5 reasons to love Hanoi (besides pho)

I know what you are thinking.  How can you talk about Vietnam without mentioning pho?  I feel like pho has already been mentioned a thousand times and there is a lot more to Vietnamese cuisine than one dish.

There are a lot of beautiful and serene places to see in Vietnam but I chose Hanoi because I actually love exploring crowded cities (I think I’m in the minority) and it is close to Ha Long Bay.  The city is made up of more than 7 million people, delicious food, scooters, temples, museums, and hundreds if not thousands of cafes.  Now I’ve never been to Paris, but I can’t imagine any other city in the world would so many cafes.

Reason #1 The cafes

I’m not that into coffee.  I start each day with a hot cup of tea but I do enjoy an occasional latte that’s been doctored up with a lot of milk and sugar.  I did want to try what all the Vietnamese people were drinking though.  Vietnamese coffee is powerful!  That tiny cup was the strongest coffee I’ve ever tasted and it already had milk mixed into it.  If you like sipping on real coffee while watching the world go by, this is the city for you.

the coffee is strong!

Reason #2 Amazing food for cheap

When you travel you definitely want to indulge.  All nutrition and diet concerns go out the window and you convince yourself that you’re walking so much anyway so you should go ahead and eat another scoop of ice cream.  But eating while traveling usually means eating out and your wallet runs dry real fast.  Food in Hanoi is fresh and magical but definitely not expensive.  Do you want a giant bowl of noodles for two bucks?  How about amazing fried rice or spring rolls for less than a dollar?  Just skip going to your local Vietnamese restaurant and fly straight to Hanoi.  You’ll make up the travel costs with your food budget.

catfish, rice noodles, salad

Reason #3 Architecture in the old quarter

Vietnam was a colony under French rule starting in the 1800s until 1954.  While colonization was obviously not a great time for the Vietnamese people, the French did leave lovely architecture in the old quarter of Hanoi.  The weather worn houses mix beautifully with the temples and modern buildings.

Reason #4 the dance between scooters and pedestrians

It seems like everyone in Hanoi has a scooter.  There are cars on the road too, but you could probably save a lot of time in traffic by weaving around everyone with a speedy motorbike.  Of course there are traffic laws and crosswalks but the rule of the road seems to be “every man for himself”.  However, Hanoi’s residents are used to the chaos and have perfected the art of  traffic.  I thought it was amazing that all the people on the scooters just glided around the people walking.  Once I saw my first crosswalk, I knew an accident was imminent. But once I stepped out onto the pavement, trying to fake my confidence, all the scooters dodged me gracefully and I survived crossing the street.  I’m sure the terrified look on my face was quite comical.  By the end of my trip, I loved strolling around the city with the millions of scooters.

Reason #5 the lake

I love taking walks.  It relaxes my mind and it doesn’t require any athletic skills.  Hanoi is a busy, crowded, and slightly chaotic city but all of that melts away when you take a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Don’t you want to visit Hanoi now?  I’ll go with you =D

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Ngoc Son Temple

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