Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sat April 09 2016

Opinion Home | Tales From the Leap

  • Shannon Wolf | April 9, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    Immersion in Hanoi’s Lovable Chaos

    Immersion in Hanoi’s Lovable Chaos

    PHOTO: The driving in Hanoi is absolutely crazy and unorganized, but it’s an adventure in itself. (photos by Shannon Wolf)

    It’s loud. It’s chaotic and a city that never sleeps. It’s a wild contradiction of new and old and it simply doesn’t make sense to me (which is why I find it so fascinating!)

    In Hanoi, chickens still run around the city streets, you’ll find yourself dodging traffic from all directions and you will never run out of something to see. 

    This bustling city is the capital of Vietnam and has a strong influence of French architecture. You will spend the majority of your time in the Old Quarter and once you get there, you’ll understand why.

    It’s a city that has everything you could ever want or need. The cost of living is incredibly low, full of incredible street food like pho and fresh spring rolls to egg coffee and beer hoi costing you less than 30 cents. You can wander for days in streets like a maze and people watch or shop for weeks.

    VIDEO: A trek through Hanoi, Vietnam

    It has something for everyone, is only a few hours away from Ninh Binh and the iconic Halong Bay, you can drink for free every night if you want and venture around the stunning West Lake.

    PHOTO: Walking along the Hoan Kiem Lake may be one of the most relaxing things you do all day in Hanoi.

    I have nothing but good things to say about this city that surprised me every day and because of this, its not hard for me to say I loved Hanoi more and more every day.

    Best Party Accommodation: Hanoi Rocks Hostel ($7 a night)
    This is the place to be for the start of your night out on the town and also a good place to stay. It has comfortable dorm rooms, free breakfast buffet, free beer every night from 6-7 along with a pool table and a lively atmosphere.

    Cheapest Accommodation: Hanoi Light Hostel ($5 a night)

    One of the cheapest hostels in Hanoi with friendly staff, nice, comfortable bunkbeds and great, hot showers, free breakfast of egg, bread and coffee or tea, but not a very lively atmosphere.

    Also Includes:

    • Lockers

    • Baggage storage

    • Free use of computer

    READ MORE: Transit in Vietnam: Tips and Advice

    Must Do’s:

    • Explore the city on foot. There are plenty of things to see and do. Enjoy getting constantly lost and seeing how the people in Hanoi live or take a free walking tour.

    • Go out for a night on the town. (Without breaking the bank!)

    • Head to happy hour at every hostel giving away free beer. First to Hanoi Rocks Hostel 6-7, then to Funky Jungle Hostel 8-9, stopping off across the street from Vietnam Backpackers Downtown Hostel for 5,000 dong beers and dance the night away at one of the many clubs in the Old Quarter.

    • There are so many incredible shops for Hanoi’s most famous noodle soup: Pho. Your taste-buds will skyrocket, leaving you asking “What the pho?!” The number one location is Pho Thin (13 Lo Duc).

    • Take a leisurely walk around Hoan Kiem Lake or West Lake enjoying a mint-lemon ice cream!

    • Rent a scooter and drive around the crazy, busy streets or on a day-trip to Ninh Binh!

    • Shop your heart out. There are plenty of North Face stores throughout the Old Quarter and although it’s all knock-off, the quality is there. You can barter a coat down to 280 dong!

    • Drink ALL the coffee. It is some of the best (and cheapest) coffee in the world. Hanoi’s Egg coffee is a must! Everyone goes to Cafe Giang, but the one from Hanoi Street Food Restaurant (7 Chao Gao) is far better.

    • Get some (one-sided) history at Hoa Lo Prison.

    • Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. 

    • Eat a snake heart or drink its blood at The Hung Snake Restaurant (No. 33 Le Mat, Viet Hung, Long Bien District).

    • Forego the tacky souvenirs and take home propaganda art pieces for reasonable prices.

    PHOTO: Wandering through the Old Quarter and sitting on little plastic stools enjoying a fresh beer hoi is the best way to end a day.

More Hanoi


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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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