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If you are looking for an exotic adventure and love the idea of learning about a different culture, then welcome to the very busy, friendly city of Hanoi. The heat and humidity will be your constant companion during your visit to Vietnam’s capital city. You’ll also need to take some time to get used to the constant traffic jams that clog the streets, and the high-risk antics of motorcyclists.
Hanoi takes some getting used to, but the locals will help. It’s a cultural norm to talk to strangers, so expect to get lots of friendly greetings and questions. The city offers many fascinating activities, depending on your personal tastes. History buffs have over a dozen major museums to choose from, including the Museum of Vietnamese Revolution. If you’re feeling brave, put on respectful clothing (no bare shoulders or shorts above the knee) and take a tour of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where one of Vietnam’s most famous leaders is entombed on public display.
If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, take a tour of one of the city’s famous temples, including the Bach Ma Temple, or spend time at Hoan Kiem Lake and watch the locals practice tai chi in the mornings. Hanoi includes over a dozen lakes, many surrounded by peaceful parks. They offer a good refuge when the popular tourist spots get too crowded.
Of course, just being in Vietnam is its own adventure. You could spend days in Old Quarter, slurping up a delicious bowl of pho (a simple dish of rice noodle soup) from a sidewalk vendor or gulping some bai hoi (fresh beer) at night. Many open-air markets give you a chance to work on your haggling skills. Just be aware that a city ordinance forces everyone to close up shop at midnight, so start your nightlife activities early.
Hanoi is a backpacker’s dream come true. The city includes many well-known hostels and cheap motels, some that are famous for hosting epic parties. Families and travellers looking for a little more comfort can find a variety of mid-range boutique hotel in Hanoi. There are also plenty of Hanoi luxury hotels for those with deeper pockets. Whatever type of accommodation you prefer, you can find it.
Most international travellers reach this capital through Noi Bai International Airport, located 35 km north of the city centre. Once you’ve landed, you can grab a taxi outside the airport or, if you don’t mind walking a bit, make it to a shuttle or public bus to head to one of the Hanoi hotels. The constant traffic jams and aggressive drivers, motorcyclists, and pedestrians make driving on your own a somewhat scary and risky prospect. You may be better off forgoing a rental car and hopping into a taxi, a pedicab, or on the back of the omnipresent xe om (low-powered motorbike) to get to different destination.
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