Vietnam’s cities take on a different light in the early morning hours…
The riotous traffic of Hanoi is replaced by the solemn, dignified ritual of the raising of the national flag, while the heat and humidity of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) give way to a sense of tranquillity as locals practise Tai Chi in the cool morning air.
Take an early stroll to shake off any jet lag while enjoying the morning rituals that take place before the day’s heat intensifies. Tranquil birdsong drifts over lakes that reflect the changing colours of the rising sun. Locals gather at fish markets to make sure that the best catch of the day doesn’t get away, and the narrow streets and lanes are refreshingly crowd-free.
Shopkeepers get ready for the busy day ahead, flower and fruit sellers set up their stalls and children chatter on their way to school. Take an unhurried mooch alongside the locals and kickstart your day with an aromatic, steaming bowl of pho from one of the many streetside stalls.
A morning walk on the mild side of Hanoi or HCMC can bring:
Join locals watching the daily ritual of national pride and remembrance in Hanoi as Vietnam’s star-centred red flag is slowly raised by uniformed soldiers at 6am.
Gather by Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi to relax, jog, practice Tai Chi, and challenge other early risers to a game of badminton. The oasis of HCMC’s Hoang Van Thu, with its water features and striking sculptures, plays host to similar pursuits.
Watch street-side vendors set up their pitches and see the steam from the morning pho starts to drift enticingly, intermingling with the sweet aroma of Vietnam’s famous ‘ca phe’ coffee.
Appreciate the architectural heritage of Vietnam at a leisurely pace before the day’s heat and humidity set in.
The flag-raising ceremony in Hanoi takes place early each morning at Ba Dinh Square, flanked by several important buildings including the President's Palace, the National Assembly Building, and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Watching this occasion of high tradition and formal ritual is an invigorating way to start a day exploring the city.
In parks and public spaces, locals take leisurely jogs or meet for communal Tai Chi sessions. Nothing expresses Vietnam’s serene side more than watching groups practise this mesmerising ancient art as the modern city starts to wake up. Many still start their day with prayers or offerings at temples and pagodas - rare moments of quiet contemplation amidst the restless city streets.
Enjoy the tranquillity of the early morning city watching the rising sun cast its light on the surface of Hanoi’s waters. Hoan Kiem Lake is a photographer's dream, whether taking sweeping shots of the city over the water, or capturing the energy of people gathering for pho, a chin-wag or some gentle exercise. A short walk further takes you to the historic Long Bien Bridge that spans the Red River. Miraculously surviving US bombs during the war, the views from the bridge in the morning light are spectacular.
As you weave through the narrow, crowd-free streets and lanes, enjoy a glimpse of city life behind-the-scenes. Shops are slowly set up for the day’s trade, flower and fruit vendors lay out their stalls, and locals take the chill out of the air over a cup of coffee.
Breakfast is your call: slurp a bowl of pho at the streetside or opt for a bite in one of the city’s hip cafes. Don’t miss out on ‘twisted’ banh mi buns or breaking your fast with a European classic in HCMC, and no trip to Hanoi is complete without trying an egg coffee, tasty pastries and traditional Vietnamese breakfast dishes.
The morning light and the quieter streets allow you to enjoy a relaxing stroll past each city’s historic buildings and locations. In Hanoi's Old Quarter, the Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton), St. Joseph's Cathedral, and the Water Puppet Theatre all are worth an unhurried viewing. In HCMC, wander past the city’s French-era architectural heritage, including Gustave Eifel’s wedding cake edifice of the Saigon Central Post Office and the enduring Notre-Dame Basilica. With the historic Reunification Palace and the modern triumph of the Bitexco tower nearby, there are plenty of styles to explore.
Embark on a journey through Vietnam’s less-visited north - lush rolling hills, remote villages and friendly locals, with a side of morning noodles in Hanoi.