Hanoi. Such a beautiful city.
Exploding with life and culture and chaos, all encompassed in beautiful French Architecture, traditional simple Vietnamese lifestyle and the freshest of fresh cuisine.
The first and most important decision when travelling is the hotel choice. This can be a make or break for your chosen time in any given city.
Without a doubt, the best hotel in Hanoi is The Sofitel Metropole. Hands down.
The Hotel Metropole Hanoi is an award-winning French colonial-style hotel lying in the heart of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake and the magnificent Opera House.
Boasting a classical white façade, green shutters, original wrought iron detail, wood paneling and a lush courtyard lawn, the hotel is one of the region’s few remaining hotels of its era.
Located steps from the Opera House in Hanoï’s French Quarter, this legendary property brings guests into intimate contact with the opulence of another era.
Surround yourself in heritage as you stroll stately corridors and explore a dramatic past. Behind its classical white façade green shutters original wrought iron details and stately wood paneling reside over a century of stories.
Some of the most famous people in the world have chosen to stay here. The hotel has seen a myriad of prominent visitors throughout its reign, including famous actors such as Charlie Chaplin, who one of the property’s suites is named after. Chaplin celebrated the most special of moments at the hotel, notably, his honeymoon in 1936.
Other frequent guests include revered world dignitaries and famed celebrities. It was at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi that the first motion picture showing occurred within the region, and it is the locale where Somerset Maugham wrote The Gentleman in the Palour, and where Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American.
Can you believe this….what a discovery…forty years after the bombs stopped falling on Hanoi, and less than one year after a chance discovery of an air raid shelter in its back garden, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi has opened the excavated bunker as the anchor attraction in a new Path of History tour.
You can go deep underground and explore the air raid shelter built during the war. It has been said that the guests were ushered underground during the raids and then after wards ally led back to the dining room or bar to continue socialising…How surreal.
Watch my FB live video as I tour the grounds of the Sofitel.
Next stop..the full tourist day.
If you are prepared to battle the chaotic traffic, the heat and the crowded streets, then start walking to see the amazing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum the large memorial in Hanoi. It is located in the center of Ba Dinh Square, which is the place where Vietminh leader Ho Chi Minh, Chairman of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 1951 until his death in 1969, read the Declaration of Independence on 2 September 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
The structure is 21.6 meters (70.9 feet) high and 41.2 meters (135.2 feet) wide. Flanking the mausoleum are two platforms with seven steps for parade viewing. The plaza in front of the mausoleum is divided into 240 green squares separated by pathways. The gardens surrounding the mausoleum have nearly 250 different species of plants and flowers, all from different regions of Vietnam.
The embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh is preserved in the cooled, central hall of the mausoleum, which is protected by a military honor guard. The body lies in a glass case with dim lights. The mausoleum is closed occasionally while work is done to restore and preserve the body but is normally open daily from 09:00 to 11:00 to the public. Lines of visitors, including visiting foreign dignitaries, pay their respects at the mausoleum every day.
After a quick look, and a moment of silence , we hailed a taxi, negotiated a fair price ($12) and arranged for the driver to take us and see more iconic monuments before taking us back to the hotel.
The high level of humidity, the midday sun, cranky kids plus my white shorts and the now streaky spray tan streaming down my legs…was the dominating factor in this decision. Luckily for us our driver was super knowledgeable on all historical events and monuments in Hanoi. Big bonus. Plus aircon. Double bonus.
‘Binhs Taxi Luxury Tour’ then headed over to the beautiful Hanoi Opera House.
One of the few places in Hanoi to catch a symphony, this century-old French colonial building is a major city landmark. While the interior could use some sprucing up, this imposing Opera House is still on the list of top things to see in Hanoi, given its architectural beauty, historical significance and repertoire of internationally celebrated musicians.
Completed in 1911 after 10 years of work, in its heyday this popular Hanoi attraction served as a center for high-end entertainment, theater and classical music. Frequented by French colonial officials and their wives and largely unvisited by the Vietnamese, the Hanoi Opera House was a monument of European culture. For most of the French era, artists who performed at the Opera House were almost exclusively European, but in the 1940s Vietnamese could rent what they called ‘the Western theatre’ to hold special performances and concerts, especially to raise money for charitable causes such as victims of floods.
Just outside the Opera House is a very modern and cool coffee house. The perfect spot to sit and enjoy the iced traditional Vietnamese Coffee. As mentioned in previous posts, this was fast becoming new new obsession.
Next.. Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple.
Hanoi tourists and locals alike head to Hoan Kiem Lake when seeking a place to get away from the noise of the city. Peaceful and quiet, the lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda sitting in the centre on a small island.
The temple attracts many visitors and was built in commemoration of the 13th century military leader Tran Hung Dao who was renowned for his bravery in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty. Stunning, eerie and very commanding of respect. Beautiful temple.
We jumped out here to take a walk around the lake. You will see all sorts of local customs. From the stunning Red Bridge, food stalls, and the locals enjoying lunch or practising Thai Chi.
Before much of city wakes up and the constant hum of motorbikes kicks in, there is a peaceful “spiritual” side to Hanoi that many visitors miss. As the fruit sellers set up their wares and the children head to school in their crisp white uniforms, Tai Chi occurs daily in most of Hanoi Park’s. Its beautiful to watch. And a much needed little time out in this hustling city.
And then…..massage time. An absolute joy to have a full body massage to ease the stress of the very touristy day and unwind. Then it’s back to hotel for a cocktail by the pool and a swim and prepare for dinner.
The City View Cafe, is an Asian bar and casual dining restaurant. It is the perfect place to sit outdoors and look down to the crazy city below. Its intoxicating. The view across the Lake is stunning and simply looking down and watching the cars, bike, buses and people all jostling to get somewhere is an amazing sight from above.
Great food, better cocktails and the ambience is priceless.
A full exciting and wonderful day in Hanoi.
And that is how Hanoi Day one went down…… Sx