Hanoi, the perfect introduction to Vietnam.

Vietnam is one of those countries I feel like I only hear about in extremes. People either love it or hate it and they all have their reasons for why they feel that way (kinda like India). Before arriving to Vietnam I heard both extremes from other backpackers on the road and many of my blogging buddies. I was a bit skeptical, but knew I had always wanted to visit Vietnam so was going to be visiting anyway and after spending about 3 weeks there I am glad I did and wish I could have spent much longer exploring Vietnam, because I am one of the ones that LOVES IT. I felt like Vietnam was the Asia I had always dreamed of; it had the food, the culture, the people, the beer, oh and the million motorbikes whizzing around the cities.

Before I arrived I did a bit of research to find cheap flights to Vietnam, and because I had heard horror stories of being ripped off trying to negotiate a cab from the airport to a hotel. I wanted to make sure that didn’t happened and went ahead and paid extra to have airport pick up from the hotel. This was the 1st time I had ever paid for a airport pick up and loved that a guy was standing there with my name and hotel (I felt really classy). We got in the truck and was instantly transported to the crazy roads of Hanoi. Motorbikes were all over the place… whizzing in and out cutting us off. I loved it and couldn’t stop smiling of the fact that I was in Vietnam.

Hanoi, Vietnam

I arrived to the hostel and was exhausted from my transportation day, but was hungry and actually excited to start exploring a bit of Hanoi. If you don’t want to stay in a hostel like me, there are also many discount hotels in Hanoi. I walked around and went to one of the markets that was down the street and searched for a place to eat. I saw in the middle of a very touristic street was a little yellow restaurant with tiny stools and tables that no tourist were walking into, but a lot of locals were so thought why not go there.
Hanoi, Vietnam

It was love at 1st bite… I started out with 2 spring rolls to play it safe and they were some of the best spring rolls I had ever had.
Hanoi, Vietnam

Then I saw everyone else order this bowl of noodles with meat and nuts and thought why not try that too. So glad I did because it was so delicious and ended up being one of the meals I loved most in Vietnam. The sad thing is I can’t remember the name of it. I thought I wrote it my little notebook that I keep track of things like this and can’t find it. I tried google-ing it too and couldn’t find it either. Here is a photo of it though… ah it was so damn good.
Hanoi, Vietnam

Aside from eating my heart out in Hanoi I also spent a lot of time walking around the city. I loved that the people were very friendly.

Hanoi, Vietnam

I loved that some peoples homes are literally right next to the railroad tracks for the train.
Hanoi, Vietnam

I loved that vendors are lined up just about on every street selling everything from shoes to jackets to random stuff no one needs.

Hanoi, Vietnam

I loved that one of the streets is lined up with barbers offering men any type of hair cut or shave they need.
Hanoi, Vietnam

Of all the things though I loved most was the crazy motorcycles whizzing around the city. They are all over and going in every direction possible and rarely pay attention to any signals. Thankfully I had no trouble crossing the streets since I lived in Cairo and got used to crossing the crazy streets of Cairo. They are very similar except Hanoi has a million motorbikes not a million cabs, but either way after crossing the street successfully your heart jumps for joy because you just achieved the hardest thing you will do all day.
Hanoi, Vietnam

In the end I spent 5 days in Hanoi and loved it. I think it’s the perfect introduction to Vietnam for anyone visiting for the first time. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the country’s second largest city and aside from the observations I made above it’s also filled with a lot of historical sites and museums.

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  1. Yay! I’m so glad you liked. I’d heard the same thing as you beforehand – loads of people really don’t like it, and as you say, India is about the only other place that seems to divide people the same way. I was so put off by this that when I did my RTW in 2010, I went to every country in South East Asia APART from Vietnam.

    But curiosity got the better of me and I finally went last year and LOVED LOVED LOVED it. It was the food in particular that wowed me – every single meal I had, whether it was in a nice restaurant, bought off the street, or in a market was amazing. But i also loved the bustle of the cities, the people, the culture, everything really. I can’t wait to go back and see the other half of the country (the North) that i missed first time out.
    Geoff recently posted..Olympic Park from the air

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Aww Geoff it hurts to know you skipped it during your RTW. I honestly don’t know why people hate it so much… I honestly think it’s the most Asian country in SEA. Not even sure if that’s a possible claim…lol. I love that you did go back though woohoo for CURIOSITY. Oh & I agree with you on the food… it was the best part… everything was so damn good. Oh I know I wanna go back one day and see more of it… so much to see so lil time. I hate when that happens.

  2. Those Vietnamese summer rolls are just the tastiest things. In my London neighbourhood there are a tonne of cheap Vietnamese restaurants, but I’m very much looking forward to experiencing the real thing on my trip.
    David @ That Gay Backpacker recently posted..Laterz, Koh Samui – you were shit.

  3. Oh! Vietnam. I miss her more and more every day. I am so glad you loved her; I get so sad when I hear backpackers/bloggers say that they hated it there.
    Runaway Brit recently posted..Visiting the Anne Frank Museum, Amsterdam

    • Jaime Davila says:

      You are one of the one I remember telling me about how much you love it. I am so happy I went, because I honestly almost cut it off my itinerary… for lack of time. I know how it feels when you hear people not like a place you absolutely love… that happens with my Egypt all the time (mostly Cairo…lol).

  4. I absolutely LOVE spring rolls. It’s one of my favorite Asian dishes. I was introduced to them by my significant other. I can’t wait to try out the Malaysian Chinese spring rolls as my significant other has told me they’re so much more awesome. I haven’t had Vietnamese food yet, but I’m very willing to try it.

    I’m curious about Vietnam, and like you, heard good and bad things about it. I’m not sure if I’ll have a chance to go when I’m in Malaysia, but if I can, I will try 🙂
    The Minimalist recently posted..Cycling Chronicles 102: Good & Bad

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Yes spring rolls are the best… & hmm I never heard of the Malaysian Chinese spring rolls. I hope you have a chance when you are in Malaysia if you have time. I flew from KL to Hanoi very cheap… through AirAsia… so be sure to check them out.

  5. Hanoi is nice for a visit but Saigon is where the party’s at! Hanoi has the quaint Old Quarter and the ancient temples vs. the city that never sleeps aka Ho Chi Minh City where snappily dressed hipsters zip around and where food is even better and cheaper! Must be an East Coast West Coast thang… (Or in this case, North vs. South!)
    James @ Fly, Icarus, Fly recently posted..Travel Photo Roulette Round #53: Serendipity

    • I’ve got to agree with James. Hanoi is ok, but the south of Vietnam is really exciting. And please oh please don’t miss Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s biggest island. A really great place to get a motorbike and explore!
      Dave @ Travel Transmissions recently posted..A Bittersweet Homecoming

      • Jaime Davila says:

        Yup I agree with you Dave too… I loved Hanoi, but Saigon is wayyyyy better!!! Thanks for the advice, but I’m back in Cairo and didn’t visit any islands in Vietnam… didn’t have much time. I have plenty more reasons to go back that is for sure.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Oh yes James… I must agree with you on this one. I know that’s what I will be writing about when I write about HCMC. I loved it so much and is why I spent so much longer than I planned while I was there…lol.

      • Well, that and my REALLY good negotiating skills to keep you in HCMC longer 😀 Great to read your insights on Hanoi as I just got back myself. Found it really lovely and though it’s cold now I can see how the lakes would be a wonderful place to people watch and munch on snacks in the warmer weather. Be safe in Cairo! x

        • Jaime Davila says:

          Ah yes… I can only imagine how this city is in warmer weather. It must be quite the sight that is for sure. Glad you enjoyed it!!!

  6. Can’t wait to visit one day! Those spring rolls look gooooood!!!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..San Francisco & Napa Valley: Day 4 (Part 1)

  7. Wow Jame that looks amazing! and it’s true that either u love it or hate it…just today one of my ex colleagues was giving me some advice about places to visit in SEA, since she goes there every year , and i was surprised to discover that she was not very fond of Vietnam, whilst other people were absolutely amazed by it and even moved there permanently! i guess i need to wait and see…
    Oh by the way…is the food spicy there? 🙂

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Ja Kle, yes it’s one of those countries and I have no clue why. I hope you are able to visit during your trip… I think you will enjoy it. As for Spicy food yes it can be found there for sure. I loved it!!!

  8. Totally agree! I loved Vietnam and will come back in a few weeks. I started in Saigon, visited the Mekong Delta and the incredible island phu Quoc and then Hanoi and the Halong bay. And I really loved Hanoi and the people!
    Looking forward to come back.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Ah so glad you loved Vietnam too Anja… I also can’t wait to go back. I didn’t have enough time to go to the Mekong Delta or phu Quoc island so it’s a good excuse to go back… oh & for the food too!!!

  9. Hi there! We live in Thailand at the moment and are planning to go to Vietnam soon. Thanks for this post. The information is helpful and the pictures look very inviting. 🙂 And oh my goodness, I can’t imagine living that close to train tracks. 😉

  10. Phuong Nguyen says:

    I happened to drop by your post here while searching something nice about my city. Yes I am a Hanoian and I love the fact that you LOVE IT.
    Just wanna say thank you lots for such compliments about Hanoi, most of stuff I heard are complaints about its crazy traffic that could kill, or robbing or stealing from the foreign travelers.
    Yeah the food here is the best, especially street-bought. You got those “spring rolls” randomly, right? And you think the dishes are best stuff? You are the nicest guy ever! I bet if you have a local friend then he/she will take you to much more delicious places because the locals know them all XD~
    Btw the “spring rolls” you mentioned above was a special kind of the dish you post below, it’s called “NỘM BÒ KHÔ”. You can see it in the link:
    or: http://nhatho.churchhotel.com.vn/street-food
    for more suggestions.

    Thank you again and hope you will come back and enjoy it 😀

    • Jaime Davila says:

      You’re Welcome Phuong, I really liked Hanoi a lot. It’s a great city with so much to offer. I loved the food, I loved the people, I loved the streets, I loved everything.

      Hope I can go back one day.

      • I just came across your post and since you love Hanoi so much, as a Hanoian, I have to second Phuong’s reply. Phuong got the dish correct and the next time in town, I insist you take some local friends to guide you. For the addiction of food, winter is the best time for tasting here, let’s say late october to mid december for perfect weather and avoidance of prolonging light rain. For a 5-day trip, at least 30 meals will be sufficent so you might have to work out each day to prepare for the next day.

        Just FYI, my office is just few blocks away from the coffee in which you took the picture of the street, and I can tell you, there are tons of coffee shops nearby with greater view. It’s just that such places are so shy (lol) that only locals can find them.

        Wish you luck in your next trip here. We will be welcoming you.

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