May 2017 | Lady & her Sweet Escapes

May 30, 2017

7 Foodie Spots to Love in Hanoi

If you can still remember my 20 before 2020 list, you'll know that food is the very reason why I wanted to travel to Hanoi. Yes, FOOD, particularly the savory Vietnamese noodle dish called Pho! I have eaten pho many times in Manila, in Bacolod and in Dubai, and I always thought: if this tastes good, then how much more in its birthplace - Hanoi!

So, during our short trip to the capital of Vietnam, I devoured five bowls of pho. That's almost two bowls per day. Hahah! Ed and I also got to sample other delectable Vietnamese dishes, and concluded that if you are into gastronomic journeys, Hanoi is the perfect place to go as it is a foodie wonderland!

Restaurants in Hanoi

May 24, 2017

10 Places You Can't Miss in Hanoi

Hanoi - the capital of Vietnam -  easily became one of my favorite cities. It has a fascinating balance of old world charm and breathtaking natural scenery. I wouldn't deny, the frenzy in the streets can be overwhelming to the senses, but ironically, it is an organized chaos that adds up to the city's distinct character.

Ed and I only spent three days in Hanoi. Until now, we wish we could have stayed longer! And sometimes, we talk about going back there in the future. That's how much this dynamic city captured our hearts!

These are the 10 places we have visited in Hanoi during our short trip - places we wouldn't mind revisiting and places we definitely think you shouldn't miss!  

Tourist attractions in Hanoi Vietnam

1. Hoan Kiem Lake
This natural lake is the focal point of Hanoi's historical district. Its name stands for "Lake of Returned Sword" based on a local legend that tells how Emperor Le Loi gave the mythical sword back to the Golden Turtle God after using it to fight off Chinese invaders.

Now, Hoan Kiem Lake provides serenity in the midst of all the madness. The green lake is surrounded by trees, flowers and benches. Locals and tourists alike go there to relax and to see the sights. The Turtle Pagoda was built in the middle of the lake as a reminder of the legend. Adjacent to it is The Huc; a red bridge which connects the shore to Ngoc Son Temple.    

The Turtle Pagoda in  Hoan Kiem Lake
  • The Turtle Pagoda in  Hoan Kiem Lake

Lady in Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Location: Hoan Kiem District, in between Old Quarter and French Quarter
  • Entrance Fee: Free, unless you visit Ngoc Son Temple for 20,000 VND/adult
  • How to get there: If you're staying at the Old Quarter or French Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake is just a few minutes stroll away. Read: Where to stay in Hanoi?

2. St. Joseph Cathedral
Soaring in Nha Tao street is St. Joseph Cathedral; a Neo-Gothic church built in the late 19th century by the French colonists. With the majestic facade and twin bell towers, it is a strong reminiscent of Notre-Dame de Paris.

  • Location: Hoan Kiem District, Nha Tao Street
  • Entrance Fee: Free, but entrance is only permitted during mass
  • How to get there: By foot, it is about 15 minutes walk, from Hoan Kiem Lake.

3. The Streets of Old Quarter
Old Quarter is an attraction on its own. It is bustling, captivating and very interesting. It is actually a narrow maze I wouldn't mind getting lost at. I was welcomed with surprises in every turn; a cute little cafe, a shop selling trinkets, a hole in a wall restaurant! The congested streets are lined with old colonial tube houses; some are budget hostels, most are residences. 

There are more than 70 streets in the Old Quarter. We noted the important ones based on our do-it-yourself walking tour itinerary:
  • Dong Xuan street  - where Dong Xuan night market is located
  • Ly Quoc Su - where we had the best pho in town
  • Nguyen Huu Huan - where we found the hidden Giang Cafe

4. Thang Long Water Puppet Theater
Water puppetry, a tradition which has existed for more than 1000 years, is best witnessed in Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. It is the only theater in Asia that performs water puppetry 365 days a year. The nightly performance showcases Vietnamese artistry, with segments highlighting the daily life of Vietnamese people and their historical legends.

The 1-hour show is unique and fun to watch. Ed and I giggled like little kids along with the rest of the audience. Somewhere in between the laughter, we wondered how it all works. The puppeteers took the center stage at the end of the show, but how they controlled the puppets still remains a mystery to us!

Water Puppet Show in Hanoi
  • Location: Hoan Kiem District, Dinh Tien Hoang street, near Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Ticket Price: 100,000 VND/adult

5. Tran Quoc Pagoda
Located in a small island in the West Lake is Hanoi's oldest Buddist Temple - Tran Quoc Pagoda. This place of worship is famous to tourists because of its intricate ancient design which harmoniously blends with the tranquil backdrop. Visitors can go inside the courtyard, but it is best viewed along the main road as you can see the reflection of its precious stupa on the lake.

Lady at Tran Quoc Pagoda
  • At the courtyard of Tran Quoc Pagoda 
  • Dress: Forever 21
Tran Quoc Pagoda Hanoi
  • Location: West Lake
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • How to get there: From Old Quarter, you can take a tuktuk, taxi or Uber. We took the latter because we felt it is safer and more convenient. (Uber Fare: 30,000 VND)

6. West Lake
Despite the hustle and bustle, Hanoi can also be a romantic destination. Ed and I ventured out to the West Lake in Tay Ho district one afternoon for a quiet downtime. The largest freshwater lake in the city provides a calm and refined breathing space as it is enclosed in an upscale suburb. We strolled along the lake shore and watched the sun dip below the horizon in Pan Pacific's Summit Lounge. 

  • At the Summit Lounge of Pan Pacific Hotel
West Lake view from Summit Lounge

  • Location: Tay Ho dictrict
  • Drinks and Snack Platter at Summit Lounge: 700,000+ VND
  • Uber fare to/from Old Quarter: 30,000 VND 

  • 7. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
    Situated in the center of Ba Dinh Square is a granite edifice housing the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. It stands as a memorial to the Vietnamese revolutionary leader and the country's independence. The embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh is persevered in the central hall of the building. Locals and tourists can visit the mausoleum for free, but strict regulations are implemented. 

    Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Hanoi
    • Location: Ba Dinh district
    • Entrance Fee: Free
    • Opening Hours: 8 AM to 11 AM, except Monday and Friday 
    • Visiting tips: Dress modestly; no tank tops and short skirts allowed. Taking photos is prohibited inside the mausoleum.
    • Uber fare from French Quarter: 40,000 VND

    8. One Pillar Pagoda
    One of the two iconic temples of Vietnam is the One Pillar Pagoda. The wooden Buddhist temple was built on top of a single stone pillar in the center of a lotus pond. It represents a lotus blossom; a Buddhist symbol of purity.

    One Pillar Pagoda
    • Location: Ba Dinh district, behind Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
    • Entrance Fee: Free
    • Opening Hours: 8 AM to 5 PM
    • Uber fare from French Quarter: 40,000 VND 

    9. The Streets of French Quarter
    Compared to the busy narrow streets of Old Quarter, the wide avenues of French Quarter is easier to navigate and more ideal for romantic strolls. The streets are lined with high-end shops and fancy hotels. The historic Trang Tien street is worth a visit; be it for luxury shopping, fine dining, or simply for a cheap treat of Kem Trang Tien ice cream!

    • Location: French Quarter, southeast of Hoan Kiem Lake
    • Kem Trang Tien ice cream price: 8,000 VND 

    10. Hanoi Opera House
    Hanoi Opera House is undoubtedly the centerpiece of Hanoi's French Quarter. It was built by the French colonists, resembling Opera Garnier de Paris, in 1901. The construction was completed in 1911. It is a grand remnant of the past which serves as a venue of world-class performances and art shows. 

    • Location: French Quarter, southeast of Hoan Kiem Lake
    • Entrance Fee: You need to book a seat for a performance to see the interior of the Opera.

    Have you been to Hanoi? Did I miss your favorite attraction? 
    Drop me a line in the comment section below.

    May 18, 2017

    Where to Stay in Hanoi: Old Quarter or French Quarter

    Do you agree that your hotel location can make or break your entire trip? I do! Hence, when we were planning for the trip to Hanoi, I contemplated long and hard before I made a decision. Vietnam's capital is compact, yet it is divided into areas which are quite far from being alike. 

    There are several districts in Hanoi, but I was particularly torn between staying in the Old Quarter or in the French Quarter. I always love to be where the action is, so Old Quarter was an initial choice. But then I hate crowded and chaotic areas! And that's why French Quarter came into the picture!

    It was a petty travel dilemma that lasted for a week and was only solved by booking a one night stay in both quarters! Crazy as it may sound, but it seemed doable to me. So the final decision was to spend the first night in Old Quarter, the second night in Halong Bay, and the third night in French Quarter. 

    With this, we got to experience the best (and the worst) of both worlds in Hanoi. And I am happy to share it here just in case you got caught in the same situation.

    Where to stay in Hanoi

    May 8, 2017

    Highlights of Halong Bay: What to Expect on an Overnight Cruise

    I'm into mystical and magical destinations! You know, those places that seem to come straight off the pages of fiction novels and fairytale books. So, when I saw photos of Halong Bay in Vietnam more than a decade ago, I had to jot it down in my seemingly unrealistic travel bucket list. 

    I thought seeing the mystic of Halong Bay before my very eyes will be nothing but a dream. But when our plan to spend 9 days in Indochina was slowly taking shape, I got clear signs that I could possibly make that dream happen!

    A lot of Halong Bay cruises offer 1-day, 2-day and 3-day trips with pick up in Hanoi - our pit stop in Vietnam. Hence, I thought, why not squeeze an overnight cruise while we are there!

    And so it happen!

    what to expect on an overnight Halong Bay cruise