Fun Things to Do in Hanoi, Vietnam

October 02, 2015

My ambition is to travel the world, although I realize that may be a bit too ambitious.

2015 10 03

One essential lesson I've learned in software engineering is how to manage complexity. By breaking down a large challenge into smaller, more manageable pieces, we can accomplish meaningful goals step by step. Taking a weekend getaway to Vietnam is one of those simple joys that doesn't require using annual vacation days.

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Here are some fun things to do in Hanoi:

Halong Bay Kayaking - My Instagram photos may have multiple filter layers, but the scenery in Halong Bay is as beautiful as postcard pictures without any need for Photoshop. Though the journey from the city took four hours, this UNESCO World Heritage site was well worth the effort. Kayaking is my favorite way to get up close and personal with the magnificent limestone formations. If you go, remember to bring a waterproof bag to protect your iPhone in case you fall into the water.

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Nature's Marvel - Dong Thien Cung Cave - Shaped by wind and water over millennia, the Dong Thien Cung cave is awe-inspiring. With a little imagination, you might see a dragon, lion, or even a breast-shaped formation among the colorful stalagmites. Interestingly, some superstitious women who struggle with breastfeeding pray for milk blessings in front of that particular rock.

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Navigating the Night Market - The experience was both fantastic and overwhelming. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, I visited the bustling night market but also found myself stuck in the crowd. It seemed everyone on the street had an ice cream cone, so I got one too. The mint flavor tasted like toothpaste but was refreshing on a hot, humid night. Crossing the road in Hanoi, congested with motorcycles, is a real challenge. Regardless of whether the light is red or green, people just keep moving. Successfully crossing the street amid cars, motorcycles, and pushcarts coming from all directions takes courage. Thankfully, I made it unscathed.

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Savor the Street Food - If you're adventurous, be prepared to sample a variety of local dishes. While I was there, I tried to remember the Vietnamese names of the foods, but now that I'm back home, they've slipped my mind. Although the language sounds melodic, I still can't comprehend the nuanced tones.

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Egg Coffee - Don't knock it until you've tried it; it's not as off-putting as it sounds. Traditional Vietnamese egg coffee (Cà Phê Trứng) is primarily found in Hanoi. Thanks to a local guide, I enjoyed this beverage at a hidden upstairs coffee shop, priced similarly for tourists and locals. As a coffee enthusiast, another visit to a historic coffee shop for the famous condensed milk coffee—a perfect blend of sweet and bitter—is a must.

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Visit the Hoa Lo Prison Museum - Let me clarify, I didn't do anything wrong! I visited the Hoa Lo Prison Museum after touring the French-style St. Joseph's Cathedral. I've always been fascinated by the darker aspects of human nature, such as torture and execution. Reflecting on history, I feel fortunate to live in an era and place without oppressive political regimes and major conflicts. The Vietnam War is not just a movie topic; it's a real-life historical event built on dubious political justifications. Each soldier has a family, and each death brings them sorrow. At that moment, I found myself missing my partner and wishing for her continued safety.

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So, it's time to start planning your trip. There's so much to see and do in Hanoi that I almost missed my flight back. I plan to continue exploring and seeing what the world has to offer. Can't wait for the next adventure! If you book early, you might even find some great deals.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn