Hanoi is a classically old-world city working at a modern-day pace. Once considered one of Asia’s most inhospitable destinations, Hanoi has worked hard to overcome this stereotype, becoming a city on the rise. Get in on the ground floor of this up-and-coming tourist mecca with our list of must-see destinations in Hanoi.
See ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’ when you sail through this natural wonder located in the Gulf of Tonkin. This literal translation of ‘Halong’ comes from an ancient legend that states the islands were created from a great dragon charging toward the coast. Book a cruise and explore the island caves and bustling mecca of nearby Halong City.
If exotic flavours are on your mind, take a trip through Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Book a tour to see some of Hanoi’s best-kept culinary secrets and receive information from local tour guides on local cuisine.
Catch a glimpse of traditional Vietnamese architecture at Hanoi’s most-visited temple. Ngoc Son is located on an island in the northern part of Hoan Kiem Lake and isolated from modern amenities. Look around the grounds to locate fine ceramics, ancient bells and traditional gongs.
If 6 a.m. t’ai chi is your idea of the perfect morning, do it like the locals – at Hoan Kiem Lake. Local legend surrounding Hoan Kiem dates back to the mid-15th century – where Heave is rumoured to have sent Emperor Le Thai To (Le Loi) a magic sword to drive the Chinese out of Vietnam. After the war, a giant golden turtle stole the sword and disappeared into the lake to return the sword to Heaven. See the emblem of Hanoi on Turtle Tower (Thap Rua) – an islet near the southern end of the lake.
Vietnam’s weather stays pleasant year-round. If you are planning a visit, you can’t go wrong any time of year. The high season is from July to August, when prices rise. The low season is April to June. Depending on yearly weather patterns, a trip between September and November might be risky, as these months may bring typhoons to the North Coast.
Hanoi used to be a dangerous travel destination – but in the late 1990s, the city began cleaning up its act. While the city is safe overall, the new tourism industry has made it a mecca for hotel and tour scams. Verbal and physical abuse are not out of the realm of possibility when dealing with Vietnamese scam artists, so remember to always be alert and to stay calm in crisis scenarios.
Australian citizens do need to apply for visas in advance. Tourist visas are valid for a 30- or 90-day stay (single or multiple entry). Customs check-ins can be stressful in Vietnam, dress well and act respectfully toward your officer for a smooth process.
Other local dangers include these:
Enjoy your trip to Hanoi, but have your wits about you. While the city is growing quickly, it is still a little rough around the edges. This is a destination where we strongly encourage travel insurance – and not just because we sell it. Corruption can con you out of lots of money if you’re not covered. Don’t let a good holiday turn bad when you purchase travel insurance from Cover-More.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Greg Hayter