Hanoi definitely was the first extremely intimidating city I had ever visited. With the hustle and bustle of the city, the crazy amount of motorbikes that zoomed by and made you fear for your life, and the grey skies and rain we received when my sister and I were there—Hanoi just wasn’t my favourite place in the world, but I definitely had some highlights when I visited this Vietnamese city and here were some of my must-dos.
Try egg coffee from a rooftop cafe
Egg coffee is a traditional Vietnamese drink prepared with egg yolks, sugar, coffee and condensed milk. I know the egg part of this hot beverage throws you off, but the drink is rich and creamy and a must-try while you’re visiting. To top it off, enjoy an egg coffee from a café with a rooftop view like, Cafe Pho Co.
Eat bun bo nam bo
We loved our meal we had at Bun Bo Nam Bo in Hanoi so much that we went back there twice. This dish that the restaurant is named after is absolutely delicious. It includes a tasty sauce with raw vegetables, fried onion, roasted peanuts and bean sprouts with beef soaked in sugar, fish sauce and seasonings and served with noodles. I couldn’t get over how amazing this dish was!
Enjoy the cheapest beer in the world
Southeast Asia is already pretty cheap, but did you know you can find the cheapest beer in the world in Hanoi? Bio Hoi is a light beer served in several bars across the city every night and will only cost you around 5,000-7,000 VND (the equivalent to 23-32 cents USD).
I would recommend this in any new country to get a feel for the locals and how they lead their daily lives, but in Hanoi I found it more fascinating than usual. From watching all the motorbikes weave in and out of traffic, to watching the locals buy their produce from ladies carrying it on their heads along the side of the road—people watching in Hanoi is at another level. The best part? There are so many street side cafes and bars to do it at!
Attend a water puppet show
This was probably one of the weirdest shows I attended while traveling, but a Vietnamese tradition and one we had to do. The show walks you through the daily lives of Vietnamese farmers or historical legends all within the water. It sounds odd, which it is, but the theater has been successfully putting on shows to often sold out crowds since 1990. You can find more information here.
Visit the Hoan Kiem Lake
This lake is located in the heart of Hanoi and is a scenic spot that stands out among the busyness of the city. In the middle of the lake is a small island with a pagoda, but you can’t get to it as there is no bridge or boat to take you there. You can however go to the bigger island on the lake by the bright red bridge that leads you to the entrance of an 18th century Buddhist temple.
Visit the Hanoi Prison
There are several museums throughout Hanoi to visit, but since my sister and I aren’t big museum fans, we found the one that sounded the most fascinating to us which was the Hanoi Prison. This place was extremely eerie as you walk through the old cells and read about what life once was like in the prison. Admission is 20,000 VND and it’s open every day.
Hanoi was absolutely an experience, and although the weather sucked when we were there, we made the best of it. For those visiting, I’d highly recommend the above experiences, but if you’re looking to really connect with locals, check out Withlocals, a great marketplace that connects tourists with locals for amazing experiences in different cities.