Almost every country I visit I want to go back and Vietnam is no exception. I only managed to make it to one city during this particular visit but I don’t regret my city choice at all even if I have heard that Ho Chi Minh aka Siagon is better.
Hanoi was much more developed than I had expected but slightly less chaotic than Bangkok, it certain aspects it is certainly chaotic but in a completely different way.
Even though I had just come from Bangkok and sweating the moment I stepped outside I found myself having to purchase a jacket from one of the many “North Face” stores you will see around the city (They aren't real North Face stores just in case you did not know. ). I later learned that much of the material that the factories "throw away" or the items that are "flawed" are often times stolen, and patched together. This is what most of these stores are selling. While the jacket I got is actually really nice and I still wear it to this day, my friends jacket says North Face on the outside but Black Yak (a VERY expensive South Korean out door brand) on the inside seems (this pretty much confirms what I was told).
Anyways, I was not packed appropriately at all. I was expecting hot weather just as I had experienced in Thailand. So a word to the wise check what the temperature will be because you might find yourself needing to purchase a light jacket as well (something you should do for any trip really).
The city very much feels like you are in a developing country but still does not leave you wanting any of the typical comforts that you might be used to. With that being said, everything here is extremely cheap. Even in the so-called tourist spots, everything is still extremely affordable. A decent hotel room can be had for around $15 USD a night with below $5 USD a night for a hostel (I am pretty sure I saw one or two advertising for like $1 USD and still included breakfast while I was walking around) and many of those will still include a breakfast and a free welcome Beer. If you are on a budget and have the time this is a spot that I recommend just booking for your first night or two online and then searching for a better spot once you arrive. While I am obviously a big believer in the internet, sometimes a little offline searching and exploration gives you the best deals. Finding a place to stay is super easy and typically the nicest spots for the cheapest amount of money won’t be advertised online at least not in English.
As far as food and drinks go I haven’t found another country to be cheaper. You can buy a beer for around 10 cents USD and an entire meal of basically anything you want for under 3 USD. It’s only a matter of time for this all to change but for now its very inexpensive.
Hanoi Quick Facts
Hanoi is the Capital city of Vietnam
Population: 8.054 Million
Currency: Vietnamese Dong
My Top Picks of things to do in Hanoi
- Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum – Its exactly as it sounds but this thing is huge.
- Hoan Kiem Lake – take a walk around this little lake does not take very long at all. You will see people have photo sessions all around it and if you walk around at night you will get to see some pretty cool lighting.
- St. Josephs Cathedral – This is a very interesting site in a South East Asian country and a pretty unique site surrounded by nice little shops and cafes.
- Walk around the Old Quarter – This is the older part of the city but you can really feel and see the French influence here. The building architecture is very much in the French European style and you don't feel like you are in a South East Asian country.
- Bia Hoi corner – This is a really amazing spot to enjoy a beer and food while having some of the best people watching in your life. This is an amazing little corner where all these little restaurants and everyone sits outside eating and drinking. At night, the roads are closed off and you can only walk along these streets. They become packed and crowded with little stools that are basically little kids seats and everyone is having a good time. During my visit I was literally here every single night.
- Buy some outdoor gear – Ok, I don’t really advocate purchasing fake products but when you are on a budget these things really are nice. Almost on every street in Hanoi has a little shop with a sign that says “North Face Outlet” on it. Are these shops really outlet stores? While many outdoor manufacturers have factories in Vietnam I am going to go ahead and say no these are probably not legit. I can say this because my friend purchased a “North Face” Jacket from one of these shops and while it was actually of good construction and quality it said North Face on the outside Black Yak (a very high end Korean outdoor clothing brand) on the inside seem and an entirely different brand on the tag (that is 1 jacket and 3 different brands). I will say these products are still of good quality but don’t expect them to last because well you get what you pay for. I will say though, my jacket is still is amazing condition and even 4+ years later I still wear it and nobody can tell it is "fake".
Being the American I am, I will have to mention something I found sort of funny. As you are leaving Hanoi you can get Popeye's at the airport. However, before you get past security you can eat at the Popeye's on that side for extremely cheap Vietnamese prices, but once you get past security into the international Terminal they have a Popeye's on that side as well and the prices skyrocket. I am talking like over 300% price increase. The past security price is almost the normal everyday US prices but the before security price is almost nothing. Just found that interesting because same airport and country but extremely different prices.
If you have anything that you would like to add or have any questions about Hanoi / Vietnam / anything really please feel free to post it in the comments below.
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