Hanoi! The capital of Vietnam, where you can find centuries old architecture and a rich culture with a hint of French influence. This was one of those trips where I tagged along on my husband’s work trip and had a weekend getaway. No better way to travel right?
Hanoi has a pretty interesting past with it being over 1,000 years old. Originally it was the political center of the country then later became the administrative center of French Indochina. After Japanese occupation Hanoi became the capital of Vietnam.
There are loads of things to do in Hanoi. One of the most popular things to do is a boat trip out to Ha long Bay. It can be a day trip or an overnight trip and will cost somewhere between $89 to $129USD. The best thing is to have your hotel book it for you so if you have dietary restrictions (like halal or veg) they can inform the tour group. Aside from food the price also includes the bus transfer to and from the hotel. Let me tell you these buses are swankyyyyy, and they need to be as the bus ride to Ha long Bay is about 4 hours. Also included is kayaking and the overnight trip includes some hiking and cave exploring. We decided on going to Lan Ha Bay. It’s only a two hour drive from Hanoi and less touristy. Check out some photos below!
Now on to food. Hanoi doesn’t have many options for halal food compared to Ho Chi Minh. But it does have a great vegetarian/vegan scene, so there is always something to eat. So in terms of halal food there are about 8 restaurants, with only one serving a few Vietnamese dishes. You can read about all of them here! So the restaurant we ended up going to was obviously the one that was going to have Vietnamese food, which was d’Lions Restaurant. Its actually a Singaporean/Malay restaurant located in a hotel. I opted for the beef pho and the hubby got chicken clay pot rice. Both dishes were really tasty and the portions were quite decent. The nice thing is if you don’t want to leave your hotel you can always call for delivery too. Check out their FB page for more info.
Aside from trying out d’Lions we also went to a vegan/vegetarian restaurant called Uu Dam Chay. When you see this place from the outside you definitely don’t except the extraordinary interior. I really wish I had gotten some proper pictures, but we were so hungry after museum hopping I only used my phone for food . So please excuse the subpar quality.
Their menu is full of popular Vietnamese cuisine from around the country as well as a few Pan-Asian dishes. We ordered four dishes to share; Fried Rice with Macadamia, Pine Nut Soup, Stir Fried Lotus Root, and Lien Hoa Tofu.
Fried Rice with Macadamia was our first dish and it was amazing. It came out in a half of a hollowed out pineapple which some of was added to the rice. Man the flavours in this dish were great and it was my first time having pineapple in food. It added a nice sweetness and the macadamia provided a great crunch.
Next up was the Pine Nut Soup. Pine nuts are really tasty and a bit expensive, so to find them as a soup was such a treat. The soup was so smooth and full of flavor. The best part was that is was served in a mini bread bowl. It was like a little bit of heaven on Earth. This dish was my number 1. If I had known it was going to be such a small proportion I would have definitely ordered two!
The dish that came after was the Stir Fried Lotus Root. This was really scrumptious and had a crunchy bite. The Lotus root is actually the tuber of the Lotus flower and is ridiculously good for the body.
The last dish was the Lien Hoa Tofu. The tofu has a panko crust and garnished with ginger, lemongrass and chili. It also comes with a chili soy dipping sauce. I’m not a fan of lemongrass but it was so subtle and worked well with the ginger.
Make sure Uu Dam Chay is on your list of restaurants when heading to Hanoi. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Check out their website here.
Now moving on from food. Aside from the day boat trip there are a variety of things to do in Hanoi. On the weekend there is a night market in the Old Quarter where you can buy a variety of shoes, clothes and some handmade knick-knacks. There’s also a few temples. The Temple of Literature was originally university dedicated to Confucius built in 1070. Its a beautiful place comprised of 5 courtyards where one can learn all about the first university of Vietnam and learn a bit about Confucius. If you’re lucky you might even see some ceremonies or student’s praying for success before they take their university exams.
The Temple is open from 7:30 am to 5:30pm from April to October and 8am to 5 pm from mid-October to mid April. The ticket fee is 30,000 VND which is about $1.29USD.
If you’re an art lover then I would recommend going to the Fine Arts Museum, which is right behind the Temple of Literature. It has a vast collection of post-war art and some per-historic art as well. Tickets cost 20,000 VND (around $1USD).
There are loads of other things to see in Hanoi we just didn’t get time! Here’s a good list of things to see there 🙂
In terms of hotels I would recommend La Siesta Hotel, they have three boutique hotels in Hanoi. We stayed at La Siesta Hotel & Spa and it was amazing. The service quality is above par and the staff remembered that our diet was veg/halal based. If you’re up for spending a lot more there is the Sofitel Legend Hotel. Which is one of the oldest hotels in Asia. It’s the place all celebrities and politicians stay when they go to Hanoi. They have a tour to talk about the hotel during the war and you get to see the bomb shelter. It was quite amazing to learn about the history and our tour guide was lots of fun.
I would definitely go back to Hanoi, aside from the fact that its really budget friendly its such a serene city with much to see.
Make sure you let me know if you end up going!