not seen Hanoi. The Old Quarter is very different before the sun comes up. At about 4:30 or 5 am, the streets are quiet(ish).

The sidewalks that are full of motorbikes in the day time, now are empty. You can walk down the streets and enjoy the builds and cross the roads with ease.

It’s also lovely to see the Old Quarter come to life as the sun rises. Markets start to open. Workers and shop owners begin to full the Old Quarter once again.

If you see an early morning food stall with a lot of locals sitting and eating at it, join them. Smile and greet someone new, have a strange and wonderful morning meal, and perhaps make a new friend.

Pro tip: Even tho it’s early, be on your toes for petty theft. Don’t just sling a bag or camera over one arm, this makes for an easy drive-by grab. Also, don’t take unneeded risks like walking down a dark back street you don’t know. Stay is fairly main streets, keep your head up and don’t be a victim.

Hanoi Vietnam
Hanoi Vietnam

Sparrow Thoughts:

Hanoi Vietnam is a vast city that is growing. It has deep roots in the past and very modern trends developing. My experience has only been in the Old Quarter, from my conversations with travelers, the city has a lot of layers to explore. This includes sights to see and do outside the Old Quarter too.

Start your adventure in the heart of madness in the Old Quarter, stay for a few days, network at hostels, and then head out to see more of Hoian or Vietnam.

My next stop will be in Hoi An along the coast and towards the middle of Vietnam. While Hanoi Vietnam is the capital, Hoi An, many many many years ago was the capital. Excited to see what this city looks like.

Till next time, enjoy the adventure!Learn More

Wiki on Hanoi : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HanoiSee more photos from this post here:

  • Day 1 Hanoi : LINK
  • Day 2 Hanoi : LINK
  • Additional Photos : LINK
Tim on a Rock
Tim on a Rock
Roaming Sparrow is a project by Tim Mack. It is a life on the road, an adventure to gain knowledge and share genuine experiences.
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