The best way to enjoy the highlights of Hanoi, which is the capital of Vietnam, is when you visit different sides of the city. You will experience a mix between the modern and traditional Vietnamese lifestyle.
As a first-time visitor, you should have it at the back of your mind that there’s more to the bustling city with colonial buildings, ancient pagodas and chaotic traffic. Hanoi has a beautiful nearby countryside that is filled with verdant rainforests, limestone islands, colourful wildlife, nature reserves and local villages, all of which you should visit if you want to enjoy the beauty of nature and traditional Hanoi.
One great trip is can take a cruise along Halong Bay, cycle through ancient villages, or take a Hanoi to Sapa train if you want to head for the hills at Sapa.
Five gems in Hanoi
1. Join a Halong Bay Cruise
Every first-time visitor should take the opportunity of joining a Halong Bay cruise. The Halong Bay is a World Heritage Site and ranks among the most visited spots in the city.
The bay has 1,600 towering limestone islands and there are many kinds of caves, some of its most popular caves are Trinh Nu cave (Virgin Cave), Sung Sot Cave, Luon cave and Thien Cung Cave (Paradise). It’s a trip you can go with your baby, provided you have all travel essentials for a baby .
2. Go on a hike at Ba Vi National Park
If you love nature, then you’re in for a great experience if you decide to hike at Ba Vi National park, which is around an hour’s drive from downtown Hanoi.
Ba Vi National Park features slopes between three mountains and numerous forest trails. The park helps you to escape from the hustling and bustling of the city into a serene environment with an array of wildlife and rainforest.
3. Go on a bike tour through Hanoi
Most tour operators in the city offer a bike tour within the city. The bike tour allows you to visit rice fields, war memorials, pagodas and local villages. You could choose to ancient village of Duong Lam, which has houses that have existed for more than 400 years. You will also have the opportunity to visit relic sites like tombs, temples and pagodas.
If you want to meet the locals and understand their culture, then you shouldn’t miss going on a bike tour through Hanoi countryside.
4. Go for a cooking class
Almost every top-notch hotel and prominent restaurant in the city of Hanoi holds a cooking class, so it’s easy to find a cooking class that fits into your budget.
Just before a cooking class begins, you’ll be given an introduction into the average Vietnamese cuisine, after which you can go to the local market and shop for the ingredients.
5. Spa treatment
You will find a spa center in every five-star hotel, and you can also visit a standalone outlet within Hanoi. Irrespective of your budget, you can easily get a Vietnamese, Swedish and Thai-style body massages and reflexology.