36 Hours in…Hanoi

(credit: Hanoi Explore Travel)

For those drawn to the islands of Halong Bay and the country’s mountainous north, Hanoi serves as the entry point to your northern Vietnam trip. As Vietnam’s capital city, it boasts a vibrant street life, colonial architecture and plenty of historical sites to see. If you only have a day and a half to explore, look to Hanoi Explore Travel to help plan an authentic, educational and most importantly fun trip. Their guides ensure you see the true heart of the city and experience it like a local. 

To start your first half day in Hanoi, book their Hanoi Half Day City Tour by Motorbike and Water Puppet Show. Upon arrival at your hotel, one of their guides will stop by on motorbike, greet you with a smile and a Xin chào (hello in Vietnamese) to start your fun-filled day exploring the Old Quarter. Along with visiting some of the famous sites, more about that shortly, your guide will make sure to stop off at local vendors for you to try some street food delicacies like an egg coffee or a Banh mi sandwich. Each tour is curated to whatever the guest wants to see, but here are some of the top sites to see.

(credit: Hanoi Explore Travel)

Start at the Temple Of Literature, a temple dedicated to Confucius with origins back to 1070 and stroll through the pavilions and halls and see the areas where the study sessions and exams of the Ð?i Vi?t took place. Fun fact, the temple is featured on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese dong banknote. Your guide will share the historical significance of the temple, take photos next to the Instagram-worthy Thien Quang Well pond before stopping at St Joseph's Cathedral, one of the earliest in the history of the Catholic Church in Vietnam, and the grand Hanoi Opera House. After a quick stop for a snack on the side of the road, next up is riding along the four-mile-long Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural, before crossing many bridges and making your way to the local market and the flower market. 

(credit: Hanoi Explore Travel)

You will learn that most locals stop at the market twice daily (yes you read that correctly!) to purchase fruit and produce, ensuring freshness in every meal. Although the flower market doesn’t come to life until after 11pm, your guide makes sure to stop by to see the vendors preparing so you can get a sense of what locals do on a daily basis. Drive by West Lake to see where most foreigners live and stop by the 11-level Tran Quoc Pagoda for a picturesque photo opportunity, before seeing the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. After stopping by for another quick snack of fruit and sticky rice, you are dropped off at The Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater to see a unique show dating back to the 11th century. While your tour may be over, the night is just beginning as the tour guide will ensure access to a coffee shop on train street to see the train whizz by before walking down Beer Street and the Night Market.

(credit: Hanoi Explore Travel)

The next morning you will meet your tour group for their Deluxe Halong Bay Day Tour Six Hour Cruise at around 8-830. Returning to Hanoi sometime between 830-930pm (depending on traffic, which there is a lot!), the adventure-filled journey sees you and guests start with a two-and-a-half hour drive to Halong Bay. After a stop at Ha Long Pearl to see how cultivated pearls are made (and purchase souvenirs), you are whisked on a short drive to your boat where you will have either a set or buffet lunch as your boat departs. 

(credit: Hanoi Explore Travel)

Your guide begins by explaining the itinerary of the day and sharing tidbits about islands along the beautiful way. One of the stops of the day is to Titop island where you can swim on the beach or hike up to 450 stone steps (~110 ft) to the top of the island for mesmerizing panoramic views of Halong Bay. Another is Sung Sot Cave (meaning surprise grotto) where you will walk up 100 steps and stroll around the largest cave in Halong Bay. Covering a total area of more than 12,000 sqm., it is the most popular limestone cave in the Bay and is believed to be the place where Thanh Giong, a famous hero in Vietnamese folklore, flew away after defeating Chinese invaders. And no journey to Halong Bay would be complete without discovering Luon Cave (water cave) by kayak or traditional bamboo boat. While not as large as other caves in the Bay, its tunnel is about 100 meters in length and opens up to a tranquil lake with monkeys playing on the limestone mountain cliffs. 

Along with these two tours, the travel agency also organizes trips across the whole country. From Ninh Binh Tours, Hanoi Tours, Halong Tours, Sapa Tours, Da Nang and Hoi An Tours, Ho Chi Minh and Mekong Delta Tours, they are a company with over 10 years of experience in the field of tourism in Vietnam. With more than 100 guides across the country, they are the tourist office in Hanoi open seven days a week and respond expeditiously to your requests and questions.

Jarone Ashkenazi

Jarone Ashkenazi is a seasoned writer who covers: travel, luxury items and other lifestyle topics. View more work at Connect with him on Twitter at @JaroneAsh ...(Read More)

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