Hanoi Stories and Tips

Wandering Around Hanoi

View from Our Hotel Photo, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is a very pleasant place to walk. The city is attractive, friendly, and safe, and the street scenes are endlessly interesting.

Like my home town of Minneapolis, Hanoi is a city of lakes. Hoan Kiem Lake (The Lake of the Sword) is right in the center of downtown Hanoi. A pleasant tree-lined walking path encircles it, and there is a bridge to a little temple that sits on an island.

The European Quarter, just southwest of the lake, features wide, tree-lined streets, and big old colonial houses, most of which are embassies now.

The Old Quarter is, as the name suggests, the traditional Vietnamese part of the city, with narrow, teaming streets lined with countless small shops and restaurants. The streets are organized into guilds, and the street names reflect the kinds of goods that are sold there. For example, there is Bakery Street, and Textile Street, and one which could only be called 1960's Era Electronic Parts Street.

Most of the inexpensive small hotels are found in the Old Quarter--we, for example, stayed on Temple Street, where the shops sold exclusively religious items and temple decor.

It's endlessly fascinating to watch the traffic in Hanoi. There are few autos and the occasional small truck. Nearly everyone rides a bicycle or walks. One of our favorite passtimes was trying to spot the most outlandish load tied to a single bicycle. The guy who was hauling three full-size couches won--unfortunately, I was too startled to take his picture.

We encountered nothing but friendly, open people in Hanoi. Some of the older people will attempt to converse in French, and quite a few young people sought us out to practice their English. We could detect no animosity towards Americans. In some areas, particularly around Hoan Kiem Lake, begging children were a problem. It was hard to pass them by, but if we gave a coin to one, we were quickly surrounded and followed by 20.

In short--Hanoi is a surprise and a delight--an elegant, attractive, and open city with many interesting sites, excellent French and Vietnamese food, and friendly, helpful people.

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