Upon arrival in Hanoi you'll be met by your guide who will transfer you to your hotel.
Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, ranks amongst the world's most attractive and interesting cities. It was first the capital of Vietnam in A.D. 1010, and though the nation's capital moved to Hue under the Nguyen dynasty in 1802, the city continued to flourish after the French took control in 1888. In 1954, after the French departed, Hanoi was declared Vietnam's capital once again. The remnants of over 1,000 years of history are still visible here, with that of the past few hundred years wonderfully preserved.
The remainder of your day is at leisure.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Enjoy a full day tour of Hanoi; visiting some of the city’s classic sites alongside an introduction to Hanoi’s more contemporary side, interspersed with a handful of local experiences.
After breakfast, transfer the short distance to West Lake where bicycles will be waiting for a morning of cycling. Saddle up and set off around the lake. Also known as Tay Ho Lake, this large expanse of freshwater and its lakeside gardens attract locals looking for a quiet spot away from the busy streets of central Hanoi. Various historical places of interest are scattered around the perimeter including Vietnam’s oldest pagoda, Tran Quoc and Quan Thanh Temple, one of Vietnam’s four sacred temples. Stops will be made to visit one of the ancient pagodas that dot the route and enjoy a drink in one of the lakeside cafés, watching the world go by.
Mid-morning, transfer by car to the Temple of Literature, the site of Vietnam's first national university. Built in 1070, this complex of atmospheric halls, pavilions and courtyards is dedicated to Confucius and scholars. It's one of the few remaining examples of traditional Vietnamese architecture still standing in Hanoi: of special note are the 82 stone steles shaped like turtles which are elaborately carved with the names of candidates that sat the Royal examinations.
From here continue to Trang Tien Street near the Opera House for lunch. Popular with students and office workers, this narrow alley fills with street side stalls at lunchtime selling everything from pho and fried rice to sticky sweet treats. Pull up a plastic stool and tuck into lunch, Vietnamese-style.
After lunch, it’s time to explore Hanoi’s contemporary culture. Throughout the capital there are rumblings of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, a step away from traditionalism and the rise of fresh and fashionable places. Manzi Art Café is one of Hanoi’s increasingly popular part café, part art gallery ventures. Set in a French Colonial villa in a relatively quiet Hanoi street, it’s the sort of place where you could easily while away a couple of hours drinking Vietnamese coffee and browsing the artwork. Sadly you won’t have so much time to spare, but there will certainly be time for coffee before walking to the Old Quarter. In contrast to your tranquil cycle ride around West Lake, a stroll through this historical area is an assault on the senses; its maze of narrow alleys are packed with scooters and street vendors, lined with restaurants, traditional workshops, souvenir shops and pagodas. The best way to absorb the atmosphere is with a local fresh beer at one of the bia hoi bars on Ta Hien Street.
Having enjoyed a beer and thoroughly explored Hanoi return to your hotel. Alternatively those wanting to spend more time in and around the Old Quarter may choose to take a taxi back to their hotel at a later stage.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Additional tour ideas for Hanoi
Escape the city
Spend a night with a Vietnamese family and experience typical rural village life in Ky Son Village, 65 km from Hanoi. The village has three ancient wooden houses, each refurbished in a traditional style, for visitors to stay in. During your visit you can enjoy a bike ride along surrounding trails, pick herbs and vegetables, shop at the local market and assist with meal preparations. Conversation will be assisted by your guide, ensuring your stay is an enjoyable and enlightening occasion for all.
Witness Hanoi awake
The day starts early in Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi, and witnessing the city coming alive at dawn is a highlight for many visitors. Rise early and drive to Ba Ding Square, where the Vietnamese flag is ceremoniously raised each day at 6am, before taking a cyclo ride across the city to the Old Quarter. An early morning walk in the Old Quarter will give you a sense of the spirit of this enigmatic city. Around Hoan Kiem Lake and throughout the city’s parks and public spaces you can witness what seems to be the entire population taking morning exercises such as Tai Chi, badminton, jogging and cycling.
Make a difference
Throughout Vietnam there are a large number of orphanages, often associated with a Pagoda or Catholic Diocese, providing care and happy environments for orphaned and otherwise disadvantaged children. As well as providing a home, these projects aim to provide schooling, life skills, and English classes. Selective Asia can arrange for volunteers to visit orphanages for as little as a few hours, up to a stay of several days. Any time you spend will be invaluable in helping the children in play, developing skills, and ultimately helping them to lead rewarding and fulfilling lives.
Back to basics in Vuon Thi
Just a couple of hours to the south of Hanoi, set amongst dramatic limestone karsts and rice paddies as far as the eye can see, is the ancient village of Vuon Thi. Upon arrival you will meet your hosts, a local family, who will help you participate in their normal daily activities. It’s a very ‘hands on’ day and you will undoubtedly enjoy the lifestyle, hospitality and welcoming attitudes of the local people. In additional to preparing and enjoying lunch with your hosts, you can also join them in the fields to learn the traditional techniques still used in farming and fishing.