Hanoi was not an expensive city to visit. In fact, even though we stayed there for more than a week, we spent well beneath our budget and was even able to squeeze in an expensive and indulgent (but truly enjoyable) afternoon at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel and some shopping. This is my budget guide for Hanoi and this post accompanies my Weekend in Hanoi post. Advertisements
I love to read books, and I don’t just love to read books. I also love to visit small and independent bookstores because I want to collect books and I know most bookshop owners are also book lovers. They are, in fact, book experts! So, it was a good surprise to learn that Hanoi has an independent bookstore selling English books. And that was the reason why we were headed to the West Lake on a Friday afternoon.
From many guide books/blogs, I always read about the 36 Streets of Hanoi, which make up the Old Quarter. Every day, for eight days, we walked the Old Quarter, from east to west, north to south, and we almost did not walk on the same street ever. I was counting up to 36 streets, and I was ready to conclude that the guide books are lying. There are no 36 streets. The Old Quarter is a maze and there are a hundred streets!
Hanoi, for me, is an ideal shopping destination. In the French Quarters, you can buy luxury goods (Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Valentino). In the Old Quarters, you can buy raw materials at wholesale prices. In between, there is high street. This is not a comprehensive shopping guide to Hanoi, but this is what I thought were the good things to buy in the charming city.
Bulad (which means “to dry” in the Visayan language) is a popular pasalubong item when you’re visiting Cebu City. Danggit is undeniably the queen of all bulads, but the truth is, I hardly eat danggit at all. That is because I always feel cheated that there is hardly any fish meat in danggit. One of my favorite bulads is galunggong or scad. And today, a Friday, I made my homemade gourmet tuyo using dried scad I bought from the Taboan Market. If you read further, I’m also sharing other things you can buy as pasalubong from the Taboan Market.
The day we visited the Vietnam Museum of National History was balmy. The skies were grey, about to rain. We walked fast, past the Hanoi Opera House, past the boutiques of international luxury brands, to the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel. I am about to spend money on probably my most luxurious purchase in our whole Vietnam trip, and I was quite excited.
We’ve circled the Old Quarters thrice and always came back to the rotunda beside the Hoan Kiem Lake to see the flow of traffic in the late afternoon. Finally, after watching the Thang Long water puppet show on a Monday, we plopped ourselves in the fourth floor of the Cong Caphe, enjoyed our local coffee, with what I think was the best view in the whole of Hanoi.
What is Vietnam without mentioning coffee, right? Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world so a trip to Vietnam would not be complete without drinking coffee. In our month-long trip, I would have to say that the egg coffee (ca phe trung) was not just the most unique coffee I have tasted in Vietnam, it was also the most delicious. And the best place to have it is in the place where it all started — Cafe Giang.
Prior to flying to Vietnam, I made a list of “museums to visit” and there were about 10. But because I was more interested in checking out the cultural side of the country, I decided to just narrow it down to one — the National Museum of History in Hanoi. I had no expectations of the museum, which is why I truly enjoyed our time here.
Sixty years after Hanoi was established as a city in independent Vietnam, Van Mieu (or more popularly referred to in English as The Temple of Literature) was founded as a Confucian school. The temple is one of the oldest and most significant buildings among Confucian complexes in Vietnam, and still remains a treasured cultural edifice.
Thang Long was the former name of Hanoi. It literally means “rising dragon” and this dragon is the same dragon that descended upon in Ha Long Bay, at least according to our guide, aptly named Mr. Vietnam. While Hanoi is famous for being a charming old-world timeless city, it was also the birthplace of many great empires, the remains of which has been inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.