Hanoi, Vietnam

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Wow - Hanoi took me by surprise. I honestly love this city (and by how many of you messaged me - it seems like a popular city to love!).

I was expecting this to be a quiet stop on our two-month long journey, but Hanoi is a bustling city of nearly 8 million people, whizzing with colors and motorbikes and delicious food everywhere you turn. It has influences of both Paris and China - but it’s a city that’s uniquely it’s own.

If you can make it here for more than a quick stopover, do it. I loved how easily “livable” this city is (besides the horrible air quality!). Hanoi, I love you!

dream

We might have stayed in my favorite Airbnb of all time. This spot was only $46/night (YES seriously) and the most spacious/adorable/convenient place I’ve ever been in.

I would recommend staying a bit away from the Old City / French Quarter even though they’re great to visit during the day. All the neighborhoods are pretty close, so take your pick!

move

Hanoi isn’t too big and once you get used to all the crazy motorbikes, it’s a nice city to simply stroll around in. Grab (an app like Uber) is also super cheap and convenient to use here - download it before you arrive (they use text messages to verify!).

If you’re brave enough - you can rent a motorbike to explore. Not sure I would recommend it - but thrill-seekers can go for it!


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eat

Hanoi is a street-food lover’s dream. Like in any city with iffy water quality, be sure to look for crowded places (and boiling water!). My favorite part about eating out here is that you just sit on tiny, baby seats on the sidewalk - and no one bats an eye. So fun!

Here were some of my favorite spots, but honestly discovering these tiny hole-in-the-wall cafes is half the fun:

  • Cafe Tho: If you’re looking for traditional Vietnamese coffee - go here. No one speaks English, but hand gestures work. Try their egg coffee (it’s good, I swear) and Coconut coffee. Yum!

  • E-Paso Cafe: Small shop by mighty coffee. If you’re looking for a strong espresso, go here!

  • King Roti - we stumbled upon this tiny bakery in Old City and their matcha bun is freakin’ awesome.

  • Banh Me 25 - this bahn mi place is kind of touristy but worth it if you want to try all the different types of bahn mi :) Their bread is super crispy!

  • So green - if you’re looking for fresh juice (which seems so rare here) this is your spot.

  • Bahn my Yen Bee - little teeny street cart lady with awesome Bahn Mi. Go for it!

  • Gardenista - this coffee shops is SO cute and is located right near Han Kiem Lake so you can fuel up before your stroll. It also has tons of plants and outdoor seating!

  • Udum Chay - Wow, talk about delicious vegan food. This place is top-notch and seemingly undiscovered. It’s a bit “high end” (though still not terribly fancy!) by Hanoi standards, but delicious for those who are looking for some respite from street food.

  • 4P’s Pizza - Pizza in Vietnam you might ask? This spot is the real deal (coming from a New Yorker!). It’s an awesome pizza restaurant by a Japanese-Italian-Vietnamese pair who has their pizza, Vietnam-style down pat. Totally worth trying!

do

If eating is your thing, Hanoi will be your place. But, there’s tons of other things to do!

  • Stroll around Hi Han Kiem Lake: The streets are closed to motorbikes which makes it a wonderful place to stroll. Take in all the sights and sounds (or even go for a run!)

  • Visit Ha-Long Bay (or Ba Tu Long): Dupi and I spent a night in Ha Long Bay with Indochine Junk Travels on a luxury cruise liner and it. was. awesome. We both had never been on a cruise before and this one was totally worth it. I would recommend two nights though, a lot of our time was spent traveling back + forth to Hanoi.

  • Explore the city’s coffee + street food: No explanation here - just walk around and try whatever looks good. Keep an eye out for crowds!

Katina Mountanos