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I was wrong about Hanoi | USA

A Crack Going up a Yellow Wall


Hanoi-ing, I once heard it called.  I went with the unmannerly expectation that it would be one of those “no thanks, I’m just passing through” kinds of cities. Before the wheels had even hit the runway, it had been decided. I would not like Hanoi. After all, the internet warned of taxi tricks and Halong Bay scams. The guy at the visa counter didn’t smile back, and I couldn’t even figure out how to cross the street.

I carried with me the certainty that Hanoi would try to take me down like a ship passing through the Bermuda Triangle. A really jarring kind of city, you know? So I carried myself like a skeptical jerk, ready to fend off any tout that came my way. I refused to be shipwrecked.

But the days rolled on, and against my more reluctant wills, Hanoi started to charm me. Perhaps it was the grandeur of Hoan Kien Lake or the expansive Temple of Literature. Maybe it was seeing the Hanoi Prison where my grandfather spent 7 years as a POW, forcing me to navigate the textbook inspired beliefs about my country’s role in the Vietnam War. Hanoi was surprisingly full of interesting things to do (Two Scots Abroad). The people were lovely, we wrote a whole post about the street food, and if nothing else, maybe it was the $.30 beer. But ultimately, it charmed me more than many cities ever had. I was totally wrong about Hanoi.

Hanoi isn’t like other cities, that much is true. But Hanoi is lovely in all of its grit.  It’s harrowing history is more like recent memory, yet its parks blossom and the Old Quarter thrives as if it has always been this way.

The internet owes it more. I owe it more. So consider this my apology to Hanoi. A way to say “I was wrong”, and an effort to convince you to go to Hanoi, and stay a while, too. Vietnam in a photo series — a love note, really — inspired by the colors, lines, and defining blemishes of one of the most stunning cities in Vietnam.

Hanoi, Vietnam in Photos

Florist Walking her Bike of Flowers

Hanoi Market Fruit Vendor

Flower around a Lake in Hanoi

The Top of a Temple in Downtown Hanoi

A Dragon Sculpture on a Temple Entrance

A Crack Going up a Yellow Wall

A Man Getting a Shave on the Corner

A Window on a Street Corner

Daniel standing outside a home in Hanoi

A Couple Riding a Motorbike through the Alley

Outside a Vietnam War Museum

Incense Burning at a Temple

A Man Looking out at a Statue

Taylor Ready to Eat Some Street Food

A Couple Riding a Motorbike through a Night Market

A Ballon Seller on a Street Corner

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Hanoi, Vietnam. Hanoi-ing, I once heard it called. A photographic apology to one of the loveliest cities I've seen.

which city did you misjudge? make amends in the comments below!


  • Reply
    July 13, 2016 at 6:36 am

    Hi, I’m planning to go to Hanoi this August and have several questions for you ๐Ÿ™‚

    What kind of transportation you use? Is the public transportation elderly friendly? (I’ll bring my parent and they are above 50 years old)

    Thank you ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      July 14, 2016 at 3:25 am

      Great question! Hanoi is very easy to walk around, but we traveled by minibus and public bus for going outside the city. We liked the public busses, but I’d say the minibuses are a bit newer and nicer. Most tours departing from Hanoi will include transport via minibus which is very easy! Where are you going exactly? Happy to answer any other questions if we can!

      • Reply
        July 14, 2016 at 4:59 am

        Thanks Taylor.. For the first day, I think I want to go around Hanoi like the Ho Chi Minh Complex, Temple of literature, Museum of Ethnology, Ngoc Son Temple and the lake. You know, the tourist usual do things ๐Ÿ˜€ Is it easy to do with walking? Or do I need taxi or public busses?

        For the next day I already book indo-china junk thanks to your references ๐Ÿ™‚ but I don’t have any idea what to do in the 4th day. Do you have any recommendation? Or should I try the walk around old quarter city?

        • Reply
          Taylor Record
          July 19, 2016 at 5:33 am

          You can definitely get around on foot! The Old Quarter is close to all of those sites, so as long as you don’t mind a bit of walking, it’s a great way to see the city. And I’m so glad you decided on Indochina Junk! It seemed like a really fantastic cruise, it just fell a bit out of our price range for this trip. Ninh Binh (1.5 hours outside of Hanoi) makes a gorgeous day trip if you want to get outside of the city! If we went back again, I’d spend a whole day wandering the market, eating, and perhaps taking a cooking class!

          • Jinx15
            July 19, 2016 at 7:47 am

            Cool.. thanks for the answer Taylor.. I’ve been wondering if I should book a day tour in Hanoi ๐Ÿ˜€ I think I will walk around and enjoy the city and try to blend with the local.. Yes, the service in Indochina is very fast and attentive. I can’t wait to experience the hospitality in the real tour.. And I’ll check Ninh Binh for sure.. Thank you very much for your recommendation ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Taylor Record
            July 23, 2016 at 3:39 am

            Absolutely! I hope you have an amazing trip. Check in afterwards — I’d love to hear about it!

  • Reply
    August 30, 2016 at 7:44 am

    Hey Taylor,

    Just got back from my trip to Hanoi and it’s amazing. I love the city. And your post really help me and make me pretty confidence to walk around by myself in Hanoi. For the food, I tried several places which full of people and although most of the owner can’t speak english they still served us like a local ๐Ÿ™‚ And I take a tour to Ninh Binh. And it’s fantastic. My father really like the Bai Dinh temple and my mom like the Trang An.. thanks a lot for your help ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      September 4, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      So excited to hear that! I’ve actually been wondering how your trip went. I’m so glad that you felt welcomed, and that you enjoyed walking around Hanoi as much as we did. Let us know when you’re planning your next trip, and we’d be happy to help!

  • Reply
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