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Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a fascinating blend of East and West, with Chinese influence from centuries of dominance, and French design from its colonial past. It is largely unspoiled by modern architecture of the 1970s and 80s, and is now going through a modernization that is making it a rising star in Southeast Asia.
[edit] Understand

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, and hosts many government institutions, museums and memorials. It retains much of its older colonial charm even though it was in conflicts during most of the worldwide modern architecture movement. For that reason, few buildings in the city center area are higher than five stories.

The Tourist Information Center - tel: (84-4) 926 3366 - on Dinh Tien Hoang, just north of Hoan Kiem Lake, can provide a fairly useful map (bewilderingly, the blow-up of the old town is missing making it useless in that part of town) and other English-language advice, as well as limited free Internet. They aren't completely without bias, however, and seem to support certain companies, for example An Phu Tour (bus company).
[edit] Get in
[edit] By plane

Departure tax

As of November 2006, international departure taxes should be included in the price of your ticket, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will be - check with the airline to be absolutely sure. If not, the tax (sometimes called "passenger service charge") is payable in US dollars (US$14) or in dong.

Most folks arrive at the Noi Bai International Airport, 35 km (45-60 minutes) north of the city. Several airlines run flights from Noi Bai, including:

* Vietnam Airlines - 25 Tràng Thi (corner of Quang Trung) tel: (84-4)9349660 fax: (84-4)9349620[1]. The primary national carrier.

* AirAsia (tel: +603 8660 4343) [2]. Low-cost airline with daily flights to Hanoi from both Bangkok in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

* Cathay Pacific [3]. Upscale airline with flights to Hong Kong.

* Hong Kong Airlines [4]. New carrier with daily flights to/from Hong Kong.

* Lao Airlines [5]. Small airline with 4 flights a week to/from Luang Prabang in Lao.

* Pacific Airlines (tel: 84-4 9550550) [6]. Newer, discount Vietnamese carrier.

* Tiger Airways (tel: 84-4 9454565) [7]. Low-cost airline with daily flights to/from Singapore.

[edit] From the airport

* Taxis to downtown Hanoi can be hired at Noi Bai. The driver may try to deliver you to a hotel of his choice so he can collect a commission, but if you are specific about your destination, they usually give in. Taxis from the city centre to Noi Bai Airport charge a fixed rate of about US$10.

* Public buses to the city center from Noi Bai airport charge 5000 dong and take about an hour. Bus #07 crosses the Thang Long bridge and goes to the Daewoo Hotel on the western part of Hanoi. Bus #17 crosses the Chuong Duong bridge and goes close to the old quarter.

* Shuttle-buses to the airport depart from opposite the Vietnam Airlines Office on Quang Trung (see below). Tickets cost ~US$2 and are sold in the building in front of which the minibuses park. From the airport, the fare is US$4.

[edit] By train

Trains arrive at the main Hanoi train station (Ga Hang Co, 120 Le Duan, tel: 825 3949) daily from cities in the south including Hue and Nha Trang. The Reunification Express goes all the way to Ho Chi Minh City, although there is very little 'express' about it.

There are train services to the north-west (including Lao Cai, from which you reach Sapa - the onward route to Kunming in China is no longer open). To board trains bound for these destinations, you have to enter the railway station compound through the "backdoor" at Tran Quy Cap station. Just tell your driver which destination your train is heading to.

However, tickets for all destinations are sold in the main station, though there are two counter halls, north and south, serving the respective destinations. Buy your tickets as early as possible, since especially sleeper-tickets can be sold out several days in advance. If you can't get a ticket anymore, try a travel-agent who still might have stocks. You may also try your luck in the station just before boarding time, agents still holding tickets will be eager to sell as the departure draws near.
[edit] By bus

Most of the "open-tour" bus itineraries either begin or end in Hanoi, with Hue the next (or previous) stop (12-14 hours, US$8-9), and from there to Hoi An, Nha Trang, Dalat, Mui Ne, Ho Chi Minh City, and other cities in Vietnam, depending on the bus company.

Many of the same companies also sell tickets to Vientiane and Savannakhet in Laos (US$16-18), but do some research before you buy a ticket - rattle-trap scam buses abound on this route.
[edit] Get around
Hanoi traffic and commerce
Hanoi traffic and commerce

Taxis are the best way to travel long distances, but the cyclos, or pedicabs, are a cheap and fun way to make shorter trips. Taxi fares are not always consistent, though. There are several different cab companies, and each has different starting fares and per kilometer rates. For lone travelers, rides on the back of motorbikes (actually low-powered scooters known as xe om) are popular too.

Some meter taxi owners in Hanoi will attempt to negotiate a flat fee in advance rather than use the meter. Unless you are familiar with distances and fares in the city, it is probably safer to insist on using the meter. If the driver refuses, turning around and walking away will almost certainly change his mind! Don't sweat it, it's all part of the expected negotiation protocol.

Motorbike drivers can be found on virtually every corner, especially in the Old Quarter. Even if it is not their usual job, a quick dollar can be made taking tourists around to and from the sights, so be expected to be offered a ride every half-block or so. Negotiate a fare in advance, and again, turn around and walk away if you don't like their offer. There are far more drivers than tourists, and they know it - your fare could be the only one they get all day. You might want to write down the negotiated fare to avoid confusion. Even if you do speak Vietnamese, a driver might pretend that you said 50,000 dong instead of 15,000! A typical 10 minute fare should cost no more than 15,000-20,000 dong. Many drivers will accept US dollars as well.

Motorcycles can be rented for around US$5-6 a day, and can be arranged by most hotels. This is good for making lots of trips around the city for individuals or duos, but be careful: Hanoi traffic is very difficult place to sharpen motorbike skills. Park on the sidewalk with other bikes, and be sure to lock the front wheel. Locals will help arrange the bikes near their stores.
[edit] See
[edit] Museums

* Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (Open mornings only, 8-11am; closed afternoons, Mondays, and Fridays. Admission free.) The city down south may have his name, but only Hanoi has the man himself, entombed in distinctly Lenin-esque fashion - against his wishes, but that's how it goes. No talking, short pants, or other signs of disrespect allowed while viewing; photos are allowed only from outside, in the grand Ba Dinh Square. Purses are allowed into the tomb, but expect them to be searched by several bored soldiers along the way. Left luggage is handled in a complicated scheme: there is an office near the street for large bags, with separate windows for Vietnamese and foreigners, and a further office for cameras, which will be transported to a third office right outside the exit of the mausoleum. Items checked in at the first office, however, will stay there. Note that the mausoleum is closed for a couple months around the end of the year, when the body is taken overseas for maintenance.

Gone bananas at the Ho Chi Minh Museum
Gone bananas at the Ho Chi Minh Museum

* Ho Chi Minh Museum (19 Ngoc Ha St., Ba Dinh, Hanoi; tel. +84-4 846-3572, fax +84-4 843-9837; Open 8-11:30am, 2-4pm, closed Monday and Friday afternoons. Admission 15,000 dong.) bthochiminh@hn.vnn.vn Right around the corner, this gleaming white museum and its gloriously ham-handed iconography are the perfect chaser to the solemnity of the mausoleum. The building, completed in 1990, is intended to evoke a white lotus. Some photos and old letters are on display on the second floor, but the main exhibition space is on the third floor. Guards won't allow photos of the giant bronze Ho Chi Minh statue at the top of the stairs, but tend not to care about photos of the rest of the exhibits, which include cars crashing through walls to represent the chaos of post-war American capitalism, soldiers charging around with electric plugs, and a cave hideout re-imagined as the inside of Ho Chi Minh's brain. Guides are available in English, French, Chinese and Russian, but don't bother; the displays are labeled in English and French, and it's hard to imagine the guides doing much other than belaboring the point.

* Ho Chi Minh's Vestige In The Presidential Palace Area (No.1 Bach Thao, Ba Dinh, Hanoi; tel. +84 08044529, fax +84 08043064. Open 7:30-11am, 2-4pm in the summer, and 8-11am, 1:30-4pm in the winter. Closed Monday and Friday afternoons. Admission 15,000 dong.) The exit from the mausoleum takes you right into the grounds of the, uh, vestige, where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954 until his death in 1969. The nicely landscaped complex includes two of Ho Chi Minh's houses, kept shiny and "as he left them" by the authorities, as well as a garage with two of Ho's cars and a carp-filled pond. The Presidential Palace is also nearby, but it's not always open to visitors. Pamphlets are available in English, Chinese, French, and Korean. Guided tours are usually available if you wait.

* One-Pillar Pagoda. Tucked away between the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum. Travelers find the One-Pillar Pagoda either charming and lovely or utterly pointless, depending on how many tour groups are crammed into the small grounds at the time of their visit. Either way, it's free.

* Fine Arts Museum (Bảo Tàng Mỹ Thuật), 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street.

* Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu) (On Quoc Tu Giam St., south of the Mausoleum. Admission 5,000 dong.) The Temple of Literature was founded in 1070 and established as the country's first university six years later. The courtyard features numerous stone tablets, each mounted on the back of a tortoise, with the names of graduates.

* Army Museum (Bảo Tàng Quân Đội), Dien Bien Phu Street. Vietnam's military history extends back some two millennia, and this museum covers it. On display outside are the ubiquitous MiG-21 jet fighter and T-54 tank.

* Air Force Museum (Bảo Tàng Không Quân), Truong Chinh Street (Southwest of center). There's a decent outdoor collection of Soviet-built MiG fighters, a huge Mi-6 helicopter, and other aircraft; unfortunately they've been exposed to the elements for some time and local kids climb over them.

[edit] Parks
Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

* Hoan Kiem Lake is a pleasant park in the center of town, within easy walking distance from anywhere in the Old Quarter. It's the locals' favorite leisure spot, and a great place to watch early-morning tai chi or sit and read in the afternoon. Hoan Kiem means "returned sword", and the name comes from a legend in which King Le Loi was given a magical sword by the gods, which he used to drive out the invading Chinese. Later, while boating on the lake, he encountered a giant turtle, who grabbed the sword and carried it down to the depths, returning it to the gods from whom it had come. (You can see a version of the legend at the Water Puppet Theater - see below.) The giant turtles reportedly still inhabit the lake, and were last seen in 2002.
o Ngoc Son Temple (admission 2,000 dong) extends out into the lake, with small but attractive grounds, displays on Vietnamese history and, more memorably, displays on the giant turtles, including a mummified specimen.

* Ho Tay, or "West Lake", is northwest of the city, and has become a popular site for gaudy villas owned by the well-to-do.

[edit] Wartime sites

* Hoa Lo Prison ("The Hanoi Hilton"), Hai Ba Trung Street. Originally built by the French and later used to hold captured U.S. airmen, little remains of the structure besides the "Maison Centrale" gate and a small museum. Most of it has made way for a new high-rise building, though it's not the new, real Hilton hotel - even for Vietnam that would be a bit too ironic.

* B-52 Lake. Until December 19, 1972, this was just a small brackish pond just off Hoang Hoa Tam Street, about 1 km west of the mausoleum. On that day, in a twisted retelling of the Hoan Kiem legend (see above), Vietnamese anti-aircraft guns (possibly with the help of flying turtles) retook the enemy's eight-engined, 100-ton sword and sent it, too, to the shallow bottom of the lake, where it remains today.

* Downed Aircraft Memorial. Along Thanh Nien Street on Truc Bach lake there is a stone plaque commemorating the shooting down of a U.S. Navy (not "USAF" as depicted) aircraft in 1967. Peruse the Vietnamese script and you can pick out the name of John McCain, one of the airmen.

[edit] Theatre

* Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (57 Dinh Tien Hoang St., across the street from the shores of the Hoan Kiem Lake; tel. +84-4-824-9494, fax +84.4.824-5117) [8]. A visit to the water puppet theater is a real highlight of a trip to Hanoi. Live musicians accompany folk legends from Vietnamese history, told with wooden men, women and dragons, dancing and splashing on the face of the water. The narratives are sung in Vietnamese, but a list of titles is available in several languages. Tickets are 20,000/40,000 dong. There are several performances throughout the day, but it's virtually impossible to buy tickets for the same day, and most performances for the following day will be sold out as well. Camera passes are an extra 15,000 dong, but whether you buy one or not is purely on the honor system. Don't worry about getting wet, but the seats are very small, and visitors with above-average height will have to squirm a bit.

[edit] Do

If you're the adventurous type or simply bored temporarily of the city atmosphere, then consider a cruise in the northern countryside. A round trip will bring you to a lot of charming villages and through hills and valleys with stunning nature. Main roads are generally in good condition and you can easily do a couple of hundred kilometers a day. The villages and provinces are generally safe at night, and you get to see a lot of Vietnamese culture such as various tribe folks. While bus services are in fact available (albeit not always reliable), a recommended alternative is to rent a bike or car and make the trip on your own. Motorbikes in decent quality can be rented for as little as US$5 a day, and many places have suggestions for routes.
[edit] Learn
[edit] Work
[edit] Buy

Hanoi is a shoppers paradise for silk, lacquerware, wood, custom tailoring and other Asian inspired design. The bargains are among the best in Asia. Artisans and craftsmen have set up shop in the Old Quarter for generations, and each street is named after the item traditionally sold there. Among the more interesting sights are the streets close to the lake full of nothing but stores overflowing with wave upon wave of white shoes, and a few shops offering to custom-carve black marble tombstones (complete with portrait) for anyone passing by.

In the quarter between Hoan Kiem Lake and the Cathedral, you'll find numerous shops with the same selection but of better quality. Vendors know that, so prices are higher than in the Old Quarter. Shops can sometimes arrange shipment to overseas destinations, and even with the added costs you'll still have a bargain.

There are two major shopping malls in Hanoi, Trang Tien Plaza and the new-built Vincom City Towers. Both are located in the Hoan Kiem District.
[edit] Eat

A local delicacy in the Hanoi area is dog meat (thịt chó), which is especially popular in the winter. There are a number of restaurants along the Red River that specialize in it. Another exotic regional taste is ca cuong, an extract from the belostomatid, or giant water bug. Just a few drops are added to noodles for the unique aroma.

On Tô Tich, a small street connecting Hang Quat and Hang Gai, you can help yourself to a refreshing fruit milkshake (sinh tố) at one of the stalls (~7000 dong).

You can also try BBQ pork (slice) in soup with vermicelli and lots of vegi at DAC KIM (24, Hang Ga, Hoen Kiem, Hanoi; open 8am-8pm). They serve spring rolls too.

[edit] Budget

Look to the Old Quarter for atmospheric street stalls and reasonably priced Western fare.

* Huy Café & Pizza Inn (32 Dinh Liet Street) offers a large Italian dinner combo (garlic bread, soup/salad, pizza/pasta, drink) for only 65,000 dong.

* Papa Joe's Coffee (112 Cau Go, tel. +84 926-2544; open 8am-11pm) Despite the name, this is actually a full-on restaurant, with pasta, soup, salads, sandwiches, and pretty good burgers (vegetarian included). Drinks and desserts are also on hand. Entrees are 45-65,000 dong. The best reason to eat here, though, is the view over the frantic traffic square and the shores of the Hoan Kiem Lake below.

[edit] Mid-range

* Cha Ca La Vong (14 Cha Ca Street, also 107 Nguyen Truong To Street) - this establishment is so famous, the street is named after it, instead of the other way around. There's only one dish on the menu, fried fish, but they've been serving it for five generations.

* Hapro, a Vietnamese vodka company, maintains two locations on the southwest corner of Hoan Kiem lake; the indoor location has free wi-fi Internet access.

* Little Hanoi - basically Western food with some Vietnamese food.

* Little Hanoi 2 is very good for Western breakfasts and sandwiches.

* Moka Café

* Tamarind Café (Ma May 80, Old Quarter; tel. +84 4 926-0580) [9] Has a menu full of inventive vegetarian dishes, lots of fresh juices, and a relaxed, stylish interior. Don't come here if you're ravenous and out to fill your belly, though, as the portions aren't very big, and it's a tad pricey.

* La Salsa (near the church in old town) - French food and ex-pat hang-out.

* Paris Deli (near St Joseph's Catheral)offers delicious Italian meal (pasta, pizza, bread, soup etc.)

[edit] Splurge

* The Press Club Restaurant

[edit] Drink

Bia Hơi is abundant in the streets of the Old Quarter. At the crossing of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen five separate venues fill up with travelers in the evenings, but you can get more local atmosphere on some of the side streets.

* Bar Barracuda, To 4A, Phuc Tan, (04)9323244 hanoi_barracuda@hotmail.com is reportedly the most fashionable ex-pat hang-out, with live music, a beer garden, sports bar and dancing area.

* Culi Café, 40 Lương Ngọc Quyến, (84-04)9262241 culicafe@wideeyedtours.com [10] - for the feeling you haven't left your hometown or just need a break from Bia Hoi, this Kiwi-run bar might be the answer. Air-con lounge upstairs, with wireless connections, sports occasionally screened in the bar downstairs. The same bar also runs a travel agency.

* Green Lake (Ho Guom Xanh) 32 Le Thai To, is a crowded bar with weekly performances by popular local singers. A place for the definitive Vietnamese entertainment scene.

* Le Maquis is a small bar on the norther end of Ta Hien. It's more like a loud rock music binge and smoke pub than a stylish lounge, but there's usually a happy crowd until late and the place has an authentic feel.

[edit] Sleep

Hanoi hotel scams

Although most of the hotels in Hanoi are helpful and trustworthy, there are still some scam artists around. Touts will try to lure you into a hotel. If you decide to go, be sure to have them pay the transport, and don't hesitate to leave if you do not like the place. Also, do not believe anybody other than the front desk clerk if they tell you that a certain hotel is "full". They'd rather take you to a place that pays them a commission. Any hotel will be keen to have you book a Ha Long Bay trip through them, but wait a day to judge the quality of service you're receiving there - that'll give you some idea of what kind of travel agency they intend to pass you off to.

Be aware that unscrupulous hotels will promise deals that are poorly explained until check-out - for example, "daily free water and fruit" that is only free on the first day. In the Old Quarter, Thien Tan Hotel, Old Street Hotel and Ocean Star Hotel indulge in this scam, so avoid them. If you've booked into a rotten hotel and you're planning to leave, don't be shy about taking photos of the minibar right before you leave, lest a few bottles go missing while the staff are "checking" your room. Also, ask explicitly whether tax is included in your room rate. Better hotels will include the tax, but scam-havens like the Old Street Hotel see it as an opportunity to squeeze an extra dollar or two out of you.

With the overwhelming amount of motorbike traffic and the common rule to honk a few times before even considering the brakes, it is wise to check your hotel room's location before taking it. Having a room on the street side means being exposed to the honking which doesn't end till 1 AM and starts again around 5 AM. If you go more upmarket, chances are there will be sound-proof glass, but it is still wise to check first.
[edit] Budget

The Old Quarter is littered with guesthouses and hostels catering for budget travelers.

* Real Darling Café Guesthouse, 33 Hang Quat, Old Quarter (2 minutes walk from the north side of Hoan Kiem Lake) tel: +84 4 826 9386 fax: +84 4 824 3468 darling_cafe@hotmail.com has basic but cheap rooms (US$6+, dorm beds US$3/night, long stayers can get lower rates) with fan, hot showers and optional air-con; there's a steep climb up to all the rooms. Helpful and friendly staff; the café on the ground floor does a good breakfast; they run a cheap and fair travel agency downstairs that doesn't try to rip you off; bicycles and motorbikes for rent. Keep an eye out for construction on Hang Quat (Fan Street), though.

* Wing Hotel, 23 Hang Non, Old Quarter, not far from Real Darling, the Wing Hotel has clean rooms, friendly and professional staff and a book exchange. Breakfast is available. Some rooms have balconies overlooking the street. A double can cost as low as 160,000 dong, although the standard price is 192,000.

* Thang Long Opera Hotels (formerly Thuy Tien Hotel) - only three minutes to Hanoi Opera House and five minutes walk from the Hoan Kiem Lake or Hanoi Old Quarter.

[edit] Mid-range

* Continental Hotel - 24, Hang Vai, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi [11] Boutique-style hotel, has clean and spacious rooms; Hotel staffs are courteous, friendly and warm. Walking distance to Hoan Kiem Late, easy access to restaurants and shops. (around US$24 for a single room, US$28 for twin sharing, incl bf and taxes)

* Green Park Hotel - overlooking the immense green of the biggest park of the city and along the vicinity of Thien Quang Lake. Its architectural design combines the 19th century French assembly with modern Vietnamese concepts.

* Hanoi Elegance Hotel, No 85 Ma May Str & No 8 Hang Bac Str., tel: +84 4 9263451, fax:+84 4 9263452, info@hanoielegancehotel.com [12] is in a street in the Old Quarter that thanks to a curb doesn't see as much through-traffic and thus is quieter than most. The newly built boutique hotel offers luxury accommodation in elegant settings with modern facilities & amenities served by professional staff. Rooms US$28-70 with TV, fan, air-con, hot shower, bathtub or Jacuzzi and optional breakfast. In-room computer with Internet access is free of charge. The friendly staff can help with arranging tours etc.

* Huyen Trang Hotel - one of the most beautiful 2 star hotels in the city, next to Hoan Kiem Lake.

* Majestic Salute Hotel - in the Old Quarter, a newly built boutique hotel with marvelous French architecture.

* Quoc Hoa Hotel - in the Old Quarter. Opened in 1991, and one of the first private boutique hotels in Hanoi.

* Sunshine Hotel, 42 Ma May Street [13] has clean rooms in the middle of the Old Quarter (around US$30 incl. taxes & breakfast)

* Sunny Hotel - enjoys views towards both the Old Citadel and the West Lake.

* Viet Anh Hotel, 11 Ma May St., Tel: +84-4 9261302, Fax: +84-4 9261306, [14]. A terrific hotel with friendly staff, reputable tours, and newly remodeled rooms, located on a shady, beautiful street in the Old Quarter. Internet and a good buffet breakfast (with chef on hand) are included in the room rate. Room rates can be negotiable depending on the season, with some as low as US$15, but official prices range from US$18 for a standard room to US$60 for a family suite.

* Zephyr Hotel - just a few steps from the famous Hoan Kiem Lake, and within walking distance of the Opera House.

[edit] Splurge

* Daewoo Hanoi Hotel

* Fortuna Hotel

* Guoman Hotel - on Ly Thuong Kiet Street.

* Hanoi Horison Hotel - opened in 1997.

* Hanoi Hotel - near the city centre and International Trade Exhibition Fair Centre.

* Hilton Hanoi - US$80-105

* Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel - adjacent to the Hanoi Opera House.

* Melia Hanoi Hotel - city centre, 5-star.

* Nikko Hanoi Hotel

* Sheraton Hanoi Hotel - on the shore of Hanoi's largest West lake, with lush gardens, sweeping lawns and tranquil courtyards.

* Sofitel Hanoi - 15 Ngo Quyen Street (between the lake and the Opera) [15] US$169-390

* Sofitel Metropole Hanoi Hotel - within walking distance of the Hanoi Opera House, Hoan Kiem Lake, etc.

* Sofitel Plaza Hotel (formerly Meritus West Lake) - renowned as the most scenic hotel in Ha Noi with a zig zag facade and stepped architecture.

* Sunway Hotel - boutique style, 143 rooms

[edit] Contact

There are hordes of internet cafés all over the city. Most are full of Vietnamese teens playing online dance or battle games, but if you want to be the one square who's using the internet for text, well, that's up to you. Rates vary, but can be as low as 3000 dong/hour. Some of the better cafés, particularly in the Old Quarter, have computers that are Skype-capable for international phone calls.
Monks crossing the street
Monks crossing the street
[edit] Stay safe

Like everywhere else in Vietnam, traffic in Hanoi is dominated by an incredible amount of motorbikes, all of which seem to be making a mad, desperate dash for something just out of reach — all of the time. In other words, pedestrian traffic can be overwhelming for visitors, especially in the narrow streets around the Old Quarter. When you leave the curb, look both ways, and take each step slowly and patiently while trying to make eye contact with any oncoming drivers. The key word here is slowly — don't rush. This way the drivers are aware of you, and can take you into account (along with all of the other motorbikes). Be patient and pay attention when you're crossing any street, large or small, and you should be fine.
[edit] Get out

* The Perfume Pagoda is a Buddhist pilgrimage site about 60 km southwest of Hanoi. A full-day excursion involves a boat trip, hiking up a mountain, and visiting various temples and grottoes.

* Cao Bang, featuring the beautiful Ban Gioc waterfall, is five hours away by bus, near the Chinese border.

* The Cuc Phuong National Park is the largest national park in Vietnam, and an easy day-trip from Hanoi.

* Staying overnight in a boat on the breath-taking Ha Long Bay (or in a hotel on Cat Ba Island) is the most popular side-trip from Hanoi.

* The northern village of Sapa, home to ethnic minorities and gorgeous mountain scenery, is also a popular two or three day trip.

permalink written by  garisti on June 1, 2008 from Hanoi, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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