5 Free Things to Do in Hanoi, Vietnam

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

With Vietnam's economy growing, the City of Hanoi is becoming more and more popular to travelers, especially to Westerners, but that doesn't mean everything in Hanoi is expensive. On the contrary, the reason why I think tourists love Vietnam (me included) is that it's a budget friendly destination.

I amassed a few tips to pass along to you during my three-day solo travel to Hanoi, which I will continue to share to you in future posts. In the meantime, here's a list of 5 things to do in Hanoi without shelling out a dime.

1. Kill nothing but time in Hoan Kiem Lake.
Spare time in Hanoi need not be boring. Head out to Hoan Kiem Lake, where you can sit and relax and take in the serenity of the lake. At the north side of the lake lies the Ngoc Son Temple, which is a place of worship in honor of Saint Van Suong and Tran Hung Dao.

In the middle of the lake is the Tháp Rùa Tower, or commonly called as Tortoise/Turtle Tower. Legend has it that a golden turtle with a magical sword once lived in this lake. Come in the evening if you want to see these two structures light up the lake.

2. Take a stroll at Hanoi's Old Quarter.
Hanoi is probably the only place I've been to where it has a city within a city. The modern city of Hanoi hides an old neighborhood called the Old Quarter, which consists of 36 streets that date back in the 15th century, forming an intricate web of roads and passageways.

Get lost within the Old Quarter area and see why each road is named after a primary good or service.

While you're here, visit Pho 10 located at the corner of Ly Quoc Su and Chan Cam streets for the best pho.

3. Pagoda/Temple Hopping, anyone?
A trip to Asia wouldn't be complete without going to a local temple/pagoda. With Hanoi's 50 temples and pagodas scattered all over the city, you can't miss bumping into one. Note that most, if not all, of the temples charge visitors with a fee to get inside (usually 20,000 VND) but admiring the architecture from the outside is absolutely free. Just be sure you dress appropriately and don't act like a douche.

Recommended temples/pagodas: Trấn Quốc Pagoda in West Lake, Temple of Literature, and the Ngoc Son Temple in Hoan Kiem Lake.

4. Go people-watching at the Hoan Kiem Lake Fountain.
If you love to watch people (and by that I mean avoiding being creepy at the same time), visit the Hoan Kiem Lake Fountain located at the north side of the lake, near the City View Cafe building. Motorists and passersby swarm this side of the city every day. It's also a good place to meet local people since some of the hang out in the fountain area, too. Remember to smile and greet them, xin chào (seen chow).

5. Hike. See. Hike. See.
The best way to explore the charming city of Hanoi is by foot and you can do this all by yourself in 2 full days—one day for the Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter area all the way to the Long Bien Bridge and another going north west to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the West Lake area. Everything in between is an adventure so enjoy!

Vietnam, located in the easternmost portion of the Indochina Peninsula, is home to 90 million people with Hanoi as its capital. In this series, I'll show you what transpired during my solo backpacking trip to the charming city of Hanoi last November 2013. 


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