This itinerary covers two days in the capital city of Hanoi, geared toward the Southeast Asian backpacker who is trying to hit up as many countries as possible in a relatively short amount of time. As great as Hanoi is, Vietnam really does have so much more to offer, so I would highly recommend going back at some point in your life to spend more than just a couple of days. It’s a beautiful and amazing country with an incredibly rich history and culture, and one could easily spend a month there (as I have done so myself). But we aren’t all blessed with time so here is the best way you can make the most of 48 hours in Vietnam.
Arrive in Hanoi and hit up a café© for breakfast and coffee. Not just any old coffee mind you”definitely order the Vietnamese speciality, egg coffee. Head to the Old Quarter and walk through the streets but do it with confidence as the surplus of motorbikes will not stop for you! Your best bet for trying to maneuver through the bustling streets of Hanoi is to literally just go for it. Don’t stop, don’t look both ways, just walk at a quick and steady pace and trust that all the drivers will go around you. If you hesitate, you will mess up the whole flow. Sounds crazy, I know, but it works!
Image via 48houradventure.com
For lunch, you’ll definitely need to eat pho, so be sure to do so at the smallest street vendor you can find”the crappier looking, the better. Nice restaurants are available but the most delicious meals come from the street. Also, the cheaper the better”your best bowl of pho should only cost you about a dollar. Another tip for finding the best food: look for the places that have the most Vietnamese people sitting out front on the tiny plastic chairs. The locals know where the best food is.
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Take a tour of the Vietnam Military History Museum in the afternoon. You’ll see all kinds of artefacts, vehicles, aircrafts, and more while learning a lot about the country’s violent history. Be sure to check out the film strip for an interesting perspective on America’s role in the war.
Eat dinner at BBQ Chicken Street. The best place is the last one at the very end of the road. You’ll see a bunch of BBQs set up with buckets and buckets of skewers upon skewers. Take a seat on a tiny chair at a tiny table (seriously for some reason all the seating in Vietnam is super small) and let them know which part of the chicken you want”thigh, wing, or foot”and how many. Start small and see how it goes because you can order as many rounds as you want. They’ll bring you skewers with your order of freshly barbequed chicken parts and cut them off for you with massive scissors. Be sure to try to the honey coated barbequed bread too. The sweetness is the perfect complement to the spicy chicken (because of course you must dip your meat in the chilli sauce they provide). Wash it all down with an ice cold Hanoi beer. I promise it will be the best BBQ chicken you’ve ever had.
You can’t visit Vietnam without riding on a motorbike! Take a day tour from the city to the countryside, as the landscapes are one of Vietnam’s best features. Wear running shoes, pants, and a long sleeve shirt even if it’s hot out, as this will protect you in case you have any slips or spills. But don’t worry, the roads are generally in good shape so you should be fine, as long as you don’t drive like a maniac. This tour runs from 9 am to 5 pm with a route that gives you scenic views of the rice fields, rural villages, and rolling mountains that make for a peaceful retreat from the busy city. Honestly, my favourite part about Vietnam were the days I would hire a motorbike and just drive, taking it all in. Vietnam is an incredibly beautiful country and the feeling of riding through it on a bike is a freedom like no other. Don’t forget your camera and if you have a GoPro, today would be the day to strap it on.
Image via motorbikevietnamtour.com
Spend the evening wandering around the night market to pick up some cool souvenirs. They have everything at a fraction of the cost you would pay at home but be sure to bargain! Everything is negotiable so take whatever price they tell you, cut it in half (at least) and haggle from there. If they aren’t budging, prepare to walk away and they will quickly change their tune. You’ll also find lots of options for dinner. Try a doner kebab, a banh mi sandwich, or pretty much any other food you see that tickles your fancy. Out of all the countries I’ve been to in Southeast Asia, Vietnam consistently had the best food so whatever you decide, you will not be disappointed. Mmm, just thinking about it makes me want to go back. Guess I’m going for pho today!
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