When hearing about the only chance of 24 hours things to do in Hanoi of mine, my Hanoian friend was so happy and willing to accompany me in order to get a glimpse of this cultural and historical land within 24 hours. In Hanoi, four seasons rotate every year. Autumn comes and goes away quickly like a north-east wind or a street corner redolent of fragrance of milk flowers.
6:00 AM – Time for breakfast, one of things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter
Our breakfast is beef noodle soup at Bat Dan Street. The well-known restaurant is crowded with diners early in the morning. If you are quick enough, you can find a seat and wait for your fellow queue to buy and bring “phở” to you. Apart from over 20 dishes for breakfast in Hanoi, “phở” is still the first-choice in food stalls and restaurants. Just a bowl of “phở” with flavorful broth, white rice noodles, red beef and chopped spring onion can lure people’s appetite and becomes a world-famous-brand.
Bat Dan beef noodle soup with eggs
Pho Bat Dan: 49 Bat Dan street – Cua Dong ward, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi.
7:00 AM – Enjoy morning coffee, one of the special things to do in Hanoi
After finishing breakfast, there is no need to hurry and let drop by a café to enjoy a cup of strong-white coffee. Nhi café on Hang Ca Street is so full of guests that no parking lot left. Overlooking streets, Nang Café, Gian Café, and Thoi Café are ideal with simple sets of wood tables and chairs. Iced black coffee and iced white one are the most favourate drinks in the morning. A cup of coffee, a newspaper or a friend sitting next to you before the working hours, an ideal scene like in a film. Hanoians don’t like drinking coffee in luxurious café with sophisticated decoration. If you want to taste a cup of morish coffee, just stop by a café with simple furniture, whatever it is, you can get a really delicious cup.
Morning coffee at Nhi Café
Nhi Café – Things to do in Hanoi: No. 2 Hang Ca street – Hoan Kiem District – Hanoi
8:00 AM – Take short sightseeing trip around Hanoi
Now it is time for a sightseeing trip around Hanoi. In the cool and comfortable atmosphere of autumn, we take a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake. The sky is adorned with the blue colour and pleasant day lights. Lots of couples come here to take wedding photos of them. The corners of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hang Bai Street, Dinh Le Street, the Opera House, Hilton Hotel, an French-architecture university on Le Thanh Tong Street and Sofitel Metropole hotel are integral places in a beautiful wedding album.
Hoan Kiem Lake in the morning
Let’s drop in Trang Tien ice cream shop and taste delicious ice cream cones. If not, make the time to visit The Huc Bridge and Ngoc Son Temple. Another place you can’t miss is Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature). It takes 2 hours for you to discover these two places. On the way, you can visit the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long on Hoang Dieu Street. A special address – the home of General Vo Nguyen Giap is on that street.
12:00 PM – At noon, time for lunch to enjoy special local food in Hanoi
What I shall have for lunch is all that matters to me. Any dish or whatever is so attractive to me and urge my desire to eat it all. “Bún đậu mắm tôm”, at Phat Loc Street or “Bún Chả” at Hang Manh, “Chả Cá Lã Vọng” La Vong fried fish or “Bún Lưỡi” at Ngo Si Lien Market, steak sandwich, I really want to try it all. For a while of being busy with options, I had decided to select the dish of “Bún đậu mắm tôm” that seems to be delicious only in Hanoi. A portion of “Bún đậu với chả cốm”, pork and spring rolls were full enough for my stomach until the late afternoon.
Bun dau mam tom (Fermented shrimp paste with fried tofu and rice vermicelli)
Bun dau mam tom at Phat Loc alley – Hoan Kiem district – Hanoi.
13:00 PM – Ideal time to discover things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter
It is the midday with little sunshine. And walking is the best way to explore Hanoi Old Quarter 36 streets. The chess board of these streets make you lost easy if you are not careful. Only by walking along these streets, street after street, alley after alley, house next to house, you can get insight into the lives of people in Hanoi. As the result, you can find every typical product in small shops on each street. Moreover, you can see the very old professions like hairdressing on the sidewalks, selling wigs, long dress sewing, seal making, watch repairing and painting here, which are about to fade away. Walking through the streets, you can stop by Luong Van Can Street and drink a glass of black bean tea or iced tea on narrow alleys.
Quan Chuong Gate – One of the ancient corner in Hanoi
I dropped into Bach Ma (White Horse) Temple, one of four district gate of ancient Thang Long, at an end of Hang Buom Street, take a stroll towards Quan Chuong Gate, got lost in the crowded and hustling alleys of Dong Xuan Market, then sought a way heading for Hang Duong to buy some salted fruits as a gift. Seeds of young grains “Com” are wrapped carefully with lotus leaves. After a while of wandering about the streets, I had an abundance of presents to bring home.
17:00 PM – Water Puppet Show
Water puppet show at Thang Long Theatre was about to start. You have only more than one hour to watch a show but it is worth your money and very interesting. Most of audiences are foreign tourists on package tours and the rest of them are children. The legends of the Betel Leaf & the Areca Nut and The Golden Star Fruit Tree have been performed with puppets dancing on water. A puppet show doesn’t take much time for you to watch but it is so enjoyable.
Water Puppet Show at Thang Long theatre
Thang Long theatre: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang street, Hang Bac ward, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi.
18:00 PM – “Bia Hoi” or Hanoi draft beer – Special things to do in Hanoi
Now it is time for draft beer “bia hoi” at international corner of Ta Hien street, meeting with young people coming to drink and chat after working hours. Cold beer, “phung” spring rolls, French chips, grilled fermented pork rolls … all make the streets look busy and amazing. And it is also the time for night market to set out. The market, covering an area from Hoan Kiem Lake to Dong Xuan market, opens from 6 pm to 11 pm on the routes of Hang Dao and Hang Duong streets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Beer Corner at Ta Hien street
21:00 PM – Things to do in Hanoi at night
Wandering along streets filled with the fragrance of magnolias and milk flowers, we stopped at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Each evening, this destination attract lots of people walking with their families. Also, one interesting that I have recently known is the flag lowering ceremony at 9:00 pm in evenings. Those who are walking and passing across the street at that time, they all stop and stand seriously on ceremony.
Flag Raising Ceremony at night in Ba Dinh square in front of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Iced tea and supper. A simple life by night. Look for a tea stall with nice view over Hoan Kiem Lake. Enjoy cups of tea and some sunflower seeds or fruits. Youngsters gather side by side there. There is a variety of food for supper. From papaya salad to a bowl of rib soup. From sticky rice to noodles with goose meat and bamboo shoots.
24:00 AM – Hanoi night streets
Hanoi streets by night have a special beauty deep and peaceful. Unlike an 24 hour-noisy-city of Saigon, Hanoi’s day and night look differently. After the rush and hurried pace of day time, the streets are quiet at 11 pm. The weather of autumn is cold enough for passers-by wearing thin sweaters and scarves. All the streets are foggy. In yellow lights of street lamps, the city at night is so quiet and faintly redolent of magnolias and milk flowers. An open window of a house leaks out the melody of a love song.
Hanoi streets at night
Its beauty and interests completely rush into you when travelling around Hanoi at night.It is also the ideal time for artists to take photos of Hanoi at night, highlighting 36 old streets with French-architectural houses. Hoang Dieu, Phan Dinh Phung, Tran Phu streets are extremely beautiful in night lights.
2:00 AM – Night flowers market – Special things to do in Hanoi at night
Now, it is the time for a special trip to a exceptional destination, Quang Ba flower night market. At 2:00 AM, motorbikes loaded with flowers from Tay Tuu, Me Linh and Nghi Tam flower villages flock to this market on the dike edge.The world of flowers is open all day but the market is busiest at 2:00 AM. The growers sell flowers at this early hour so that flowers can be sold fresh on every street in Hanoi at 4:00 AM or 5:00 AM.
In the light of flashlights, the market is full of buyers and sellers. Each season is typical with certain types of flowers. Bright yellow daisies symbol for autumn spread over the market. Bunches of 100 flowers are sold at an amazingly cheap price, including daisies, roses, fuchsia, lilies and others.
Quang Ba flower market – Things to do in Hanoi at night
Walking in the flower night market, you won’t want to come back home. The hash daily life of florists turns up amongst fragrances of flowers. From 2AM to 5AM, flowers are loaded on motorbikes to be transported to flower shops on Hanoi streets or to other markets in the morning. If you feel hungry you can have a bowl of hot “phở” noodle soup, “bánh tẻ” rice-cakes, “bánh dày”, and drink a cup of hot green tea. Leaving the flower market, I bought bunches of daisies which are carefully arranged. These flowers shall be with me on the flight to Saigon in the next morning.
5:00 AM – Long Bien bridge, one of cheap things to to in Hanoi
My 24-hour-journey is on the point of coming to the end. Finally, the sunlight appeared on the horizon while we were standing on the more-than-one-hundred-year-old Long Bien Bridge. Sunrise is overlooking the Red River dotted with alluvial soils. Long Bien fruit and vegetable market is in full swing beneath the bridge. On the bridge now, hard-working people are travelling back and forth with heavy baskets of fruits. Long Bien Bridge has witnessed this land and people’s life changing for more than a century and it will have continued to be a link between the two river banks in the future.
Long Bien bridge at dawn
Hanoi 24 hour is full of emotions and excitements!