Hanoi is undoubtedly the cultural venue where a lot of ancient vestiges have been surviving against the ravage of wars and the harshness of the time. Once arriving in Hanoi, travelers may be confused by the diversity of the city’s monuments and may wonder “what are the must-see-and-do in Hanoi in 1 day”? The following suggested itinerary will help you not miss some of Hanoi highlights.
AM: The quiet Hanoi.
6.30: Get up early to feel the fresh morning of Hanoi, and head first to the West Lake to have some delicate breakfast at a lakeside floating restaurant or lake view café. This is the largest lake in the northwest center of Hanoi with a perimeter of 17 km, also an oxbow lake created from a curved part of the huge Red River. Sitting here, a vast pure world over the surface of the evergreen river is open wide to all ends to serve your eyes. If you stay just nearby, it’s a big luck for you to easily get out of your bed early at the best time of 5.30 to best feel and breath in the clean and cool air from the lake.
The unique One-Pillar Pagoda, a wooden structure built in 1049, sits on stilts over a lake. A king of the Ly Dynasty, Ly Thai Tong King had it built after having a dream in which Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the Goddess of Mercy, presented him with a lotus flower. The existing pagoda is a miniature reproduction of the original, which was said to represent a lotus emerging from the water. It is certainly interesting, and a prayer here is said to bring fertility and good health. It’s best to wear something full-length (skirt or trousers), not shorts.
Next stop would be Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum close by. A time in the morning is the best time to visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum as it is only open then. Join the crowd of visitors to queue up in quietness to get inside. In an imposing, somber, granite-and-concrete structure modeled on Lenin’s tomb, President Ho Chi Minh lies in state, embalmed and dressed in his favored khaki suit. He asked to be cremated, but his wish was not heeded. A respectful demeanor is required, and the dress code mandates no shorts or sleeveless shirts.
You still have about more than an hour to visit the famous Temple of Literature at Quoc Tu Giam Street. If Vietnam has a seat of learning, this is it. There are two entities here: Van Mieu, a temple built in 1070 to worship Chinese philosopher Confucius; and Quoc Tu Giam, literally “Temple of the King Who Distinguished Literature” an elite institute established in 1076 to teach the doctrines of Confucius and his disciples. It existed for more than 700 years as a center for Confucian learning. Moreover, it is a powerful symbol for the Vietnamese, having been established after the country emerged from a period of Chinese colonialism that lasted from 179 B.C. to A.D. 938. It is a testament to the strong cultural heritage of the Mandarins. As such, it stands for independence and a solidifying of national culture and values.
Cha Ca La Vong in Hanoi’s old quarter is rumoured to be one of Vietnam’s oldest restaurants, first opening its doors over 100 years ago. Little has changed since then, particularly the menu which only offers grilled or fried fish. Grumpy wait staff members serve up these legendary specialities in this busy and sometimes overcrowded restaurant where Cha Ca is grilled on your table with turmeric and dill, accompanied with peanuts and noodles. Arrive early or expect to wait in a long line.
PM: Local alike
14.00: After a sumptuous lunch, if you’re interested in learning more about the 54 ethnic minorities populating Vietnam’s hinterlands, make the jaunt out to this sprawling compound. Vietnam’s different ethnic groups, their history, and customs are explained in photos, videos, and displays of clothing and daily implements. Out back are a number of re-creations of the village homes, from a low Cham house to the towering peak of a thatched Banhar communal home. You come away with a good historical perspective on the many groups you meet in the far north and in parts of neighboring Laos and Thailand.
Hoan Kiem Lake
15.00: Head to Ngoc Son Temple and Restored Sword Lake (or Hoan Kiem Lake) just nearby. The Ngoc Son temple is set on a tiny island on the Hoan Kiem Lake and dates back to the 13th century. The lake itself is a picturesque focal point of Hanoi, frequented by tourists and locals alike. Then, to deeply see Hanoi step by step, take a relaxing one hour cyclo tour through the Old Quarter. Also known as the 36 streets, this bustling area of narrow streets is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It’s a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities.
A late afternoon walk around Hoan Kiem lake and Hanoi’s fascinating Old Quarter brings some great fun, shopping, and street side traditional food. This is your chance to be part of typical Hanoian style and its traditional Vietnamese culture.
17.30: Before heading for pre-dinner drinks at nice bars here, walk on a few steps until you reach Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, to join the lovely world of the famous Water Puppet performance. Water Puppet watching is a favorite experience for all visitors to Vietnam. This might sound like one for the kids, but there is something enchanting about the lighthearted comedy and intricately skilled puppetry of this troupe. They perform numerous vignettes of daily life in the countryside and ancient tales, including the legend of Hoan Kiem Lake and the peaceful founding of the city of Hanoi. Puppeteers use bamboo poles to extend their puppets from behind the proscenium and up through the surface of a small pond that forms the stage. You will be amazed at their ingenuity, and it doesn’t take much to suspend disbelief and get caught up in a magical hour of escape. The kids will like it, too.
Street food dinner
Hanoi was listed in the top 10 walking tours for globetrotting foodies by lonelyplane.com. Those loving street food will have to plan their Hanoi tours well to enjoy the specialties offered by the capital city. Top 10 Hanoi street foods you should not miss, including Pho, Bun Cha (grilled pork noodle), Bun Rieu Cua (freshwater crab noodles), barbecue chicken (grilled chicken wings and feet), and Xoi (sticky rice with crushed peanuts and sesame salt).
Just cheer up yourself a bit by switching into another atmosphere, a world of hot Vietnamese music with colorful, noisy, and interesting space at Ho Guom Xanh Club. It might heat you to some extent!! In case you are of a little tiredness, take a leisure walk along the lake, then return to your hotel to relax your mind with a fine glass of red wine at the hotel bar, and feeling the charming live piano performances.