So, a couple of months ago in December last year, both of us had the sudden urge to get out of the monotonous work life and decided to randomly book a trip. Xue Wei suggested Hanoi, so we got cracking and started sourcing for the best flights. We booked our flights with Vietnam Airlines – they had a pretty good deal then, did some research for our activities with the help of Klook, and got our accommodation sorted with Airbnb. We wanted a really chill getaway too and have always heard about the Halong Bay cruise, so of course we had to include that in our itinerary.
Before we get into the finer details of our itinerary, this was our first time trying Airbnb and I highly recommend to engage with your host for all other aspects of your trip. Be it booking a day trip, planning your cruise or just suggestions on food, shopping or sights to see – the locals here make the best guides. Sure, you may think you’re bothering them but trust me, they’re really friendly and will usually go the extra mile to make your stay experience an awesome one. It was also our first time trying Klook and they have many activities categorised based on the country you are visiting, so it did give us a good idea on what to do and expect.
Here’s a rundown on our 6D5N itinerary in Hanoi
Sat: Flight to Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake (evening), Weekend Night Market
Sun: Hoan Kiem Lake (morning), Hanoi Train Street, St Joseph Cathedral, Hanoi Cooking Class, Hang Da Market
Mon: Halong Bay cruise
Tues: Cat Ba Island
Wed: Weekend Night Market, Intimex Supermarket
Thurs: Flight back to Singapore
DAY 1: GETTING TO HANOI & OTW TO OUR AIR BNB
Our flight was at around 1pm (approx. 3 hours) and clearing the customs was a relatively smooth process. Prior to booking our travels, we made arrangements with the host of our Airbnb for transport. I highly recommend you make prior arrangements, as the private hire cars or taxis may quote a high fee. Either that or get some assistance from the tourist information centre and they’ll sort you out. Our host helped to arrange transport to our Airbnb (around $16 – which we later find out was slightly expensive), but it got us there safely 😊 Also, try using UBER or Grab, it’s quite cheap here. The bulk of our commute besides walking was taking an Uber (roughly $1 or 18,000 – 25,000 VND per trip!)
We didn’t notice it when we first stepped out, but WOW, Hanoi was extremely cold. We travelled on 10 March which was during the spring season and brought just a light jacket. Perhaps it was us adjusting to the climate, but the weather was cold, almost like Genting type/18 degrees aircon. The trip from the airport took about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the traffic conditions. It’s left hand drive and the roads are relatively safe, lest the drivers and motorbikes swerving here and there.
DAY 1: CHECKING IN TO OUR JUNGLE-THEMED AIRBNB & HOAN KIEM LAKE (EVENING)
Our gorgeous Airbnb for the night!
We booked this particular Airbnb as we were drawn to the jungle themed look of the room. We thought it was quite eerie at first as the pathway to our stay was through a very dark alleyway. But the area was pretty secure so it’s quite safe, check out our review coming soon!
By the time we sorted everything and unpacked it was about 5-6pm. Our Airbnb is located in the central area of Old Quarter and takes about 7-10 minutes walk to reach the main Hoan Kiem Lake area. Getting around by foot was relatively easy and was our main mode of transportation around Hanoi.
Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake is easily one of the main touristy attractions here in Hanoi, known for its scenic lake and Ngoc Son Temple. We heard that you have to check out both the morning and evening views as they’re quite different. The roads here are usually closed on weekends to open up for the night market and gathering of locals. You’ll definitely get a glimpse of the locals spending their weekend chilling with friends over coffee, beer, just walking around taking photos and enjoying their evening. The great thing we noticed about the life here was that many of the locals were all disconnected from their phones. The evening strolls here truly embodies the carefree and romantic atmosphere.
DAY 1: HANOI WEEKEND NIGHT MARKET
Hanoi Weekend Market – Credit: Anthola Pte Ltd
After strolling at the Hoan Kiem Lake, you’ll want to visit the bustling gathering of roadside stalls and vendors at the Hanoi Weekend Night Market. The night market starts from the Hàng Đào street area and stretches through a couple of streets up to the outskirts of Dong Xuan market. It is an extremely popular night spot for tourists so don’t be surprised if you are caught in the sea of people just swarming from all directions. Also, be very careful with the traffic here, the traffic lights here are redundant – simply there for show.
The things that are being sold here are quite common like clothes, accessories, sunglasses, electronics. It’s not the best of things but the prices here are pretty cheap so you can get quite a good bargain. We didn’t really see anything that we immediately wanted to buy though a particular one stood out – some fruit-themed clothes! Oh yes, we got a pair of matching fruit-themed shorts. 😀
Hanoi Weekend Night Market Đồng Xuân Market)
Address: Hang Dao Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi
Opening hours: 7pm to 11pm (Most of the shops will stay open and trail off till about 12am)
Phở Gà Khô (dry chicken noodles) at Bin & Tom
Besides the night market, you will definitely come across many eateries selling iconic Vietnamese dishes. We chanced upon a random eatery with many locals there for dinner, and got a bowl of Phở Gà Khô (dry chicken noodles). The bowl consists of noodles, shredded chicken meat, liver, bean sprouts, lime wedges and a really zesty/tangy sauce. The stall in general wasn’t as pleasant because the sitting area was a little dingy, but the food was surprisingly fresh and good!
Xue Shan from TOCO TOCO – each bowl comes with a generous topping of red bean, sweet potato, yam and jelly.
For dessert, we went straight to the popular TOCO TOCO for their extremely popular Xue Shan dessert (similar to our black ball dessert). More on where to find these food coming soon in our Top 10 Food to Try In Hanoi [Vietnam].
DAY 2: HOAN KIEM LAKE (MORNING) & HANOI TRAIN STREET
When they say you have to check out both the morning and evening views of Hoan Kiem Lake – they weren’t kidding. We left our Airbnb for Hoan Kiem Lake at around 10am and the atmosphere is a complete turnaround. You’ll see children running around and the older folks doing their morning exercises. There’s also music playing in the background with a very laid back, chill atmosphere.
Us at the Hoan Kiem Lake – a scenic spot for a mini photoshoot
The view in the morning is incredibly beautiful, we just had to have our very own little mini photo shoot. We also wandered across the red bridge towards Ngoc Son Temple but didn’t enter as it was jam packed with tourists. There’s a small fee to enter, recommend checking it out if you have the time. We then dropped by an eatery near Hoan Kiem Lake along 40 Cau Go, for a quick breakfast of Pho Ga, Bun Cha and spring rolls. You’ll come across many of these stalls while exploring, recommend giving them a try!
Pho Ga, Bun Cha and spring rolls
Hanoi Train Street
Besides the touristy and iconic landmarks in Hanoi, I highly recommend including the Hanoi Train Street in your itinerary. We read that the train networks are integrated within the winding streets of Hanoi and passes through the narrow neighbourhoods twice a day. Of course, we had to see it for ourselves! We did a quick research online and only saw a handful of articles talking about it but the directions weren’t as clear as we hoped. Check out how to get there here – GUIDE: Finding the Hanoi Train Street.
DAY 2: ST. JOSEPH CATHEDRAL & HANOI COOKING CLASS
We took an Uber down to St. Joseph Cathedral and there was an air of calmness on the street. It’s much less hectic than the other parts of Old Quarter. The area around the cathedral is lined with lots of cafes, small eateries, restaurants and other boutique stores, probably the reason why there’s many youngsters hanging around this area.
St. Joseph Cathedral
The cathedral itself was quite a sight for its gothic/notre dame style walls. Besides the inevitable greying having been there for hundreds of years, it’s quite a peaceful place to visit. Sadly, we didn’t manage to step inside the cathedral as it was closed when we were there (Sunday at around 3pm). Would have love to see the interior, stained-glass windows and religious murals. From what we understand, the opening hours have been known to change quite abit and is often closed during lunch time.
We prepared five different Vietnamese dishes from scratch!
Straight after, we took another Uber over to our Hanoi Cooking Class. If you’re looking to have an authentic Vietnamese experience, we recommend immersing in the local culture and trying your hands at cooking some Vietnamese dishes! We love cooking and there are actually many cooking classes offered all over Hanoi – however we didn’t want to take the chance to go for one and end up wasting our day. We booked ours in advance from Apron Up Cooking Class via Klook. We saw numerous reviews and the cost was also value for money. Read about our cooking experience here: Cooking Vietnamese Dishes With Apron Up Cooking Class [HANOI].
DAY 2: HANG DA MARKET
Hang Da Market – Credits: Vietnam Guide
If you’ve got time left in the day, check out Hang Da Market, a three-storey shopping mall. We managed to catch the last trail of stalls before they closed. There are many interesting things you can get here including flowers, clothes, souvenirs, paintings, bags, meat and vegetable produce and Vietnamese snacks.
Hang Da Market
Address: 1 Hang Da Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Opening hours: 5am to 5pm (Recommend to go earlier in the morning)
Pho Bo at Thanh Hop Restaurant
For dinner, we had a good ol’ bowl of pho at Thanh Hop Restaurant. The eatery was very busy even at pass 10pm, with many customers still eating and placing their orders. We ordered the Pho Bo which costs only 35,000 VND! The broth tastes slightly lighter and not overly salty, a healthier version than the usual ones.
GETTING AROUND (TRANSPORT & WIFI)
A must for us while travelling on holiday is staying connected to the internet! We got our local portable wifi device from Klook here. Rather than getting a sim card, a portable wifi is useful especially when travelling in groups so that all of you can tap on it simultaneously. The wifi can connect up to 8 devices and can last up to 6 hours on a single charge. We left it on the entire day and switched it off occasionally. Prior to booking, we saw that the drop-off/pick-up for the wifi device will be at the hotel reception and was worried that it may be a problem as we were staying in an Airbnb. Thankfully, it was all sorted – all you have to do is just share your Airbnb address and/or share their local contact number for them to easily reach your place. Klook was also helpful in providing the assistance to our numerous queries, so that was great. We were also able to stay connected while we were out at sea cruising Halong Bay, the signal maintained its connectivity most of the time.
What you’ll receive:
- Storage bag
- TP Link M5350 router
- USB cable
- Instruction booklet
- Unlimited data usage
- Connect up to 8 devices
- Battery life up to 6 hours
Get your local portable wifi device from Klook here.
So that’s it, our first 2 nights in Hanoi sorted. Check out our next post about our experience on board Imperial Cruise, cruising down Halong Bay and our stay overnight on Cat Ba Island!
- 3D2N Halong Bay + Cat Ba Island [Coming soon]
- Cooking Vietnamese Dishes With Apron Up Cooking Class [HANOI]
- GUIDE: Finding the Hanoi Train Street
- Top 10 Food To Try In Hanoi [Coming soon]
- Klook: Hanoi Cooking Class
- Klook: 3G Wifi Device
With lots of love,
An Affair With Food