Exploring Hanoi, Vietnam: Hidden gems, secret spots

Hanoi, Vietnam is an uncommon travel destination for many Filipinos, with Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) being the more popular destination for most. Most of us might assume that Saigon is the capital, when in fact, it's actually Hanoi. 

This city’s got this Old-World, laid-back charm and was branded as the little Paris of the East (Ho Chi Minh City is the modern pulse of the country). It is also known as the gateway to Ha Long Bay, but what you’ll really like in Hanoi is the city itself.

It's full of romantic, poetic places – if there's such a thing. The locals always seem to put poise into things – nooks and crannies of a humble café located at a crumbling French colonial building are typically decorated with fresh roses in vases, and undisturbed locals drinking lotus tea in the afternoon pepper the sidewalks amid the traffic rush. There’s almost a feeling of contentment and solace in most of these places despite the chaos in the city.

These simple things are what make Hanoi charming. 

Forget the usual touristy haunts – the Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, or even Ha Long Bay. Enter the quiet and relaxing side of Hanoi and explore relaxing cafes, peaceful spots, and hidden gems which will lead you back to its old-fashioned allure.

Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler

Here is a sample itinerary together with some guides and tips for when you visit Hanoi. This was also inspired by a question randomly asked by a friend who's planning on going on a solo trip, but couldn't decide whether to see Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) or Hanoi. Hopefully, this guide will help you decide in choosing if Hanoi is the best fit for your travel preference.

The goal of this trip is mostly to explore Hanoi’s quiet spots and quaint cafes, and photowalk at the Old Quarter.

Upon arrival at Noi Bai international Airport Terminal 2 at 12 midnight (I flew in via Cebu Pacific), the first few things you should do:

Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler

Tips when sleeping at Noi Bai airport Terminal 2:

Photo by Jan Ricasio/Rappler

How to go to Old Quarter from the airport via public bus. Just outside the Arrivals entrance doors is public bus #86 (color orange), which drops you off at the city center.

Bus # 86 stops nearest to Old Quarter:

Other tips: If you have heavy luggage or are with a group, it’s better to get a taxi. Alighting from Long Bien station still requires a 20-30 minute walk going to Hoan Kiem Lake area, so it’s not a recommended stop and you’ll be dropped off at a bus stop located along a busy road with lots of tours. It's better to alight at 142 Tran Quang Khai or Hanoi Opera House which seems to be nearer Old Quarter.

Day 1

What to eat:

Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler
Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler
Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler

Day 2

Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler
Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler
Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler

What to eat:

 Day 3

Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler
Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler
Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler

What to drink:

Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler

Day 4

Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler

Despite the confusing buzz from countless motorbikes, at almost every corner there is grace and stillness in Hanoi. The locals sure know how to make use of every inch of space in Vietnam, and they don’t get so stressed about it!

Photos by Jan Ricasio/Rappler

Life goes on, the traffic flows, another ca phe pours. This capital is indeed a welcome relief from our stressful daily grinds. – Rappler.com

If you have other questions when traveling in Hanoi, feel free to send a message via Instagram (username: @janricasio).

Book a visit to these hidden gems with this Cebu Pacific promo code.