A Tourist’s Day In Hanoi

Established more than 1,000 years ago, Hanoi (河內) was the most important political centre of Vietnam.  It has served as the capital of French Indochina and North Vietnam and became the capital of Vietnam in 1976.

I first visited Hanoi in 2007 and had the chance to rediscover this ancient city with its Chinese and French influenced centuries-old architecture.

My rediscovery trip started with having a bowl of the famous Vietnamese dish, pho near our hotel in the Old Quarter.  Apart from pho, Hanoians also love their Vietnamese coffee judging by the many cafes all over the city.

Pho Ga or Chicken Pho for breakfast

Hanoians enjoying Vietnamese coffee in an old style road side cafe

First stop on the itinerary is Hoan Kiem Lake (还剑湖) or Lake of the Returned Sword.  Situated in the historical Old Quarter, the lake is a gathering place for locals especially in the morning and evening.

Located on the northern side of the lake is Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple) that sits in the Jade Island.  The small temple is dedicated to a national hero, Tran Hung Dao.

Entrance to Ngoc Son Temple

A red wooden bridge known as the Huc Bridge connects the temple to the shore.  The bridge is a popular photography spot for visitors to the temple.  Usually, visitors have to pay an entrance fee for admission to the temple. On the day we visited, the ticket counter was closed.

Huc Bridge connects the temple to the shore

After a brief stop at the temple, we strolled along the lake towards the French Quarter.  Along the way, we made a pit stop at Trang Tien Ice-Cream.  This famous local ice-cream parlour offers a limited variety of flavors such as coconut, chocolate, green bean and young glutinous rice.

The sales counter

A must try is the coconut flavour ice-cream.  The ice-cream was good and refreshing especially on a hot summer’s day.  It’s super creamy due to its coconut milk base but it melts rather quickly though.

Chocolate & coconut flavour ice-creams for a hot summer’s day

The locals usually come in their motorcycles, buy their ice-creams and sit aboard their bikes to enjoy the treats as the shop doesn’t have any tables nor chairs.  Hence at one glance, the shop can be mistaken for a motor workshop.

Locals enjoying their ice-creams on the motorcycles

Next destination is to find food :).  For this we headed to Trang Tien Alley or Ngo Trang Tien.  This narrow alley near the Opera House is a favourite lunchtime place with students and office workers to get their fill of the variety of rice, noodle and sandwich dishes on offer.

Street food at Trang Tien Alley

This narrow street offer a variety of food to the office crowd and students looking for a reasonably priced meal

From Trang Tien Alley, it was a short walk to the Opera House.  This 900-seat French colonial  building built from 1901 – 1911 is an important monument in Hanoi.

Hanoi Stock Exchange building located opposite Hanoi Opera House

We made our way back to our hotel for siesta as the summer sun and heat was getting to us.  Along the way, we passed by Sofitel Metropole Hotel.  This landmark 5 star luxury hotel dates back to 1901 and is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Vietnam.  It has hosted famous personalities such as Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda, Stephen Hawking, Oliver Stone, world leaders and royalty.

The historical Sofitel Metropole Hotel

After dinner, we took another stroll around the lake.  The air was still warm but the evening breeze made it more bearable.

Locals hanging out at the water fountain of a busy intersection

The lake seems to come alive in the evening as Hanoians, young and old, couples and families gather at the lake for an evening stroll, exercise or to spend time together.

Locals enjoying the view at Hoan Kiem Lake

Group exercise in session

Thap Rua (Turtle Tower) at Hoan Kiem Lake

As 2nd September 2015 will mark Vietnam’s 70th Independence Day, preparation is in full swing for the celebrations. Decorations marking the occasions are seen all over the city.

Decorative LED street light banner marking Vietnam’s 70th year of independence

Another display marking the 70th Independence Day at Hoan Kiem Lake

Spending a day exploring the city, I rediscovered the charm of this old city that is always busy with traffic and create new memories of Hanoi.

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One response to “A Tourist’s Day In Hanoi

  1. Pingback: Walking Around Hoan Kiem Lake | An Occasional Traveller·

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