Our last day in Hanoi!
The weather was still gloomy at that point, but the cold weather was such a blessing because we just walked all over the city that day.
Our itinerary was pretty simple:
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- Temple of Literature
- Hoa Lo Prison
- A water puppet show
- And maybe egg coffee on our way back
Culture Day, basically.
I didn’t expect Hanoi to be so walker-friendly. We just followed a map we got from the hotel. We loved that thing so much. Here’s a scan because we like to share:
The realisation that the Mekong River and the Cu Chi tunnels weren’t in Hanoi only came to me after we had booked and paid for our plane tickets. I was a little bummed about that, but Hanoi offered something equally meaningful instead.
Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Coron lookalike, is a mere three-hour bus ride from Hanoi. Sweet.
“Night life or chill?”
That was the question we asked ourselves when we had to choose between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi when Cebu Pacific held a seat sale over a year ago. To take on the night in a bustling, electric city or leisurely walk about like the lolas we truly are—there really was no contest. Hanoi won by a mile and a cane shake at a bunch of young’uns.
Most seats on sale are on flights that depart and arrive at ungodly hours. That’s what we get for being cheapskates. They’re the kind of seats that require planning weeks prior to the trip, arranging airport transfers, and eschewing the #YOLO attitude a young traveler like myself would oftentimes adopt in the face of adventure.
We arrived at Hanoi at 2:00am. Our hotel, Tu Linh Palace 2, had arranged a $15 airport transfer for us and let us hang out in their “relaxing room” (the staff room) until we could check-in…at 10:30am. Eight and a half hours later. It was going to be a long night.
The relaxing room wasn’t much. A couple of hard couches and a mysterious pile of luggage in the corner. We watched the first few episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (whose opening theme would haunt us for the rest of the trip) until the hotel and the city started to come alive around 6:00am. We decided we would catch the sunrise from Hoan Kiem Lake, which was thankfully a few streets away from our hotel.
Hoan Kiem Lake, meaning Lake of the Returned Sword, is right in the center of Hanoi. It serves as a focal point for the city’s public life.
Our research told us March is the perfect time to visit Hanoi because the season was transitioning from winter to spring. We packed for warmer weather, but when we got to the city, we were looking at temperatures of 20 degrees and lower.
“I packed shorts.”
“Uh. Me, too.”