Before I started planning for the trip to Hanoi, I had thought that it would be more or less the same as Singapore’s hot and very hot kind of weather. But the weather check gave a pleasant surprise – there’s season change in Hanoi. Yes, Hanoi has winter months but no, it’s unlikely you will see streets covered in snow. Then again, you never know, even Middle East countries are experiencing snow nowadays.
We were there in mid-February and day weather was very comfortable before becoming a-jacket-is-needed kind of cold when night falls. Very European kind of weather – I like!
Now if only I had more time for this rather short trip, technically 1.5 days to spare. Halong Bay or Sapa will have to wait but well, I just make do with it and enjoy. Took a taxi from Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport to May De Ville Old Quarter Hotel and hit the streets immediately after checking in. The first stop is Hoan Kiem Lake where the locals go for morning exercise.
The red and green of Hoan Kiem Lake
Crossing the busy junction to Hoan Kiem Lake should have earned us a courageous medal – one big challenge for Hanoi first-timers and I kid you not! There’s always a constant flow of traffic with bicycles, rickshaws, motorcycles and cars going in both directions. It’s madness! Thank goodness that we made it safely to the lake, also known as Lake of the Restored Sword. The charming and greenish Hoan Kiem Lake has a nice calming effect amid the traffic chaos in Hanoi.
A little island in the northern part of the lake is where Ngoc Son temple or Jade Mountain temple is located. The small temple is dedicated to a General Tran Hung Dao who famously repelled the invading Mongolian army in the 13th century. Many locals come here to pray and give their offerings.
The scarlet bridge linking to the little island provides nice contrasting colour to the green lake. Seems like a popular place for pre-wedding shoots, I saw at least 3 couples taking theirs around here. Not surprising since the picturesque setting would make a nice backdrop.
St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi
From the lake, we headed west towards St. Joseph Cathedral is situated at the junction of Nha Tho & Nha Chung streets. The neo-gothic cathedral with its worn exterior looks somewhat out of place in the streets of Hanoi. I’m not sure whether they kept it this way on purpose or the upkeep is lacking. I wouldn’t say it’s impressive but the old world charm of the faded St. Joseph Cathedral is unmistakable.
Pho 10 @ Ly Quoc Su
I guess a visit to Vietnam wouldn’t be complete without sampling its famous pho (pronounced as Fuh, not Po). The noodle soup with beef is a national dish which the Vietnamese would eat on a daily basis. And I have read that Pho 10, not far away from the cathedral, serves some authentic, delicious and affordable pho.
Thankfully, unlike the complicated looking wires like below, there’s an English menu for people like us. That makes it a breeze to order from the 10 different types of beef for your pho.
It didn’t disappoint indeed, the sweet broth and beef go well together, totally dig it! Don’t forget to squeeze some lime into your pho for a better taste. Also, the place has all the traits of a cheap and good eatery place – no fancy décor, the sighting of locals eating here, busy atmosphere and unfriendly staffs…
But I will definitely have my pho along the streets on my next visit here, hopefully, the tiny stool/ chair will not break when I sit on it. LOL
STAY: May De Ville Old Quarter Hotel review
May De Ville Old Quarter Hotel is located in the Old Quarter which is walking distance to Hoan Kiem Lake and the Water Puppet Theatre. The streets near the hotel are one busy in the day but all activities will tone down at night, no problem for a good night rest. The room and bathroom are of a good size, there’s a laptop in the room for guests to surf the net too. Beds are comfortable and the 2 nights were enjoyable.