Hanoi is the hectic yet charming capital of Vietnam. I was very excited about this trip as Vietnam had been on my wish list for a while. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I couldn’t wait. After arrival when I was tired of travelling (hello jetlag), my taxi dropped me off at my hotel, and I got a bit confused as all the little streets with shops and restaurants looked like a maze. My hotel was close to the Hoan Kiem Lake that’s hard to miss, so I was going to use that as my point of reference.
The city centre is very hectic with all the traffic and hardly any traffic rules (or it felt like that anyway), but I often was out and about very early in the morning, when it still was a bit more peaceful. It was lovely to walk around the lake and see a lot of (mainly elderly) people doing Tai Chi, jogging, or any other exercise without the constant noise of cars and mopeds driving around.
Being a tourist attraction myself, they’re not used to seeing women my height that often I guess, people approached me, always in a friendly way, to practice English, to take pictures, to offer a ride on the ‘Motobike’. Me NOT having a dead wish, I politely declined the motobike offers, yet the English lessons were quite fun. Most asked question: ‘What makes someone a good neighbour?’ Very odd. I was expecting questions about cloggs and tulips.
I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth and friendliness of the Vietnamese people. I not once felt unsafe or threatened at all. Even at night, when walking back to my hotel after dinner, I was perfectly fine.
If you wish to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, I’d go very early morning to avoid queuing. I accidentally took a side entrance and got in with a group with a private guide. Make sure your shoulders are covered and your shorts are not too short. Nothing seems organized in Vietnam, except for the security at the mausoleum.
The temple of literature is nice, but don’t expect to be there for hours, it’s not that big. Unless you like looking at water lilies, then you should be able to spend hours here. 🙂
If you are scarf lover, like me, Hanoi is paradise. I think I brought home at least 10 scarves in various colors, all for less than 5USD/4EUR each. The quality is amazing.
My hotel this time was the Hanoi Imperial Hotel.
I stayed in this hotel for 2 nights and I booked it via hotels.com where it is advertised as a 4 star hotel. It turned out to be a 3 star hotel however. That said, it didn’t really bother me; the staff is absolutely brilliant. The location is very convenient, in the middle of the lively old quarter, within walking distance from Hoan Kiem lake.
The hotel staff was very helpful, I booked an airport pick up beforehand, this was organised perfectly. I also did a few spa treatments as well which were offered for a very friendly price. The room was good, I booked an imperial room, located on the 5th floor. There was hardly any noise from outside. The bathroom was ok, a bit outdated maybe, but if you’re out and about all day just like me, it’s good enough.
The hotel doesn’t offer room service: there is a ‘restaurant’ on the 8th floor, but this is only open for breakfast. I would definitely come back to this hotel if I want to stay in the heart of the old quarter again.
Tip: For only a small extra amount you can upgrade to an imperial room; you get a free welcome drink and a voucher for a discount for a massage at their Spa, which hardly costs anything as it is anyway.
Hanoi Imperial Hotel | Tel: (84-4) 3933 5555 * Fax: (84-4) 3938 1315
Address: 44 Hang Hanh Str., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi, Vietnam
Intercontinental Hotel Hanoi Westlake
I have stayed twice in this hotel, both times I was very impressed. The staff is very friendly,helpful and professional, always there to help with a smile. The rooms are good too, I stayed in both a superior room and a suite.
If I must find a point of attention: The suites are not only bigger (obviously), they also seem to be kept in better shape. In my superior room the shower was a bit dodgy, the hairdryer looked cheaper, whereas in the suite, it was all perfect! Even the robes in the suites were different; I’ve never had such a comfy robe in a hotel!
The hotel offers a wide range of food, there are 3 restaurants and 2 bars.It’s a bit away from the old quarter, but to me, it was a relief to be away from the busy city centre and stay somewhere quiet, yet close to town. It gives a bit of a resort feeling while doing a city trip. I can also recommend this hotel for business travelers and meeting organisers!