If you’re the kind of girl who dreams of a weekend in Paris, but only has a budget to stay Asia-side, we have found your happy place.
My husband and I chose Hanoi for its perfect blend of East meets West. Think coffee and baguettes alongside noodle stalls, families buzzing by on mopeds along charming, French style, tree-lined boulevards and ancient pagodas – you get the picture. And you’ll be taking plenty, too. Hanoi’s exquisite, faded glamour means Insta-worthy moments await you at every corner.
Make like a local and rise early to enjoy Hoan Kiem Lake (PJs totally optional). Fuel yourself with breakfast at hipster hangout, The Hanoi Social Club. Surrounded by eclectic artefacts and mismatched furniture, the place threatened to be ‘more style than substance’—but our fears were unfounded. The poached eggs with morning glory served on vintage crockery was perfection and their coffee was the ideal kick starter for the day ahead.
Lunch has to be street food—let your nose guide you and dive into bowls of pho (Vietnam’s signature dish), zingy rice paper rolls with prawn and mint and super-tasty bun cha. Warning: Hanoi’s roads are teeming with wheels and just because you want to cross the road doesn’t mean anybody will stop. Hold your breath, step out, start walking and never turn back! Somehow it works.
Hanoi is also a shopping mecca, with bargains galore around every shabby-chic corner. Head to the Old Quarter and bypass the rip-off ‘Chanell’ handbags to pick up embroidered linen pillowcases, woven bags and cool vintage-style posters. As the sun goes down, sip on some icy Bia Hoi (fresh-brewed beer) from the cool bars near Ta Hien St.
We loved the cosy charm of budget boutique beauty Maison d’Orient, hidden in a charming alley in the Old Quarter, from where you can reach most places on foot.
- An extra bag to carry back all your new stuff in!
- Shoes to walk (and scuttle traffic) in our feet were our best form of transport to explore the city.
- Wardrobe faves: Visit one of the many local tailors to get copies made (or the latest styles) in Vietnamese silks and cute cotton prints. Most places can deliver in 24 hours.
- Return flights with Tiger Airways start from $180, with a flight time of just over three hours.
- Rooms at the Maison d’Orient (Maison-orient.com), start at around $55 per night.
For more travel ideas, read on!
By Lucy Cleeve, Cosmopolitan, February 2015