While bigger and brasher Saigon shamelessly flashes her assets, Hanoi’s blend of coffee house culture, socialist art, Confucian values, Buddhist temples, French colonial architecture and tiny atmospheric streets romances and enchants, though it’s not the quiet, tranquil capital of yore. Oh, and you’ll want to watch those motorbikes.
Taking Hoan Kiem Lake as the centre, the French Quarter lies to the south and south east, north is the bustling Old Quarter, resi nabe Tay Ho flanks West Lake to the north west, and west is Ba Dinh, home to Uncle Ho. Off with you...
Oct-Nov is cool and dry and the best time to visit; Dec-Feb can be chilly; Feb-Apr drizzly rain; MaySep hot and humid Tet (Lunar New Year) is mid-Jan to mid-Feb. Most shops close, but the lead up to it is colourful Noi Bai International Airport to town: 45 mins-1 hr / VND320,000 to 350,000 depending on the vehicle Have your hotel’s business card on you at all times as most cabbies don’t speak English, and get your concierge to write addresses down in Vietnamese Road safety and traffic law – dream on Crossing the road – step out like Moses, and behold, the red moped sea will part before thee. Tarry not at the curb, lest thou grow old and incontinent Have lots of small dong for taxis/bikes Dollar versus dong, it’s all money, honey US$1 is approx. VND21,000. You may be approached by black market money changers – buyer beware Quickest way around town is by motorcycle, pay around VND20,000 per trip, depending on distance. Pop a helmet on – it’s the law! Slowest way round town is by two-seater cyclo, nice for a natter, pay around VND90,000/US$4-5 per hour Food, service and hospitality can be inconsistent, but they are improving, so be patient, Patty Bear in mind that real antiques can be difficult to export – you’ll need all the proper paperwork Beware of light-fingered rogues, especially around New Year – keep your hand on your dong Hawkers. Ignore them completely. One syllable from you will unleash a discourse on why you must buy Most places open for lunch and dinner daily, or all day, but hours can change without notice, can be quiet weekdays, and kitchens tend to close early International code for Hanoi is +84 4. Once there, dial 04 for local and 00 for international Police 113, Ambulance 115, but note very limited English is spoken, if at all
The following Vietnamese phrases will come in handy...
Chow chee (to gals) / Chow anh (to guys): Hello / Ta-ta Cam on chee / Cam on anh: Thanking you kindly Oi zoi oi! : Oh my gawd!
...’kay let’s party