For cruise passengers visiting Vietnam during their voyage, cruise excursions are one of the best ways to explore Hanoi. Hanoi is an indispensable destination for those who genuinely want to be immersed in Vietnamese culture and history. Hanoi is considered by many to be the cultural heart of northern Vietnam, which beautifully encapsulates the country's history.
The city has a quaint mix of the old flair that it retained from the dynasty times and the period of French colonization with the younger, more active, and multicultural environment that comes with globalization. It could be quite an extraordinary feeling, to walk from a complex of historic buildings into a bright and bustling metropolis.
Hanoi is the perfect city to visit on an excursion as lots of activities and tourist attractions are grouped tightly in the center of the city. Here are the things you must do on your journey in Hanoi, according to the experts at My Cruise Excursion.
1.Visit the Old Quarter
The city's famous Old Quarter, named the 36 streets of Hanoi by the locals, is a must-see for tourists who visit Vietnam. This is where a lot of the ancient essence of Hanoi is preserved. According to the locals, each street symbolizes one specific craft back in the days; some examples include handcrafted items and traditional herbal medicine. Craftsmen from villages around the city used to gather in one area of their guild to sell their wares to merchants. The streets are named after the wares that are usually sold there.
A word you will regularly find in the street name is "Hang", which means "wares". For example, in "Hang Bong" you will find cotton wares; in "Hang Bac" you'll discover silverwares. Some of the oldest traditional crafts and trades remain to be admired by visitors in the Old Quarter.
There are old temple grounds and spiritual sanctuaries oddly placed in the middle of busy commercial streets. Amongst them are some of the most famous religious grounds of Hanoi, such as Tran Quoc Pagoda and the Lotus Pagoda, which is considered by many to be the symbol of Hanoi during dynasty times. Many of the 36 streets of Hanoi previously had a temple dedicated to worshipping mythical founders of the craft. Unfortunately, a lot of these temples have been ravaged and destroyed over time. Some remain, such as the Mã Mây and Kim Cổ temples. These attractions give you an insight into ancient architecture and the worship practices of Vietnamese people.
2.Take a Cyclo Tour Through the Narrow Streets
For first time visitors, the traffic of Hanoi could be very daunting, with thousands of motorcycles weaving in and out of hidden streets and unseen corners. The locals have gotten used to this since it is a part of their daily routine, but to untrained eyes, the swarm of traffic along with its noise could prove to be very disorienting and intimidating.
Cyclo tour is an alternative way to join in the crowded, lively stream of people without the stress.
The streets and lanes of the Old Quarter are best accessible with smaller vehicles, such as the unique Cyclo. The Cyclo is a very signature vehicle and used to be very popular in the city, an upgraded version of the hand-wagons during the French colonial time. This vehicle offers a very relaxed and authentic ride through the matrix-like streets of Hanoi. Enjoy the view of the streets and stop to buy a souvenir or enjoy some tasty snacks from the street food vendors whenever you feel like it.
3.Visit Hoa Lo Prison
For tourists who are a bit more curious and want to know more about the brutal side of Vietnamese history, there's the Hoa Lo Prison, sarcastically named the "Hanoi Hilton".
Hỏa Lò, commonly translated as "fiery furnace", is the name of the prison that is used by the French when Vietnam was still a part of French Indochina. It was initially used to contain Vietnamese political prisoners who were activists in the liberation movements of the Vietnamese people, and later for the American POWS during the Vietnam war. The prison is notorious for American prisoners for being overcrowded and its prisoners being subjected to torture and execution regularly.
The prison was mostly demolished in the 1990s; only a part of it was maintained, now serving as a museum with items, documents, and statues depicting life inside the prison. The claims of its ex-inmates profoundly contradict the museum's depiction of its treatment to prisoners.
4.Enjoy the Real Taste of Vietnam
The delightful culinary culture of northern Vietnam has a solid presence in Hanoi. The traditional side of Vietnamese cuisine maintained its signature flavors, while the younger generation keeps on renovating the cuisine, creating new trends and wonderful additions to an already colorful culinary culture.
Some must-try Vietnamese food includes Pho, Bun Cha, Cha Ca, and much more. Another great thing about Hanoi is its street food culture. The street food there is everchanging to adapt to the trends created by younger generations of food lovers, making it an enjoyable part of Hanoi to explore.
You are guaranteed to find something you have never seen or tasted before, just by wandering around Hanoi for a few hours.
Ready for more inspiration? Find out more interesting shore excursions in Asia.
About the author
Jasmine has worked in the cruise industry for many years and loves sharing her passion for all things travel.