Thailand has been our home for the last three years. The month of April marks the beginning of dry spells and the much anticipated scorching heat in Thailand. Fuelled by our love for Vietnamese food, rich culture, historical background and add April's cold crisp air to the mix, Hanoi makes for an ideal 4 -day family vacation. With luggages packed, we hopped on to the next flight available to one of Asia's oldest ancient capital with our two very young children, an 8 year old and a 5 year old.
Hanoi Walking Food Tour
Delectable Culinary Adventure
Like anywhere else in the world, food is closely intertwined with its people, history and culture. Appreciation for Vietnam's food culture gives you unprecedented access to its origins and historical influence. With that in mind and to make the best out of our 4-day trip, we embarked on a memorable and delectable culinary adventure with Ha Food Tours.
Led by a young and knowledgable local food guide, the walking tour brought us to 8 different local stalls. We sampled 8 different local authentic dishes in 3 hours at the 1000 year old Old Quarter. The walking tour was definitely no mean feat particularly so with two kids in toll. The food was so good that it pleased even the most discerning palates.
Getting through the frenetic traffic to reach the food stalls was unimaginable at first but we eventually mastered the locals' fine art of zipping streets after streets. With every successful attempts, we got more confident navigating and negotiating the corners.
Walk The Streets
Taking In The Aura Of Hanoi's yesteryears
On our second day in Hanoi, we were ready to take on the streets on our own. A walk in the old quarter is like walking down memory lanes brimming with character and historical past. Scenes like old style nostalgic coffee shops, street barbers, traditional food stalls, hardware stalls, food pedlars balancing their goods over their shoulders on bamboo poles and houses inherited from pre-war periods are some of the common sights at the old quarters. Bustling and nostalgic, the old quarter is a great place to start and to soak up the aura of Hanoi's yesteryears. One of the things we particularly enjoy doing was doing what the locals enjoy doing - Take small breaks sitting on low stools, savouring an aromatic brew from the local coffee joints dotted along the streets.
From the old quarter, we moved on to the French quarter. It felt like leaving the city's old world charm to a modernised era but with prominent French influence permeating its streets and architectures. The french quarter is the cultural and historical heartbeat of Hanoi. At the heart of this cultural epic-centre, you will see Vietnam's largest theatre, the Hanoi Grand Opera House which houses several of the country's home grown performance artistes and other performance arts and cultural shows of international stature. The building is a beautiful neo-classical architecture completed with colonial style domes and pillars inherited from the French after post war years since the 1900s.
Lang Toi was one of the performance at the Opera House we managed to catch during our stay. Staging the traditional life of village life in Vietnam's early days, the show was a pure theatrical delight with breathtaking acrobatic stunts, interspersed with the amazing rendering of bamboos through contemporary dance and exotic musical instruments, Within the vicinity, it is easy to find your way around luxury hotels, retail malls, upscale restaurants, museums and art galleries.
An hour's tour at the Maison Centrale, also known as the Hoa Lon Prison allows you to catch a glimpse of political prisoners' life in Vietnam's war torn days. The settings are solely informative and does not include graphic presentations and is definitely suited for families hoping to take a quick tour on Vietnam's historical past.
Leaving Hanoi Behind For UNESCO Natural Wonders - Halong Bay
Hanoi can get overwhelming after a while. Three hours drive from the Hanoi city sits two UNESCO natural wonders. A trip to the northern region of Vietnam feels incomplete without a visit to Halong Bay and Tam Coc Ninh Binh.
At Halong Bay, we sailed through towering limestone karsts in the thousands left by the legacy of a million years of downpour and wind erosion. As we marvelled at this picturesque sight from the sun deck, our vessel pierced through what seemingly looked liked mist shrouded clouds right in front of us. Our sail gently gliding on a body of emerald waters over a backdrop of exuberant foliage The private 4-hour 2 way cruise, inclusive of a Vietnamese style lunch left us in awe. For longer trips, overnight cruise options are also available to explore off the beaten tracks and remote fishing villages further away from the bay,
Basking In A Sea Of Green And Ending With A Local Farm House Food Fiesta - Tam Coc
We started our Tam Coc exploration with a 2 hour morning biking trip. It was a memorable and delightful experience with our private guide from Handspan Adventure.
We biked through quaint quiet villages, farms and temples in cool temperatures on slightly bumpy roads while not forgetting to take in the magnificent sights all around.
Half-way through the biking trip, We met and interacted with a local farmer. She showed us the local way of baiting and fishing shrimps using rice as a food bait and a fishing net. We spent the next half hour or so happily tossing the nets and harvesting shrimps on our own.
When we finished the last leg of the biking trip, we moved on to explore Tam Coc by boat. In an old sampan, the local boat lady manoeuvred the oars skilfully with her feet for the next 2 hours. We drifted through the slow meandering river surrounded by vast stretches of paddy fields, limestone karsts and low lying grottoes. The boat ride sailing through an old kingdom amidst a vast sea of green felt surreal. We ended our day trip to Tam Coc at a local traditional farmhouse where we were served up a galore of local cuisine for lunch. We got to savour the shrimps that we baited and harvested this morning during our biking trip. The experience at Tam Coc was one of the most delightful highlights for our children.
Hanoi is a city that never stops but at the same time most things here are pretty much preserved and seemingly kept in a time capsule. It's contradiction, charm and beauty will keep us coming back for more. In just 4 days, we were also pleasantly surprised with how much Hanoi and the norther part of Vietnam has to offer to families who are seeking out a balanced mix of authentic adventure, food and entertainment.
Where To Stay In Hanoi? Check out our personal experience with Siesta Trendy