Hanoi isn't one of those cities that people often think of when it comes to a luxurious stay. However, from the beautiful architecture of the French Quarter to the endless coastline and strong culinary traditions, there is a lot to see and do in the city. And although Hanoi is by far one of the most affordable locations, there are still plenty of luxurious options to keep the discerning traveller happy...
Shop For Luxurious Asian Textiles
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In this country, the street market is still very much king. Fashion-hunters are not likely to find many big label clothing in Hanoi, and if they do, it is more often than not a knock off. However, when in Vietnam there is one piece of fashion that cannot be missed – and it is not the conical hats. The Ao Dai is the traditional dress of Vietnam's women. What girl wouldn't want a tight, beautiful silk number to take home? You can be custom fit for this beautiful silken dress right at the street stall. Whether it is a custom fit Ao Dai or a tailor who will make custom-designed clothes for anyone out of the richest textiles, the textile portion of the many street markets in Vietnam are always the most luxurious.
For those looking for something even more exotic, snake wine and scorpion wine are Vietnam’s answers to Budweiser. Snake wine is less like a wine and more grain alcohol with a snake or scorpion – or both! – in it. It is thought to increase vitality in the bedroom, but having a bottle on the bedside table is likely to kill the mood...
Tour Hanoi By Bike
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The bike is the favourite way to get around in Hanoi. Tour operators like Hanoi Biking Travel host daily private bicycle tours around the city that include stops at the beautiful 1,000 year old Temple of Literature, the Hanoi Opera House, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Hoa Lo Prison. These tours go at a leisurely pace, so it doesn't matter if you’re a little out of practice. However, if you don't want to spend a day working up a sweat in Hanoi, there are many tour operators that offer tours via bicycle-powered rickshaws.
The bicycle isn't Hanoi's only favourite bike though. The locals absolutely love their motorbikes, especially when it comes to seeing the countryside. For those that want to see rural Vietnam, doing so on motorbike is the most fun way. Each visitor gets their own motorbike, is shown how to use it and then commences to play follow the leader through dirt trails, green grasses and small streams. It is an adrenaline-filled adventure that no one can turn down.
See Old Sites In Old Boats
While Hanoi isn't located on the coast, it is located on the Red River that runs to the coast a few miles away. The Red River may not look like much due to the rusty red color of the water from which it gets its name, but it empties into the beautiful Gulf of Tonkin.
Tour operators like Dragon Pearl Cruises take visitors down the Red River and beyond for private day tours on junk boats. Their name may sound unappealing, but these sailing vessels are a beautiful piece of Asian history. These boats are actually Chinese in origin, but are still widely used in Southeast Asia as pleasure cruisers.
Enjoy Authentic Vietnamese Fare
You know what they say: Vietnam is the only place to get authentic Vietnamese food. You can get some of the best food from street vendors, but there is also an ever-growing fine dining scene where famed Vietnamese chefs put unique spins on classic dishes.
Chef Bobby Chinn is majorly responsible for the culinary revolution that is going on in Hanoi. However, instead of just opening his own restaurant, he opened his home to visitors. His house, named Bobby Chinn Hanoi, is now his own personal restaurant. The silk-lined dining rooms and the lantern-lit entry way that leads to a shisha bar pays homage to his mix of Vietnamese and Egyptian roots. Visitors can enjoy a flavourful hookah with a cocktail before or after dinner. The menu is separated into Sea, Air and Land categories. Willing visitors can dine on blackened barramundi on banana blossoms or apple smoked duck with black sticky rice. However, the pork belly in caramel sauce in a favourite of not just the Land category, but the entire menu.
Pots 'N Pans is also a local favourite. The restaurant lacks a fancy name, but it serves up the most flavourful traditional Vietnamese dishes. Some of the dishes are presented in new ways to create a traditional experience that is still distinctive. Dishes such as braised duck legs in spiced shiitake mushroom jus with lemongrass duck sausage reveal that just a bit of French technique is added to the classic flavours. Like in most Vietnamese restaurants, the Pho is still the most popular item. The fine cuisine is complemented by wine list that pairs well with the unique flavours of the menu.
See Hanoi's Unique Spin On The Luxury Stay
Hanoi is a city on the up and up when it comes to its lodging. The Essence Hanoi Hotel is consistently considered one of the best stays in Hanoi. As the hotel is located in ever busy Old Quarter, there is plenty to do in the surrounding area. The rooms are simple and a bit small, but they are elegant and feature unique Vietnamese touches in the decor. Travellers should book rooms in advance; The Essence tends to book up fast.
The Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is a wonderfully classic Asian colonial-era hotel. This hotel is Hanoi's most storied accommodation that offers world class service out of a historic building in the French Quarter across from Hanoi's Opera House. The hotel preserves much of its original French colonial aesthetic, but has integrated modern technology and a dash of Vietnamese style. It has a beautiful pool and provides easy access to a nearby side street cafe.