It's been a few years since visiting anywhere in Asia, so a trip to North and Central Vietnam to escape Melbourne Winter this year was an absolute delight.
There's so much to Hanoi, the historic major hub of the North - I can't wait to go back to this colourful city to explore more.
We spent an overwhelmingly large amount of time on this trip walking the streets of the Old Quarter amongst the motorbikes, street food vendors and French colonial architecture in search of the best Banh Mi in the city. Mission accomplished.
Landing into Hanoi at the end of May was a hot and sweaty time to be here. Like *next level* sweaty. Temps in the high 30s and super high humidity meant planning our days around hitting the streets early in the morning for sight seeing, back to the hotel after lunch for the hottest part of the day while restaurants and street vendors closed up for an afternoon nap. Then heading out again as the streets came back to life in the cool of the evening.
Things to see in Hanoi
There's plenty of shopping, photography, galleries, historical and religious sites to choose to explore depending on your interests.
The Tran Quaq Pagoda - for a wander around one of the oldest temples in Hanoi and a few lessons in karma.
The Temple of Literature - for a history lesson in Vietnam's spirituality, tranquil gardens and grounds.
We caught the Hanoi Photo Biennale 2023 while we were here for a dose of street photography. There's lots of photography exhibitions and local artist's galleries worth looking up while you're here.
Rush hour at the end of the day in the Old Quarter is an experience in itself - the motorbikes, rickshaws, street vendors and cars all swarming the roads at the same time. Wild!
Note: We avoided the famous Train Street - we'd heard that local authorities had recently taken cafe licences away from local traders due to the influx of tourists and influencers piling onto the tracks for photos of the train speeding past. A shame... an example of the effects of over tourism and Instagram fulled travel in play.
Shopping in Hanoi
The Old Quarter weekend night market is a 3km stretch of street vendors - great for a wander around after dinner if you're in town on a Friday or Saturday night.
Sapa Shop on Hang Gai Street - For traditional handcrafts from Sapa, beautiful indigo dyed fabrics and embroidered treasures from the hill tribes.
The local street vendors and road side stalls are where all the shopping is at in Hanoi Old Quarter. Ladies riding their bicycles around loaded up with everything from flowers to feather dusters.
Where to eat in Hanoi
Hunting down the best of Hanoi's street food was our number 1 priority on this trip! And we did it well...
Hard to get a bad Banh Mi in Hanoi - everyone's favourite loaded baguette.
Some to try - Bánh My P, Banh Mi 25, Bánh My Thùy or Banh Mi Hoi An
For my favourite of the Hanoi street food offering - Bun Cha, grilled pork in a salty sweet broth served with fresh spring rolls and loads of herbs:
Bún Cha Hàng Quat - hidden down an ally way, smoke billowing out from the ladies cooking sticks of pork over coals. Like eating lunch in your aunty's living room courtyard.
Bún Cha Dac Kim - my favourite! For street side Bun Cha with fresh spring rolls sizzling away in the background.
For a bowl of Pho - the famous aromatic beef noodle soup loaded with herbs:
Pho 10 - a shared table at one of the more famous of the Hanoi pho joints didn't disappoint
Pho Gia Truyen Bat Dan - for something a little quieter and more local experience, has been serving traditional beef pho for the last 100 years or so from their small street side restaurant.
And for something special - on our last night in Hanoi. A splash out at Chapter Dining and Grill. A journey through regional Vietnam with their degustation tasting menu and paired wine list was an absolute treat.
Where to drink in Hanoi
After dark all the action is on Beer Street. Grab a plastic stool, order a plate of fast snacks and a fresh Bia Hoi and watch the crowds go by while the thumping music from the clubs builds throughout the night.
Ha Noi House - a newly opened locally owned bar serving innovative cocktails in a heritage building over looking the cathedral.
There's a cool little craft brewing scene in Hanoi. The Pasteur Street Brewing Co is located near the cathedral on a cute little heritage street with fashion boutiques and skate shop. A great stop for a cold one in between the sights.
Bia Hoi Ngoc Linh - drop in for a street side traditional Bia Hoi at this traditional drinking hall on little plastic stools and check out the recently erected shrine to prime minister Anthony Albanese's visit last year.
Where to stay in Hanoi
We stayed at the Solaria Hotel - A boutique hotel with sky bar and a great view over the city in a central location in the Old Quarter easy walking distance to everything.
Our final night was at May De Ville Hotel - right in the centre of the area with all the night time action with roof top pool great for a sunset swim with a view.