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How To Travel Cheap In Hanoi And The Timeless Old Quarter


OVERVIEW


In the northern region of Vietnam lies Hanoi, its capital and the country’s center of commerce and power. It is that one historic city that will most likely ring a bell to foreign visitors whenever we speak of this East Asian Social Republic country situated just south of its communist and once long time ally, China. As is the case in many developing nations, it is no surprise for one to automatically project an image of Hanoi as a typical highly urbanized city with bustling highways, skyscrapers, fast cars and traces of modern innovation within its every corner just exactly how one would perceive other capital cities in the world. While this might be true in some parts of Hanoi, what made it so endearing however is not its usual city vibe imbued with tech savvy millennials but its charming history that resonates from its timelessness and rustic nature permeated by several French colonial work of architecture most of which are found within its most touristy district, The Old Quarter.

Travel Guide To Hanoi

The Old Quarter is within Hoan Kiem district, one of the two most important districts of Hanoi. This once alligator infested swamp has now become one of the world’s tourists magnets 1000 years after its creation with millions of foreign visitors come to experience its untimely and captivating atmosphere which have ensued despite the ever changing world threatening its existence. The Old Quarter upholds a culture which has weathered the challenges of time and is still very evident along its 36 historical streets of French colonial infused architecture now bustling with motorcycles, merchant boutiques, various restaurants, business offices and places of accommodation from inexpensive backpacker inns to mid and top range hotels which have replaced the trade of gold, silver, herbs and smiths works practiced during the olden days. Street food corners are not to be missed as they continually represent the flavours of Hanoi and the very core of one of the world’s delectable cuisines. Pagodas and several places of worship are also scattered within the Old Quarter symbolizing the diverse religious foundation of the locales despite being known as a widely Atheist nation with Buddhism being predominant and Christianity, Hinduism and Islam sharing the remainder of the population.

The Old Quarter depicts quite a great story that has unfolded through ten centuries. A walk along its lively streets would take you into several different dimensions showcasing tales of the past which have shaped traditions and how they have come to endure until the modern times. Marvelling at the magnificence of this ancient place with your every turn is like watching a movie in slow motion that is set to send shivers down your spine and completely absorb you in it.

Travel Guide To Hanoi

It is like flipping the pages of a novel with its every chapter so riveting, it is too impossible to get enough of. As each of the streets has a fascinating story to tell, it is not at all confusing to identify one after the other and though some may have evolved to adapt the demands of the modern world, traces of how they have been remain. There is handful of the most notable and important streets of the Old Quarter where the bustling trade had once taken place which is still very existent today. Knowing some can in an instant give us a glimpse to one quintessential part of this country’s awe-inspiring history.

  • Ma May Street –  A fusion of two old streets Hang May which sold rattan and Hang Ma which sold sacred joss.
  • Hang Theic Street – The street for tinsmiths.
  • Dong Xuan Street – The Market Street.
  • Hang Thung Street – This is were barrels were manufactured
  • Hang Dao Street – One of the oldest streets which name refers to apricot blossoms.
  • Cao Go Street – Means the wooden bridge.
  • Hang Bac Street – This street started as a silver ingot factory.

If you have noticed, most of the street names are preceded by the word Hang which in Vietnames means streets. The word that follows stands for the goods being sold in that particular street. Learn more about the streets of the Old Quarter in thingsasian.com


ANY PLANS OF GOING TO HANOI SOON? Here’s an informative travel guide


WAYS TO GET IN

  • From the Philippines – Fly from NAIA airport to Noi Bai International airport. From the airport, ride bus no. 7 until the last drop off. From there ride bus no. 9 to Hoan Kiem district.
  • From Ho Chi Minh and other provinces from the South – Hop on the train. It might take you a whole day to get there but it sure is worth it. You can also do sleeper bus. Train station from the South is situated inside the Old Quarter.

Interesting Places To See Within Or Near The Old Quarter


Read more about the places to see in the Old Quarter here: 13 Must See Tourist Spots In Hanoi’s Old Quarter For Filipino First Timers


Awesome Things To Do  In The Old Quarter


  • Go on a walking tour in the Old Quarter
  • Sample street foods
  • Check cheap and interesting buys in Dong Xuan Market
  • Ride the cyclo
  • Watch the Water Puppet Show
  • Explore the colourful nightly scene in Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Sit in one of the coffee shops and watch locals while sipping Vietnamese coffee

Read more about the things you should do when it’s your first time to visit Hanoi here: 7 Things To Do When It’s Your First Time In Hanoi


Interesting Cities/Provinces To Visit Near Hanoi


  • Halong Bay. A UNESCO World Heritage Site that boast of an exquisite view of deep blue waters of the bay dotted by some majestic limestone karst. Going on a cruise for a day or two is the best way to explore this beautiful jewel lying just hours away from Hanoi.
  • Ninh Binh. This province was once home to the Imperial capital of Vietnam, the city of Hoa Lu before it was moved to Hanoi following the demise of the Lé Dynasty. Not only that it was previously a place of power but it also is revered due to its natural beauty of endless rice paddies with several limestone mountains dotting it. It also is home to one of the monumental places of Buddhism, the Bich Dong Pagoda.
  • Sapa. This province is home to the gorgeous rice terraces, native tribes probably one of the oldest in the country and the roof of Indochina, Mt. Fansipan.
  • Cat Ba Island. A not so distant island from Hanoi that boasts of abundant natural resources.
  • Mai Chau. Home to White Thai villages of stilt houses. A nice hiking spot covered with rice paddies hemmed by some hills.
  • Huong Tich Mountain. Or The Mountain Of Fragrant Traces where lies several Bhuddist shrines.

Where To Stay


The Old Quarter is also known as the backpacker’s district where hundreds of backpacker and budget travellers gathered around. These 36 streets of French Colonial work of architecture are packed with luxurious hotels and budget inns. Among these is Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel situated in Ma May Street. For as cheap as $6, you get yourself a clean, comfortable bed with free breakfast in the morning and unlimited beers come 7 PM.

Still thinking for other great options, let Agoda help you narrow down your search.



Hanoi For VND 500.000 Sample Itinerary and Expenses Summary


TIMEACTIVITYCOST (VND)
TOTAL500.000
01:00Arrived in Noi Bai Airport. Went to sleep at the lobby until 6 AM
06:00Ate Vietnamese Pho for breakkfast.30.000
07:00Travelled to Old Quarter through buses no. 7 & 915.000
08:00Arrived in the Old Quarter. Dropped by Thang Long Water Puppet Theater to buy a ticket for the 6PM show.150.00
08:15Walked to Ma May street to look for Hanoi Backpackers Hostel. Checked in for 1 night150.00
09:00Began with the walking tour in the Old Quarter stopping first at Bach Ma Temple then Cao Go Street following the other notable streets.
12:00Ate lunch in one of the street food stalls in Dong Xuan Market.25.000
13:00Rode a cyclo to Hoan Kiem Lake. 25.000
14:00Went to see the entirety of Hoan Kiem Lake, exploring Ngoc Son Temple and Huc Bridge then to Museum of history, Hanoi post office, Folk Art Theater, Women's Museum and Saint Joseph Cathedral70.000
17:00Went hunting for cheap tours for the next day. Scored a cheap US$21 tour for Hoa Lu and Tam Coc.

***Cost for the tour will not be included for today's expenses.
17:30Walked to Thang Long Theater to watch the water puppet show.
20:00Went back to the hostel to rest. Ate dinner an hour after. Joined in the fun at the hostel lobby overflowing with free beers.35.000
22:00Good Night

Total Expenses converted to peso: P1010


Essential Tips When Travelling To Hanoi


Travel Guide To Hanoi
You have no idea how hard it is for a solo backpacker without a trace of ingenuity in the system such as me to get a decent photo taken in Hanoi. 🙂
  • Consider the weather when you travel to Hanoi. Prepare for cold weather during the months of November to March. Sunny weather is expected during the start of spring in April and althrough out summer.
  • For my fellow Filipinos, flights to Hanoi normally depart Manila at 10 PM and arrives in Noi Bai International Airport passed midnight. It is most advisable to arrange a transfer to your hotel ahead of time or have some VND available to avoid getting ripped off ever you decide to ride a cab instead.
  • Hanoi is known for notorious pickpockets and snatchers so better secure your valuables.
  • Dress like a local. Avoid attracting trouble by not looking much of a tourist when walking around the city.
  • Tours are normally offered by local tour agencies in dollar prices so better to have some dollars available when shopping around.
  • Avoid local vendors who would normally offer you to carry their load of goods for a picture. They would sell you their goods for 3x higher the original price after. This was one of my not so good experiences while in Hanoi. I refused to buy her goods though and she ended very pissed, pushing me away from her sight. LOL. 😀
  • Crossing the streets in Hanoi may seem difficult at first and takes a little getting used to. Learning to cross the street flooded with speeding cars, cyclos and motorcycles in both directions can get a bit exasperating but all it actually take is rhythm.

I guess this is pretty much it. If you guys need more info, just leave them in the comments box below.

Have you been to Hanoi before or is planning to go there soon? Share with me your thoughts.

Chat with you soon.

Ayt. Laters baby!. 🙂

7 Things To Do When It’s Your First Time In Hanoi

Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital and the perfect place to experience real Vietnamese culture. When it is your first time in Hanoi, choosing what to do or where to go first can sometimes be overwhelming due to the myriads of delightful surprises the city has to offer. If you are stuck and couldn’t decide which, allow me to help you make up you mind. Let me share with you 7 of the things you should do that will let you unravel the secrets of Hanoi from all its hidden corners and beyond.


1. Explore the Old Quarter

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

The Old Quarter is Hanoi’s most touristy district. I can even go on saying it is the city’s very heart and soul. And why not? Its 36 streets are home to not just the gorgeous French Colonial architecture but to a rich history and cultural heritage which showcase the timeless beauty of this stunning city. No wonder it’s packed with travellers and backpackers of different race and colors from all corners of the world. This is the best place to be whenever you are in Hanoi. So no matter what your business is when you visit, the Old Quarter is not something you would want to miss.

Check out my post: 13 Must See Tourist Spots In The Old Quarter For Filipino First Timers for places you can visit while in the Old Quarter.


2. Go On Day Tours

VIETNAM ON A BUDGET

Hanoi serves as the gateway to other beguiling jewels the northern region of Vietnam has to offer such as the Halong Bay and Perfume Mountain and the best way to discover them is going on day tours. Day tours are suitable for travellers who are a little pressed with time but are still adventurous enough to save a day seeing some scenery outside of Hanoi in a span of 12-15 hours which normally kicks off early at 5AM and gets you back in the city no later than 8PM. Although doing the tour on your own gives you more flexibility and freedom, going on organized tours however opens you to the opportunity of meeting new people from different walks of life bringing you brand new perpectives which you can ponder and learn from in the process. Plus it could save you the hassle of planning the tours yourself which could sometimes be frustrating especially in a foreign land you barely know anything about. For as cheap as $18, you get yourself one fulfilling day that you can cherish for a lifetime.


3. Discover Not-So-Touristy Spots

Things To Do In Hanoi

In Hanoi, it is common for travellers to seek places where they can experience the city’s culture in its rawest form and that’s most of the time in the Hoan Kiem District or the Old Quarter. But for those who want to avoid the crowd, discovering not-so-touristy spots is similar to a treasure hunt which often time results to a bountiful reward. In Hanoi, there’s just plenty of these places travellers often overlooked such as the Vinpearl Aquaruim which is the largest in Vietnam and although there’s probably a version of them back home, wouldn’t it be nice to see the Vietnamese work it and how it differs from the ones we’re used to. A little redundant it seems but could be a meaningful way to distinguish the differences in our culture to theirs.


4. Get A Glass Of Ice Cold Vietnamese Coffee

THINGS TO DO IN HANOI
Photo By: http://www.hanoiweather.info/

Coffee is an essential part of the Vietnamese culture and it plays an important role in their lives. I probably haven’t seen any other place (well I’ve only been to one country apart from mine) where people have so much love for coffee. Unlike us Filipinos who love our coffee warm and aromatic, Vietnamese have this intricate way of brewing their coffee and serving it cold with ice cubes mixed with sweet milk. And I gotta say as much as I love the coffee at home, Vietnamese coffee didn’t make it so hard for me to fall in love with its distinctive taste so addicting that I had it as many times as the locals have it when I was in Vietnam. So if you are about to get started with your adventure in Hanoi, the best way to begin is sipping a glass of cold Vietnamese iced coffee.


5. Sample Some Street Foods

Things To Do In Vietnam

Vietnamese is one of the world’s most delicious cuisines and in Hanoi, you need not search hidden corners as those delectable dishes showcasing the flavours of this ancient city in all its variety and tangs is readily available in streets, particularly those found in the Old Quarter. I have always loved Vietnamese cuisine and to wallow on that authentic taste of Vietnam was what I was looking forward to during my visit. Was I disappointed? Hardly the case. It only took a sumptuous bowl of Vietnamese Pho coupled with greens and white rice noodles on the side to satisfy my palate. So if you are in a quest to learn the culture and tradition of Hanoi, start with sampling some of their street foods. Believe me. They are guaranteed to give you a glimpse of what this historical city is truly made of.


6. Ride A Cyclo

Things To Do In Hanoi
Photo by: eastwest.force.com

Back home we Filipinos have pedicabs, trikes and jeepneys as our signature mode of transportation. Vietnamese on the other hand have cyclos. Cyclos are 3-wheel bicycle taxis in Vietnam and one of its main mode of transportation when travelling to not so distant places. Being a main representation of the Vietnamese way of living, riding a cyclo is one experience that is totally fun and insightful at the same time


7. Watch The Water Puppet Show

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

Water puppetry is a Vietnamese ancient tradition and folk art that originated in the Red River Delta area of Northern Vietnam. Back in the day water puppetry is performed in flooded rice fields. Today, Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is being renowned for its great performance of the ancient art which depicts the story of Vietnamese in the rural areas. Seeing the water puppet show will not just give you a glimpse of Vietnam’s culture but will totally immerse you in it.


There you go lovelies. You definitely wouldn’t wanna miss any of these interesting activities when you visit Hanoi. Have you visited Hanoi before? Share with us your experience on the comments box below. Chat with yah later! See yah.. 🙂

13 Must See Tourist Spots In Hanoi’s Old Quarter For Filipino First Timers

The Old Quarter is the very pulse of Hanoi and it depicts a great story that has endured the challenge of time. Its 36 streets of trade and market has shaped traditions and defined history for this part of Vietnam. Along these streets are French colonial architecture and a culture which is one of the richest in the world. Explore the vastness of this tourist magnet, indulge in its timeless beauty and get to know it better through seeing these 13 spots found only within Hanoi’s most popular district.






1. Hoan Kiem Lake

HOAN KIEM LAKE

Hoan Kiem Lake means “The Lake Of The Restored Sword” in Vietnamese derived from the legend involving a Kim Qi, “A Golden Turtle God” and the Heaven’s Will, “The Magic Sword” which the Emperor Le Loi used on his revolt against the Ming Dynasty. It was previously called Luc Thuy, “Green Water” but was changed to honor the legend. Within the Hoan Kiem Lake stood The Turtle Tower and Ngoc Son Temple. A walk in Hoan Kiem Lake will open you to a myriad of interesting sights and the locals’ way of living.


2. The Huc Bridge

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

Also means the “Morning Sunlight”, The Huc Bridge connects the lakeshore to Jade Island where Ngoc Son Temple stands. It is a beautifully contructed bridge of elegant Buddhist architecture painted in bright red. At night. The Huc Bridge is one of the most gorgeous sights in Hoan Kiem Lake with its bright red color reflected by the lake’s water.


3. Ngoc Son Temple

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

Ngoc Son Temple or “The Temple Of Jade Mountain” stands in Jade Island, the little island in the northern part of Hoan Kiem Lake and is connected only by the iconic Huc bridge to the lake banks. It was built in the 18th century to honor a Vietnamese military leader, Tran Hung Dao for his gallantry in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty. Within the temple are large bronze bust and statues of deities. It also houses the remains of the turtoise creature who lived in the lake for a very long time.

Entrance Fee: VND 25.000


4. The Turtle Tower And Island

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

The Turtle Island is a man made island in the center of Hoan Kiem Lake where the Turtle Tower stands. It served as the home of the turtoise creature endemic to the lake. Although the last known turtoise creature has since died, the Vietnamese still revere to it very deeply.


5. Dong Xuan Market

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

Dong Xuan Market is arguably the heart of the Old Quarter and one of its original streets where you will find all the amazing and cheap buys ranging from exotic herbs, fresh fruits and veggies, sweet scented flowers to wooden crafts and decor. This is also where you can sample some of the most delicious street foods in Hanoi.






6. Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

WATER PUPPET SHOW
IMAGE SOURCE

Water Puppet Show is a theatrical water puppetry tradition in Vietnam which dates as far back to the 11th century and originated in the Red River Delta area in the north. Back in the day, the villagers would play water puppets in the flooded rice fields but nowadays water puppetry is being done in a 4 meter pool of water accompanied by traditional Vietnamese orchestra as the background. In Hanoi, Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is renowned for its great performace of the ancient Vietnamese art.

Entrance Fee: VND 150.000


7. Cau Go Street

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

Cau Go Street or “The Wooden Bridge Street” is one of the original streets of the Old Quarter. Along this street are restaurants which showcase the flavors of Hanoi and range of hotels tourists would find really amazing.


8. Bach Ma Temple

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

Bach Ma Temple is one of the most important historical temples of Hanoi. Situated at the heart of the Old Quarter, it is said the be the oldest temple in the city. It was built in the order of Ly Thai To in the 11th century to honor the white horse believed to be a river god who aided in the construction of a great citadel.


9. One Pillar Pagoda

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER
IMAGE SOURCE

Another historical Buddhist structure built upon the order of Ly Thai To to show gratitude to Buddha for granting him a son. It was said that Ly Thai To was childless but he was gifted with a son after he dreamed of meeting a Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara who handed him a son while seated at a lotus flower in the middle of a lake.

For reference: Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara refers to a compassionate Buddha.


10. The Museum Of History

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

The Museum Of History houses all the important pieces of history of Hanoi consisting of books and artifacts. It was first founded to display Western pieces of history but in 1958, the Vietnamese Government replaced it with national history pieces, finally opening it to the public that same year.

Entrance Fee: VND 50.000


11. St. Joseph Cathedral

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

The only monumental evidence of Chatholicism you would get to see Hoan Kiem District is the St. Joseph Cathedral. Inspired and built after Neo-Gothic architecture, this was the very first structure constructed by the French Colonial Government. Now this gorgeous piece serves as a house of worship for roughly 4 million Catholics in Vietnam.


12. The Women’s Museum

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

The Women’s Museum houses important pieces that serve as evidence to the significant role of women in the history of Vietnam. It showcases the evolution of women in Vietnam from being a lowly part of the society to established personalities who helped shape the country as it is now.

Entrance Fee: VND 35.000


13. Ly Thai To Park

TOURIST SPOTS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER

Ly Thai To was once a mighty emperor of the Ly Dynasty and one of the most important figures of the country’s history. He established Hanoi as the capital upon his ascension to the throne transferring the seed of power from Hoa Lu. To commemorate the great emperor, a statue was built for him in the Ghandi Park facing Hoan Kiem Lake in 2004.


A walk in the Old Quarter and in the bustling streets of Hoan Kiem district is as captivating as the scene in a fairytale, even better. Every street is like another page of a bestselling novel. Experience it and learn Hanoi’s culture in its truest form. And to make your walking tour easier, our good friend Alex Huynh of Inspitrip.com created a simple map of the Old Quarter highlighting the best spots to visit in the area. Check it out.Hanoi Old Quarter Map

Don’t forget to check our my Hanoi Travel Guide post for more useful travel info.

Ayt. There you go lovelies. Stay tuned for more posts about Hanoi. See yah. 🙂





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