In March 2015, my mom came to visit us in Singapore. We had a fantastic time here, and got a chance to show her what our life is like. As part of her visit, we planned a visit to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Our previous experience in the country (Ho Chi Minh) convinced us this would be fun and different!
We booked a long weekend – which is enough for a first visit – and promptly researched what options there were.
The city has many things to do, it is really fun! We moved around mostly walking and on taxis, and as in other cities in Vietnam, the streets are super crazy. On the night we arrived, we were quite surprised that it was much colder than we expected, so immediately we had to buy some jackets there. It was a very big contrast in temperature to our previous Vietnam experience, so definitely research what the temperature is if you go! The best area to stay around is near the old quarter, where you have lots of charming places and access to fantastic food. We stayed at one of the Rising Dragon Hotels, which honestly was just average.
The food here is very good! Its quite easy to get some typical vietnamese food, and the variety is amazing.
Food Tour: We took a food tour organised by Hanoi Street Food Tour. This was a great experience, as we got a bit of food in about 5 or 6 restaurants, ranging from local fish and chicken in a proper sit down place, to pancakes in a street cart and Bo bia from a lady on a bicycle(Mariana looooved this). The tour ended with some delicious egg coffee and a beer in the very famous international beer corner (in a Bia Hoi shop). If you have a sweet tooth, the egg coffee must be tasted!!! This experience was lots of fun, and let us taste many things that we would not have tasted otherwise. We we also in the same tour as a Brazilian couple, and it was fun to meet them and chat.
Other food: We were quite looking forward to having some other vietnamese food, and a definitely highlight is the Banh Mi. This Vietnamese Sandwich is filled with different types of meat. After some research, we found a place called Banh Mi 25 which was amazing! You sit on the street on small benches, mostly surrounded by locals, and it is a really fun and local experience. The lady cooking as well as the folks bringing out the food were very nice and accommodating even though the place was quite full! The 3 of us really enjoyed this!
Attractions: There are quite a few nice places to visit in Hanoi, but just walking around is fun! The whole area around Hoan Kiem Lake is very nice, with many attractions around. We watched a typical puppet theatre performance which was entertaining. Going a bit further, the temple of literature/National University is also a great place! We were lucky as there were graduation ceremonies happening, so we got a chance to see it all live! One more place we enjoyed was the area around the Hanoi Cathedral, lots of locals having beers and even being chased by the police occasionally!
Shopping: Vietnam is an amazing destination to get some custom clothes really cheap! Mariana found a shop which managed to make a couple of dresses for her in 1 day, and they were very well priced and high quality! The suits are supposed to be very good as well, but definitely need to do some research before buying! We used Bambou Silk and definitely recommend them. The lady there was very helpful!
One incredible attraction in the region (but it is a few hours away) is Halong bay. We had heard this was amazing, but words do not do it justice. We booked a single day trip, which was definitely very stressed due to the very long journey. Unfortunately my mom was not feeling great for this day trip, so she stayed around the hotel area and had a relaxing day. Meanwhile a few hours away, we actually had a pretty large boat all for ourselves, which was quite entertaining. Again, the weather was still quite cold and foggy, but the place is really unbelievable. This is a must for people in the region!!!
It was really fun to have my mom here and to travel with her, showing her how we live and what we like when we travel. I think she was quite surprised that I now eat pretty much everything, while in Mexico I definitely had strong negative opinions about some food – what Asia does to you. Without a doubt the Asian experience has broadened by gastronomic horizon (either that, or being in my 30s)!
We really enjoyed showing her many of the fun places in Singapore, as well as travelling to Vietnam, I think it was a trip that showed 2 very different sides of the region!