Hanoi Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Ha Noi was called Thanh Long meaning "the city of ascending dragons."
This was my first trip ever traveled alone and it was definitely an adventure for me. A solo woman travel to a land of unknown - Vietnam and does not understand a word of Vietnamese. Prior to my trip, I did a lot of research on-line and was looking for different ideas, Though I didn't think I was thorough with my search as I hope I did. But hey, this is a vacation not a task.
To enter Vietnam, one must attend Vn Visa prior to entry unless you are are in one f the exclusion countries. It costs a fortune to obtain via embassy, so many people did Visa-on-Arrival (VOA), which saves you about $30-35USD. And I did mine through http://www.vietnam-visa.org
I read many reviews about different scams in Vn, including airport taxi. So the hotel where I stayed have arranged airport taxi for me. It costs about $15 for one way trip. I was picked up by 4 door SUV, a very comfortable seat. I was glad that there were no other passengers in the car except me. I read some places taxi driver would detour the route and pick up different passengers or do business along the way. The taxi ride was about 45 minutes from airport to the old quarter, not much to see along the way.
I did my bookings through http://www.booking.com/, where it gave reviews of each hotels. Upon arrived at the Elizabeth Hotel, I was greeted by friendly staffs who helped me with check-in and luggage transport.
Since it's my first time visiting VN and I didn't know the language, I was a little bit intimidated by the reviews, at the same time, I was never a big fan of group tour so I scheduled a time with local college student as my tour guide for half of the day. http://hanoikids.org/index/
Huy, my tour guide, was a local university student who is currently studying International finance, took me to the bridge, outskirt of the Old Quarter. We went along the bridge and saw the Red River. I saw people selling fruits along the side of the bridge and see the architecture left from French colony.
We went to Old Quarter afterward. Old Quarter was what everyone mentionned in Tripadvisor. Even though people have mentionned about different places to shop in Old Quarter and how it's a great place to shop, I didn't find it enticing to do shopping in Old Quarter. It was nothing, compared to Bangkok and Hong Kong. Things were overprice and you need to do hackling. For me, things just got too tiresome afterward. I find Bangkok and Hong Kong were more tourist-friendly and economic-friendly for tourist. In Hanoi, local people paid about 5000-10 000 VND for Banh My, tourist paid about 25 000VND, so you can see the big gap in prices.
I forgot to mentionned, VN Dong comes in many 00s, the smallest bill in 500 (I believe). For those of us who are not used to see many 00s, we tend to give extra to the sellers. Some was nice to return you the exact change, others would say they don't have change to give you back. A word of advise, always count your change before you leave the place. I was often given less of the change that I actually needed to point out to the merchant.
Always ask for the price before you do anything, especially at the restaurant.
Hoen Kiem Lake was beautiful. We visited the Pagoda and sat at the Highland Coffee, directly across the lake, enjoy the view of HoenKiem Lake. I forgot to mention Huy was very attentive to my needs. I have mentionned that I was a vegetarian and he was on the look out for me during the choice of restaurant. He even waited for me for about 30 minutes when I had to take care of some tourist business.
In the evening, I catch the water puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. I enjoyed the cultural show in solitude though I would recommend to watch it with somebody who is able to understand Vietnamese and translate the show for you. The storyline was all in Vietnamese. I believe I would enjoy more if I actually understand the storyline.
Hoen Kiem Lake is beautiful at night.; The lake lit up during the night with different colors, though I was been told, it's only happened during Tet festival. (Let me know if it is true.)