Top 10 Things To Do in Hanoi

1. Shop at the Dong Xuan Weekend Night Market
Where? Dong Xuan and Hang Chieu Streets, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Why go? Fantastic street food, crazy-cheap shopping, and that crazy atmosphere that makes Asian street markets so much fun.
How long will you need? Get there around 7pm, and stay until you’re shopped out.
Cost? Everything is pretty cheap, but be prepared to barter so you’re not getting ripped off.

 

2. Visit the “Hanoi Hilton” – Hoa Lo Prison
Where? 1 Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Why go? The prison was originally built by the French in the 1880s to imprison Vietnamese political prisoners, but when the French eventually left Vietnam in 1954 after their defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the prison was taken over by the North Vietnamese Army who used it to house, interrogate and torture American prisoners of war. It was the American prisoners who sarcastically nicknames the prison the “Hanoi Hilton,” in honour of the horrible conditions they faced in there. While it is obviously well known that the Americans suffered just as horribly to the Vietnamese as the Vietnamese did to the French, the exhibits in the museum focus mainly on the torment suffered by the Vietnamese under French control. And they are truly horrific.
How long will you need? 1-2 hours.
Cost? Around AUD$1.50 per person

 

3. Stroll the through beautiful grounds of the Temple of Literature
Where? 58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Why go? The Temple of Literature in Hanoi is dedicated to Confucius , and was the site of Vietnam’s first university, dating back to 1076. Back then, only those of noble birth were admitted, but the mid-1400s brought about a new age, where gifted students from around the country were allowed. Now, it’s a stunning public space where you’ll walk around with a slack jaw and constant camera clicking…
How long will you need? 2 hours
Cost? Around AUD$1.20 per person

 

4. Ignore the overcautious and pretentious travelers and eat street food!

Why go? It’s not dirty or gross, it’s not going to make you sick, it’s not something to turn your nose up at. The food being made by the sweet little old ladies on the back of a motorbike cart is some of the best food in the city, so drop the ego and get eating.
Cost? It’s cheap – the spread about cost us about AUD$6.00 each, and we got nowhere near finishing it.

 

5. Eat ice cream and people watch by the banks of Hoan Kiem Lake
Where? Literally in the middle of the city, you can’t miss it.
Why go? Hoan Kiem Lake is the centre of the city, and the place where so many social events are held; at any time of the day or night, you’ll see people gathering for a picnic, to study, to practice tai chi, or just for a bit of a gossip session. When the heat starts to get to you, grab an ice cream, park yourself in the shade of the trees that circle the lake, and just take it all in…
How long will you need? As long as you want
Cost? Ice cream is pretty cheap, and the view is free!

 

6. Get educated on the Vietnamese point of view at the Vietnam Military History Museum
Where? 28A Điện Biên Phủ, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Why go? The grounds are piled with discarded planes and bomb shells, the buildings full of photos and more pieces of history. It’s a sombre atmosphere, and you can’t help feeling enormous respect for this small but courageous nation of underdogs. While you could never understand what they have been through, you start to understand just why they’re so fiercely proud and patriotic, and it’s a great way to take in a serious history lesson.
How long will you need? We were there for a few hours.
Cost? Around AUD$1.20 per perso

 

7. Take a day trip out to Ha Long Bay

Why go? It’s not hard to see why Ha Long Bay was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. The bay includes, I believe, almost 2000 islands and islets, and is just breathtakingly beautiful, especially when you’re floating through it on a boat, without a single care in the world…
How long will you need? All day long for a day trip, but if you have a few nights to spare, you can spend a few nights on the water.
Cost? We took a day trip with Intrepid, which was amazing – cost around AUD$120.00 per person (though I believe that’s gone up a little now), and worth every cent.

 

8. Indulge in one of the city’s favourite dishes, bún chà
Where? Literally everywhere from the street corners to the markets.
Why go? Vermicelli noodles. Meat. Peanuts. Spring onion. And a delicious sauce to pour over the top. Like you need any more convincing!
Cost? You can get a bowl for a few dollars almost anywhere in the city!

 

9. Take in the patriotism and national pride at the Hi Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum
http://www.baotanghochiminh.vn/tabid/528/default.aspx

Where? 19 Ngách 158/193 Ngọc Hà, Đội Cấn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Why go? Ho Chi Minh (or Uncle Ho, to the Vietnamese) fought for Vietnamese independence, bringing the North and South together under one rule. He was a popular man, and his mausoleum brings in hundreds of visitors every day, mostly locals actually, paying their respects. But the tourists come in by the bus load too, often making their way on to the museum, like I did. The museum is quite big, and incredibly interesting – it actually makes history interesting, for those of you who aren’t history nerds like me.
How long will you need? 2-3 hours.
Cost? Around AUD$1.00 per person

 

10. Finish the day with a drink up on Café Nola’s umbrella-covered rooftop
Where? 89 Mã Mây, Quan Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Why go? Rooftop bar. Great cocktails at cheap prices. Delicious food to nibble on. And they have the cutest collection of umbrellas dangling above you. Best way ever to finish a big day in Hanoi.
How long will you need? Spend a long afternoon there, trust me
Cost? Cheap enough that I don’t remember

Photo Journal: Walking through Hanoi

Parts of Hanoi are tourist-friendly “big city,” while other parts, like the produce markets, are still so simple and local. There’s such a huge mix of people – tourists and locals, students and manual labourers, restaurant workers and street food vendors, and they all somehow fit together in perfect harmony…

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Photo Journal: The Yellow City of Hoi An

I read an article on Singapore Airline’s inflight magazine, SilverKris on our way to Vietnam; it featured some stunning photos by a photographer whose name I can’t now recall of Hoi An. He decided to base his photo series on the beautiful yellow shades of the city, which you can’t believe the brilliance of if you’ve never seen them.

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I may not be a professional photographer, but I know beauty when I see it, and did my best to capture the golden city through my own eyes…

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5 Ways To Make The Most Of That Layover in Kuala Lumpur

2.1** Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Traveloka, however all opinions contained herein are based on my own experience.

 

If you live in Australia and love to travel, chances are you’ve had at least one long layover in Kuala Lumpur. It’s one of the bigger gateway cities for us Aussies on our way out to the rest of the world, and when you’re travelling on a tight budget, you can often find yourself with a few hours to kill before your connecting flight on to the rest of Asia or Europe.

When we travelled to Europe several years ago, we had the option of saving a few hundred dollars on our flights, with the compromise being a 14 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur. We were already going to be ticking 5 countries over 2 continents off our list, so we figured it would be a great opportunity to see a bit of the city and add another continent to our itinerary. When we told people we planned to do this, they all told us we were crazy; the standard response is to complain about the long mandatory waits, and here we were ready to take advantage of it instead. With a bit of pre-trip organisation, it’s actually not that hard to do – here are a few tips that helped us enjoy the layover…

 

1. Book a hotel for the day
If you’ve saved significant money on your flights, the small amount of money you’ll spend by booking a hotel for the day will be more than worth it. If, like us, you’re arriving into the city around 7am and leaving after dark, having a hotel room is a godsend; you’ll have somewhere secure to store your luggage, and be able to have a shower and get changed into fresh clothes after a day out before your next flight. You can book a room in Kuala Lumpur online with Traveloka with hotels a stone’s throw from the airport from as little as AUD$20.00 for a day – that’ll save the stress of finding something when you land.

 

2. Check the booking options
Some hotels cater specifically for layover guests, like the Plaza Premium Lounge KLIA 2; they have options for stays as short as 4 hours from AUD$65.00, as well as 6 hours, 10 hour and overnight bookings. If you’re only stopping over for a few hours, you may find that you can get a better rate on a 6 hour booking rather than an overnight booking.

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3. Check out the hotel facilities
Because the more that’s included, the easier the layover will be. A lot of hotels will offer things like airport transfers, wifi, luggage storage and 24 hour reception, and they make the world of difference when you only have a short amount of time to work with. Most hotels also have multi-lingual staff who are happy to help out, so it’s worth speaking to team on the check in desk to see if there’s anything going on in the city that may cause extra delays in getting back in time for your next flight.

 

4. Public transport is your friend
It’s quick, clean, efficient, and definitely the easiest way to get around. The Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) website offers some good information on how to get around using the Express Rail Link, which connects the airport to the main city centre in under half an hour. Much easier than car hire or taxis.

 

5. Be realistic
You’re only there few a few hours, so be realistic about what you’ll be able to see and do. The best bet is to pick out a couple of things close to each other, so you can enjoy a bit of time in the one area without having to rush too much. We decided to head to the Petronas Twin Towers and spent a bit of time wondering around the air conditioned shops below the towers at the Suria KLCC complex. We also took a walk around the streets nearby and relaxed with an ice cream by Symphony Lake before heading back to our hotel for a cold shower.

Stay here: The DoubleTree Hilton, Melbourne

DoubleTree by Hilton, Melbourne
270 Flinders St, Melbourne CBD
http://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels

Playing tourist in your own city is seriously underrated. A lot of Melbourians, especially those who work in the CBD, avoid the city at all costs on weekends. I was the opposite. The longer I worked in the city, the more I discovered and the more I fell in love with it. While it’s definitely not a hidden treasue, the DoubleTree Hilton is a perfect tourist-at-home night away spot.

 

Service and amenities include:
– 24 hour business and fitness centres
– a generous 12pm check out
– WiFi (not free, unfortunately)
– luggage storage
– laundry service
– safety deposit boxes
– hotel restaurant
– parking (AUD$30 per night)
– accessible rooms
– tea & coffee making facilities
– complimentary (and a little bit fancy) toiletries from Crabtree & Evelyn
– HDTVs
– walk-in showers

Being literally a stone’s throw from Flinders Street Station, it couldn’t be more accessible, and rates start from around $180 per night for two people (for a lead in, interior rooms); a little extra will upgrade you to a city view room or a Flinders Street Station view.

And the best part? If you’re staying there, you can feel free to ask for a complimentary DoubleTree Hilton chocolate chip cookie. At any time.